Forgiveness, Justice, Peace

Dear Sirs,

As per the
Journal's invitation, the following is a letter seeking to contribute to the debate started by Prof. Galit Hasan-Rokem and Ms. Leila Dabdoub (Palestine-Israel Journal, Vol. V No. 2, 1998). This personal letter specifically discusses my first-hand experience regarding guilt and forgiveness as they pertain to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. I hope that my views will make a small contribution toward our quest for full justice and, thus, full peace.
You are correct, Prof. Galit Hasan-Rokem, that guilt must not be left alone to drive the discourse between Arabs and Israelis. However, from the Palestinian and Arab side, forgiveness is possible only if it is accompanied by real justice from Israel. Many Palestinians appreciate the Israeli intellectuals' and leftists' feeling of guilt, display of objectivity, and respect of human rights for the Palestinians. The Arabs sympathize with this very small group of Israelis because they recognize its honesty, and they might be ready to forgive this group. However, they cannot forgive the whole society that is still trying to dominate them. At least, not yet. Until the true Israeli left brings about a real change of attitude within Israeli society, I am afraid the discourse will only be limited to a display of Israeli guilt and a limited Palestinian appreciation.
You expressed the need for wider peaceful interaction between not only elitists, but between the two peoples. For this to take shape, real equality between the two peoples should materialize. This means Israeli society should stop providing blind support to all violent, oppressive and inhumane actions of the Israeli army. Also, this society should acknowledge the injustices and the misery that the Israeli army has caused the Palestinians and the Arabs.
No doubt, many Arabs appreciate the efforts of Israeli peace advocates to educate Israeli society about the real problems of occupation and the continuation of military conflict. Arab intellectuals have a similar responsibility in exposing to their societies the ravages of continued armed conflicts. If peace is to prevail in the future, both Arab and Israeli societies should start - sooner than later - to move away from a militaristic mentality. The intellectuals on both sides should lead the way. This is not an easy task and that of the Israeli peace advocates is more arduous and their responsibility bigger because they find themselves in the awkward position of being also the occupier. In this context, I can tell my first-hand experience with forgiveness.
When the Israeli army invaded Lebanon in 1982, I was living in Beirut. One of the first air raids, on June 4th, destroyed Beirut's famous Sport City football stadium. It was no secret that, at the time, the PLO had been using the stadium as an arms depot. The raid scored a direct hit. As a result of the big explosion, a dark cloud mushroomed in the sky of the city. From where I was standing, it looked exactly like the pictures I had seen of atomic mushroom clouds. I did not know what to expect next. The cloud got bigger, trailed by gigantic orange flames. As these came closer to where I was standing, I thought I would most probably die. I felt helpless, powerless and my life meaningless.
Days later, I read about Peace Now demonstrations in Israel. They were large and loud. The pictures in the press were as loud as the sound of the Sport City's explosion. They conveyed that our conflict with Israel meant something more than the war outside my window. I understood that some people across the border do care about my pain which is inflicted by people on their own side. My teenager mind came to realize that the border no longer represented the divide between the ones who "care" and the ones who "don't." By then, the Sport City was gone. But my Sport City mushroom was still with me. Although not able to forget, I realized that I might be able to forgive - some day.
Nine years later, I stood up in a Pittsburgh audience and asked a Peace Now leader what happened to these demonstrations that had altered my understanding of his society, and why they are not, today, as effective in altering the attitude of the Israeli society towards my people. Sixteen years after my mushroom in Lebanon, my question still seeks an answer. Without one, my forgiveness is not fully possible.

Maged Abdul Rahman
Pittsburgh, PA

Scholarly Journal

Dear Editors

Thank you so much for the issue of your journal. It will immensely help my research project. I've been scrambling for single articles on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and you generously give me a whole journal! Your journal is perfect for my research: it is impartial, scholarly and professional. I am much obliged.

Johnny Teolis
Toronto, Canada