This is my humble contribution to the discussion about the book Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor.

The First Letter: The Wall Between Us

I was blessed to have been invited to read Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor; a timely gift for the end of 2020, for the invitation was extended in tandem with the resumption of Moroccan-Israeli relations after a lengthy hiatus in which the two countries lacked a formal diplomatic relationship.
I am grateful and thankful to my dear friend, Michal, who introduced me to the book. I would also like to thank the author of the book, Yossi Klein Halevi, who, through his book, has opened a window of opportunity for peace, correcting many of the inaccuracies that have long been engraved in our minds; inaccuracies that serve the interests of the political and religious actors that created them. I hope that correcting these inaccuracies will pave the way for peace, and soon.

That being said, I do not want to exercise unwarranted bias, neither in favour nor against any one group. The book, in my opinion, is a half-filled glass awaiting completion by the other half; namely, a Palestinian response from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. I am sure someone could write a counter-book, Letters to My Israeli Neighbor, if you will.

The Second Letter: Need and Longing

The security wall has further complicated the conflict, meriting the scorn of Palestinians who label it the Apartheid Wall or the Discrimination Wall. Israelis, on the other hand, consider it to be a security barrier that protects its citizens from terror attacks, and thus deem it both perfectly logical and legitimate. However, the wall has not in fact succeeded in preventing the beautiful flourishing of human relationships (at least, this is what I’d like to believe). The wall has not been able to prevent prayers for peace and coexistence by both Israelis and Palestinians who aspire to both of these noble goals.

The Third Letter: Fate and Destiny

The Temple was destroyed twice, the events of which led to the Jewish people’s dispersion to the four corners of the earth, ultimately resulting in a period of exile which lasted for two thousand years. Over the millennia spent in the diaspora, they suffered racism and discrimination. It was, amongst other things as well, this reality that legitimized their right to return to the land of their ancestors. The Jews are a people whose identity is intertwined with their religion, contrary to the claims of others who seek to deny this through the skilful deployment and agenda-driven interpretation of religious texts. Even if we disagree on some aspects of the Jews’ beliefs, there is much truth in the Jewish Biblical narratives and historical testimonies. The Jews’ adherence and steadfastness to their faith enabled them to eventually return to their homeland.

The controversial issue of the nature of the Jews’ religion and peoplehood has left a significant imprint on the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Jews’ claim to be descendants of the Prophet Abraham and his wife Sarah is attested to also in Islam. Yet, Arabs still manipulate the media and even exploit religious platforms to deny Jewish history.

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor touches on many sensitive issues pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through this book, my neighbor, Yossi, tries to convince us that the division of this holy land, although unfair, is the solution required to stop the bloodshed.

I would like to invite you to strive harder to find an alternative solution that I consider to be fair, namely the integration of Palestinians from both within Israel and from the diaspora under one state. In order to implement such a solution, all involved parties must not only abandon ideas and principles that revolve around victory and defeat but also discard religious teachings that incite violence.

As far as I’m concerned, Yossi, the wall has prolonged the conflict and has brought us yet further away from a peaceful solution. I completely understand the need to protect the lives of Israeli citizens, which are of invaluable worth. At the same time, however, I contend that the negative repercussions of the wall must be mitigated by reaching out to the Palestinians and addressing them in a language of love, brotherhood and faith. You must address Palestinians on the understanding that this piece of the land is for two peoples, that what unites them is greater than what divides them, and that the same rights and duties must be guaranteed for all the inhabitants. All of this is required if we wish to succeed in the task of ​integration and inclusion.

We shouldn’t fear the failure of a one-state-solution just because it failed in the former Yugoslavia. Nonetheless, it will, of course, be necessary to overcome certain difficulties if we wish to forge a successful future.

There’s another issue that I wish to discuss; the Holocaust. This event claimed the lives of six million Jews found their death and has had a strong and long-lasting impact on Jews which is poignant even today. In my eyes, at least, this dark phase in human history both justifies the existence of the State of Israel and legitimizes its right to defend itself. This includes Israel’s right to equip itself with all available military equipment, particularly in light of the unstable nature of the region. Israel is located in hostile surroundings; take Iran for example, which seeks to develop nuclear weapons, or Hamas and its loyalists.

