Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Peace Between the Semites: The Halloween Solution

First of all, OK, I know I'm late. But Mideast Peace is always late, so this should be appropriate.

Second of all, neither Israel nor the Palestinians (a people without a place) celebrate Halloween. But that's exactly what we need - an uninvolved 3rd party.

Third, Halloween is all about being scared, and the last thing we need more of in the Middle East is fear. Well, there's a huge difference between "being scared" and having your home bulldozed, your food supply and electricity cut off, and your ability to earn a living removed. What we need are more hobgoblins and Star Wars characters, less bloodbaths in the nursery. What we need is not a "Peace Talk" for Propaganda where nothing moves, nothing changes. What we need is a real costume party.

You see, it's all about make-believe, fake fears, and trust...

Now just imagine, for a moment, that your kids are in front of a house trick or treating. This requires a fair amount of trust. You trust that the house does not contain a man armed with an M-16 who will open the door and blow everybody's head off. You trust that the street also does not contain such men. In fact, you trust that the other children with your child are actual children, friends, not "enemy combatants", for example. And you trust that the candy is not poisoned.

The people in the house also trust that these children are not a come-on for some killers in the background. Or that they are not going to vandalize their house afterwards - or before. Or that they are not going to enter suddenly, by force, weilding knives or other weapons.

Normally, this trust is definitely kept. Halloweens come & go, mostly without incident. Incidents of a violent or other criminal nature are the rare exception. Parents take certain precautions, of course. But the level of trust is a sign of a relatively healthy society.

It's what you call neighbors, community... it's something Palestinians don't have much of, cross-nationally speaking. But they do have make-believe. And so do the Israelis. In fact, Israeli policy relies heavily on make-believe. The Israeli government is not a peace-maker, but plays one on TV.

They have no motive to make peace. Things are OK as is, apparently. Bush/Cheney have no intention of working on this thing. Giuliani, for one, doesn't see the "need" for a Palestinian state. The Israeli govt. has put peace on indefinite hold, and really doesn't give a damn. But one day, if doomsday prophesies are fulfilled (which we're plied with on Halloween) Israel may not even be able to exist with the power and might it now does - and Israelis and Palestinians may have to share shelters. So we need a little more, shall we say, empathy. Even fake empathy?

So when Palestinian civilians are killed in Israeli bombings, even in the Gaza, there should be a contingent of public Israelis wearing "tragedy" masks. And when a suicide bomber explodes in an Israeli marketplace and someone is killed, there should be also Palestinians wearing their "tragedy" masks. Of course, normally this would never happen, and both sides rarely feel for the other. But wearing the masks would put some make-believe into empathy.

And each side should don their "happy face" masks when the other has cause for celebration - that is, celebration that does not involve the thrill of revenge or the thrill of military/violent victory/conquest.

And when it comes to impossible "thorny" issues such as recognition of Israel - which they feel as preconditional endorsement of their own oppression with no promise of gain - or the Palestinians' right of return - which is seen on the other side as opening the Pandora's floodgate for a devastating influx of former refugees on an already strained system/infrastucture: well, in these two cases, each wears a "compromise" mask - a serious, but friendly face that shows willingness to consider the other sides' view.

And the media should only view the masks. Both sides' interests should receive equal coverage in all media. Palestinians whose homes were bulldozed should be allowed to air their grievances, and Israelis should wear their "tragedy" masks. It gives the impression of compassion, even if none is there.

And when it comes to collective punishment - tell me, what mask should the Israelis wear? And what mask should be worn when the Palestinians' home is bulldozed to clear the way for the Israeli settlers? And what mask should be worn by both sides when settlers move into what was once a Palestinian Semite's (and to the Nazis, btw, all Arabs were also "Juden") home in a nice new, much better Israeli home, after the pogrom? Shall the Palestinians wear "happy faces" welcoming their tormenters to their former piece of land, so they can wander looking for a place to "assimilate"? Does no one see the oppressed repeating his oppressor's crimes when he's in the driver's seat?

And what mask should be worn by the Israeli soldiers as they search and kill suspects in the Palestinian side, in their homes? What costume could terrify a Palestinian child more than that of an Israeli soldier? The blood, the death of people he knows are not make-believe.

We need more Star Wars costumes, less bayonets, less checkpoints, less militarism. We need more trust, more peace.

But peace is here only make-believe. And no mask can hide the glaringly obvious absence of conscience. Happy Halloween.

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