Former Washington intern Or Amir writes on her thoughts about this past week.
2:30 PM and I am on the bus in Tel Aviv- so exhausted from the past week but can't fall asleep. I am just where the bomb exploded two hours ago on a different bus. I'm looking constantly at the doors, checking who's getting on and off the bus, what are they wearing and if they left anything under their seat. In my head all the plans and promises I gave today and I just wish to survive this ride and maybe to get a chance to fulfill some of them.
Today is the 8th day for Operation Pillar of Defense. I thought about writing you "it's not that bad", but it actually got a bit worse. Here in Israel a bomb on a bus takes us back to the 90's where suicide bombers and other forms of terrorism were a part of our daily routine. I truly hope we won't get there. When you live in the south of Israel, and now even in the center of the state, you live also under a constant threat. It is not a made up one- it's there but no one is showing it to you. People are trying to be calm, some actually are, supporting each other, and keeping a daily routine which is important to the country and for themselves as well.
Our regional conflict continues to feed itself, at the level of the decisions in the field and at the identities level - and both of these factors preserve themselves and establish even more the existence of a conflict. It brings the sides to produce more and more stories. The stories, along with pain, sacrifice, existential fear and resurrection, neutralize the sides and make them unable to find the same truth that exists and that they are longing for.
Because of the deep tear between both sides and their complete self-convincing that their war or actions are just and the right of possession of the territory (and to an extent - their identity), it is impossible even to find a judge that will help to solve the issue (and it's also clear that each side will claim that the judge is not objective, but what they really mean is that they are worried that the judge will decide not in their favor).
That is why it is very difficult to come and settle the conflict peacefully - neither of them is ready to abandon their stories. Due to this opinion, the parties see themselves as victims when the counter-party is criminals, and not willing to consider the possibility that the two sides have become victims not only by others but also by themselves. If we will say that it could not be the case, and we must have one victim and one criminal, we will rewind and will not be able to solve this issue once again - because it will be difficult to reach the same truth.
We are looking for a justification of the war, for a justification for "our side's" actions. In our conflict, in my opinion, it becomes almost irrelevant. If we do so, if one side is right and the other is wrong - and both sides will keep on believing that their side is the right one, there is a danger that both sides will adopt a policy of "all means are justified" in light of their perception as victims and be as aggressive as they can against the other. This example is just one out of many to the importance of separation of the righteousness of war and the just means we use, and to insist on it even on days where one party acts against the other in a way that "breaks all the rules."
Here I must be realistic and say - there is a difference between fighting clean and fighting dirty, which is not related to the justification of the operation itself. There is a constant attempt to hurt civilians and not just defined militant strategic targets. The violence against civilians and the use of civilians as human shields must stop. There is no legitimization for terror, not even in the name of freedom (because freedom isn't free). It's about time both sides will be accountable for their actions and before blaming the opponent - they should check themselves first.
Since I have gotten back from NSL - the West Bank and Gaza now have names, faces, fears, hopes and dreams. Since I came back from NSL I am more certain that we don't need to look for justice but for peace, and that they are not necessarily related. Since I came back from NSL I am more certain that there are people out there who are capable to carry their communities and strangers, from all ages, genders, ethnicity and beliefs, and to bring them to the point where they understand that peace is richer then justice.
I do not want to get to the point when it's us or them, and more important, I do not know what I'm more afraid of, to be the winner or to be the loser - anyway it will be devastating for us all.
With hopes for better days,
And thank you for reading my letter,
2012 New Story Leadership for the Middle East Intern, Israel
Or Amir and Waleed Issa were interns this summer at APN and ATFP.