On Wednesday the BBC Radio 4 programme PM carried an item on Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor who has worked in Israel. He was equally at home both in Gaza and Israel, even being hugged by the IDF when crossing the border. Last week Dr Abuelaish lost three daughters and a niece in an Israeli shelling. He called an Israeli friend in the immediate aftermath, who took his call live on television and arranged his safe passage into Israel with other wounded relatives. You can view the footage here. The New York Times also covers Dr Abuelaish:
Dr. Abuelaish is a rarity: a Gazan at home among Israelis. He describes himself as a bridge between the two worlds, one of the few Gazans with a permit to enter Israel because of his work.
“I wanted every Palestinian treated in Israel to go back and say how well the Israelis treated them,” he said. “That is the message I wanted to spread all the time. And this is what I get in return?”
Later, sitting on a plastic chair near his daughter’s hospital room, Dr. Abuelaish spoke with the prayer of so many parents who have buried their children as part of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I hope that my children will be the last price.”
The Radio 4 piece was extremely moving. All supporters of Israeli action in Gaza and Hamas’ resistance should listen. You can hear it here. Even after such horrific events Dr. Abuelaish makes the effort to talk up peace.
“The peace process is the only one, but to be real. Not playing games. not to play games. That is what is going on. And I think it’s time that people should lead the leaders, not the leaders to lead the people.”
It was very easy for most, they had already chosen. The ‘we are all Hezbollah now’ crowd had embraced Hamas long before the fighting in Gaza. Theocratic totalitarianism is, after all, the latest fashion accessory for the ‘left’. Their language was redolent with scarcely concealed anti-Semitism and demonstrations against the war were filled with an iconography of hate and menace. Those who favoured the Israeli action in Gaza were only too ready to minimise and justify civilian casualties, attempt to discredit inconvenient witnesses for their supposed bias, and, at the margins, flirt with anti-Arab racism.
So whose side do we choose? How about ours? This is a left blog, written from different perspectives though sharing some common values; social justice, anti-racism, equality, respect for human life, a hatred of oppression. That’s the side to be on. Hold hard to our principles and use them as a guide, rather than rely on a blind partisanship. Some of the best commentary chose this path and called for long-term action for a settlement. Too often it was drowned out by the clamour of the committed.
Like Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish we should not forget the real prize of peace in our desire to justify the actions of “our side”. In the long term, peace is the way forward. That may or may not involve Hamas, but in the wake of this war it should be the objective of true friends of both Israel and the Palestinian people. Dr Abuelaish can do it; so should we all.