Living in Israel these days is like living with a time bomb, ticking away, just waiting to go off. I am almost afraid to turn on the radio in the morning, as each day seems to bring even more bad news and more attempts at suppressing opinions not in line with the government thinking. Each day brings more attempts to slash art forms that are deemed unsuitable and to stop financing theaters and films. What is more frightening than anything is that democracy is at stake. Those who cut budgets for cultural institutions because of the content of plays are creating a very dangerous precedent.
How about looking at the situation from a completely different angle? What if members of Parliament made an effort to see the play before condemning, criticizing without actual knowledge of the content. What if a delegation went to meet Walid in prison to find out for themselves, and, before doing so reading everything he has said about reconciliation for so many years. If Walid has gone through a transformation, and after all this is what we believe, then surely he could be an example to other prisoners who have not yet reached the understanding that reconciliation and non-violence is the only way we can end this cycle of violence soaked in the blood of our children from both sides. Peace also means that those who have suffered most, will not see the killers of their loved ones brought to justice.
In 1998 Tony Blair sent Marjorie Mowlam in to the Maze prison in Belfast, Northern Ireland to meet Protestant paramilitaries face-to-face. Long before that, the IRA had established ties between political parties and paramilitary groups. Margorie Mowlam persuaded them to allow their political leaders to take part in the peace talks and for this they were released from jail some three months later. In time it is hoped that we can have a change of heart and understand that freeing prisoners is a price we will have to pay for an eventual peace.
One day, Israel and Palestine will have to go through a reconciliation process if we are to have a lasting peace and not just a cease fire. This is what we, at the Parents Circle - Families Forum, believe. We, who have paid the ultimate price in the conflict realize that there is a bigger picture and that for the sake of our children and grand children, we must compromise and find another way.
We cannot fall into the trap of suppressing artistic expression and preventing messages we do not like. It sends a message to the public that they are not to be trusted to to judge for themselves and they should only be fed the poetry, plays and art that suits a certain belief. What kind of world would that become? And how patronizing not to believe that the Israeli public is smart enough to work out what is good and bad for themselves. Freedom of expression is a basic human right and no one has the right to take that away.
One cannot but think of Nelson Mandela. He too, was in jail for nearly thirty years. He too, went through a transformation and understood that for the good of his own people and for the good of South Africa in general, reconciliation was the only way. Should we not read his wonderful biography? Should South Africa have kept him in jail? He too, was responsible for allowing a violent wing to the African National Congress. South Africa, and the world would have lost a great leader if Madiba had not been freed and there would almost certainly have been a bloodbath. The absurdity of the situation, of waking up each morning with another drama of artistic repression can only lead to more hatred and anger.
As long as Israelis and Palestinians do not accept this painful truth, and continue to enjoy the other side's suffering , as long as revenge and being right takes priority over succeeding, there can be no prospect of a safe and peaceful existence.
In the meantime, perhaps we should devote more of our time learning and understanding the culture and needs of the other by listening and pursuing the truth.