Two tales of a city 1

Here are a pair of stories that reveal truths about Israel and the Palestinians more effectively than volumes of studies could do, and require no comment.

The first is told in full here. This is the nub of it:

A Jewish Israeli journalist, Shlomi Eldar, tried to raise money for surgery in an Israeli hospital that would save the life of a Gazan Palestinian baby. Many Israelis responded with offers of donations, including one Jewish father who had lost his son in battle with the Palestinians, and offered to pay the entire cost of $55,000 on condition that he remain anonymous.

Eldar got to know the mother of the sick baby well. He saw “how intensely she fought for her son’s life … standing for hours, caressing him, warming him up, kissing him…. The whole time I accompanied her, I saw a caring mother who was at her baby’s bedside night and day. She didn’t eat, she lost weight and she cried. I myself saw to it that she ate. I saw her faint when she was informed there was a small chance her son would get well. …”

The baby, Mohammed, did not survive, and his death deeply grieved the mother. But while he was still alive and there was still hope for him, she, Raida Abu Mustafa,  “launched into a painful monologue about the culture of the shahids – the martyrs – and admitted, during the complex transplant process, that she would like to see her son perpetrate a suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem.”

Eldar has made a documentary film of the story called Precious Life. In it, Raida says: “For us, death is a natural thing. We are not frightened of death. From the smallest infant, even smaller than Mohammed, to the oldest person, we will all sacrifice ourselves for the sake of Jerusalem. We feel we have the right to it. You’re free to be angry, so be angry.”

“Then why are you fighting to save your son’s life, if you say that death is a usual thing for your people?” he demands to know.

“It is a regular thing,” she says, smiling. “Life is not precious. …  For us, life is nothing, not worth a thing. That is why we have so many suicide bombers. They are not afraid of death. None of us, not even the children, are afraid of death. It is natural for us. After Mohammed gets well, I will certainly want him to be a shahid. If it’s for Jerusalem, then there’s no problem. For you it is hard, I know; with us, there are cries of rejoicing and happiness when someone falls as a shahid. For us a shahid is a tremendous thing.”

This is the second, told in full here:

Four Hamas political figures facing expulsion from Jerusalem have expressed their readiness to do almost anything to remain in the city under Israeli sovereignty, including renouncing their ties to the radical Islamist movement.

The Israeli Ministry of Interior had revoked the status of the four Hamas representatives as permanent residents of Jerusalem, paving the way for their expulsion from the city. These representatives who are fighting to retrieve their Israeli ID cards belong to the same organization whose leaders used to send young men and women to blow themselves up in Israel, killing hundreds of innocent civilians — including Arabs.

The four men – three legislators and a former minister — have good reason to put up a good fight to stay in Jerusalem. The last thing they would want is to be deported to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip or any Arab country.

To prevent their expulsion, they have even chosen to appeal to courts of the country that they do not recognize and would so much like to destroy: Israel. …

The Hamas men’s campaign is not about being allowed to stay with their families in Jerusalem — or even to spy, which the Israelis would find out — as much as fear of what awaits them under Fatah in the West Bank, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and dictatorships in the Arab world, where there is no democracy, and rule of law is capricious at best.

Once they arrive in the Gaza Strip, they will discover that their government, the Hamas government, has imposed a reign of terror and intimidation on the local population and is even confiscating much of the humanitarian aid, including food and medicine, that is being dispatched to the area.

In the West Bank, they are likely to be chased by Palestinian Authority security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. These forces have long been waging a ruthless campaign against Hamas representatives and supporters in the West Bank.

Hundreds of Hamas followers are being held in Palestinian-run prisons without trial. Most are denied family visits and the right to consult with a lawyer. At least three Hamas detainees are believed to have died as a result of torture in the prisons controlled by Abbas and Fayyad. …

As permanent residents of Jerusalem, the four Hamas men enjoy the same rights as every Israeli citizen, with the exception of voting for the Knesset: freedom of movement; social welfare, and free education and healthcare. They can vote for the Jerusalem Municipality and travel around the country freely and without having to obtain special permission.

They have unlimited access to Israeli hospitals and free education for their children; and are entitled to many social and economic benefits that many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip do not have.

The Hamas representatives know that in most of the Arab countries they would be dealt with as a “security threat,” and would most probably find themselves under house arrest. That is, of course, if any of those countries agrees to host them in the first place.

Now, however, the Hamas men are willing to humiliate themselves by publicly disowning the Islamist movement. If the choice is between membership in an Islamist movement and life in Israel, to the Hamas leaders, the latter option seems more attractive.

  • CP

    Thanks for these harrowing stories. I'm a student in europe, and more specifically Ireland. Without stories like these I would start to believe i am prejudiced when I feel uneasy about the events in certain European countries. One example of this was the recent burning of an israeli flag outside our parliament, on the streets of our capital. To me that is not acceptable. Dublin is not Damascus. The problem is that every time i try to raise issues like the recent south park controversy with my friends, they tell me I am prejudiced. in their eyes, the creators of the cartoon were wrong, for publishing something that would cause violence. I have been reading a number of american blogs for a while now and i feel that at least there are some people who think the same way as I do. thank you, anyway. I don't believe i am prejudiced, not even with a muslim. I know many very kind muslims. we still do ourselves a disservice by not discussing the impact their ideology can have.