On July 8, 2003, the Palestine-Israel Journal held a roundtable discussion at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem on human rights. The participants were: Maha Abu Dayyeh-Shamas, director of the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling; lawyer Mohammad Kadah from the Jerusalem Center for Economic and Social Rights; Jessica Montell, executive director of B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories; and lawyer Dan Yakir, legal adviser to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). The moderator was Benjamin Pogrund, director of Yakar's Center for Social Concern in Jerusalem.

Mr Pogrund: The occupation is the dominant reason for the current abuse of human rights in this part of the world. Palestinians and Israelis are affected separately, yet their experiences are inseparable from each other. What is the extent of the abuse? What can be done to counter it, or must this await a political solution?

Ms Montell: You start rightly with the occupation. Our frame of reference for organizations working on the ground is both the 1967 occupation and this current Intifada, which obviously has greatly exacerbated Israel's human rights violations.

The current reality is affecting Palestinian human rights in every sphere, and virtually all Palestinians, certainly if we talk about restrictions on freedom of movement. It's the most insidious form of human rights violations.

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas: Everybody hears about the killings, destruction and uprooting of trees, but nobody thinks about the undermining of social infrastructure. For me, this is the greatest violence because it breaks down the core of well being, the core of existence. It's not only the physical violence, but the emotional.

I can see it, because I'm working with women and their organizations. The whole fabric of society is being undermined. There is a policy to make Palestinian society lose its sense of community and become a dependent rather than a productive society, that can take care of its own.

Mr Pogrund: What is the place of women in Palestinian society? Would they have full rights if it weren't for the occupation?

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas: If we compare the struggle of women in Palestinian society to the rest of the Arab world, it would be like Lebanon or Syria, where there is openness, but still a struggle. It wouldn't be like Saudi Arabia, or even Iraq, as Palestinian women are more mobilized, more educated. There is more of a middle class.

There definitely will be a gender struggle, as there is in Israel or America. I've seen regression in terms of social attitudes with regard to women because of the occupation, the insecurity and the undermining of infrastructure.

Mr Pogrund: Is this a deliberate Israeli strategy?

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas: I really feel it is.

Mr Pogrund: That's a very strong statement.

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas: It's a strong statement, but that is what I believe is happening. A society's cultural values are dependent on a way of life based on its economic foundation. When that is suddenly undermined, there is an immediate shift without a transition period. This affects women and children first and foremost.

For instance, there was an overnight shift from the status of agrarians to refugees. Many husbands went to the Gulf countries. All of a sudden, women were left without a male supporter, in charge of a family they didn't know how to manage. When you uproot people from their economic base, this affects the community. When a community of farmers has to adjust to a ghetto-like existence where there are no jobs, problems are created. You know what a ghetto is. And that's what we see here.

Mr Pogrund: Jessica, as someone who works across the lines and as a fellow woman, how do you react to what Maha is saying?

Ms Montell: We deal with Israel's direct responsibility for human rights violations and less with the community work involved in the after-effects. Our address is the Israeli government, to cease its violations and give some redress. Obviously, there are long-term effects to Israel's policies in the occupied territories, and the burden is primarily on the Palestinian community to deal with all the socio-economic effects of these policies.

Mr Kadah: My organization specializes in the delicate situation of Arab Palestinian Jerusalemites. We deal with social and economic issues under Israeli law. The people of Jerusalem are in a very delicate situation, and looking at these problems, we can see a kind of hidden policy. In the 1970's, there was a declaration that they wanted 30 percent Arabs and 70 percent Jews in Jerusalem, and we can see that this policy still holds. It starts from the right of residency. The Palestinians of Jerusalem are not citizens of the Israeli state, and also not citizens of any other state.

Mr Pogrund: They have Jordanian citizenship. I have friends with Jordanian passports.

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas: I have one. But it does not mean you have citizenship. You get a passport, which is more of a travel document, but it doesn't give you the right to reside in Jordan. With this passport, you're immediately targeted. When you go to Arab countries, they know where you're from by the start of the code number.

Mr Kadah:
The basic issue if a man, woman or child wants to live under Israeli law is that East Jerusalem has been annexed to Israel and separated from the West Bank. After 1967, people got the right of residency, to work, travel or be eligible for social benefits. If you're a resident, you get these rights. However, if you're out of Jerusalem for seven years, you lose them. If you get citizenship or residency of another country, you also lose your right to residency. These restrictions mean that the people of Jerusalem can't move, develop themselves economically or go to another country to further their education, conduct business, or see the world.

