Recent elections in Israel that resulted the victory of the Israeli right wing; the high death toll of civilians during the Israeli assault on Gaza, and the admission by Israeli soldiers that they viewed Gaza as a "shooting gallery" and randomly shot innocent civilians unconcerned about the consequences; the surge of racist and discriminatory practices against Palestinians and Palestinian citizens of Israel promoted by Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party and a member of the incoming government; a wave of bestselling books critical of Israel; Israeli soldiers sporting t-shirts depicting the killing of Palestinians; and the democratization public opinion via non-traditional media, have all given Israel a headache. Of course it did not help that a number of Jewish foundations lost millions of dollars to Madoff and his ilk. Now Israel has a lot of work to do and I am sure they are shopping for advice from their friends who reside anywhere between Manhattan and Hollywood. I'm sure they will be generous with their advice on how to give Israel the makeover it needs in these hard times. But since Israel won't be soliciting any input from me or anyone of my kind, I've decided to offer a few ideas anyway.
Yes, I am a Palestinian from Gaza who lived under the Israeli occupation and my entire family still feels its impact twenty-four seven. Whatever decisions Israel decides to go with will surely affect me and millions like me.
I am a realist and realize that Israel has to do things a certain way, and they will not joke around with their security or any existential threats (real or perceived). For Israel's sake, causalities will occur and homes will be demolished. Progress in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations is a casualty of the old dilemma: who came first the chicken or the egg?
Palestinians want their land back, Israelis want to feel secure. Untying that knot depends on who lets go first: a Palestinian leader cannot deliver Israel security until he has a land upon which to enforce his rule, an Israeli leader cannot take the risk of giving up land, only to see it become a militant base camp. So, I've compiled a list of gestures Israel can make to improve their much troubled brand.
How about next time you go after a "bad guy," try not to kill an entire family with him. And if for reasons unknown you want to take the family with the "bad guy" leave the neighbors alone. Palestinians are never short of stories of innocent civilians who became victim to random bombing and shooting.
Perhaps when you impose a siege on Gaza as you are doing now, please allow in humanitarian supplies. In addition to banning any construction material and electronic devices, the lists also includes pasta, chick peas (no Humus or Falafel tonight) toilet paper (causing soggy bottoms and uproar in Foggy Bottom).
Next time you send a notice of demolition to an Arab in Jerusalem because he added an extra story to his home, also send another notice of eviction to that nice family of Russian Jews who are living in a settlement that violates the international conventions on occupation.
Do not open your doors to immigrants from all corners of earth while constructing walls to shut out the native inhabitants, keeping them from their families, schools and farms. Charity, as we know, begins at home.
Perhaps instead of addressing the symptom of a particular problem, the Israeli government will muster the courage to address the real cause of the problem. Launching primitive rockets on Sederot is cruel and inhuman, but can the Israelis now empathize with the innocent Palestinians who live under constant and more sophisticated firepower? I won't hold my breath.
If Israel is concerned about the demographic time bomb, research shows that education and development pushes down fertility rates. Why not allow Palestinian schools and universities to operate uninterrupted by forced closure and even invest in improving the Palestinian education system?
Instead of importing foreign labor whose wages are repatriated to their home country, hire a Palestinian who would turn around and buy Israeli goods and spend his time at home watching TV rather an hanging with his homeboys cooking up trouble.
The more settlers you send into the Occupied Territories, the more the two-state solution becomes obsolete. I anticipate the day when Palestinians start raising Israeli flags and calling for one man one vote. Democracy is a scary thing for those committed to a "Jewish" state.
About those 10,000 Palestinian prisoners you are holding in your world class prisons. Do you really want to do this? America is fighting a "global war on terror" and has not managed to sweep up 10,000 prisoner from the entire world -- but from population of only a few million you hold 10,000 Palestinians as prisoners; obviously the threshold you have to meet to get into an Israeli prisons is very low -- only for Palestinians though.
Change your military uniforms. To be honest the Israeli soldier is not what makes the soldier, the uniform does. A mean looking soldier with an intimidating uniform can be scary. Switch uniforms to more friendly ones such as clowns. It's friendly to the viewer and you know no one thinks of violence when they see a clown.
Assert that you are actually "de-developing" the Gaza Strip in order to make it "greener." Cutting fuel supplies, bombing highways, along with the destruction of other major infrastructure, will turn a place greener. But, the irony is, green is Hamas' color of choice.
Allow Palestinian students, especially ones granted scholarships, to go abroad and attend the colleges of their choice. Locking down the educated Palestinians will not do Israel any good and only turns those educated ones into frustrated idealists and potential militants, and no one wants to deal with the wrath of those people.
It's wise for Israel to allow sick Palestinians to get medical care wherever offered. Palestinians need clearance from Israel to receive medical attention in Egypt, Jordan or whatever country will take them. I'm sorry, but healthy people with a positive outlook on life are Israel's best friends.
Those are few gestures Israel can make to show good will toward the Palestinian people and the world community which has grown weary of Israel's unnecessary and inhumane tactics. Obviously, these suggestions may expose Israel to some risk, but the consequences of inaction could be much worse. Ultimately any Palestinian leadership has to reciprocate kind gestures by promising to work with Israel. And, positive Israeli gestures will surely give the Palestinian leadership ammunition with which to silent their opposition, especially those opposed to peaceful coexistence. And please take my unsolicited advice as you would take the advice of your college roommate, the one you must share a space with peace.