The article below was written by Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, a long-time Israeli peace activist and recent winner of a peace award from the European Parliament. Nurit was the mother of Smadar Elhanan, 13 years old when she was killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in September 1997.
The Dominion of Death
Dylan Thomas wrote a war poem entitled "And Death Shall Have No
Dominion." In Israel, it does. Here death governs: the government of
Israel rules over a dominion of death. So the most astonishing thing
about yesterday's terrorist attack in Jerusalem and all similar
attacks is that Israelis are astonished.
Israeli propaganda and indoctrination manage to keep coverage of
these attacks detached from any Israeli reality. The story in the
Israeli (and American) media is one of Arab murderers and Israeli
victims, whose only sin was that they asked for seven days of grace.
But anyone who can remember back not even one year but just one week
or several hours knows the story is different, that each attack is a
link in a chain of horrific bloody events that extends back 34 years
and has but one cause: a brutal occupation. An occupation that
humiliates, starves, denies jobs, demolishes homes, destroys crops,
murders children, imprisons minors without trial under appalling
conditions, lets babies die at checkpoints and spreads lies.
Last week, after the assassination of Abu Hanoud, a journalist from
Yediot Ahronot asked me whether I felt "relief." Hadn't I been
frightened that "a murderer like that was roaming free"? No, I did
not feel relief, I told her, and I will feel no relief as long as
the murderers of Palestinian children continue to roam free. The
murders of those children, like the murder of a suspect without
trial or the murder of a ten-year-old boy yesterday, shortly before
the attack, guarantee that no Israeli child can walk to school
safely. Every Israeli child will pay for the deaths of the five
children in Gaza and the others in Jenin, Ramallah, Hebron.
The Palestinians have learned from Israel that every victim must be
avenged tenfold, a hundredfold. They have said repeatedly that until
there is peace in Ramallah and Jenin there will be no peace in
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. So it is not up to the Palestinians to keep
seven days of quiet but up to the Israeli Occupation Force.
On Friday it was reported that politicians from both sides had
reached a deal in Jerusalem to allow the reopening of the casino
upon which their own livelihood depends. They did it without
American intervention, without high-level committees, with just the
assistance of lawyers and business people, who promised the parties
what was required. What this shows is that the conflict is not
between the leaders: when an issue affects them directly (unlike the
deaths of children) they are quick to find a solution.
It strengthens my belief that all of us, Israelis and Palestinians,
are victims of politicians who gamble the lives of our children on
games of honour and prestige. To them, children are worth less than
But these attacks serve the interests of Israeli policy - policy
designed to make us forget that the war today is about protecting
the settlements and the continuation of the occupation, policy that
drives young Palestinians to commit suicide and take Israeli
children with them, animated by Samson's invocation "let me die with
the Philistines," policy contrived to make us believe that "they
want Tel Aviv and Jaffa too" and "there is no one to talk to," even
as they liquidate all those who might have been able to talk.
Now that we know our leaders are capable of peace when there is an
economic motive, we must demand that they make peace when lesser
things, like the lives of our children, are at stake. Until all the
parents of Israel and Palestine rise up against the politicians and
demand they curb their lust for conquest and bloodshed, the
underground realm of buried children will continue to grow. Since
the beginning of time, mothers have cried out in a clear voice for
life and against death. Today, we must rise up against the
transformation of our children into murderers and murdered, raise
our children not to support evil machinations, and force the
politicians - who say, with Abner and Joab, "Let the young men arise
and play before us" - to make way for those who can sit at the
negotiating table and agree to a true and just peace, who are
prepared to engage in dialogue not with the aim of tricking and
manipulating the other side, not to humiliate the other and force
him to his knees, but to reach a solution that considers the other,
a solution free of racism and lies. Otherwise death shall continue
to have dominion over us.
I suggest that parents who have not yet lost their children look
beneath their feet and heed the voices rising from the kingdom of
death, upon which they step day by day and hour by hour, for only
there does everyone understand that there is no difference between
one life and another, that it matters little what is the colour of
your skin or the colour of your ID, or which flag flies over which
hill and which direction you face when you pray.
In the kingdom of death Israeli children lie beside Palestinian
children, soldiers of the occupying army beside suicide bombers, and
no one remembers who was David and who was Goliath, for they have
faced the sober truth and realized that they were cheated and lied
to, that politicians without feeling or conscience gambled away
their lives as they continue to gamble with the lives of us all. We
have given them the power, through democratic elections, to turn our
home into an arena of never-ending murder. Only if we stop them can
we return to a normal life in this place, and then death will have
Yediot Ahronot, Dec 1, 2001
Translated by Edeet Ravel, Montreal.
Original: The Dominion of Death