Mr Pogrund:
How many people fall into this in-between category?

Mr Kadah:
Thousands have lost their residency rights.

Mr Pogrund: What numbers of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are affected?

Mr Kadah: Everybody. There are about 250,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. The vast majority of them are there based on this right of residency, and that is the only right they have.

Mr Pogrund: You mentioned social rights. The Palestinians can belong to one of the Israeli health maintenance organizations, the Kupat Holim. They have the same rights as anyone in Israel to health care. It's a strange contradiction.

Mr Yakir: Every permanent resident is entitled to health care and health insurance, but there is a problem with infants born in East Jerusalem. We were part of a petition to the Supreme Court against the policy of the Social Security Institute's refusal to register babies who were born in East Jerusalem until their parents go through a very prolonged process of investigation to determine whether they are genuinely residents of East Jerusalem, or if they had moved from East Jerusalem to outlying neighborhoods and so had lost their residency rights.

As a result, for long periods, those babies have no health insurance. This is an example of how policies, both of the Ministry of Interior and of the Social Security Institute, affect the daily lives of East Jerusalem residents.

Mr Pogrund:
You achieve some amelioration by going to the Supreme Court, and that is obviously open to the people who live in East Jerusalem.

Mr Yakir:
It's also open to Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Mr Pogrund:
Do we have to wait for a political settlement, whenever that might be, or is there any action that can be taken now to confront discrimination and human rights abuses in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza?

Mr Yakir: Three petitions that were heard this morning in the Supreme Court are examples of the ways we are trying to deal with these things until a political solution is achieved. Clearly, a real solution to human rights violations will be achieved only with an overall political solution. However, that does not mean that, in the meantime, there is nothing to be done to try to minimize the severe infringements upon basic civil liberties and human rights.

The three petitions were against targeted killings; using Palestinians as human shields during army operations in the occupied territories; and the prolonged closure of the Talitakumi neighborhood of Beit Jallah, which has been separated from the rest of Beit Jallah for the last two and a half years.

This last petition we filed a few months ago on behalf of a resident of that neighborhood and ACRI (Association for Civil Rights in Israel). This morning, the army came to the Supreme Court to report that they had opened the roadblock of the last two and a half years, and from seven in the morning until seven in the evening, vehicles will be allowed to move back and forth from Talithakumi to Beit Jallah. But this has nothing to do with the petition in the court. It's because of the hudna [ceasefire] and the situation in general. We insisted on opening the roadblock at night for emergency cases and for ambulances. However, the court cited "security reasons," and dismissed the petition.

The other two cases, which are much farther-reaching against the current policies of the army, are still pending. The court drags out the hearings and gives the state prolonged postponements to prepare their arguments. The court has difficulty dealing with these sensitive issues and limiting the army.

Mr Pogrund:
How sympathetic do you find the Supreme Court to human rights violations of this type?

Mr Yakir: The torture case is a fine example of an exception to the court's unwillingness to intervene and limit the power of the army and the state in those matters. The rule is that thousands of petitions have been dismissed, although there are cases where the court tried to press the army to change its policies. That has some effect on the army in terms of adjusting its policies and easing things. But when the court feels it has used all the pressure it has and nothing further can be done, usually the petition will be dismissed and the army legitimized by the court.

Ms Montell:
Talking about where change is going to come from, it's important to look at three levels. The first is a political solution. It's clear that we are not going to fully enjoy all our human rights here until there is a resolution of the occupation and the political conflict. At the same time, it's clear, from the human rights perspective, that we can't wait for that utopia. There are two levels on the day-to-day basis - the legal level and the social level. From our perspective, that means turning to the Israeli public and policy makers and courts.

The Israeli courts are limited in their ability to intervene, and certainly in their willingness to restrict government and military actions, given the social reality of widespread support, security hysteria, lack of any sort of recognition of the humanity and rights of Palestinians. You can't talk about the courts in a vacuum.

Mr Pogrund:
The two of you represent major Israeli human rights organizations. How much influence do you think you have in Israeli society?

Mr Yakir: That's hard to quantify. I think we have a more important standing vis-a-vis the decision makers, the government. Both of us regularly testify before Knesset committees, and the army listens to us. The military advocate-general deemed it important enough for him to invite both B'Tselem and ACRI to discuss his policy of not investigating cases of deaths in the territories.

