Ifat Maoz Department of Communication

The Middle of the Process

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The Middle of the Process

The Fifth Encounter

This encounter took place following a visit by the Palestinian group to Bir Zeit University in the Palestinian Autonomy. The students arrived excited after the visit and particularly noted the favorable conditions that they lacked at Ben-Gurion University, such as Arab music and lectures held in Arabic. Members of the Jewish group asked if the Palestinian participants would therefore go there to do their graduate studies. Following is the discussion of this issue that developed between Nasser and Avner.

Nasser: I would like to clarify this point. I would study there if they had an MA in my subject. Someone who hasn’t been there can’t understand it…the problem is one of conditions.

Avner: All your considerations are practical. The question is whether you decide not to study at a university where you feel at home for these practical reasons. If so, why not do the same thing when the Palestinian State is established? Why go on living here? It’s impossible for you to feel at home here. You’re saying something that sounds very odd. You’re saying, in fact, that when the Palestinian State is established, you won’t go and live there.

A few Arab participants answer simultaneously: Why should we go? Our land is here!

This time, Nasser shows an ambivalent attitude: On one hand he identifies with Bir Zeit University (and, through this, perhaps with Palestinian national identity since the university is seen as a national symbol) and on the other hand he presents practical considerations: the reasons why he won’t study there. Avner immediately identifies Nasser’s ambivalence: “After all, it is impossible for you to feel comfortable here as a minority in a Jewish State, so why go on living here once the Palestinian State is established?”

A Jewish participant (reflecting general amazement among the Jews in the group at the Arab participants’ response): Our fathers or forefathers yearned for generations and traveled thousands of kilometers to live in a Jewish state in order not to go on living and raising children as a minority among non-Jews. You are not willing to travel fifty kilometers so that your children can be raised together within the majority of your nation and religion. All because of your connection to your parents’ land?

This amazement reveals the magnitude of the gap between the monolithic belief systems of the two national groups. The Jews who believe in Zionism are willing to detach themselves from a tradition of hundreds of years of Diaspora, while the Palestinians in Israel believe that their bond with the land is more important than the possibility of participating in the creation of their own independent state. These Palestinians may have difficulties in disclosing other, perhaps economic reasons why they do not want to move out of Israel. The Jewish students, on the other hand, fear that their stance reflects only the first stage of the well-known “theory of stages” according to which the Palestinians are believed to be striving to gain control, step by step, of the whole of Israel, as they had intended in 1948.

Avner: The question is how you, Nasser, a man who has no intention of moving to a Palestinian state, can say you have demands. I just want to know (turns to the Jewish group), I want to understand their point of view, how can he make demands to have an independent state he has no intention of living in. You, Nasser, have you no intention of moving there? He isn’t answering me (looks round in triumph, referring to Nasser).

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