We're trying to construct projects that will involve people from the other side. Last year, we had two projects involving students who traveled to France. I worked with an organization called Palestinian Vision in East Jerusalem. They have branches in Jenin, Nablus, and Ramallah. It was very difficult. First of all, it was during the middle of the war in Lebanon. There was a lot of hostility. Even though our partners know exactly who our members are and know exactly what we do, they investigated who we are and gave us their seal of approval.
I felt that they weren't talking about returning to the borders of 1967, the Green Line, and that in their view, [Israelis] don't belong here. It was very difficult for me. Despite the tension, we all came to a workshop on education and nonviolence. Since both sides came, it would seem as though we had a partner, but [the Palestinian organization] came to say they were martyrs. They returned again and again to the issue of suffering. I understand that because I witness their suffering, as opposed to many Israelis who don't venture out and don't witness it. But you can't stay at the level of suffering because it holds up the process.
There were two groups at the leadership workshop and I believe in these people. The people in the group from Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah are the next generation of Palestinian leaders. The same is true for the Israeli participants. We tried to guide them through a process despite the bad timing. I want to hold similar meetings here in Israel, but there's a problem - I think there's a guiding hand at play. There's a policy designed not only to separate the two populations physically, with a wall, but also to prevent contact between them. If I want to organize a program in Israel, I won't be able to obtain entry permits for the Palestinians. If I want to take the Israelis to the West Bank, I'm taking a risk and assuming a very heavy responsibility.
But let's say I were willing to do that, the Israelis wouldn't be permitted to cross over. There is a policy of separation here that is not only physical, such as the wall, but there is separation in practice. Young people from both sides cannot meet and talk and have a real dialogue.
During the Oslo period there were meetings in which many issues were swept under the carpet to avoid touching upon the sore spots. For instance, no one dealt with religion. The use of religion for leveraging war and the conflict was completely ignored. This conflict isn't only political. There is a powerful religious dimension involved in the question of whose land this is. There wasn't any real educational work done in terms of honoring the other's identity. We were all part of a big fair, and I think it was one of the big mistakes we made. That's why everything collapsed. That's my analysis and I could be wrong. In 2000, at the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the whole business collapsed and there was demonization in both societies, and when there is such demonization it isn't rational.
The meeting we held, the one I'm referring to, took place last year. I discovered a great deal of ignorance on the other side regarding Israel and the history of the conflict. I also experienced their attempt to alter the historical narrative and say, "You were never here," or, "There were never Jews in Jerusalem. Never. Not 50 nor 150 years ago." During the 19th century most of the residents in the Old City of Jerusalem were Jews, but that tends to be covered up.
That's an example, but there are attempts to undermine the existence of Jewish history in this place. How do you approach this? I think the responsibility falls on us, we the leaders of the organizations that seek dialogue, we need to put an end to this. My red line is the Green Line, not '48 but '67.
We must reach a compromise, there is no alternative.