No one was allowed to ask questions when American Friends of Peace Now political director Mark Rosenblum spoke at the Kolel Centre on Eglinton Thursday night (October 26). When a participant who couldn't contain himself yelled out, "Where did you learn to run a meeting, in Communist China?," two security guys edged their way to his side. Jewish nerves are frayed. My father frets about his friends, who tend avocados in the Galilee; my sister's son is at risk of being called for war duty.
Rosenblum admits that he himself "hears the tribal beat of fear" as the current intifada slowly grinds the peace process to desert dust. But it's one thing to hear the tribal beat, and another to actually beat the drum.
Peace Now has always supported the right of Palestinians to their own state, and Rosenblum tells a lot of tender stories like the one about a jeep of Israeli soldiers who had a terrible accident in the midst of the uprising, and how the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance arrived in an act of supreme human kindness to tend them.
He talks about Jewish peaceniks visiting bereaved Palestinian families, and about reasoned dialogues and joint protests. It's a gentle scenario peopled with righteous Israelis doing the moral thing. But, alas, Rosenblum's punch line is so far from the promise of Peace Now, I can hardly believe he is saying it.
"I stand with the state of Israel in this moment," he repeats. "The brunt of the violence is in the hands of Yasser Arafat."
This surely can't be what this sophisticated observer really believes. It's not as if Rosenblum doesn't know the frustrations driving adolescent boys to their deadly choreography with hyper-armed Israeli soldiers. He recites them diligently -- the demolition of Palestinian homes, Jewish settlement, collective punishment.
But this is recognition minus commitment, the paradox of the occupier's psyche. A hundred and fifty Arab bodies later, it's heartbreaking to see Peace Nowers repeating the self-satisfied stupidities of the Barak government and retreating into numbed endorsation of a military response condemned not only by Amnesty International but by Israel's own rights group B'tselem.
Seven years into the peace process, autocratic Arafat has to heed his raging youth because they are still under occupation and the young don't wear humiliation well. For all their compromises and accommodations, Palestinians have been given nothing. Who can blame them for suddenly seeking everything?