Notes on the book Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor by the Israeli Jewish writer Yossi Klein Halevi:


Upon browsing through the book, my curiosity was piqued by the tenth and last letter; so much so that I read this letter first. It had grabbed my attention because – with the writer focusing so much on his Palestinian neighbor being Muslim – it failed to mention the fact that his neighbor could also be Christian, Druze, Baha’i or Samaritan. Regardless of the ideas and topics raised in the book, my fundamental beliefs have not, and will not, change.

I consider it imperative to be open minded towards others because an open mind ultimately leads one on the right path. While looking through Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor I was determined to send some notes to the writer, Yossi. My first observation was the entwined nature of religion and politics in the book, yet there is a need to separate the two. It is impossible to reach a political agreement or find amicable solutions to the Palestinian issue from a religious standpoint. We should rather address the topic by focusing on the reality at hand which demands that Israel must end its occupation of the Palestinians. Both peoples have the right to live as they wish, according to their cultural heritage in independent states.

Israel must be fully aware that it has no choice but to reconcile with the Palestinians. Israel and Palestine are two sides of the same coin, they are inseparable.

I would like to ask Yossi a question: Do you confirm or deny the charge that the majority of Israelis, particularly the new generation, do not know anything about the Palestinians beyond the fact that they, Israelis, have to serve as soldiers in their territories and are required to abuse and arrest whomever stands in their way?

Unfortunately, Israeli leaders and the wider public are still unaware of the core issue of the Palestinian cause; namely, the Palestinian aspiration for freedom, justice and dignity, nothing more, nothing less.

I am not a politician nor do I want to be a part of the world of politics. I am simply an individual belonging to a people who are affected by the occupation and if you ask me about a solution to the conflict, I will tell you that the first step is to recognize the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination based on what remains of the British Mandate of Palestine.

No ifs, not buts, the longer the logical and realistic solutions are kicked down the road, the more complicated the Palestinian-Israeli conflict becomes. But whatever form it takes, the solution must certainly not be based on Donald Trump’s arrogant and condescending vision, in which he wants to impose the solution on the Palestinians.

I contend that it is necessary to return to the two-state solution as a basis for all future discussions in order to meet the legitimate Palestinian demands. What I want Yossi and the Israeli people to know is that the future Palestinian state will not pose any threat to Israel for reasons that everybody already knows… and if Israel does not implement the two-state solution, it will find itself facing a fait accompli in the form of a self-imposed binational state of which Israel will have to bear the consequences.

You wrote about the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and how Hamas’ seizure of the territory poses an obstacle to the two-state solution. I would like to take the opportunity to point out that Hamas is an Israeli product and that there is much evidence to support this claim.  The intention behind creating  Hamas was in fact created in order to replace the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Israel needed a radical model like Hamas so that it could implement particular policies that would help consolidate the Jewishness of the state and destroy the two-state solution. In addition to this, Hamas serves as a pretext for maintaining the Jewish character of Israel because once Gaza is perceived as an Islamic emirate, the notion of a Jewish emirate will likewise be justified.

I foresee imminent chaos and Israel must be prepared to deal with it. As for the Palestinians, we suffer from two occupations: Israel’s and Hamas’. It is, in fact, often said that we, Palestinians, were under one occupation which then became two.

As for the Arab world, abandoning the Palestinian as though he is not a party in this conflict and pursuing normalization with Israel whilst neglecting the Palestinians will never solve Israel’s  problems. I couldn’t care less about how much Arab countries talk about their regard for the Palestinian cause, for in reality, they show no solidarity with me as a Palestinian whatsoever. Therefore, I do not count on them to support my cause. Anybody who reads history will realise that the Palestinians have paid the price in all the wars between Israel and the Arabs, and the Israeli occupation since 1967 is the greatest testament to this fact. Even today, the Palestinian people are still paying the price for these wars.

On the other hand, I do acknowledge that each and every country has the right to conduct its foreign policy and draw up agreements in line with its own interests. This principle extends to the Emirati-Israeli peace accords and other subsequent agreements. However, there is an angle that Yossi may have overlooked with regards to these diplomatic manoeuvres, and that is how such agreements have stirred emotions which have caused internal rifts within the Arab world. It would appear, in fact, that there are political actors which fuel such internal tension and incitement amongst the Arabs through the implementation of specific agendas. Ironically, we may find ourselves in a situation in which Israel will act as the mediator between Arab countries, bringing them together to achieve reconciliation.

I read some of the responses of your readers, and there was one in particular that drew my attention. It was written by an Iraqi person who called himself “Ibn Dijlah”, and he drew a connection between the Palestinians and ISIS without mentioning the fact that ISIS is a multinational organization. We condemn ISIS and cannot and will not, under any circumstances, approve of a terror organization. The Palestinians have nothing to do with ISIS.

Perhaps Ibn Dijlah forgot that the Jews’ first persecutors were none other than his forefathers, starting with Nebuchadnezzar and continuing with others who would later take on the mantle of responsibility of anti-Jewish persecution. Furthermore, if the lives of Iraqi Jews were so beautiful, they would surely not have fled Iraq. The same criticism can be applied to many of the ignorant respondents amongst your readers whose letters belied their total ignorance about the reality of this conflict.

I read another response written by a friend of yours (I assume) which you published under the name of Yousef from Palestine. It is a long and boring response, but one part of his letter caught my attention: “you, Jews, have already given up on so much and settled for such a small part of the land in 1948. You were “lucky” enough to be attacked by Arab countries who underestimated your true strength, enabling you to reclaim your holy places in the West Bank.”  

This segment of his response raised a question in my mind, irrespective of the author of the letter, which is as follows: Don’t you, Yossi, feel that drawing attention to such responses goes against your honest intention and desire to meet with your Palestinian neighbor? Acknowledging the truth is a sublime virtue, and if this is indeed your Promised Land, then why give up on it or even on parts of it? There are those among our people who understand the hidden message in between the lines; such ideas (compromise over land…) can be “sold” to ignorant people, but not to the Palestinians.

In summary, these are essentially my initial thoughts and observations, and in the event that I have comments or other ideas, I will send them to you, perhaps after I finish reading the book.


Nabil Younes from Jordan