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memri
August 6, 2018 No.
7607

Yemeni-Egyptian Liberal Dr. Elham Manea: 'I Went To Israel And Don't Regret It'; Peace With It Is Possible

Liberal Yemeni-Egyptian writer Dr. Elham Manea, who resides in Switzerland where she lectures on political science at the University of Zurich and is a member of Switzerland's Federal Commission for Women's Affairs, wrote an article published July 27, 2018 on the liberal Arab website Ahewar.org and titled "If We Are Not The Emissaries Of Peace, Who Will Be? I Went To Israel And I Don't Regret [It]."

In the article, Dr. Manea stated that she had visited Israel and told of her pleasantly surprising and reassuring experience with passport control at Ben Gurion Airport. She wrote that she was planning to write a weekly series of articles about her visit to Israel, and stressed that she recognizes Israel's existence, sees the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as having two sides, is not biased towards either, and wishes peace and security on both sides. She went on to condemn "the hatred that is fanned in equal measure by Jewish and Islamic religious extremism" and declared that no matter what, she refuses to hate the Israelis.

Her decision to visit Israel, she added, was not difficult at all, and she does not regret it. She wrote that she learned a great deal from what she saw with her own eyes there. In her upcoming series of articles on her visit, she said, she intends to describe her impressions of the Israeli point of view regarding peace-seeking; of her visit to Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust; of her chance meeting with Yemenite Jews; of her visits to Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem; of the debate in Israel on the issue of the recently-passed Nationality Law; and of finally recognizing Israelis as people with whom it is possible to make peace.

Calling on the Arabs to give up their belief that Israel will just disappear one day, because it will not, she urged them to seek a way of attaining peace with it, for the good of both sides.


Dr. Elham Manea (Source: Maghrebvoices.com, July 20, 2018)

The following are translated excerpts of Dr. Manea's July 27, 2018 article on Ahewar.org:

"We Suckle [Hatred Of Israel] With Our Mother's Milk"

"'What is the purpose of your visit?' the passport control official at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv asked us, as she set our two passports on the computer in front of her and regarded us closely with a steady gaze. Thomas and I... said simultaneously: 'Tourism.' She looked at her computer [screen], holding the two passports. Handing them back to us, she said: 'Welcome to Israel.' It took me a few seconds to realize what she had said, and I almost said to her, 'Is that it?' But we breathed deeply and left.

"We expected something different. We thought that due to my Arab visa and Arab entry stamps on my passport the treatment would be harsher, very harsh. At least that was what the Swiss tour agency that booked our flight for us had told us. And Thomas told me then, 'They might take you to a side room and ask you in detail about the reason for your visit. Don't get upset, just answer the questions.' But that didn't happen. [On the contrary – they only said:] 'Welcome to Israel.' This was music to my ears...

"How many of us were raised to hate this country? We suckle [this hatred] with our mother's milk. How many of us have learned that it is the enemy? And that the enemy has no right to exist? How many?

"Many of you say repeatedly, 'We have no problem with the Jews; our problem is with Israel,' and add, 'Israel is an illegitimate state, an artificial state that has no right to exist, a state created by imperialism that will disappear one of these days from the map of our region.' This is what we whisper to ourselves in public and in secret.

"But it hasn't disappeared. It continues to exist. If that is the case, then the time has come for us, the social forces that call for peace on both sides, to seek together a way to our future. Together. Particularly at this very time, when the option of peace seems possible. This is because peace does not come in times of security and mutual love, but in times of wars and hatred."

"The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict "Has Two Sides, And I See Both"

"Before I tell you about my visit in a weekly series [of articles], I will begin by presenting my position: I have never doubted Israel's right to exist. I recognize the 1948 UN Partition Plan. I see [Israel as] a legitimate state. It is divided between two peoples that did not want to live together, and each of them insists on its own historical narrative. Just as all the countries that surround Israel are new states, so is Israel – all are new countries that had no existence as independent political entities before the first half of the 20th century: Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and so on and so forth. The list is long.

"Take Iraq, for example. You will find that the linking of Mosul with Baghdad and Basra is also the result of a British decision, made despite these three entities' differing ethnic affiliations. Despite this, anyone who dares talk about separating these entities is chastised and silenced and accused of working for a foreign element... But that's another story.

