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The Dominion of Death

by Nurit Peled-Elhanan Saturday, Dec. 15, 2001 at 12:15 AM

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

Nurit Peled-Elhanan

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

roulette chips.

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

no dominion.

Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Yediot Ahronot, Dec 1, 2001

Translated by Edeet Ravel, Montreal.

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