Holy Land 2014
Wel-Com invited a response to our collection of stories on Palestine that appeared in our July 2014 issue from the Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand, Yosef Livne. He replied as follows:
The articles gave me very few options. I could ignore them, I could classify them as another chapter of anti-Israeli propaganda or I could share a story. Obviously, it would have been more appropriate if the author of the articles were to dedicate the same time and space to the Israeli narrative, but unfortunately that is not the case. I can only contemplate the reasons in the privacy of my home. But, I feel that our story deserves to be exposed through the annals of my own family.
About two centuries ago a young Jewish man left his parents’ home and came to Jerusalem. He never expected to become rich. His trip was not motivated by desire to prospect gold or dig for diamonds. He simply followed an ancient call, engraved in his DNA – return to your homeland.
Today, I am the proud descendant of that man. I am the penultimate link in the chain of a family of Israelis. Our story is not unique. It is the saga of thousands of families whose forefathers chose to leave the anti-Semitic atmosphere of Europe and rekindle the light of Jewish nationhood in the only piece of land in the world we can justly call home – The Land of Israel or, as known to others, the Holy Land or Palestine.
Unlike European settlers in other areas, no one ignored the local population. They certainly were not treated as inferior or subjugated. As far back as the novel Altneuland and through the writings of numerous Zionist thinkers and politicians, the quality of relations between the returning Jews and the local Arab population was an ever-present topic. Unfortunately, the kind of discussion concerning the relations between the two peoples only took place in the corridors of Jewish institutions. On the other side, the attitude was total rejection accompanied by violence. In my own family, my grandparents and my parents were promised protection from the onslaught by Jamil, the leader of a neighbouring village and a personal Arab friend of my grandfather. Yet, it was my grandfather who went to see his friend at his village and plead with him not to leave as they had been ordered by the Mufti of Jerusalem. His was very explicit – you either obey or you will suffer the same fate as the Jews – death. Jamil couldn’t face the threat and his entire village uprooted and left. Israel, despite war and violence, became a reality. Jamil became a refugee thanks to his own brethren.
Since the early days of our existence as a State, we had to face the different faces of hatred – virulent propaganda, assassinations and war accompanied our lives. I still remember the ‘promises’ of destruction broadcast over the radio in 1967. We, Arabs and Israelis, went through repeated wars before two brave men said ‘enough’. In 1977 reality changed for the first time when Egypt and Israel embarked on the road to peace. In 1993, our hopes for a new beginning rose to new heights when the Oslo agreements were concluded.
Nevertheless, terror continued with no respite, transforming buses and hotels, cafes and restaurants into scenes of butchery. Time and again suicide bombers, their minds mutilated by fanaticism and promise of an afterlife filled with earthly pleasures shattered the lives of people, young and old. The violence begets the separation wall. As in so many cases in the past, truth and honesty were the first victims of propaganda.
Vicious anti-Israeli and anti-Semite activists launched a campaign of smear. They had no qualms about portraying it as a measure to enclose the Palestinians. Nevertheless truth will prevail. However, others will try to portray it, that obstacle was erected not to enclave the Palestinians – an insinuation that is both cruel and sickening. The wall and the fence are there for one reason and one reason only – to make the task of terrorists difficult. If we were to leave the lines open, nobody can tell how many more Israelis would have been killed. Yes, it places hardships, but hardships do not kill. Suicide bombers do. When we and our Palestinian neighbours finally reach an agreement, the wall will no longer be necessary but, as long as the threat exists, it will continue to protect innocent lives despite unfounded claims.
No one claims the situation in the territories is normal. The goal of establishing peace on the basis of a two-state solution is still relevant today. Meanwhile, and despite many difficulties, there are serious efforts to build a different reality. During 2013 more than 200,000 medical-related permits were issued to Palestinians for both patients and family members to enter Israel from the West Bank.
Over 13,000 patients from Gaza equally received treatment in Israel and all but one ambulance carrying people in desperate need were admitted. Besides medical attention, there are also training sessions for Palestinian medical personnel which are held at Israeli hospitals.
One can go on and on and refute so much of the baseless allegations. But, I believe the above mentioned facts suffice. Yes, beloved land, how easy it is to smear in your name. Forgive them … the truth will prevail.