"I will not hate. I will not hate. I wrote this earlier [on May 22, 2015] in an article [titled] "To Mark The Anniversary of the Nakba/Establishment of the State of Israel: I Will Not Hate,"[1] and I say here what I said then, to make this picture clear to you: 'I do not treat the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from a point of view that is biased towards one of the sides. I am biased towards the human aspect. Yes, I see this as a conflict that has two sides, and I see both sides together. After that, I see the humanity in them, and to be honest, I do not see Israeli men and women as the enemy. I wish for them neither evil nor destruction, I wish for them [to live] in peace and security, just as I wish [this] for the Palestinians. I see the humanity in the Israeli men and women just as I see the fear that lives within them. At the same time, I am not disregarding the lands that were and remain expropriated, and the existence of the occupation that kills the Palestinian and his dignity and violates his humanity in the Palestinian territories – just as I am not disregarding the discrimination suffered by the Israeli Arabs, in a state that some politicians are not convinced must serve all its citizens...

"This is important. I see both sides, together, and I wish them both peace and security, together. And just as I see both sides, I see also those who fan the fire. I am not disregarding the hatred that is fanned in equal measure by Jewish and Islamic religious extremism. This hatred is persistent; it is deeply rooted among the settlers and the populist right [in Israel] who insist that all the land belongs to them and that there is no Palestinian existence. It is just as deeply rooted in the Islamic fundamentalist culture of hatred that has spread and that Hamas is fanning in Gaza, the same [culture] that teaches the children in the kindergartens – as exposed in a new video [about] how to kill 'the Jews' and how to 'slaughter them.' You teach a four-year-old boy how to slaughter? [How] to hold another child and slaughter him with a knife? What kind of person are you creating?

"Each of the sides needs the other for the message of destruction, which they preach, to become stronger. They exchange fire, mutually killing what is human in both sides."

The Time Has Come To See The Enemy As Human, And Make Peace

"Despite all this, I again stress: I will not hate. I will not hate. I will not hate the Israeli men and women. Just as I don't want to destroy the State of Israel. And while I defend the Palestinian men and women's right to exist in a state that will give them independence, security, and wellbeing, and oppose the systematic [Israeli] settlement policy that uproots peace, I realize that most of the voices opposing the settlement policy are Israeli, and emanate from within Israel itself – and that the ones who defend the Palestinian rights more than anyone are Israeli organizations, headed by Peace Now...

"This is what I argued in my previous article. I am reiterating it in order to clarify my position, which is clear and is biased towards the human being, whoever he is.

'Accordingly, deciding to visit Israel was not difficult for me. It was not difficult at all. What was difficult in this matter was the publicization of my visit. But just as I do not hate, so do I not lie. I went to Israel because it is a state whose existence I recognize. And, more importantly, I went there because I wanted to see for myself what is happening in reality – to see the [Israeli] in his [natural] environment. I did not regret it – on the contrary, I left with much that will allow me to write this series, in which I will set them before you in detail. I will tell you of what prompted me to say to Thomas, 'I know where we'll go for vacation – Tel Aviv'; I will tell you about the book I read during my visit to help me understand the Israeli point of view in the search for peace, by Yossi Klein Halevi, titled Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor. [I will tell you about] my visit to the Holocaust museum [i.e. the Yad Vashem memorial], from which no one emerges unchanged; about the Israelis of Yemeni origin whom I met by chance; about Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem...; about the Jewish Nationality Law that was promoted by a populist right wing minority, the nature of the discussion around it in Israel, and the opposition to it; about a moving human aspect of Israel's attitude towards some of its neighbors, victims of our wars. And, most important, I will tell you about the Israeli – the one that loves, laughs, fears, and weeps. The one that can be a friend. The one who when we see him, we realize that peace is possible.

"So do not hasten to curse me. Think about it a little. Striving for peace is not for times of peace – but for times of war. For times when your enemy becomes the object of your hatred. Perhaps the time has come to see this enemy as human, to be acknowledged before we decree his sentence – because if we are not emissaries of peace, who will be?"

 

[1] Ssrcaw.org, May 22, 2015.