Related topics

Israelis And Palestinians: Not Much Pity For The Others’ Victims With PM-US-Mideast, Bjt

October 17, 1990

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Hearts have hardened in the violent struggle over the holy land, and neither Palestinians nor Israelis show much pity for the others’ victims.

After 19 Palestinians were shot dead by police on the sacred Temple Mount last week, an Israeli worker in a fast-food restaurant told a customer: ″I wish a hundred had been killed.″

After the same incident, a 58-year-old Palestinian said: ″I wish Hitler was alive, so he can finish the job and make them all into soap.″

And he is what many Israelis would call a ″good Arab,″ having worked for the Israeli government for 18 years and learned fluent Hebrew.

These are spur-of-the-moment remarks, but they are indicative of the harsh atmosphere of daily life in Jerusalem.

Psychologists say the comments are the result of a decades-old ethnic conflict that has intensified since the December 1987 start of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

″In situations of prolonged conflict, the gap between the adversary communities keeps growing, and each side dehumanizes the other,″ said Ariel Merari, an expert on political violence at Tel Aviv University.

Signs of such dehumanization abound. Israelis have been known to refer to Palestinians as ″dogs″ or ″cockroaches.″ Palestinians have termed Israelis ″animals″ or ″Nazis.″

In the early years of the Israeli occupation, an arm’s-length coexistence developed as Arabs flocked into Israel looking for jobs, and Israelis poured into the West Bank and Gaza Strip to picnic and sightsee.

But today, Palestinians see Israelis as the soldiers who open fire on teen- age stone-throwers and stop Palestinian drivers at roadblocks, or as indifferent military bureaucrats.

Most Israelis see Palestinians only as the terrorists planting bombs on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Mall or as faceless figures sweeping the streets of Tel Aviv.

Until now, the main expression of Palestinian hatred has been stones and fire-bombs. But after the bloodbath on the Temple Mount, the pro-PLO leaders of the uprising threatened to escalate the conflict.

″This stage requires the use of weapons, arson, stabbings and destroying anything we can reach,″ their leaflet said.

If compassion is lacking, excuses are not.

The Temple Mount clash began with Arabs throwing rocks down on Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, injuring 28 people, most of them slightly. To Israelis, it was a desecration so outrageous that whatever happened afterward seemed almost secondary.

Police opened fire in response to the stoning.

In July 1989, when an Arab grabbed the wheel of an Israeli bus and plunged it into a ravine, killing 17 people, Palestinians excused him by saying he was avenging the beatings of his family and friends by soldiers.

Political leaders on both sides use history to justify their actions.

Palestinians bring up Deir Yassin, the village near Jerusalem where Jewish militiamen massacred more than 250 people in 1948. Israelis cite Palestinian guerrilla attacks in which hundreds of Israeli civilians have been killed.

Both sides often refuse to acknowledge each others’ suffering.

Many Palestinians belittle the Holocaust, the memory of which helps shape the prickly, uncompromising Israeli character. Israelis show little awareness of the constant humiliation and harassment Palestinians are subjected to under occupation.

There are, however, many exceptions.

Israeli peace activists brave the mockery and threats of violence by the militant right to demonstrate their sympathy for the Palestinians. Moderate Palestinians risk the wrath of hard-liners by trying to find common ground with Israelis.

Dr. Michael Stark, a Jerusalem obstetrician, felt compelled to tell a patient’s Palestinian husband how terrible he felt about the Temple Mount killings.

″I’m not justifying the people who threw stones, but I believe that the police response was out of all proportion. And I’m ashamed that this happened,″ Stark said.

Said Kenaan, a pro-PLO businessman from the West Bank city of Nablus, said he and other moderates tried unsuccessfully to dissuade militants from calling for the killing of Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers.

Kenaan said he is undeterred. ″Some of us still believe it’s best to stick to non-violence,″ he said.

Update hourly