Friends of Israeli Devorah Brous' brother were killed in Jerusalem in an Arab bombing on July 31. A house belonging to Hisham Sharabati's Palestinian family in Hebron was invaded by Jewish settlers on July 27.
But Brous and Sharabati spoke together Friday in Juneau of the need for people to listen to each other.
"By having the Israeli occupation as my enemy, does it mean that all the Israelis are my enemy, all the Jews are my enemy?" Sharabati said, speaking by telephone from the West Bank town of Hebron.
The West Bank, populated by about 2 million Palestinians and 175,000 Jewish settlers, was to be governed solely by the Palestinian Authority someday, but is under Israeli control until then. The Israeli government believes such control necessary for Israel's security. Since September 2000, there has been increased violence by Palestinians and a violent crackdown by Israel.
Sharabati told approximately 70 people at Northern Light United Church that Israeli curfew and travel restrictions are holding the Palestinians hostage on behalf of Israelis who have settled in Hebron. He said the Israeli military fires on Palestinians at travel checkpoints.
"There is no military solution for the Palestinian and Israeli conflict," said Sharabati, who is a fieldworker for the Palestinian human rights organization LAW.
He and Brous were to tour the United States for several months this year talking to interested groups, but the U.S. government wouldn't let Sharabati enter the country, apparently because he has been arrested several times and jailed by the Israelis. The tour continues, but with Sharabati speaking by telephone when he can.
He and Brous are scheduled to speak at 7 tonight at Chapel by the Lake, and Brous is to speak alone at 6 p.m. Monday at the Juneau World Affairs Council at Dimond Courthouse.
"The idea originally," said Brous, "was to show there is an alternative to violence, that Palestinians and Israelis are working together to end the occupation and eradicate terror."
Sharabati spoke Friday of the difficulty Palestinians have in getting to markets, schools and hospitals during the Israeli crackdown in the West Bank, and of the residents' anger.
Israel has imposed restrictions and attacked the homes of alleged terrorists and their families in the wake of many Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel.
"The Israelis consider it part of the war against terrorism," Sharabati said. "But you cannot fight terror by imposing collective punishment."
A Juneau man asked Sharabati why the Palestinians resort to violence, rather than follow the successful nonviolent practices of Gandhi in India. Sharabati said Palestinians use various methods to resist the Israeli occupation, but the media covers only the violence.
But Sharabati also said, "By pressing people to the end, you don't expect reasonable replies."
Brous, an Israeli human rights activist, founded and directs Bustan L'Shalom, which creates sustainable infrastructure in neglected Israeli and Palestinian villages.
"To eradicate terror, we have to examine abject poverty. It's an inexplicable link," she said.
Bustan L'Shalom is raising funds to build a clinic in a Bedouin Arab village in Israel where, for example, she knows an old woman who lives in a rusty shipping container. "It has no windows. How can she not hate Jews," Brous said.
Brous said peace isn't merely the absence of conflict. For Israelis, it's the freedom not to get blown up in the market. For Palestinians, it's the freedom to have food available when they go to the market when the curfew is lifted for a few hours a week.
"It's really not the time to be talking about peace," Brous said. "So much trust has been lost. So much faith has been destroyed. What we need to be talking about now is justice. I'll just say now, there is no peace without justice."
Before the latest intifadah, or outbreak of violence, Jews and Arabs had worked together at the grass-roots level, Brous said. But now there's a "lack of will to engage," to understand the suffering of the other side.
"What we have instead is an overall competition for suffering," Brous said.
Brous said she jumps when she hears sirens or even the phone ringing, because it could be news of another bombing.
"It's not hard - it's next to impossible to sustain faith we'll be able to humanize each other and move out of this phase of demonizing each other," she said.
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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