Peace From the Bottom Up?

Palestinian hate won't be solved by what Obama wants to impose from above.

Kedumim, Samaria, West Bank, Israel …

Turning off the Trans-Israel Highway Six onto Route 55 - the Kalqilya-Nablus highway, we pass through numerous Arab-Palestinian villages. At Azzun, Laqef, and Funduk our car intermingles with Arab-Palestinian cars bearing green license plates with the letter P for Palestine in English as well as the Arabic for Filestin. At Funduk, we drive through the main street and we are greeted with a friendly hand wave by children and adults. We take note of Jewish “settlers” with helmet-like skullcaps making their way in and out of local Arab stores – with signs in both Arabic and Hebrew.

Driving along in total normalcy you tend to forget that this part of the world is so maligned for violence and hate.  You come to realize that hatred and violence is not natural to the Palestinian-Arabs nor is it a part of the value system of the Jews who live in the communities cum “settlers” in Judea and Samaria .  In this part of the country, the countryside of Samaria exudes an air of normalcy that seems to pervade the hilltop communities of both Arabs and Jews.

But then you read in Israel Today (April 6, 2010) that Palestinian National Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has ordered Arab-Palestinians not to purchase Israeli goods from “settlers” and that Palestinian Authority (PA) police raided and confiscated goods bought by local Palestinian-Arabs from their neighbors – the Jewish “settlers”, and realize that the hatred and violence is being ordered and carried out from above by Salam Fayyad’s government.  The incitement against Jews is disseminated by the PA through the Palestinian media, schools, and mosques, a reality not reported by the New York Times or BBC.

Raphaella Segal, deputy-Mayor of Kedumim, and its chief spokesperson, as well as a mother of nine is a youthful and energetic grandmother who describes life in Samaria before the 1993 Oslo Accords: “We in the Kedumim community would shop in all the nearby Arab villages.  We became close friends with many of our Arab neighbors, and they would come to Kedumim to celebrate with us personal events such as weddings, births and bar Mitzvahs, and we did the same.  We participated in their religious holidays as they did in ours.  Many from the neighboring Arab villages of Kfar Kadum and Jit worked in Kedumim.”  She then added with pathos in her voice, “We got along fine before Arafat and the politicians took over.”

As we drove along Route 55 to the Nablus Junction we arrived at Mt. Grizim, the holiest site for the Samaritans.  Segal told us that persecution by the PA drove close to 200 Samaritan families out of the neighboring city of Nablus (Schehem) and into the mountain for safety.  We encountered some Samaritans as we rode through their town and noted their preparations for the celebration of the Feast of the Sacrifice and Passover, which will take place next week (a few weeks after the Jewish observance).  They welcomed us warmly as we toured the area where the annual sacrifice is conducted.  The Samaritans, who speak Arabic as well as Hebrew, have a very close relationship with Israel and Jews.  Segal told us of her visits to the town and that, “I was invited to the home of the High Priest for the Sacrifice Festival last year.”

At the summit of Mt. Grizim we came upon a sight – a clear dichotomy - that might explain the real problem in the Arab-Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Perched on the top of the mountain is a huge palace built in the Graeco-Roman style that stands alone and commands the area.  The palace belongs to a top official of the PA.  Directly below, in the valley between Mt Grizim and Mt. Eval, on a flat and crowded section of Nablus are the refugee camps of Balata and Askar. It is not hard to figure out that the poverty and misery in these refugee camps were exploited by the Palestinians whether Arafat, Abbas, or Hamas to recruits “volunteers” for suicide missions.  The man who lives in the Graeco-Roman palace, however, did not send his sons or daughters to suicide missions to kill Jews.  And how do the PA officials in the palaces and chauffer driven Mercedes’ justify the misery of their brothers and sisters below - by blaming Israel. But while Israel rehabilitated its refugees from Arab countries and from the Holocaust, the Arabs contained them in the camps and let them fester in poverty, while the corrupt political leadership lived in luxury.  They kept the masses in ignorance and poverty, and incited them against the “infidel” Jewish “invaders” who “stole their land.”

According to Segal the most serious problem affecting the peaceful relationship between Arabs and Jews in the area are the PA security officials and policemen - in other words, the men with guns. “In the daytime they might be trained by General Dayton to maintain the peace but at night they are out to kill Israelis, stealing cars, and committing break-ins, etc.”  Segal quickly added, “In the not too far future the gun and training these Palestinian policemen received from the U.S. will be turned against Israel, that I am sure of…”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s economic peace initiative, which removed 185 roadblocks and checkpoints throughout Judea and Samaria, has created visible signs of prosperity among the Palestinians in the West Bank.  Last year the PA economy grew by 7%, and might exceed that this year. It is in evidence by the traffic jams around the Tapuch junction near Nablus.  Brand new cars with green Palestinian license plates are everywhere to be seen.  Newly constructed apartment towers dominate the Nablus skyline, and building cranes are everywhere around Nablus except in the refugee camps.

It is imperative that American taxpayers and the U.S. Congress ask the Obama administration officials why the U.S. taxpayers grant to the PA in the amount of $562 million in 2008 alone, did not include a clause requiring rehabilitation and housing for the refugee dwellers in the West Bank. And why the additional U.S. contribution to UNRWA in the amount of $148 million in 2008 did not include a specific provision for refugee housing.

The Palestinian-Arab refugees from Balata refugee camp in Nablus are able to see the new apartment towers popping up around them and the luxurious life style of the PA bureaucracy.  It is inconceivable that they would refuse better housing for their children and themselves or that they would decline to live in a healthier environment.  Unfortunately, the Obama administration seeks to impose a peace from above that would maintain the status quo vis a vis Palestinian leadership thus perpetuating the poverty, desperation, and exploitation of the poor in the refugee camps who are instruments of terror against Israel, while allowing the PA leadership to find excuses for not resolving the Arab-Palestinians-Israeli conflict.

The Palestinian leadership is living well thanks to American taxpayers and extensive support from the European Union, and they do not need peace. Perpetuating the conflict enables them to be sought after, appeased, and welcomed in western capitals with high honors, especially in Obama’s White House.

In the meantime, on the roads of Samaria a quiet peace is emerging from the bottom, a peace that is anchored on live and let live.  It is a model for the larger peace in the region, a peace that comes from the bottom up and not imposed from above.  Raphaella Segal has good advice for President Obama “Your peacemaking has been a failure, so leave us alone to build our own peace.”