“You may be wondering why I, a young Israeli, am writing you, the winner of Arab Idol,” Natan Odenheimer, an Israeli student who interns with the American Task Force on Palestine, begins an open letter to Arab Idol Mohammed Assaf. And after reading Odenheimer’s letter I am wondering the same thing myself.
The letter is an appeal to the Palestinian global celebrity for dialogue, to make things better. Because Palestinians have never shown themselves to be partners for peace.
You might be thinking, “These people don’t want peace with us”. But please know that while it’s true that for most Israelis it’s hard to see a promise for resolution looming on the horizon, it is not because we are against it. Rather, it is because one of our former prime ministers told us, “There is no partner for peace”. Whether or not this statement is, or was true, most of us still believe it. But deep inside, even the pessimistic among us are hoping to be proven wrong.
It says in the Hebrew Bible, “Better a good neighbor than a distant friend”. The whole world can adore and sympathise with you, but it is us you are stuck with, and vice versa. Please address us too. You can be our idol too.
Mohammed Assaf (photo: Wisam Rostom Photography)
You want Assaf to prove your leaders wrong? You want Assaf to address you too? You want Assaf to look at you? Have you thought about writing a letter to your peers, asking them to look at Mohammed Assaf? Can you tell us which Israeli politician is a partner for peace?
Have you thought about why Mohammed Assaf has united Palestinians and the Arab world? Can you see Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people? You wrote about Jordan’s oppression of the Palestinian people and Jordan denying citizenship and Palestinian refugees suffering in Jordan, but not in the occupied territories. Why?
You want to be addressed by Assaf, but have you thought about addressing Israel’s oppression of Assaf and his family in the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza? You write that you or your fellow Israelis believe there is no partner for peace because that is what your leaders tell you and you are waiting for them to be proved wrong — by a young artist?
Maybe you should be writing Israelis and telling them to look at Assaf. Have you listened to his message of Palestinian solidarity? Have you looked at him?
Oh but you want Assaf to look at you. Hasn’t he been forced to look at you his whole life?
Look at me, because you don’t have a choice. And neither do I. We are stuck together, and we are not going anywhere. But it need not only be bad.
We are stuck together– but your piece is datelined Washington, DC, and it says you are a student at Brandeis. You have the freedom to move; and who is stuck– in Gaza, in the West Bank?
If it “need not only be bad” then look at your countrymen and -women and challenge them. Did you know that in your country, 90% of Palestinian Israelis speak Hebrew, but only 3% of Israeli born Jews speak Arabic? Yesterday Haaretz reported ” The [Jewish]teenagers who took that test in Arabic did not see it as bridge: They saw it as a weapon, and most of them, presumably, were inducted into Unit 8200. “
Here’s my letter to you Natan Odenheimer. Write an open letter to Israeli Jewish teens and tell them to address Assaf as an equal, not with a weapon. Tell Israelis to find politicians who will be partners for peace not founts of self-serving propaganda. Get them to listen. Don’t use Assaf’s celebrity to call attention to yourself.
(Previous Mohammed Assaf reports on Mondoweiss available here)