I have always had my doubts about Neve Shalom/Wahat as-Salam, the voluntary Jewish/Arab village half way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and especially about its School for Peace.
I ran a favorable article by Joseph ("track-two diplomacy") Montville in 1998 on this subject in the Middle East Quarterly but combined it with two critical pieces, an excellent pro-Israel critique by Edward Alexander and a more unusual Palestinian Islamist view by Ahmad Yusuf (on whom, see my weblog at http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/2003/12/ahmad-yusuf-and-the-future-of-islam-in.html).
My doubts about Neve Shalom were increased today by an article in Ha'aretz that tells about one Eitan Bronstein, "director of the youth section of the School for Peace [and] … also the founder, conceiver and moving spirit behind Zochrot," an organization dedicated to recalling the Palestinian presence in what is now Israel. The article quotes Bronstein saying:
- On Zionism: "one of the achievements of the left is that it succeeds in turning the word ‘settlement' into a curse. I erased the Green Line, because the real issue between us and the Palestinians is the Nakba. There was an occupation in 1948 and it's impossible to expunge that fact."
- On the "right of return" of Palestinians to Israel: "I don't know who will want to return, but whoever wants to—let them return—and if the result is that there will not be a Jewish state, then there won't."
- On celebrating Israel's Independence Day: members of Zochrot "saw no reason to celebrate Independence Day. … Instead, they set up makeshift stages at selected points in Tel Aviv from which refugees or members of the association read out testimonies about the Nakba [Arabic, catastrophe] to anyone who wanted to listen."
These sentiments confirm what Edward Alexander wrote in the Middle East Quarterly six years ago: "A village such as Neve Shalom can exist only if its Jewish residents are prepared to suppress their Zionist identity, and if its Arab residents are able to restrain their laughter as they watch their Jewish neighbors engage in self-debasement."
If such are the views of Eitan Bronstein, arguably one of the most influential figures at Neve Shalom, one wonders why mainstream Jewish and Israeli institutions continue to support the School for Peace. (August 13, 2004)