Mr Pogrund: What about the public at large?

Mr Yakir:
Much less. The general public is willing to sacrifice most or all of the human rights of Palestinians in exchange for some vain promises of security.

Ms Montell:
I agree. Our big challenge is to articulate a human rights message in the face of this security hysteria, to come forward with the message that not everything is justified in the name of security, that the whole idea of security has to be examined - what we mean by it, what's justified, what ultimately is going to achieve our security - all those questions that are swept under the carpet in Israeli society.

And we have not been very successful. The past three years have seen a very big setback, not only in human rights and the suffering of victims, but also in the Israeli public's understanding of the importance of human rights.

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas:
I'd like to pick up on the court's sensitivity to public opinion. How can the High Court become independent of public opinion and government policy? I have observed the rulings of the High Court vis-a-vis the Palestinians over the last 10 or 15 years because I also worked for the Quaker Legal Aid Service, and monitored and discussed these things with Avigdor Feldman, after ten years of taking cases to the High Court on behalf of Palestinians.

What's happened is that the High Court has worked more on the regulations of occupation than on taking decisions of principle against the occupation. There are always cases that could be considered precedent setting, and they rework that particular case rather than coming up with an overall precedent-setting decision.

I recollect the case of Elon Moreh [regarding settlements], which was a big achievement in those days. It was a decision of principle by the High Court and, after that, the policy of land confiscation changed. It begins with military seizure, and is then transformed for civilian use. Over the years, the High Court has been hesitant to take precedent-setting positions on matters related to policy. This is aggravating for human rights activists. Because of the occupation, the High Court has become more politicized than principled. Over the years, this has even impacted on the justice system in Israel.

Mr Kadah:
Israeli law, as well as the political side of Israel, does not recognize that the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are occupied territories. Most international law and conventions are not implemented on those lands, and the Supreme Court itself does not recognize these territories as being under occupation, at least in terms of which law is in effect there.

They recognize the military acts that deal with day-to-day life in the territories. In East Jerusalem, you have Israeli laws. In the occupied territories, you have military acts. With this narrow leeway, you try to get the maximum effect of these laws. In East Jerusalem, there is a lack of awareness about people's rights under Israeli law and these are the only laws we can use in court. As an organization, we work on specific cases, to promote awareness and to assist as much as possible in the utilization of rights with regard to the general issues of Israeli law.

Mr Pogrund:
How much have human rights within Israeli society been affected by all of this?

Mr Yakir:
It has definitely taken a toll on Israeli society, as well. The legacy of such a harsh occupation participated in by thousands of Israelis over the years cannot leave people untouched. Of course, it's difficult to connect the specific violence that occurs in Israel to people's experiences in the territories.

Mr Pogrund:
You've got many young men involved in a great deal of violence and brutal behavior. This must have some carry-over when they shed their uniforms.

Mr Yakir: As far as I know, no. It's hard to make this connection, although I share your belief that it has this effect. People who torture others tend to be in denial. They come home and hug their children as if nothing has happened. So it's difficult to trace the effects, but my gut feeling is that there are repercussions on Israelis, and within Israeli society.

Ms Montell:
I agree that it's difficult to quantify, yet it's clear that we pay a price for the occupation and our human rights violations. But the price is much less tangible than the concrete benefits of the occupation. First, you have to recognize that Israel, since the beginning of the occupation, has benefited tremendously in terms of exploitation of water resources, direct income from taxes paid by Palestinians and the creation of a cheap labor market of Palestinian laborers working inside Israel. Since 1967, Israel has exploited extensive territories for settlement expansion and in other ways. So I don't think you can portray Israelis simply as victims of their own human rights violations.

But, over the past three years, we have to look at Israelis as direct victims of human rights violations in the form of suicide bombings and other attacks on civilians inside Israel. Until the beginning of this Intifada, it was almost wholly the case that the human rights victims in this conflict were disproportionately Palestinians, and that Israelis were reaping the benefits. That's no longer the case. In many cases, Israelis are also victims of human rights violations.

Mr Pogrund: How do you react to that, Mohammad and Maha?

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas:
I cannot say how it's affecting Israeli society. I have heard women's organizations talk about increased domestic violence.

Mr Pogrund:
Do you work with Israeli organizations?

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas: We have connections.

Mr Pogrund: Has that deepened during the Intifada, or are there growing distances?

