I struggle with just how to paint the picture, which is permanently imprinted in my mind, of the fractured society that several minor and major Middle-Eastern wars have created.
I can also never forget writing the final chapters of Nimrod Rising. That was the other time that such a feeling of inadequacy had come over me, until I finally conjured up the appropriate images and then it flowed out of me.
Depicting the great and final battle of Armageddon. and the utter destruction that will result, is a humbling and heart-rending mission. I was right there, the battle ground where the bowl of vicious evil will be ultimately filled and where the final clash of kinship, a collision of cultures and memories of loss in deadly battles, already fought; all done in the name of their God. I was standing on the very ground and writing this expose.
The first two articles already gave you a taste of this very profound novel, Nimrod Rising. These ancient societies have come down to our day and the long awaited battle shall follow suit. This is as real as it gets.
Waiting to enter Ramallah, at the Qualandiya checkpoint, told me that I was very much alive, and hoped to remain as such. War was all around me, at least the remains of a war that had taken a breather, giving me time to get in and to get back out. Yet, walking up to a soldier in full battlefield gear without being nervous is impossible. I found that the best approach was complete honesty.
When my turn came, I produced my passport with a picture that no longer looked so much like me and handed it to the soldier standing guard at the Qualandiya checkpoint. It looked official enough, I thought. I turned out to be right and entered without difficulty. I entered the city of Ramallah wondering if all the humiliation was needed. I finally concluded that is was.
I love the Jewish people, and I believe I let them know that. They are an amazing people with some of the greatest minds in history, to their credit. They have taken the desert and made it to blossom and is one of the few places in the world bananas grow in the desert. Still, what I would soon see inside Ramallah would have a big impact on me. There could be no accurate recounting of the situation without seeing the other side of the story. It would teach me how rich in culture and life both the Jews and the Palestinians are.
By the time Mr. Toubassi arrived, I was very happy to ride rather than walk in the embattled streets of Ramallah, with live fire all around us. Ramallah is by no means small nor insignificant. Before the founding of the State of Israel, the British had used this teaming city as a resort, during their rule, because of its moderate temperatures. Today, it is a teeming city, with sections which lay in complete ruins.
I started my journey at about 10:00 AM. I had found a good contact with the President of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Mr. Naim Toubassi. He was not sure that I would make it through the checkpoint at Qualandiya, but if I could, he promised to meet me, when I arrived. I did not know Mr. Toubassi, but I had been assured that he was a reliable man, and it turned out to be completely true.
Journalism is a very dangerous profession for Palestinians, in the occupied territories. Mr. Toubassi, himself, has paid a price for his love of his people. He has spent as much as seventeen months in jail without charges for his role in reporting the incursions into the West Bank in three of his newspapers. Once he was released for one day and night and was rearrested the next day. He has preached peace and an end to the suicide bombings, but his pleas have fallen on deaf ears, due to the continued intransigence of the Israeli government, according to Mr. Toubassi. He pointed out that his credibility is threatened and he feared that the violence will only increase as his fellow Palestinians see no reason to push for a peace that they feel offers them nothing but the same.
Mr. Toubassi pointed out to me that fourteen Palestinian journalists had been killed and over 70 wounded by Israeli forces. In addition, nine journalists are still held in detention by Israel's military. Shimon Peres himself has stated that war does not mean only a rifle and a gun, but also a camera. We were given evidence of this statement when we visited the bombed out headquarters of the Palestinian Broadcasting Company.
During the massive incursion in Ramallah, the Israel army had systematically placed dynamite throughout the building and blew it up along with all the equipment, which had been purchased with American and United Nations' funds. It seemed a bit like killing a bug with a sledge hammer, but Israel's justification was that such media sources only encouraged and glorified the suicide attackers and their families as heroes of the Palestinian cause.
A Palestinian reporter asked me, "How do you feel about having your American tax dollars to fund such death and destruction." He was making reference to the two billion dollars in American funds sent to Israel for their defense. The same argument is used by Jewish citizens of Israel that the funds handed over to Arafat by the Clinton and Bush administrations after Oslo to build a security force have allegedly been used to purchase explosives for the attacks that have rocked Israel's civilian population.
As I sat down for lunch with Mr. Toubassi, I spoke little and listened a lot. His words were profound and pertinent. "Who is the power holder in this region? It is certainly not the Palestinians. It is Israel who has the soldiers, the tanks, the Apache helicopters and the bomb itself. What have we got? Our people have the guns the Israelis gave us after Oslo which are small. We have our rocks and our bodies. When a young boy here has lost his mother, father and his brothers and sisters, what does he have left to do? He feels he has no reason to live and he wishes to give back to his family's killers what they had given to him, so he blows himself up. America and Israel tells us to arrest our terrorists, but the jails are all destroyed so where will we put them? Give us our land and we will rebuild our security and the bombing will stop. Everyone knows, except America and Israel that peace under these terms is the only thing that will work. I promise you that then we will live side by side and have a mutually beneficial relationship. Until then, our calls for an end to the bombing will fall on deaf ears."
