Tuesday, March 21, 2006
An Insider's Look at Palestinian Culture
Israpundit reprints a well-nigh-unbelievable story from the Jerusalem Post (available for a fee):
Amnon’s “aliya” began when he snuck across the border from Gaza nearly eight years ago. Formally “Ayman” from Khan Yunis, 28-year-old Amnon Itzhak Shahar left his Palestinian past in the Gaza refugee camp where he grew up. He converted to Judaism three years ago, and now looks forward to strengthening Israel against the “terrorists in the territories.”This man, born and bred in the Gaza Strip as a Palestinian, has discovered that Israel is where he prefers to live, and that an Israeli is who he wants to be:
A vocal supporter of the Likud party, Shahar is featured in the party’s upcoming promotional broadcasts lauding the tough stance it advocates for Israel against the Palestinians. He is hoping to sway Israeli voters to vote Likud - “the only party strong enough,” he says, “to deal with the Palestinians.”
“From the time I was a little boy, I remember everyone would always call out to kill Israelis… that they are three-legged monsters that should be killed so we [Palestinians] could reclaim our grandparents’ lands,” he says.This is a good illustration of a central conflict in Palestinian national identity -- the fierce hatred of all things Israeli, while simultaneously being utterly dependent on Israel's economy for jobs. Mr. Shahar's father, who beat him for not hating Israel enough, had no choice but to turn to Israel for work -- because there was none to be had at home.
Shahar traces the flight from his Palestinian and Muslim identity back to the early age of six, when he received a candy from an Israeli soldier operating near his home.
He suffered frequent beatings at the hands of his father and school teachers for questioning the gap between what he was told about Israelis and what he perceived for himself.
Shahar recalls the zealous hatred which his family, neighbors and peers expressed for Israelis, but says that fire never burned in him. Showing reservation when teachers led his class in cries for the destruction of Israel, he recalls the fierce punishments he received when he did not participate. His parents regularly expressed their shame over him.
When Shahar first ventured into Israel at age 11, joining his father at work at a construction site in Rishon Lezion, he relates, “I remember looking for that third leg that Israelis were supposed to have and not seeing it. I was confused.”
Israelis at the construction site treated him kindly, he recalls; he yearned to go back again. At age 13, Shahar left school and returned to Rishon Lezion, where he spent several years residing and working illegally. Shahar says that while he severed contact with his family back in Khan Yunis, in Rishon Lezion he forged a connection and was “adopted” by the family who purchased one of the houses he worked on. He recalls joining the family for his first Pessah Seder and being mesmerized by the holiday and its story.
“I wanted that holiday to be mine. It is something amazing,” he says.
The Palestinian Authority has been in control of Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1994 -- and, instead of building an economy and generating work and wealth for Palestinians, has instead oppressed them worse than Israel was ever accused of doing.
Mr. Shahar also contrasts his treatment at the hands of Israeli and Palestinian authorities:
When he turned 19, Israeli authorities arrived at the construction site where he worked and deported him back into Gaza. In a Palestinian court he admitted wanting to be an Israeli, and was thrown into a local prison where, while incarcerated, Shahar says he suffered repeated abuse.Israel deported him to Gaza, presumably for staying illegally in Israel proper without a permit; but in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority arrested him and tortured him. (Arrested him for what? Perhaps for being a dreaded "collaborator".) In Israel, by contrast, he evaded prison with the same statement that led to his torture in Gaza: "I want to be an Israeli".
“I was hung upside down,” he recalls. “They threw hot water on me and gave me electric shocks.”
At the end of his six-month sentence, the court placed him under house arrest at his parents’ home. Shortly after, his “shamed” parents kicked him out into the street. “They were embarrassed by me,” he explains.
Several months later, after scraping by and sleeping on the streets of Khan Yunis, Shahar eventually saved up enough money and crossed back into Israel, returning to work at another Rishon Lezion construction site. A heightened number of terrorist attacks at the time saw Israeli police out in droves, and within a few weeks Shahar was arrested again. At his trial, he expressed to the presiding judge his desire to become an Israeli citizen. Moved by his story, she aided in launching his naturalization process.
And now he is one, living in a one-bedroom apartment in Rishon le-Zion (near Tel Aviv), eager to spread his message: that Israel must deal with the Palestinian Authority uncompromisingly, for the PA will give no quarter to Israel:
He claims Palestinians need to be controlled with an iron fist because, he says, any concessions they are given will be met with the same type of Kassam rocket barrages that have hit the areas surrounding Gaza since the pullout.By all means, read the whole thing.
“All they want is to kill Israelis, that’s what they are constantly told. They cannot be trusted,” Shahar maintains.
. . .
He opposes the notion of a Palestinian state, which he claims would turn into a terrorist hotbed. Israel must assume control over the entire population, Shahar says.
“The Palestinians need to be controlled,” he repeats. “Israeli forces should enter the territories and clean them up.”
. . .
The Palestinians need to be afraid of Israel, Shahar believes. “They call an Israeli premier who doesn’t do anything ‘a barking dog that doesn’t bite.’ We need to bring a dog that will both bark and bite. They need to be taught a lesson on acting up against Israel.”