Daoud Kuttab

The Palestinian Police

In my view, one of the most pleasant surprises of the Gaza-Jericho First Agreement has been the Palestinian police. Made up mostly of battalions of the Palestinian Liberation Army, the new force carne into the Palestinian territory with very little local preparation, in unfamiliar territory.
For the most part, members of the new Palestinian security forces were middle-aged, experienced and a bit overweight. To Palestinians they provided a fatherly figure, cool, patient and reasonable. For Israelis who happened to see them (mostly settlers and Israeli soldiers), they were relaxed and at ease, declining to retaliate when provoked.
However for armed activists from the Fatah Hawks who wanted to join the force, the training program for joining the police was too much. Seventy percent of these undisciplined activists abandoned the course, ending up stripped of their unjustifiable arrogance as well as their arms.

The Voice of Palestine

The Voice of Palestine has been broadcasting from Jericho to most of the Palestinian territories since the arrival of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat in the oldest city in the world. The first ever Palestinian radio station broadcasting from Palestinian soil started almost from scratch. With a skeleton staff, the station's director, veteran journalist Bassem Abu Sumayya has been doing rather well. Mustafa al Kurd, a well-known Palestinian singer, is responsible for the music section, which is a pleasure to listen to. Contrary to expectations, the new Palestinian station has not turned out to be a carbon copy of most Arab stations. News about the revered leader of the land and his every move is not the dominant news item. Opposition voices and news are not ignored.
The Voice of Palestine Gaza studio on the other hand lacks journalistic professionalism. The news from Gaza is read in a monotonous way, and it seems there is nothing news-worthy to the nearly million Gazan residents aside from who President Arafat met, what he said, or what others say about the President, the leader, the symbol, etc.
The difference between the Jericho broadcasts and the bulletins from Gaza reflect one of the main problems facing Palestinians living in Palestine: a difference in mentality, in style of operation and in a way of life. This difference doesn't necessarily correspond to one between the people of Gaza and those of the West Bank - although there is a lot to that. But the main difference is between the traditional authoritarian way of the Arab world and that of a more open, pluralistic and democratic way of life. Which side will win this internal struggle has yet to be seen. If self-rule is restricted to Gaza and tiny Jericho, then it is more likely that the authoritarian way will be victorious. If the rest of the West Bank falls under Palestinian national authority and elections take place, then democracy will have a fighting chance.

Closing the Door to Peace
The response of the Israeli authorities to the non-violent campaign of Mubarak Awad to open Palestinian homes closed by Israeli officials was most frustrating. I thought the idea of unsealing the homes seemed perfect in the atmosphere following the signing of the Cairo Agreement and the beginning of the release of political prisoners. Over two-thousand homes have been closed since 1967 (nearly 350 during the Intifada). Homes of Palestinian security offenders have been either closed or demolished.
Mubarak Awad and volunteers from his Non-Violence Center chose those individuals who had been released for some time, yet their homes continued to be sealed. The Israelis responded by demonstratively re-closing two houses and arresting eight people, including a 65-year-old man: his only crime was that he had not stopped the volunteers from unsealing his house after twenty years.
Why did the Israeli officials have to do that? My only explanation is that they were unhappy with the fact that Palestinians were taking the initiative rather than coming to ask for mercy. I have no doubt that, if Palestinian negotiators wanted to, they could have gotten the Israelis to agree to the unsealing of homes. But at what price?
The unsealing of homes exposed not only Israeli reluctance for unilateral gestures, but also the shallowness of the peace process and the utter impotence of the Palestinian national movement to do anything outside the negotiating table.

Dan Leon

Freedom with Slavery

In the "sticker war", in which Israel's drivers express their political preferences on the windscreens of their cars, instead of Peace Now slogans like Better peace than a Greater Israel, the tendency is to stickers like The people is with the Golan or Hebron now and for ever. Recently a counter-attack has been launched and large road signs sponsored by government supporters reading We want peace (Rotsim Shalom in Hebrew) have appeared all over the country.
The catch phrase to which I personally most object says quite simply Peace with the Golan. Now since the Golan Heights belong to Syria, this makes this sort of slogan akin to Equality with discrimination or Freedom with slavery. Can 13,000 Golan settlers prevent about five million Israelis and twelve million Syrians from enjoying the benefits of peace between their countries?

Half of Zero

It is reported that Israeli Water Commissioner Gideon Tsur said during the tough negotiation with Jordanian representative Munther Haddadin on the limited water resources in the region: "Let's suppose that the water rights are recognized. Let's now divide the water. We all know there is a lack of water so the end result will be zero". To which the Jordanian replied very aptly: "If that's the case, we want half of zero". So the bottom line is how to finance new measures such as desalination, reservoirs to trap flood waters, or the grand Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal.

The Fanatics

Rabbi Shlomo Goren, a former Chief Rabbi, declares that according to Halacha (religious law), since Israel is a Jewish state, decisions on the future of Eretz Yisrael which rest upon the votes of non-Jews, i.e. democratically elected Arab Knesset members, are invalid. Goren also issued a Halachic ruling that every Jew is commanded to kill Yasser Arafat according to the Biblical precept that "thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor" (Lev. 19:16).
Another respected Rabbi and educator, Rabbi Aharon Lichenstein of the Alon Shvut Settlement, called Baruch Goldstein of the Hebron massacre "a Jew who is killed because he is a Jew - a martyr", comparable to a Holocaust victim - "a God-fearing man who did good deeds, loved people and saved lives".

Which Holocaust?

Anyone who participated, as I did, in the invasion of France in 1944 can never forget the fiftieth anniversary of what heralded the beginning of the liberation of occupied Europe from the Nazis. However, this mighty Allied action came too late for European Jewry: six million Jews, one third of the Jewish people, including over a million children, were slaughtered in the Nazi Holocaust.
Ever since then I have been accompanied in my life by a sense of identification with the six million and by a quest to reach an understanding of the significance of the Holocaust. Ironically, five decades after the event, the theory that the Holocaust never took place, or has been exaggerated for Jewish and Israeli propaganda purposes, is becoming increasingly fashionable. I read that in Europe it is claimed, for instance, that Anna Frank's diary was faked by her father Otto, who was the only member of the Frank family to survive the death camps.
Now Anna Frank's diary, which was translated from the Dutch into over thirty languages, has brought the Holocaust home to countless millions for whom the figure of six million is too enormous and monstrous to comprehend. For many readers from new generations, Anna Frank, who died in Bergen-Belsen in March 1945 at the age of sixteen, was the personification of the Holocaust.
The "revisionist" historians are still outside the mainstream and often have to defend themselves in court. However, could all this not change as the survivor generation dies out, leaving no personal witnesses to the Holocaust?
Hitler wrote exactly seventy years ago in Mein Kampf (My Struggle) that "the great masses of the people ... will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one".