Maintaining humanity


Palestinian organizations got just what they wanted from this year''s celebration of Nakba, what they call the disaster of Israel''s creation in 1948.

Videos show enraged young men and boys, and some women throwing stones at nearby soldiers, and using slingshots of the David vs Goliath variety to hurl their rocks with greater force.
The soldiers countered with tear gas and other crowd control devices, which in this case managed to kill two of the demonstrators. Palestinians charge that the soldiers used live ammunition. The IDF said they were rubber bullets, which sometimes prove fatal. Investigations continue.
The deaths would  facilitate a few more days of nationalist fervor and incitement.
The next day was Friday, always primed for trouble when thousands go to the mosques and the preachers--often seeking to fire up the faithful against Israel--could be expected to be especially vehement in calling for Israel''s destruction.
The funeral was predictable, with thousands marching along with the bodies carried on the shoulders of those honored by the task. Men yelled their slogans and women screamed.
It''s conventional to express sorrow at the loss of life, but in this and similar cases one should put emotions in the context of the provocative demonstrations rendered violent by the stones and slingshots. 
John Kerry expressed his dismay at the loss of life, urged both sides to restrain themselves, said that the door was still open to his peace process, and pressed both sides to take the steps necessary to renew the talks.
How much of that is diplomatic routine, and how much the latest expression of the Secretary''s illusions is hard to know. What we hear of the negotiations is that the two sides had not really engaged one another in anything like give and take for several months.
As I write this, the sounds of explosions coming from Isaweea add to the mood. It could be a wedding celebration, but there is no sign in the air of fireworks. More likely it''s the Border Police shooting something to calm demonstrators.
One Palestinian claiming a position in the leadership said that the killing of two demonstrators would bring an absolute end to the peace process, and stop the security coordination between Israeli and Palestinian personnel.
That sounds more like empty threats, of the kind we hear almost daily from the side that has more to lose than we from an escalation in confrontation. 
Mahmoud Abbas made a visit to Venezuela. We can presume that he received all the panoply due to a head of state. He and his hosts announced shipments of Venezuelan oil to allow Palestine to be economically free of Israel.
Neither the Latins nor the Palestinians made it clear how the oil would get to Palestine without Israel''s cooperation.
No one should deny that Israeli politics have their element of incitement. It''s at the heart of the campaign of those always wanting to expand settlements. It also appears in the efforts of the Haredim to defend their academies from IDF recruiters, and to defend their schools from anything beyond ancient texts.
However, incitement appears to be the essence of Palestinian education and politics, far wider in their society than what comes from the settler or Haredi fringes of Israel.
Nakba, the sin of Israel''s existence, the need to allow refugees and their descendants back home, martyrs who died for the sake of Palestine, and the prisoners serving time for killing Jews are at the center of Palestinian incitement, along with demands for expanding the rule of Islam in the case of Hamas, Jihadists, and other groups that emphasize the aggressive teachings of Islam.
Israeli policy in respect to Palestinian violence is moderation. Bibi is a moderate, despite his reputation among political opponents. He may not have a vision of leading Israel to a more genuine Paradise, but he should be recognized for not wanting to make waves that would bother coalition partners or the great powers. Israel''s democracy and political stability are worth a great deal. The settlers and Haredi have weight, and get some benefits, but not all that they want. Anyone with a fabulous idea how to solve our problems once and for all times ought to read history.
The purpose of Israeli governments and the IDF is to contain demonstrations and avoid escalation, rather than to teach a lesson or to root out the sources of hatred. After Palestinian casualties, as in the recent incident, there are discussions between Israeli and Palestinian security professionals, meant to assure the continued cooperation.
That''s where we are, some of it 200 meters to the east of my fingers. I ignore it as much as I can, and seek to avoid damaging my sense of humanity by separating the language of conflict from personal relations, both with Palestinians and with Jews to the right or left of me. I don''t delude myself with feelings that I am contributing to peace or to an ideal society, but efforts to be decent allow me to keep looking in the mirror.