Special Representative of the UNDP in Jerusalem
From The PalestineChronicle, October 30, 2002
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PINA) - In the past five days, I've said good-bye to friends in two extraordinarily different ways, but both have relevance to life in the Middle East in the current situation and both illustrate the
tragedy that is taking place here - for all concerned.
The first goodbye was to Michael, over a good lunch and with the warm reminisces that have characterized a friendship of over two decades. Michael and his charming and highly intelligent wife, an internationally
recognized professor of biotechnology, both in their 80s, have left Jerusalem for a new life in Australia. Michael had served as a senior civil servant in his government, holding Ambassadorial ranks in important countries as well as in his Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. They had a comfortable retirement life from a material point of view, enjoying the cultural, climatic and social life of a country in which they were both born-in Tel Aviv before the creation of the State of Israel. Both decided that the conditions to which Palestinians, from within Israel and, more importantly, those under occupation were treated, as well as other internal social developments in their country made emigration an imperative.
The second was to Mrs. Shaden Abu Hijleh, whose face I saw yesterday on her burial pyre as she was carried to her final resting place in Nablus, a city now under Israeli curfew for almost a hundred days. She was the mother of a good colleague, a respected pillar in her community and an emblem of human rights and decency. Her only crime, last Friday, was to be enjoying the evening breeze with her family, working on embroidery, on the terrace of her home when the bullet fired by an Israeli soldier passed through her neck, killing her instantly.
Both good-byes were so unnecessary, products of despair that has overtaken the Israeli/Palestinian situation during recent months when exemplary citizens, willingly or unwillingly, and from both communities are no longer a part of their societies. Having spent most of my professional life in seeking to support peace and development in the region, it is tragic to bid farewell to good Israeli and Palestinian friends.
Seen from Jerusalem, it appears that the world perceives this human tragedy through blinders: the Israelis are obviously the 'good guys' or it's the Palestinians who are suffering in complete innocence. Perhaps it reflects a little of both opinions. But before there are more painful good-byes, it may be time to remove these blinders; to see the situation with dispassion rather than compassion, to apply international law in an even handed manner and to permit the children of Israel and Palestine to face a future of peace rather than death and despair.