Dear Yossi,

I have just finished reading about a quarter of the book “Letters to my Palestinian Neighbour” which was written by the author Yossi Klein Halevi. This book can be considered a distinguished work of literature which explains and focuses on the religious Jewish identity. Based on what I have read so far, Yossi portrays the conflict between the Palestinians and their Israeli neighbors as a confrontation between two religions and this is where my first disagreement with Yossi is. Samuel Phillips Huntington, a well-known American intellectual, describes, in one of his books, the conflicts between nations as a conflict between civilizations. I, too, believe that this is what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is all about: a conflict between civilizations.

To be honest, after reading the introduction and the first couple of letters (till page 25) it felt to me as if Yossi were addressing his Jewish neighbour, not his Palestinian one. Yossi was focusing on and discussing in length issues related to the religious background of the Jewish people and how the land of Zion was considered to be the promised land based on the Torah. These issues took up most of these chapters.
“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill]. May my tongue cling to my palate, if I do not remember you, if I do not bring up Jerusalem at the beginning of my joy. “

It seems like Yossi may have forgotten that he was addressing his Muslim or Christian neighbors who don’t care much about the Israeli dream and God’s promise to the Israelites after the exile as much as they care about their own part in this story, their future and their own identity as Yossi described it “the way that Palestinians want to identify themselves”.

The story that Yossi mentioned on page 8 (in the Arabic translation) regarding Sheikh Abdulrahim whom he had met at Alnusseirat refugee camp in Gaza proved my point regarding everything that was written before. In this story Yossi explained nicely to the sheikh, who insisted on converting him to Islam, that this was impossible, so I don’t understand the point of mentioning such stories and events if Yossi wants to focus on and explain about the Jewish historical right in their holy land. What is the importance of telling these stories when you are trying to convince the neighbor on the other side of the ugly wall, as Yossi puts it, of the legitimate Jewish right to the land which is filled with settlements? That huge piece of land that has unclear borders.

While reading the first pages of the book I felt that Yossi was preaching to a choir: he was no different than the Muslim Imams and religious figures who keep preaching about the existence of God to an audience of monotheistic believers!

To be honest, I felt that this book was merely religious and carried a humane and respectful message, but had nothing to do with reality and the serious issues between Arabs and Israel.

In fact the current Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and the American president Donald Trump share the same justification for the failure of the peace process. They both claim that Israel and America had offered their peace initiatives but the Arabs and Palestinians never accepted those offers.

I completely understand the Israeli fears that result from the hate speech and incitement in the Arab world but let me tell you something, my dear Israeli neighbor: prime minister Rabin, who was, in some ways, just like a hard-core right winger, and even Ariel Sharon, were more courageous than Netanyahu. They took decisions that Bibi would never dare taking. I am afraid that the current miserable situation in the Arab world is what motivates him to be even more extreme but the one who reads history knows that nothing lasts forever. How many nations and regimes were dominating others and eventually collapsed and the original inhabitants took over. The ones who genuinely love Israel should not cause it to gain more enemies; they should demand Israel to offer justice instead.

I have noticed that my friend, Yossi, did not shed light or discuss in detail the period of time when Jews left Palestine after the Romans had expelled them from the land. I believe that talking more about that part of history will bring some understanding of both narratives because both peoples lived here and both of them were expelled from this land.

We are all aware of the humanity that is rooted in Judaism even though Jews had a lot of arguments with God.

I think that Jews consider their military power as the only guarantee for their existence in this region. We understand the Jewish fears but Yossi did not mention anything about the Israeli leaders of Israeli institutes, especially in the military, who keep inciting and threatening to wage wars.

Again, we understand the Jewish fears but at the same time we must not ignore the Palestinians who have been demanding their right to an independent state, just like any other people who seek this basic right. The current right-wing block, which is in charge of the Israeli government, seems to NOT be committed to any agreement that former Israeli leaders, even from the Israeli right-wing, had signed with the Palestinians. The current Israeli right wing is also adding more sanctions and exploiting the situation in the Arab World – this miserable situation that I believe is going to change soon.

I will continue reading and will hopefully send you more of my notes.

Best regards,

Muhamed from Egypt