Tag Archives: settlers

Allowing space for conflicting narratives

My son’s high school classmate, many years ago, recently visited the West Bank. Wajahat Ali has visited the Middle East many times and is quite knowledgeable about the history and the current political strife. His feature length piece in the June 2018 issue of The Atlantic reflects his insights from the people he met on his journey.

Wajahat Ali

Wajahat Ali

A Muslim Among Israeli Settlers — What happens when a Pakistani American writer goes deep into the West Bank?  is a gift and a pure joy to read.

The reader might immediately draw assumptions and put Wajahat, an American Muslim, into a box.  The box that describes how Muslims are suppose to feel about Zionists and which side (Palestinians, of course) they naturally can be expected to gravitate towards.  Wajahat doesn’t fit into any boxes.

I know he will receive criticism — probably from many different boxes (errr……sides) — dissecting the fine points in his long article. People won’t find fault with the facts — facts are facts and I’m pretty sure that Wajahat and his editors have fact-checked his paper thoroughly. Instead, they will argue about his emphasis or lack of emphasis, about his opinion or lack of opinion (“why didn’t you say this or that?”), and about his (gasp!) objectivity!

“As a result of engaging with Zionists, I found that once you allow a space for conflicting narratives, even those that might repulse you, the characters take up room in your mind and your heart. You can no longer unsee or unfeel them. You have to negotiate their presence without compromising your core principles.”

Of course, the same can and must be said about engaging with Palestinians, with Hamas, with anyone we consider the “other”.

If everyone in the region has a shot at interpreting God’s will, then I’ll offer my own vision. I believe that Jews and Palestinians are religious cousins, more alike than different. They have lived together in the past, eaten each other’s olives, worked each other’s fields, married each other’s family members. Learning to live together again should not be impossible. But this isn’t happening, not anytime soon.

Thank you, Wajahat, for your clarity of pen and clarity of heart. We need many more writers, and leaders, who have the courage to step outside of their boxes and allow space for the conflicting narratives.

Be sure to read Wajahat’s article here and watch this short 14 minute video.

 

 

 

 

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Gideon Levy: Americans “Are Supporting the First Signs of Fascism in Israel”

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Tree of life

Harvesting olives in Gaza - Oct. 2012

Harvesting olives in Gaza – Oct. 2012

Today marks the beginning of the olive harvest season in Gaza.  The Minister of Agriculture estimates that they will produce around 10,000 tons of olives this year, far less than the amount last year.  I’m not sure why.

Last October I symbolically participated in the harvest. I climbed to the top branches of the tree and picked the plump green olives.  Yes! I was nervous about being up so high, looking down at the family members who were all smiling in amusement. I was probably a distraction from their work, but we were all having a good time. Some were hitting the branches to shake the olives off with a sheet on the ground below.

Lora and Motasem and children in the olive tree

Lora and Motasem and children in the olive tree

According to a UN report “olive trees account for 70% of fruit production in Palestine and contribute around 14% to the Palestinian economy. 93% of the olive harvest is used for olive oil production while the rest is used for olive soap, table olives and pickles.”

Palestinian olive oil is the best in the world, and it’s a very special commodity that American consumers can order here and here if you don’t see it in the store.  Folks in Gaza aren’t sissies when it comes to their olive oil.  They were purchasing it in 5-10 gallon containers for personal consumption at home!

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Olive trees carry more than an economic significance in the lives of Palestinians. They are not just like any other trees, they are symbolic of Palestinians’ attachment to their land. Because the trees are drought-resistant and grow under poor soil conditions, they represent Palestinian resistance and resilience. The fact that olive trees live and bear fruit for thousands of years is parallel to Palestinian history and continuity on the land. Palestinians are proud of their olive trees; they take care of them with care and appreciation. Palestine has some of the world’s oldest olive trees, dating back to 4,000 years. Some families have trees that have been passed down to them for generations and the olive harvest season in October bears a socio-cultural meaning where families come together to harvest olive trees bearing in mind that their forefathers and mothers had tended to the same trees several years ago.

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One of the highlights of my time in Gaza was that day spent picking olives. I’ll never forget it, not only because of the warmth and joy I saw on the faces of my new friends, but also because of the life energy I felt radiating from that single tree.

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Trees have represented life across the cultures and the ages, from the Mayan, the Sumerians, Egyptians to the Garden of Eden and modern times. “The olive tree is known around the world for its symbolism of peace and tranquility. The expression ‘to hold out an olive branch’ means to seek harmony and peace.”

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When I hear that Jewish settlers have burned olive trees belonging to the Palestinians in the West Bank, I’m enraged.  (Photos)

Last November, the New York Times had a very good piece about the Plight of the Palestinian Olive Tree by Raja Shehadeh, a lawyer and writer living in Ramallah. Olive trees have been uprooted for settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian lands, for construction of the “Israeli separation barrier”, and just for spite by extremist settlers.  By one estimate, more than 800,000 trees have been destroyed since 1967, the equivalent of destroying Central Park in NYC 33 times.

Delicious meal after the harvest

Delicious meal after the harvest

We talk about humanitarian rights, but what’s the term for the rights of trees? These trees, many planted hundreds of years ago, have done no wrong. They haven’t taken sides in this conflict in the Middle East. They simply share their life, their shade, and then their fruit. How can men be so arrogant — downright evil — to destroy these defenseless olive trees?  

Tea after the harvest

Tea after the harvest

No one who destroys life so callously and wantonly has a right to call the land their home. Our children — these children who shared their olive harvest with me — deserve much better.

Beautiful smiles

Beautiful smiles

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