I hope you don’t mind my using your first name, but given that you have done the same in your open letter to Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman on CiF, I thought you wouldn’t object.
It certainly is a small world; by strange coincidence it seems that you and I are also neighbours of a sort, for whilst you were born and grew up in Rochdale, I was born only 9 miles or 14.48 km away from there, albeit several years earlier. That’s certainly closer than you are to Mr. Lieberman, as Nokdim is some 17.2 km to the south of Bethlehem. In fact your repeated suggestion that Nokdim is in Bethlehem is rather curious, but I guess since Beit Jala is apparently only your second home, your first being in London, then mistakes are easily made.
How strange though, that you forgot to mention that from your ‘pretty hill village’ over 400 shooting incidents targeting Gilo took place between 2000 and 2002 . What a coincidence too that although you complain about Nokdim ruining the view from Mount Herodium, you forgot to point out that Nokdim was originally named after the former museum manager of that same historic site, David Rosenfeld, who was murdered in 1982 by two of his Palestinian employees. Oh, and then of course there’s the Daheisha refugee camp right next to Bethlehem – I’m sure you meant to point out that it was built by the Jordanians on land owned by the JNF.
You suggest that Mr. Lieberman take up the offer of Palestinian citizenship made by PM Salam Fayyad, but you must admit that when that same Prime Minister allows himself to be publicly photographed burning Israeli produce, that hardly bodes well for peaceful co-operation and normalised relations between Israelis and Palestinians. Neither, of course, does the suggestion by President Abbas that he would not even accept Israeli Arabs into his spanking new Palestinian State.
Now for the record, I am no supporter of Mr. Lieberman’s party but I do think you are being a little obtuse regarding his proposal for a loyalty oath for all Israeli citizens; after all, not only was the proposal rejected by the Israeli Knesset, but it was never intended to apply only to Arab citizens of Israel. You do have to admit though that we do have something of a problem with people like Azmi Bishara; I wonder how the PA would suggest we deal with people like him?
Also, you know, there really is no need to descend so low as to make snide remarks about Mr. Lieberman’s dress or former job. I realise that you have a bit of a background in politics (and now I think I understand where Nick Clegg gets some of his ideas about Israel from), but all the same, such cheap shots do nothing to convince Israelis that there is any kind of respect for them on the other side, which is surely a basic requirement for any kind of future treaty. Although it is true that Israel does not have a constitution in the formal sense, neither does the UK, and contrary to your assertion, Israel does guarantee equality by law for all its citizens – you could try asking some of the Palestinian members of Israel’s gay community about that.
You state that you are ‘deeply wary of Hamas’, and I will have to take you at your word about that, although I must say that it seems quite novel considering the fact that you have not only co-edited a book about the ISM, but are also active in that organisation. That small world again! I happen to know a guy called Adam who used to be the chef at Mike’s Place – the Tel Aviv bar blown up in 2003 by two British terrorists who it later transpired had met with ISM members before the attack and eventually turned up in a Hamas video. Strange, that.
What is particularly interesting is that in all your various book reviews and writings you seem to have a remarkable ability to completely ignore the reasons why the Israeli army has been forced from time to time to go into West Bank towns or why the anti-terrorist barrier had to be built. Incidents like the Park Hotel terror attack for example. Mind you, I suppose that’s a bit of a pre-requisite for joining the ISM in the first place. Take this ISM event, for example; a ‘candlelight procession from the burnt Paradise Hotel in Bethlehem to Jerusalem’. No mention of how the hotel came to be burnt, but of course the implication is that Israel is to blame. Well, here’s that small world at work again Nicholas, because oddly enough, one of my sons was inside that hotel when it was set on fire, not by the Israeli army, but by Palestinian terrorists throwing Molotov cocktails into it in an attempt to harm the Israeli soldiers inside. My son and his comrades eventually managed to put out those fires, but occasionally he still has nightmares in which he is choking from smoke and burning to death in the Paradise Hotel. That same son was in Bethlehem again when the subject of your wife’s film, the siege of Bethlehem, was taking place. I do have to say that I find it rather curious that all blame for the plight of Palestinian Christians is apportioned to Israel in these political campaigns, when the evidence clearly shows that the main reasons for their exodus from Bethlehem and other towns under PA control have little to do with Israel. Were I a cynic, of course, I might think that fiction is sometimes more ‘commercial’ than truth when one has a certain political agenda.
What a pity then, Nicholas,that you have not seen fit to stand by your own words;
“[N]ovelists are very, very bad at being involved in politics, because they always want to do and say their own thing.”
Let me suggest that you try listening to your own advice. As someone once wrote; it might be the saving of you.