While in the Gaza Strip civilian massacres are continuing and in Israel anti war demonstrators are being attacked by the extreme right wing, the writer of Jewish origin and founder of Gariwo, the Gardens of the Righteous Worldwide, shows a practical way to emerge from war. Here is the interview.
“There is a desperate need for civil courage in Israel and in Palestine: a desperate need for personalities who can silence the weapons, and who are prepared to dialogue despite having distant points of view, who make both moral resistance and the fight against ideology a priority”. Gabriele Nissim, essayist and historian, founder and president of Gariwo, the Gardens of the Righteous Worldwide, takes side openly for a non violent resolution of the conflict. Clearly analyzing both the actions of Hamas and of the Arab world that revolves around it and the choices of the Israeli government without saving critics, the Italian intellectual of Jewish origin, member of the Community of Milan, in the same way tries to get into the most delicate part of the conflict, namely the “wall against wall” that is being created between pro-Palestinians and Israeli supporters , symbol of a divide that today can not be solved, “but that in the future will potentially be solvable, if we follow a precise path, shared by everyone”. Here is the interview with Nissim, who is also a journalist and author of best sellers such as L’uomo che fermò Hitler (The man who stopped Hitler) and Una bambina contro Stalin (A little girl against Stalin).
Is there a path that can bring peace to the Middle East?
Yes, but it is really the only one: the one that works on conciliation instead of being based on a priori divisions where each of the two parties, the Israeli as well as the Palestinian, doesn’t only look to its own reasons but also to its own responsibilities, to its own mistakes. I refer to the words of writer Amos Oz: “ There is no conflict between truth and lie, between good and evil. There are rather two sides of the story”, that don’t want to discuss with each other but that continuously point the finger at each other. It’s a hard and long job, but it is necessary to start, and also the international public opinion can help the protagonists think about their points of view acting as uncritical and impartial viewers, without resorting to justified anger.
Are there responsibilities that you consider more serious than others?
No. There are two responsibilities that are completely different. The first, the Israeli, looks similar to what in Prague, before the 1989 revolution, was called: “ civilized violence”. In this case however we are talking about “civilized occupation”: Israeli society has got used to the impossibility of peace, thinking that everything could continue without reaching a shared solution with the other part. It is a mistake, because occupation is real, it cannot be hidden, and it is clear that in the West Bank people live in a sort of semi-freedom. When you don’t make efforts to solve the Palestinian issue at a certain point things precipitate, as it happened with the kidnapping and the killing of the three young Israelis and the following outbreak of hostilities: it is clear that we are facing the failure of an entire political group, the one led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, allied to the extreme right wing and silent at diplomatic level, who relies on bombing to eliminate Hamas but that causes hundreds of victims among Gaza’s civilian population. On the other hand we find a weak leader such as Abu Mazen but especially the madness of the Hamas movement, that launches missiles without any strategy if not that of hitting civilians indiscriminately.
Are there critical voices in Israel on the war action of their own government?
Certainly. There are many associations created by Israelis and Arabs, there are intellectuals who spread their thinking, like Gideon Levy, who on Haaretz (the most read progressive daily newspaper in Israel, editor’s note) has openly criticized the “Israeli illusions” as regards the Operation Protective Edge. There is also the voice of Abraham Burg, president emeritus of the Israeli Parliament and member of the scientific committee of Gariwo, who invites his own population to an examination of collective conscience. Many are the figures who are critical, despite, in general, the feeling of fear and resentment towards Hamas and Palestinians often makes people see reality through gloomier and darker glasses, favoring those who promote unacceptable ideology. These figures should find more space on international media, a voice for those who consider themselves supporters of Palestine, so that they can overcome this reciprocal hatred and move towards necessary and urgent dialogue, even with the worst enemy.
Do you see the same critical voices in the Arab world?
Unfortunately not, and this is serious. There is no self-criticism from the Palestinian side of the conflict, in the name of the defense of their own rights they don’t look at their own mistakes, thus losing the opportunity to show the enemy, in this case Israel, an attitude in some way willing to question itself. When this also happens from an international point of view, it undermines the few possibilities of a non violent exit from the escalation of war. Just yesterday Shlomo Avineri, internationally known political analyst and a big supporter of peace negotiations, wrote on Haaretz that many Palestinians have never considered Israel as an expression of a national movement, but only as an expression of imperialism and colonialism, that has simply to be dismantled and replaced by a State that arises from its ashes.
Is there a form of “constructive criticism”, that will get Israel to change its strategy?
It can definitely make Israeli society come out of the fortress it has been entrenched in due to Hamas’ missiles, that are today’s equivalent of what suicide bombings were up until some years ago: being the object of hatred makes people retreat into themselves, whereas a population is more reactive and willing to challenge itself if it sees in the counterpart a moral, non violent resistance, or a change in the approach to itself.
Marwan Barghouti, who is considered by many the moderate leader par excellence of the Palestinian population is in an Israeli prison…
It is true, he is a prominent figure in this sense. His long imprisonment, that will end one day, not with an humanitarian liberation but with a precise political choice, is the symbol that now the Israeli government doesn’t want to “put peace at risk” in its own political strategy. There are Israeli personalities that have asked for his liberation, but the right wing has opposed . Yet Barghouti is a charismatic leader who could put the power of Hamas in Gaza in serious difficulties. Therefore from this point of view there is also political short-sightedness. This strategy has refused US diplomatic action, and looks like it wants to colonize the West Bank more and more. The continuous expansion of colonies, which is negative, must be interpreted in the same way as what has been said about Barghouti. With a perspective: that at the end, when a compromise is reached, it will enable current colonies to move over to Palestinians, or become a part of Israeli life in Palestine, as it happens today for Arabs in Israel.
Isn’t it an utopian vision?
I wouldn’t say so. Such a solution on the colonies is surely easier than that on the status of Jerusalem, one of the main issues of every past or future diplomatic agreement. Israel doesn’t want to give Palestinians a part of the holy city, and this is wrong. At the end of the day, in every future action civil courage that brings a person to dialogue with the current enemy is required, even if it is called Hamas, a large part of which does not recognize the State of Israel. Getting back to the initial discussion, new personalities are needed, with political creativity, who promote a new phase of moral resistance, whose fruits will be maybe harvested by others, that is the next generations. Politics in itself is not enough: we must encourage public opinion to refuse current stereotypes. You can have a free Palestine incentivizing those who work with Israel, as opposed to being against it at all costs. And vice versa: you can love Israel and accept territorial compromises giving everything you’ve got to have a dialogue with the Palestinians. Only in this way will we be able to end a seemingly never ending conflict.
Translation by Cristina Barbetta