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas:
Lately, I think everybody has begun to realize how dangerous polarized positions are, so there is more of an attempt to reach out to the other and become more involved in assisting a political solution that is fair to everybody.

In Israeli society, those who have been affected by committing violent acts during their military service have managed to find ways to deal with it psychologically - it was necessary, orders were given. Human beings have tricks to deal with situations like that. I don't know how much it affects their lives.

But I think the economic dimension is important, the fact that so many people have gotten rich out of the occupation. The occupation is economically beneficial to many layers of Israelis - the VAT, the wholesale traders. Everything has to be done through Israeli wholesalers. Whatever little economic basis there was in Palestinian society has been destroyed over the years.

During the 35 years of occupation, the little industries in Beit Sahur and Nablus and Hebron were forced to close down. Now, instead of importing goods to satisfy Israeli society, you have double that - to support the Palestinian society, as well. So some people are really getting very rich off the occupation.

And don't forget the developers, those involved in housing, the architects and engineers. Those behind settlement development have gotten very rich with government funding. The building industry is very powerful in Israel.

Exploitation of labor is very damaging on both sides. Even some Palestinians are involved. They find workers and take a month's salary for getting an Israeli job permit. And then the worker is paid less than an equivalent Israeli worker. On the Palestinian side, this is a very dangerous thing - people exploiting a difficult situation and becoming rich off it. Women in agriculture are paid 20 shekels a day. In Jerusalem, someone cleaning houses is paid 20 shekels an hour.

Mr Pogrund:
Mohammad, do you have a view of what has happened to Israeli society over the past three years in particular?

Mr Kadah:
Yes. You can divide Israeli society into three. First there is what I call an open circle, allowing the occupation of another people and the violation of their basic rights. A teenager, a soldier, given the experience of controlling another people, can find his interior values disturbed. Look at what is happening at the checkpoints, how some young soldiers, who are terrified, behave toward the Palestinians. This is one aspect of three years of Intifada. People are losing some of their basic values.

On the other hand, there are those people who close the circle so that they can see everything. First, they recognize that they are occupying another people. Second, they recognize that those people are not happy about being occupied. Third, they recognize that many of the rights of those people are being violated. Then they can close the circle and feel with those people. They can deal with the other people as human beings. The other major group is living in denial, saying to themselves, "I don't want to know. I don't want to think about it."

Mr Pogrund:
For Israelis, does the commitment to survive take precedence over everything? And for Palestinians, does the struggle for freedom take precedence over everything? Should there be any red lines about how the other side can be treated? Must a distinction be drawn between what is expected from the Israeli state and from the Palestinian non-state?

Ms Montell:
For any person committed to human rights, of course there are red lines, determined by those universal standards that we think everyone has to respect. Obviously, survival, the right to life, individually and collectively, is a basic human right that we all aspire to and have the right to protect. I would argue the same for the Palestinians. You phrased it as survival and freedom. Obviously, both are important. The different place each society finds itself in then determines a difference in emphasis. But for Palestinians, the struggle for freedom has to be conducted within the same respect for those red lines of international principles and moral standards.

Mr Pogrund:
Given the unique nature of Jewish history, would you still say that?

Mr Yakir:
Because of the Israeli psyche, maybe because of the Holocaust, for many Israelis, survival is above everything and justifies everything. Of course, we in this room do not share such an opinion. But, because of the Holocaust on the one hand and suicide bombers on the other, most Israelis are willing to sacrifice basic human rights and to cross every red line in order to achieve security and survival.

It's very hard to work in such an environment and to deal with those fears and those real threats to life and personal security. But our role is to try to affect the decision makers, the courts, and Israeli society at large.

Mr Pogrund:
Do you come under a lot of attack in Israeli society?

Mr Yakir:
As an organization dealing with the whole range of human rights and civil liberties, I think it's easier for us to bring forward the message of the universality of human rights. Everybody can connect to at least some of the other areas that we deal with - women's rights, gay rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion.

Through those issues, people can relate more to the message, the connection between basic Israeli civil liberties and basic Palestinian human rights. Still, even from our position, it's very difficult to get the message across.

The horrendous infringement on human rights is a daily situation in the occupied territories. And it's very hard to generate public support.

Ms Montell: It's not clear-cut that the legacy of Jewish history, and the Holocaust specifically, is that fighting for survival comes regardless of any moral standards. The human rights movement is the legacy of the Holocaust, and there's no contradiction between the right to self-defense, the obligation to protect your citizens, and human rights standards.

