This photo of me at age seven, sitting on a Jeep taken by Israeli soldiers during the Six Day War, was taken in June 1967, just outside my home in Jerusalem, a couple of days after the war ended. During the weeks and months that followed, my family, like many Israelis, rushed to explore the liberated land of the Bible.
In our old Susita, an Israeli-manufactured clunker with a Ford engine and a fiberglass body, we traveled to Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, and the Judea desert. And through the torn-down wall that separated West Jerusalem from East Jerusalem, we walked to the Old City. We pressed prayers into the cracks of the Western Wall and climbed the Mount of Olives. My parents, who had both been Bible teachers, put the scenery in a historical context. We felt that our country was finally whole.
Like most other Israelis, we gave little thought to the Palestinians who lived in the West Bank. We did not see them as significant to Israel's present or future. The first Arabic expression I learned then was mush-lazem ("no need" or "don’t bother").
My father said it to the Palestinian kids who wanted to wash our old Sussita and to the women who tried to sell us cheap souvenirs. When Palestinians approached us, my brother and I used to cry out: "Mush-lazem, mush-lazem."
Disastrously, the mush-lazem attitude has mushroomed over the years. Today, two years before the fiftieth anniversary of the occupation, it characterizes the approach of most Israelis to the conflict, the occupation, and to the Palestinians. Most Israelis don’t want to be bothered. Their country’s rule over another people is all but irrelevant to their daily life. They may be cognizant of how destructive the occupation is to Israel’s future as a democracy and a Jewish state, but as I often tell friends, Israel is a traumatized society, and as such it has a tendency to focus on the here-and-now rather than on the horizon.
I was fortunate to have had a different, unique experience of interaction with Palestinians, which very few Israelis have. As an Israeli journalist, covering the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and Israel's Palestinian citizens, I spent many hundreds if not thousands of hours talking to Palestinians and scrutinizing the strained seam between the Israeli and Palestinian societies. And after all these years of observing and analyzing this relationship, I'm as convinced as one can be that neither Israelis nor Palestinians can afford to dismiss or disregard the other. What both societies need are forces of change, ones that will not let them sink into the illusionary comfort of resignation.
Israel’s Peace Now movement, and we at Americans for Peace Now, are here to remind Israelis and their friends overseas that there is tomorrow, and that today’s policies undermine it.
We are here to remind Israelis and their American friends that if they want Israel is to survive as a democracy, they must shrug off their mush-lazem attitude and take action now, before it’s too late, to proactively seek a deal with the Palestinians that will end the occupation and allow Israel to engage with the Palestinians on an equal footing, as partners in peace who enjoy liberty from occupation in their own sovereign state, a state that in turn liberates Israel from the moral, economic, political and security liability that the occupation is.