More Talking-Back (Part II: Post-Peace Cafe)

We move from the religious response to a Palestinian-American response to Pangs. Jamal Najjab is an excellent journalist and has been a pillar in our Peace Cafe community for six years. He travelled with us to Shepherdstown for the performances of My Name is Rachel Corrie and 1001, participated and spoke publicly at the Peace Cafe there under the tent, and then came to the DCJCC to see Pangs of the Messiah last Thursday night. Here’s his email which speaks quite eloquently for itself.

    Dear Ari,Thank you so much for inviting me to the play and the discussion afterwards. This whole past week was very enjoyable as well as educational. The key point I learned from the Peace Café after My Name is Rachel Corrie and with it the criticism that the play doesn’t represent in any way the Israeli point of view in the conflict is that art is not balanced. This lesson served me well as I watched Pangs of the Messiah.If I had seen the play a month ago I would have complained at least to myself “why don’t we hear from the Palestinians who live in the village just beneath the house on stage?” A village, by the way, that looks very much like my father’s, which is encircled by two settlements. However, thanks to the discussion on Sunday, I focused on the people on the stage and found myself somewhat sympathetic to a few of the characters. And I think this demonstrates the strength of the play and its actors.

    Remember, a thousand dunums of the three thousand dunums (a dunum is about a quarter of an acre) that my grandfather worked very hard to buy was grabbed by settlers just like the people in the play. keep reading
    They built two settlements on that land with beautiful villas, new roads and giant searchlights that deny the night sky to villagers. These same people take pot shots at anyone from the village that venture a half a mile near the settlement, they burn our forests, the very trees which my grandfather planted and they release wild hogs as an insult to the Muslims down below and in the hopes that the hogs will destroy the villagers’ gardens. They tortured and killed my cousin, gauging his eyes out while he was still alive and then dumped his body under his house where his 12-year-old daughter found him the next morning.

    So to say the least, it is somewhat amazing that I could feel anything for these people. In the end, I have to say that if there is to be a two state solution to this struggle, those settlements in the heart of the West Bank will have to be removed. Unfortunately, for Israel, the Palestinians and the world we are far from any chance of this occurring and are faced with more years of pain for everyone involved.

    As far as the Peace Café after the play, I made many new friends, being the only Arab-American in the crowd, and have been asked to speak at a local synagogue. The lady who invited me thought that it was very important that American Jews have contact with rational, articulate Arab Americans (her words not mine) in order to better understand who is on the other side of the issue. I had a run in with one fellow at the Peace Café, but I think he would have trouble with his local grocer over the price of watermelons. Sadly he does not know how to take a breath and just listen.

    Thank you again for a great evening, please invite me again.

    Jamal

2 thoughts on “More Talking-Back (Part II: Post-Peace Cafe)

  1. Jamal apparently knows that you have to make peace with your enemies not yourself, hence his willingness to listen and even empathize with his “enemies.” Would that everybody on both sides were as open-minded. The biggest impediment to peace in Palestine is the overwhelming militatry superiority of the Israelis vis-a-vis the Palestinians. Arguing from a position of strength doesn’t facilitate balanced negotiations–as we’ve seen for the last forty odd years.

  2. This process of learning is so interesting. Here I am, a Jew, at the same performance and discussion table as Jamal, and I came away from the play wondering how the main character, the father, could have been so intensely passionate (from the beginning – in a time period way before the play began) about something that seemed to me so wrongheaded. Our discussion after the play centered on whether, why, and how the land of the West Bank was understood to be available for settlements. To some of us it was perfectly clear that it was NOT, and it constituted a violation (of what?) to build there. To others it was natural and expected and acceptable for the settlements to grow there, and there was no law against it. And yet to others it was perhaps “officially” forbidden by the Israeli government, but tacitly approved. Our conversation caused me to go back online YET AGAIN and read for hours the history of the wars and armistices since the 1940’s. I do this regularly in an attempt to really learn the facts so I can add accuracy to my conviction on this subject….or learn to better see another point of view.

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