One powerful image that Lilly Rivlin provides early in her film is of dead Israeli civilians, victims of a bus bombing, lying stiffly against their seats. This is the sort of picture Israelis and Arabs see often on their news broadcasts, but Americans are never shown. Most of the film depicts Israeli and Palestinian women struggling against the occupation — the wall/barrier (with memorable views of the five percent that is wall, instead of the 95 percent that is fence, but I’m not complaining), Machsom Watch women at a checkpoint, etc. But that stark initial footage of the victims of terror should convince anyone that Lilly is depicting the struggle against violence as well as the occupation.
In a question to the panel at the screening that I attended at the New School in New York last week, I tried – lamely perhaps – to get across my sense that the Israeli peace movement is making a tactical error in not equally emphasizing their opposition to terror, as well as the occupation. Panelist Rafi Dajani (executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine – an Arab-American group that forthrightly supports the two-state solution) presented a host of survey data that indicates clear majorities of Arab Americans, Jewish Americans, Israeli Jews and Palestinians as all supporting two states and peaceful coexistence, but also mistakenly viewing the “Other” as not holding similar views.
It seems to me that there is a similar misperception that the Israeli peace camp suffers from. Most Israelis share concepts and beliefs with the peace camp yet simultaneously hate it. Why? Because they don’t see the peace camp as being on “their” side. This is why I see a need for peace activists to more clearly articulate opposition to extremists on both sides and to be impatient with the weakness and shortcomings of both the Israeli and Palestinian Authority governments. I realize that Israel has more power in its hands than the Palestinians – clearly – but this does not negate the fact that unless reasonable Palestinians act against terror, progress toward peace will fail but again. It is devastating to the prospects for peace that Hamas, even as a party of government, has remained so violent and rejectionist.