I sincerely hope that the Israeli citizen and his Palestinian neighbor find safety and that all the peoples of the region will reach across the aisle to one another.

This valuable book was an eye-opener for me, shedding light on matters about which I was in total darkness. I write my humble letter knowing that I will neither be able to cover everything nor do justice to all the topics discussed in the book; topics which require thorough and extensive research, for no one person knows everything just as no one person owns the one and only truth. For my neighbor, Yossi, that truth is bound up with the vision of Israeli society. From my position, as a Moroccan Muslim Arab, notwithstanding the fact that my Israeli neighbor is a friend, I cannot neglect my Palestinian brother who is in a perpetual state of turmoil and continues to wait for the establishment of his own independent Palestinian state.

I personally consider the land too small to be divided and, what’s more, it is clear that living under Israeli sovereignty would provide both peoples with a dignified democratic life under responsible and accountable governance. This is much more preferable than dividing the land into strips a mere few kilometres in width to be granted to each state whilst simultaneously consigning the Palestinians to live under a corrupt leadership that feeds on its own people’s misery and gambles with their fate.

I would like to continue the rest of my response by dividing it into to axes:

The first axis:
The history of the Jewish nation, destiny and fate, and the Arab-Israeli wars:

Every nation with an identity has its own history which cannot be denied. The difference remains in the validity of its details, as every national narrative reflects some truth accompanied by some element of forgery, whether it be intended or not. Here lies the crux of the disagreements. Such a disagreement between the Israelis and Palestinians renders it necessary to sacrifice and abandon ideas which harm the relationship between the two peoples. Rather than viewing the conflict as a religious war, we should see it as the natural but avoidable pangs of interpersonal relationships which can be improved through the adoption of the human principles of coexistence and love. We should face the shared external challenges posed by Arab-Islamic extremism that rages across the Middle East, rather than permit such views and organisations to sustain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through its incitement against the Jews in the Holy Land.

The Holocaust is attested to by clear and irrefutable historical evidence, including video footage. Likewise, both the Torah and history books testify to the Jewish right to return to their Promised Land. That being said, all those who resided in Palestine coexisted with a Jewish minority for hundreds of years. Recognizing this fact of history continues to be the required first step – for both sides – in order to move forward in the right direction.

I’d like to end this segment by raising the fact that the Jews’ displacement and killing of Palestine’s Arabs remains to be the darkest period of this conflict. To dwell upon this matter is truly painful. Coincidentally, the Jews, during the Second World War, suffered an even worse atrocity; in fact, the cruellest of atrocities. The Holocaust threatened the very existence of the Jewish nation, reducing its size tremendously by virtue of the annihilation of six million innocent Jews.


The second axis:
The Jewish existence, the Promised Land, the wall and the contradiction:

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not merely a border dispute, but rather a struggle for very existence. Israel seeks today to Judaize the entire Holy Land, and plans to expand more and more, consolidating Jerusalem as its capital, incorporating a ray of ethnicities, sects and religions, including the Arabs of ‘48, whether Christian or Muslim.

The paradoxes that exist within Israeli society have brought about biased and discriminatory government policies against the state’s Arab citizenry. Having said that, the government has granted some privileges to the Arabs of ’48 (that is, those who became Israeli citizens) such as equal access to medical treatment. I think that today’s right-wing government is mainly concerned with trying to barter away what is left of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by paying billions of dollars to resettle the inhabitants of these territories in the Sinai and Jordan. As far as I’m concerned, it is such considerations that provoke the Arab and Palestinian public into viewing normalization agreements as a betrayal to the Palestinian cause and a means to pave the road for Trump’s “Deal of the Century”. Of course, this doesn’t undermine the notion that normalization is a positive development for the people of the region.

Radouane from Morocco