This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Revelation: Vulnerably Human

"I never in my life imagined that I would be seeing this."
"This is very new for us. Look at them [soap opera Jewish patriarchs]. Look at their dignity."

Mahmoud Dadoh, chicken farmer, West Bank

"It is amazing. It is as if we are one house."
Midhat Abu Nigmeh, construction foreman, West Bank

"He [Mahmoud Abbas] told me it is the only show he watches." 
"Honestly? For many Palestinians, the Jew is a soldier or settler. That's it. That's what our people see."
"For us, the stereotype is a Jew with a machine gun who occupies us."
"I now ask the Israelis to show the Palestinians in such a way. We are humans, too. Show us on your TV as humans."
Khalid Sukar, programming director general, Palestinian public TV

"Are they telling us to live with the Jews like they lived with us back in the old days? Relax? Don't resist? Don't complain? Forget your dreams and live like yesterday? 
"I like the show. But it's a fairy tale."
Khadir Baradi, horse farrier, West Bank

"Tell me, which one is the Jew and which one is the Muslim? They all look alike."
West Bank Palestinian, The Jewish Quarter soap opera viewer
Palestinians gather during Ramadan at the Bethlehem home of Mahmod Dadooh to watch the Egyptian TV series “The Jewish Quarter.” (Quique Kierszenbaum/for The Washington Post)
"When such coexistence happened, Egypt was great."
"The series doesn’t deal only with Jews, but with an Egyptian neighborhood known as Jewish Quarter, where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together. We never said ‘this is a Christian, or a Muslim or a Jew'; they were all Egyptians. Therefore, we must not call Jews anything but Egyptians."
veteran Egyptian actor Adel Imam
Call them that, if you will, but you've got to find them first. In 1948 they were easy to find. They were there, in the Jewish Quarter and elsewhere in Egypt's Cairo and beyond. There were then an estimated one hundred thousand Egyptian Jews. And then, in 1948 with the establishment of the State of Israel they were transformed from Egyptian Jews to plain old Jews that Egypt didn't want polluting its atmosphere and they were dispossessed and expelled.

A 20th Century exodus occurred, with an estimated 860,000 Jews collectively expelled from Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and other areas of the Middle East and North Africa. They became Israeli Jews, because Israel was eager to welcome them since after all, the State of Israel came into being as a haven for Jews. A new Egyptian soap opera is transfixing an Arab audience. It portrays Jews living in Egypt at a time when Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in Cairo.

Now, if an interested person looks very long and very hard they might come up with the quiet presence of a few dozen Jews remaining there in Cairo, their presence tolerated but barely. Palestinians living in the West Bank have been entertained this Ramadan by a surprising drama playing out before their eyes on their television screens. This series was bought for showing on Palestinian TV after its director general for public TV saw the script.

"I was taking a big gamble. But I knew it would be a hit" explained Khalid Sukar, delighted to be informed by PA President Abbas he also watches it. In fact, the 30-episode soap has captured 40 percent of the viewing share on prime-time West Bank television. The script based on the irresistible attraction between genders despite the woman is a Jew and the man an Arab. The Israeli Embassy in Egypt was pleased at first, less so when later episodes cast Zionist characters in a dimmer light.

The Palestinians watching the show unfold appeared divided in their impression of the message being conveyed, that Jews are human beings just like themselves, struggling to make a life for themselves against odds they cannot control. As for Jews being asked to do the same, anyone who views Israeli films will have seen Palestinians portrayed as humans, as human beings whom events have conspired to disappointment and resentment, and not totally without cause. 

And with Israeli Jews searching their consciences when confronted by the distemper of their times and the realities of the division between two people who have become antagonists where the divide seems unbridgeable. A divide growing inexorably wider and deeper, a veritable chasm running with the acidic bitterness of suspicion, hatred and revenge; a well-known combination in tribal societies.

A scene from the Egyptian drama Haret al-Yahood, or Jewish Quarter, scheduled for Ramadan 2015 (YouTube screenshot)

Time and events cannot be reversed. History doesn't allow for that. Palestinians might be well advised to ask themselves why it was that as refugees who fled a war they knew to be imminent when the assembled Arab armies converged on the fledgling state, none of those same Arab nations would see them as prospective citizens. They might wish to ask also why it is that in the decades that have since passed not one of their leaders made a true effort to improve their conditions, leaving it to the United Nations to view them as permanent refugees and to direct funding to make them dependent.

And while they're at it, a pursuit of events surrounding negotiations toward peace and the solution of two states side by side remains an unanswered question. Why it is that one leader after another demanded that Israel make sacrifices to appease Palestinian demands, and Palestinian demands simply expanded leaving Israel to confront the reality that the final demand was its dissolution as a state, a Jewish homeland renewed, for Jews.

Ask why it is that sharing the geography that was once a Jewish homeland in its entirety led Palestinian leaders to incite their people to hatred, murder and mayhem. Leaving the impossible quandary that exists to this day and exacerbating it even further with extended demands and an obvious agenda that excludes recognition of a Jewish state, manipulating supporters abroad and at the United Nations to come to the aid of a people who refuse to aid themselves.

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