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Nov 2005 Journal

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Point of view

A dream gone sour

Following the Anschluss, my family's problem was where to escape to. Having read Herzl's The Jewish State, I became convinced that Palestine offered the solution as a home for all Jews. I was offered a 'certificate' necessary for legal immigration under the British mandate. However, had I accepted it, I would have had to leave my parents behind. My brother was already established in England, working for our English cousin, who was now offering us a home. The resulting British visas thus put an end to my Zionist dream.

Naturally I followed Palestine's fortunes with great interest. Following the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948, I was proud that my people 'made the desert bloom' and I feared for their safety when they were attacked by Arabs intent on driving them into the sea. Several wars followed, which the Israelis always won - mainly due to their superior weaponry supplied by the Americans. After 1967 Israel occupied an extensive part of Palestinian territory. The Israeli government established settlements, which needed to be defended by the army, isolated as they were in the midst of hostile Palestinian lands.

About three years ago, the Guardian newspaper organised a debate on 'Israel/Palestine: What Next?' at Church House, Westminster. I arrived early. While I was waiting, a young woman asked me why I had come. 'Because I'm Jewish' was my answer. 'Why are you here?', I asked in turn. 'Because I'm Palestinian' came her reply. We began to talk and instantly agreed that we both wanted peace between our two peoples. We became close friends. The debate was between Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli government minister, and Yasso Rabbo, a Palestinian Authority minister. Further meetings resulted in the Geneva Accords. Sadly, they didn't come to anything.

The 'roadmap' has not yet brought peace. Although Sharon achieved the evacuation of all Jewish settlements from Gaza, were he to attempt a similar operation in the West Bank, his Likud Party would surely replace him with the hard-liner Netanyahu. I firmly believe that as long as any Jewish settlements remain inside Palestinian territories, there can be no just peace.

Before 1948, the mother of my Palestinian friend - like me now in her eighties - lived in Haifa. In those days Jews and Palestinians lived peacefully as neighbours and were often great friends. In 1948 her family was ejected from their home where they had lived for generations. They fled to Lebanon, where my young friend was born. Her mother must have felt just as I did when in 1838 our flat was 'allocated' to a German officer - the flat where I was born and had lived.

Now, my idealistic dream of a home for Jews has gone sour: the countless human rights abuses against Palestinians; the separation wall constructed through Palestinian land; the countless house demolitions and olive tree uprootings; the checkpoints where Palestinians have to queue for hours to cross to reach hospitals, often to give birth or to receive urgent medical treatment; the number of Palestinian civilians, including children, killed by Israeli military action, which is far greater than that of Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians.

Finally, a ray of hope. The Israeli conductor and musician Daniel Barenboim's friendship with the late Palestinian Edward Said, an eminent literary critic and expert on the Middle East, resulted in the formation of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. It is composed of young Israelis and Arabs. They performed at a concert at last summer's Proms and recently at Ramallah, where the locals received it with great enthusiasm. It offers the hope that mutual understanding will finally lead to peace between our two nations.
Inge Trott

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