From: info@infopal.org (The Independent Palestinian Information Network)
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A Palestinian Letter to an Israeli Friend
 
 By Samah Jabr
 International Herald Tribune - Paris, Thursday, November 2, 2000
 [By way of Rick Rozoff]
 
 JERUSALEM - Dear Anat: Here we are, you  and  I,  standing  again
 with a pool of blood and  hundreds  of  dead  bodies  keeping  us
 apart.
 
 We thought we had made it. We managed to be friends in  spite  of
 all our differences. I am a religious Muslim Palestinian and  you
 are a secular Israeli Jew. We are united  because  we  were  both
 born in Jerusalem, a place that during our lifetimes has not been
 a very holy place at all, but a scene of  constant  conflict  and
 hatred.
 
 We have communicated in English, a second language  for  both  of
 us,  so  the  potential  for  misunderstanding  has  always  been
 possible. We came together curiously, eager to  learn  about  the
 other, to get to the bottom of why our  people  held  forth,  one
 against the other.
 
 Through our personal connection, we two found  a  commonality  in
 our joint realization that we are of a human  family,  squabbling
 perhaps, but much the same in our needs and dreams  and  wish  to
 have fulfilling and happy lives in the place where we were born.
 
 I told you right from the beginning of our association that I did
 not support the peace process which neither helped my people  nor
 exposed the truth to a watching world  beyond  our  borders.  The
 peace process did not stop the Israelis from continuing to  build
 settlements and roads  separating  Palestinians  into  Bantustans
 like those in South Africa.
 
 I told you how afraid I was to go abroad because I  worried  that
 Israelis would confiscate my Jerusalem ID card and  with  it,  my
 identity.  I  explained  how  many   families   within   my   own
 neighborhood had a son or a father in an Israeli prison. I  spoke
 of acquaintances who had had their home destroyed as  a  form  of
 collective punishment because a cousin was suspected of  a  crime
 against Israel. The key word was suspected, not proven.
 
 You knew I was active within the Palestinian student community. I
 was keen to tell you who I am because I wanted  our  relationship
 to be based on a solid foundation of truth.
 
 In spite of our  nationalistic  views,  yours  Israeli  and  mine
 Palestinian, we made it; we maintained a warm relationship and  a
 civilized dialogue. I remember when you had me in your  apartment
 overnight.
 
 We spent the evening chatting about art, literature, music,  good
 movies. For the first time, I had Israeli bagels  for  breakfast.
 Then, you came to see me, and I introduced you to hot Sahlab that
 warmed you on that particular cold day. You said, ''This  is  the
 best winter drink I've ever had.''
 
 You had friends  and  so  did  I  who  did  not  approve  of  our
 relationship. But, you and I are both Semitic people. We are both
 individualists,  independent  and  we  chose  our  own   way   of
 friendship.
 
 My flat mate once told me, ''All  Israelis  feed  on  Palestinian
 blood.'' But I thought: ''How can she lump people  together  like
 that? Israelis are individuals and Anat is my friend.''
 
 But now we are separated by violence again. Just  after  I  heard
 that the Israeli government had called on civilians to  be  armed
 and ready for a potential fight, you called. Your voice  came  to
 me through the phone asking, ''What happened, Samah? We  were  at
 the peace table. Everything was almost settled.''
 
 ''What peace are you talking about?'' I asked you.  ''Is  it  the
 peace of checkpoints,  of  making  Palestinians  take  off  their
 clothes at airports? Is it no right of return,  no  cessation  of
 settlement building, no East Jerusalem for  our  capital,  no  to
 public sanitation in Arab towns, no to  education,  no  to  water
 rights? All of these plus Uzis pointed at us  every  day  of  our
 lives?''
 
 We hung up, Anat, so now I'm trying to reach you in this  letter.
 Listen, Anat, I live the long days of occupation. Today, I cannot
 leave the house because your government has imposed a siege on my
 people. We cannot even go to the store to buy milk.  Sometimes  I
 cannot go to the hospital to help with our injured.
 
 Being radical  does  not  mean  being  violent;  it  means  never
 wavering from conviction  born  of  experience  and  an  uncommon
 interest in truth and justice. When Israel gives the Palestinians
 truth and justice, then, Anat, we can cross the  green  line  and
 share friendship again.
 
 You and I almost made it, Anat. What about now? I am  writing  to
 you in the near dark and calm of my room, but  outside  there  is
 chaos. I hear shooting and missiles landing. I hear cries of kids
 who have defied the curfew and their mother's warnings.
 
 Dear Anat, we both  realize  that  this  is  the  game  of  power
 politics. You suggest that Palestinians  should  save  themselves
 and take whatever they are given, small as  that  may  be.  Don't
 commit suicide, you warn referring to our Intifada. I do not want
 to die, Anat. Our Intifada is not a suicidal attempt, but a labor
 to bring up a new life.
 
 I am not a military person, but I know when it is time  to  fight
 and, if necessary, to die. I fight with my pen, my prayers and my
 medical equipment. I close my eyes in sadness over  the  loss  of
 even one of our children out there daring  to  throw  stones.  We
 will survive and we will overcome. We adults  in  Palestine  will
 not hang our heads in seeming defeat.
 
 It seems to me that your people  believe  that  Uzis,  money  and
 power can overcome truth and justice.
 
 You and I live in a distorted place  far  from  civilization  and
 modern sensibilities about humanity's value. Will you read what I
 have said, Anat? Will you read this and not just throw  down  the
 paper in disgust? Will you be my friend again and I yours?  Truth
 will tell.
 
 The writer is a Palestinian medical student living in  Jerusalem.
 She contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.
 
 (c) International Herald Tribune