To say the least, this region is at the point of change, simply by virtue of the fact that no society can maintain such dire conditions indefinitely. Either the troubled area of the world will find a negotiating posture that both sides can agree to or violence will only increase and a complete obliteration of both sides will result. America has stepped up its role as an honest broker that appears to be trying to find a process which sees the causes and reasons for the violence on both sides.
The truth of the matter that I have been able to ascertain is that the despair and dire lack of hope of the Palestinians cries out on every street. It is not enough to state that this land belongs to Israel. Both groups of people are out of options. There are no resources or political contacts that have sufficiently revealed that the only solution truly is peace. Perhaps what type of peace and how to achieve it is still up for grabs, but there have not been enough serious exchanges that could ever hope to lead anywhere accept to more hatred, more bombing of innocent lives and more death on both sides. It seems clear that the time has come to call the bluff of the leaders of both sides and to see if it is peace or power that is truly desired by either side. Politics is by nature a self-serving affair. The only way to reveal the motives of the two enemies is by challenging both sides to sacrifice and make room for new leadership. The fact is that who ever becomes the next leader of the Palestinians will have to take the terrorist factions by their throats and crush them. Otherwise, any future leader will remain hostage to groups that cannot even fathom any future Palestinian state next to a State of Israel. Constitutions and political and judicial institutions will be of no effect and any leader will have no power to rule if they are not reigned in. It is only logical that if a new, democratic state can be achieved, the first threat to peace will be Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, The Allah Aksa Martyrs Brigade and any of the various other splinter groups of which Hezbollah is armed to the teeth by Iran which exercises far wider influence in Middle-East violence than anyone cares to admit.
This became evident just over one year ago when the world was shocked by Hezbollah's ability to unceasingly lob their missiles into Israel. A future Palestinian leader will likely face a greater threat to regional peace from groups such as these which come from his own people than from Israel. Hamas has only lately made that clear. Indeed, it will be vital for a new Palestinian government to immediately develop strong relations with the State of Israel.
In fact, to accomplish what will be needed to establish a viable, legitimate Palestinian State, it will be vital that the terrorist groups be forced to turn on any newly elected government that was installed by the people of Palestine. This will break their public support. Money, guns and bombs cannot long live when the will of the people has been repudiated. A Hamas-led government would never outlaw terror, for it would be political suicide, since Terror is their raison D'etre.
If a new leader is willing to do the required tasks to rule, then it would not even be inconceivable to see Palestinian and Israeli troops fighting together to weed out the terrorist culture out of the Middle East. Such a situation would be mutually beneficial to both sides of the present conflict. Yet, it would be naive to expect such a direct demand by President Bush to be accepted at face value. It was clear to me that a large percent of Palestinians desire different leadership and peace and cooperation with Israel.
Never has the peacemaking role been so vital and never will there be another opportunity such as now. Hamas and Fatah are in a war of their own now. At the first bombing I witnessed in Israel, I spent a good deal of time taking it all in. I found it impossible to absorb entirely. A great feeling of guilt came over me and I did not want to take pictures, but their stories had to be told. When I was making my way out of the scene a long black bearded Jewish man came up to me. He had refused to cry, but his eyes were reddened. "We should have pushed them all out a long time ago. It is not that I hate Arabs or Palestinians, specifically, but Israel is for the Jew." The problem is that the day of Peres and the day of Prime Minister Sharon are over and there seems to be a leadership gap now in the Jewish state. The current leadership seems not to know that there will be no peace until they get rid of the killers? That is not so surprising since the world’s only super power has also missed the boat in that regard.
The Palestinian People and their Culture
A prayer for the State of Israel
Nobody can rightly say that Israel is unjustified in defending its citizens from the indiscriminate murder of its children and families. Christ said that anyone who harms a child would have a great millstone placed around their necks and be cast into the deepest sea. If this is the case, neither side will be able to escape judgment. Both are guilty of a lack of mercy and a sense of justice. Nevertheless, these two peoples are at war. It is a gang war of sorts and ground zero of the clash of personalities. What I saw and experienced in the home of the Intifada and in the middle of the Promised Land were these two peoples, both brothers, both with the same blood from the same father coursing through their veins and they are both deserving of a time of peace and hopeful of a future standing down and a cease to the hostilities. The world now waits to see if peace is truly desired or achievable in this sacred land. No one is sure of what President Obama truly desires to do in the Middle east today. He has been letting his goals disseminate piecemeal. What is sure is that in the future, once again stained with blood that runs in the veins of two peoples who are more alike than they would care to admit will again flow in the streets of the Holy Land, and it is understandable, they are brothers at war.
Steven Clark Bradley lived abroad for over 17 years and has been to 34 countries, including Pakistan, Iraq and Turkey. Hehas a master's degree in liberal studies from Indiana University. He speaks French and Turkish. He has been an assistant to a prosecutor, a university instructor and a freelance journalist in Ramallah, Palistine, Israel, Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan. Steven is the author of threenovels, Nimrod Rising, Probable Cause and Stillborn!
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