I think it was the High Court that said - maybe in a manipulative context - human rights is not a prescription for suicide. That's obviously the case. In situations of genuine threat to our security, the state has the right, and even the duty, to protect us. It's the legacy of Jewish history that our own security concerns are manipulated to act as some sort of blank check for all Israeli government policies, regardless of whether they are necessary for security.

Mr Pogrund:
Are you scorned by many Israelis because of your attitude?

Ms Montell:
In the current reality where the majority views our survival as justifying anything, where there is no human face to Palestinian suffering, no desire to know what the cost is for Palestinians, it's very difficult to get that message across. It's clear that we are very marginalized in society now.

Mr Pogrund:
On the Palestinian side, does anyone talk about red lines, or does the struggle for freedom justify anything?

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas: It's more complicated than that. Survival is not always the issue. It's anger. It's frustration. It's hopelessness. When you're against the wall, you're bound to do things without thinking about principles of human rights.

The general attitude is that it serves them right. They kill our kids and we'll kill theirs. People don't even think that they're innocent people. It's the anger and the frustration and the sense of, let them hurt like we hurt.

Mr Pogrund:
Are there any voices raised in Palestinian society objecting to that?

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas:
There are a lot of voices, but they can't come out in public. It's all in closed circles because public opinion is filled with so much anger and frustration, with innocent people being killed in the name of Israel's security, without any repercussions. Everybody just watches.

I have experienced moments of anger when, if I had a gun, I would have used it. Even the most pacifistic among us can be driven to a point of real anger. When your own son is humiliated in front of your eyes, it's not easy to take. In moments like that, you don't think about human rights and principles and values. Your instincts take over. And of course, a younger person is more easily driven to acts of revenge.

I have looked into the background of some of those young people who have done it, and they are not stupid, nor naïve, nor brutal. They were known to be intelligent, loving kids, affectionate to their families. Something else drove them, and I don't think any systematic study has been undertaken yet about this.

There are people who are ideologically motivated and who were mobilized for a political end, to destroy an agreement. But a lot of those kids were going willingly to sacrifice themselves. Life was not worth living. They were so angry. They think this is the way to do it. Let the Israelis know what it's like to lose members of your own for no reason.

This is the general attitude. It's unfortunate that it has reached this point. Had the rule of law been respected earlier on, maybe we wouldn't have gone so far into this hellish situation.

Mr Pogrund:
What does this do to the Palestinian society of the future?

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas:
You see signs of it in the increased rate of violence, the loss of faith in any means other than violence. People say Israeli society reacted only when they started losing some of their own. The only way is to have gestures from the other side that they are not going to resort to violence.

But I don't see that coming from the Israelis. What we see is more walls being built. They tell us they have eased up the roadblocks, but living here, we know they have not.

Mr Pogrund:
You're talking about Palestinian attitudes toward Israelis. What about inside Palestinian society? As a result of the occupation, is there any scope for respecting human rights, or is that pushed aside? Respect for women, for children, for basic civil rights?

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas:
It's survival mostly. Take care of your own, your women and children. You need them to stay healthy to survive this very difficult situation. In terms of understanding that this is a human rights principle to respect, I don't know that people think in those terms. Of course, people freak out and use violence against their wives and children, given the difficulty of the situation, the extreme forms of violence - emotional, psychological and physical - over 35 years.

A huge number of people have been tortured and put in jail. Every one of us has family members, friends or relatives who have been through the process. It does something to the psyche of the community. But the community still feels we can't allow this to get the better of us. When we have problems of increasing domestic violence, our means of support is the community itself, and men within the community. The strong will to survive under difficult conditions is part of human nature, and I don't think the Palestinians are any different. Some people are thinking that our survival as a community might require us to think differently about the Israelis.

Mr Pogrund:
That's an interesting point.

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas:
That is leading many people to rethink the strategies.

Mr Pogrund:
Last year the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG) was saying a lot about abuses of human rights inside Palestinian society.

Ms Montell:
I think more of their work is now focusing on Israel. The Palestinian institutions, certainly in the West Bank, are barely or not functioning. The PHRMG has done work on the issue of killing collaborators, which has been a serious internal Palestinian problem since the beginning of this Intifada.

In general, there has been a collapse of rule of law inside Palestinian society. The police stations and jails basically no longer exist and the police force no longer has freedom of movement within the territories. During parts of this Intifada, the Palestinian police, or anyone wearing a uniform, were automatically targeted by Israel. Obviously, that is going to have very dramatic repercussions on the society as a whole.

