Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Real PalArabs seem genuinely upset at Itamar slaughter

I mentioned in passing on Sunday that I did not see too much support for the slaughter of the Fogel family on Palestinian Arabic forums, even those that are pro-Hamas. This is in great contrast to the universal reactions of joy that we've seen after other terror attacks.

This observation has been strengthened by a Hebrew video report by Shlomi Eldar in Shechem (Nablus.) Yaakov Lozowick summarizes:

I've been reporting in the Palestinian territories for many years, and the responses I recorded today in Shchem (Nablus) really surprised me. They seem to show a substantial distance between the PA leadership and regular people. The leadership (he cites Abbas and others) are muttering a condemnation of the murder, mostly not in Arabic and not in front of their public, and then they're condemning Israeli settlements. Nothing new here. On the other hand, I went to Shchem today, and was very surprised. People on the street were willing to condemn the murder unequivocally, in Arabic and in Hebrew, with no embarrassment, in front of the camera, and even identify themselves. [He shows some examples]. I've been covering the Palestinian territories for years, but this I've never seen before. In the middle of town, publicly, people had no compunctions openly to condemn the murder of children.

At this point one of the two anchormen asks if this is real, or perhaps a one-off encounter with unusual townsmen. Eldar insists: the interviews I've just shown were representative, and I made lots of them, not only the snippets I just screened. Moreover, I didn't find anyone saying the usual things about how it's settlers and Israelis and IDF violence and all that. The atmosphere in Shchem today is that the murder of the Fogel family was a terrible crime.

Yaacov goes on to give possible reasons for the change, including:

1. Netanyahu's economic peace is working. Look at the store fronts of Shchem: the economy is obviously booming, people are beginning to live normal lives, and this allows them to think normal thoughts. The fact that the IDF has largely moved out of the West Bank and has dismantled most of the roadblocks, even as the settlements aren't growing, no matter what the international media reports, is creating a new breathing space for the Palestinians, and they're beginning to breathe normally.


4. Settlements aren't as aggravating as we've endlessly been told. If there really is a sea change underway in the West Bank, it has started even though the Jewish settlements are still there. This doesn't necessarily mean the Palestinian populace is willing to have them stay there, but it may mean they're open to a process where reconciliation happens in the minds before the reality is foolishly and irrevocably changed.

He concludes:
Over the past few months, perhaps a year, I've been wandering a lot through East Jerusalem, and occasionally through parts of the West Bank, and the calm and normality have been striking. I've also had more simply normal human interactions with Palestinians than in many years. Something may be happening - unreported in the media, in a dynamic which contradicts the endless chatter of the diplomats - but potentially very important.

If so, it needs to be carefully and warily nurtured. Carefully, warily, and nurtured. And patiently. Not words that are easily compatible with the instincts of the people who've got it wrong so far, who need to see their pet solutions applied NOW, and are intoxicated with their certainties.

It would be nice if this represents a change in attitude. I'm not quite so optimistic.

It may be as simple as the mental image of a baby being slashed to death is a lot more gut-wrenching - more personal - than a bomb or bullet is.

Also, keep in mind that unlike the August 2010 murder of a carload of Jews near Kiryat Arba, including a pregnant woman, this attack was not claimed by any major terror group. Since there was a vacuum where the bragging used to be, there was no reason for the public to follow their leaders' party line and support the attack - and no reason to fear publicly condemning it.