Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Oh dear, Israel/Palestine again (again? Yes, again)

Palestine just went kablooie again. Metaphorically speaking.

On the Israeli side, little of immediate note beyond the election of a new Labor Party leader who's calling on current Israeli PM Ehud Olmert to resign. That's not really new: most prominent Israeli citizens and politicians have had it in for Olmert ever since his unsuccessful military campaign failed to eliminate Hezbollah.

On a non-headline note, I had opportunity to watch a documentary on SBS called "Judah/Mohammed" a few nights back. The documentary traced the lives of two 15-year olds - one Israeli named Judah, one Palestinian named Mohammed - for a time, without them ever actually meeting. What struck me most about their leaves was how their whole society seemed destined to mold both of them into thinking of each other as the enemy.

In Judah's classroom at school, students were taught about the Israeli war of independence and how the new nation of Israel defended itself against unprovoked attack from Arab nations. The teacher was tried to get an analysis going of the pros and cons of various peace plans but was constantly battling against complaints about any attempt at peace by students yelling out things like "but teacher, you know what Arabs are like!"

Mohammed for his part seemed a lot more well off than what I would have expected given what I know about the demographics of the Palestinian territories. He wasn't from a poor family - lower middle class would probably be about right - and went to a typical Western-style school, where he learned about the creation of Israel, or as the Palestinians refer to it, the Catastrophe. Mohammed himself was arrested at one point for participating in a demonstration against occupation - we got a lovely camera shot of a pursuing Israeli army officer laying the boot in - and being held in detention for a few days before returning to his family and school, pending trial. He was officially welcomed back as a hero for the Palestinian cause by his school and community. The charges against him were upheld, but the Israeli judge took into account his physical mistreatment at the hands of Isreali captives while he was in detention. He was given a fine and forbidden from participating in any demonstrations for, um, I think it was six months. Mohammed was at a demonstration again a month later.

All things told, my main impression was how much effort went into instilling a deep sense of pride in the respective heritages of both Israeli and Palestinian youth. So much pride, and so much destruction because of it.

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