Going back to what Maha was talking about, the implications are staggering for building Palestinian society. Think of the number of people injured who then required rehabilitation, the children, the relations between children and their parents and children and their teachers. You talk about seeing your son humiliated. Think of the effect of children seeing their parents humiliated, to be afraid of Israeli bombings knowing that their parents cannot protect them. How can children be disciplined in schools and at home when they are the ones confronting the military? It's maybe optimistic to think about building a free society after occupation, but it's obviously a staggering project.

Mr Kadah:
Pain is the key for crossing red lines. The more you see the killing of children, prisoners, house demolitions, the destruction of infrastructure, soldiers and occupation, the more you feel pain. On the Israeli side, I think the only way they feel the pain is during the suicide bombings. Maha mentioned that the suicide bombers are well educated. I think that, subconsciously, they're trying to bring this pain into Israeli society. When you are not feeling pain and you are not in danger, you will not act differently.

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas:
Going through the checkpoints is an educational experience every time, observing how people relate to each other. I was at the Qalandia checkpoint recently, and a soldier there was searching the bags of little kids and being rough with them. Then I heard one little kid say, "This is not a life." I would expect to hear a 50-year-old person say such a thing, but not an eight-year-old kid. Even in all this turmoil, that stunned me. You hear this kid saying that, and you think of your own nine-year-old. What kind of future awaits these kids? And what do you expect from them?

Mr Pogrund:
In South Africa, people became psychopathic killers because they couldn't care less, there were no jobs, no future and no economic prosperity.

Ms Montell:
One thing about suicide bombers. We cannot leave the analysis of the phenomenon of suicide bombers only with the 17-year-old boy - or girl now - who turns him or herself into a bomb. Obviously, our criticism of the soldier at the checkpoint lies not with the soldier but with the government and the military establishment. The primary criticism about suicide bombers is directed not at the boys, but at the people recruiting them and manipulating them and preparing the explosives.

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas: I agree.

Ms Montell: That's not an issue of personal rage or personal humiliation. There is obviously no justification. There are much more cynical, manipulative, political motivations.

Mr Pogrund: Both sides see themselves as victims, and that gives each side justification for doing terrible things to the other. The rhetoric is the same. An obvious example is, "they only understand force," which really means, "we only understand force." How do we get over the victimhood syndrome that has gripped both sides, with all the finger pointing and mutual blame?

Mr Kadah:
We should recognize that we are all human beings, and we should treat others according to universal human values. If you recognize that the other side is human, if you forget the pain and the past, you will somehow find a common language and a way to touch the roots of the conflict.

Mr Pogrund:
Is that conceivable, given what you were saying earlier?

Ms Abu Dayyeh-Shamas: The problem is that the issues are so painful. We all know what the issues are, but we're too afraid to confront them. Israel's sense of victimization wasn't created by the Palestinians - it was inherited from European anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, and we are paying the price.

The history of the creation of the State of Israel, from the Palestinian perspective, has caused damage that is also inherited by generations of Palestinians. What happened in 1948 is a sore issue with my children, and I never told them what happened to my parents in 1948. This is something inherited on both sides from earlier generations' tribulations.

The Israelis have to deal with what they are really afraid of; and the Palestinians have to deal with what they've inherited and the current reality. We have to have some sort of resolution to the difficulties of our existence, and also with the past. We have to put it behind us one way or the other. Children and grandchildren keep struggling with this. One Palestinian woman who was born in America told me, I want to reclaim my parents' history. What does this mean? How do you translate it?

Mr Yakir:
The State of Israel, as the more powerful entity, has the responsibility to give much more toward a solution. But both peoples and both governments must try to find a way out of the current situation.

Ms Montell: Maha was talking about the need for some sort of cathartic process, similar to South Africa's, to come to terms with our histories, both what has been done to us and what we have done to others. That is obviously necessary here.

That begs the question of how we get there. That's the stage after a political resolution. The problem that you raise of each of us feeling that we are the victims and therefore cannot be generous, make compromises or take risks keeps us in a vicious cycle. We can see the Promised Land, but don't know how to get there.

I think the majority of Israelis and Palestinians, even with the major setbacks in trust that we have experienced over the past three years, still agree on what the goal is. But it's still not at all clear, even given that agreement, that we know how to get there. <