Jun 22 2010
Terry Glavin helps explain the sad end of the dream of global solidarity and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. An excerpt from The Mark:
You could hear the heartbreak in his voice. The shattered dreams of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, the lost opportunities for genuine global solidarity with that gallant cause – it was all there in Yossi Klein Halevi’s voice.
“It’s over. I’m reminded of that every day. I can see it from my front porch. The wall. You can’t get away from it. The wall reminds you that it’s over.”
“The wall” is what Jerusalemites call the especially grim and forbidding portion of Israel’s separation barrier that rings their city, which is otherwise mainly a complex of fences, motion sensors, trenches, and concertina wire that snakes its way around ancient Judea and Samaria, enclosing the West Bank. Israel built the barrier as a defence against the Palestinian suicide bombers who were obliterating hundreds of Israeli civilians during the final years of the 20th century. In Jerusalem, it’s an eight-metre-high concrete blight.
I met with Halevi in Jerusalem three weeks before the May 31 high-seas Mavi Marmara calamity. Nine dead at last count. A flotilla had set out from Turkey and Cyprus to challenge Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Israeli commandos intervened and things went badly. The hysteria billowed around the world, from the usual anti-Israel protesters carrying “Gaza Genocide” placards in cities across Canada to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan accusing Israel of a “bloody massacre.” But it is Halevi’s quiet voice, with its weary timbre, that I can still hear the loudest.
An Israeli journalist and author, Halevi came to prominence in the mid-1990s with a memoir that chronicled his break with Jewish extremism. In 2001, his At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land, explored the brave idea that affectionate bonds of faith might be forged across the great monotheisms that meet at their ancient intersection of Jerusalem.
But just as Halevi was settling into the role of peace-camp activist and intellectual, al-Qaeda plunged two airliners into the World Trade Center in New York, the Euro-American left decided that Zionism was the most foul of all the plagues upon the world, and the peace process that began with the Oslo Accords, which had laid the groundwork for a free Palestine thriving alongside Israel, was in shards. The al-Aqsa intifada set off a cycle of suicide bombings, reprisals, and repression that left nearly 6,000 Palestinians and Israelis dead and a massive wall running through Jerusalem.
Nothing seemed to matter or make sense. Unilaterally evict all 9,000 Israeli settlers from Gaza for the sake of peace and the next thing you know Hamas has turned the place into a Khomeinist-sponsored crackpot statelet severed from the West Bank by a fratricidal civil war that has so far cost about 2,000 Palestinian lives. And there were still thousands of rockets being fired into Israel from Gaza every year. That’s what Israel’s mainstream doves had to show for themselves. That, and abandonment by their erstwhile counterparts in Europe and North America. “It was the total collapse of the Israeli left,” Halevi said.