“You are a Jew. You can come here as a tourist, but then you go back to your country. No one accepts that this is your country!” With those words an Israeli journalist was rebuffed on Monday while trying to get reactions from local Jerusalem Arabs to a deadly terrorist shooting in the city a day earlier.
Early Sunday morning a resident of the northern Jerusalem suburb of Shuafat, often described as a Palestinian “refugee camp,” opened fire in the narrow alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City. The terrorist, a 42-year-old father of five, succeeded in killing one Israeli and wounding four others before being shot dead by security forces.
Jerusalem has seen a rise in violent incidents in recent weeks. To get a feel for the mood on the street, Channel 12 reporter Ohad Chemo, who is fluent in Arabic, asked young Arab residents of Shuafat what they thought of Sunday’s fatal attack.
The responses were disheartening, and confirmed that the peace process has thus far failed to alter the perceptions of average Arabs. A violent ideology, be it Islamist or nationalist, continues to hold sway.
“This is my land, man! My land! You think I’ll just go to Jordan and leave it to you? You stole this land from me in 1948,” one young Arab told the Israeli reporter. “The war between us will last until Judgment Day, because this is our land. You thought the old generation would pass and the young would forget. But you will soon experience more fear.”
Another of the young local Arabs, knowing he’d be on Israel’s evening news, said to the camera: “I want to tell any Jew watching me right now to go back to his country [of origin].”
Chemo tried to remind the young Arabs that for Jews, too, this is their ancestral land, their reborn state.
The response from the young Arabs was swift: “I don’t accept that this is your country. No one here accepts that. You as a Jew want to come here? Then come as a tourist, and then go home to your country.”
Indeed, if what these young men say is true, and a majority, if not all Palestinians still reject the notion that Jews have a history and a place in this land, then Israel’s primary condition for peace has still not been met.
In short, we remain a long way from the peaceful coexistence that the Western-brokered land-for-peace process was supposed to have by now facilitated. In fact, if young Arabs continue to be raised on the ideals expressed by these respondents, we may never get there.