YEMENI-EGYPTIAN LIBERAL DR. ELHAM MANEA: 'I WENT TO ISRAEL AND DON'T REGRET IT'; PEACE WITH IT IS POSSIBLE
Liberal Yemeni-Egyptian writer Dr. Elham Manea, who resides in Switzerland where she lectures on political science at the University of Zurich and is a member of Switzerland's Federal Commission for Women's Affairs, wrote an article published July 27, 2018 on the liberal Arab website Ahewar.org and titled "If We Are Not The Emissaries Of Peace, Who Will Be? I Went To Israel And I Don't Regret [It]."
Memri, Dr. Elham Manea August 6 2018 (Source: Maghrebvoices.com, July 20, 2018
In the article, Dr. Manea stated that she had visited Israel and told of her pleasantly surprising and reassuring experience with passport control at Ben Gurion Airport. She wrote that she was planning to write a weekly series of articles about her visit to Israel, and stressed that she recognizes Israel's existence, sees the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as having two sides, is not biased towards either, and wishes peace and security on both sides. She went on to condemn "the hatred that is fanned in equal measure by Jewish and Islamic religious extremism" and declared that no matter what, she refuses to hate the Israelis.
Her decision to visit Israel, she added, was not difficult at all, and she does not regret it. She wrote that she learned a great deal from what she saw with her own eyes there. In her upcoming series of articles on her visit, she said, she intends to describe her impressions of the Israeli point of view regarding peace-seeking; of her visit to Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust; of her chance meeting with Yemenite Jews; of her visits to Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem; of the debate in Israel on the issue of the recently-passed Nationality Law; and of finally recognizing Israelis as people with whom it is possible to make peace.
Calling on the Arabs to give up their belief that Israel will just disappear one day, because it will not, she urged them to seek a way of attaining peace with it, for the good of both sides.
"WE SUCKLE [HATRED OF ISRAEL] WITH OUR MOTHER'S MILK"
Dr. Elham Manea (Source: Maghrebvoices.com, July 20, 2018)
The following are translated excerpts of Dr. Manea's July 27, 2018 article on Ahewar.org:
"'What is the purpose of your visit?' the passport control official at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv asked us, as she set our two passports on the computer in front of her and regarded us closely with a steady gaze. Thomas and I... said simultaneously: 'Tourism.' She looked at her computer [screen], holding the two passports. Handing them back to us, she said: 'Welcome to Israel.' It took me a few seconds to realize what she had said, and I almost said to her, 'Is that it?' But we breathed deeply and left.
"We expected something different. We thought that due to my Arab visa and Arab entry stamps on my passport the treatment would be harsher, very harsh. At least that was what the Swiss tour agency that booked our flight for us had told us. And Thomas told me then, 'They might take you to a side room and ask you in detail about the reason for your visit. Don't get upset, just answer the questions.' But that didn't happen. [On the contrary – they only said:] 'Welcome to Israel.' This was music to my ears...
"How many of us were raised to hate this country? We suckle [this hatred] with our mother's milk. How many of us have learned that it is the enemy? And that the enemy has no right to exist? How many?
"Many of you say repeatedly, 'We have no problem with the Jews; our problem is with Israel,' and add, 'Israel is an illegitimate state, an artificial state that has no right to exist, a state created by imperialism that will disappear one of these days from the map of our region.' This is what we whisper to ourselves in public and in secret.
"But it hasn't disappeared. It continues to exist. If that is the case, then the time has come for us, the social forces that call for peace on both sides, to seek together a way to our future. Together. Particularly at this very time, when the option of peace seems possible. This is because peace does not come in times of security and mutual love, but in times of wars and hatred."
"THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT "HAS TWO SIDES, AND I SEE BOTH"
"Before I tell you about my visit in a weekly series [of articles], I will begin by presenting my position: I have never doubted Israel's right to exist. I recognize the 1948 UN Partition Plan. I see [Israel as] a legitimate state. It is divided between two peoples that did not want to live together, and each of them insists on its own historical narrative. Just as all the countries that surround Israel are new states, so is Israel – all are new countries that had no existence as independent political entities before the first half of the 20th century: Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and so on and so forth. The list is long.
"Take Iraq, for example. You will find that the linking of Mosul with Baghdad and Basra is also the result of a British decision, made despite these three entities' differing ethnic affiliations. Despite this, anyone who dares talk about separating these entities is chastised and silenced and accused of working for a foreign element... But that's another story.
"I will not hate. I will not hate. I wrote this earlier [on May 22, 2015] in an article [titled] "To Mark The Anniversary of the Nakba/Establishment of the State of Israel: I Will Not Hate," and I say here what I said then, to make this picture clear to you: 'I do not treat the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from a point of view that is biased towards one of the sides. I am biased towards the human aspect. Yes, I see this as a conflict that has two sides, and I see both sides together. After that, I see the humanity in them, and to be honest, I do not see Israeli men and women as the enemy. I wish for them neither evil nor destruction, I wish for them [to live] in peace and security, just as I wish [this] for the Palestinians. I see the humanity in the Israeli men and women just as I see the fear that lives within them. At the same time, I am not disregarding the lands that were and remain expropriated, and the existence of the occupation that kills the Palestinian and his dignity and violates his humanity in the Palestinian territories – just as I am not disregarding the discrimination suffered by the Israeli Arabs, in a state that some politicians are not convinced must serve all its citizens...
"This is important. I see both sides, together, and I wish them both peace and security, together. And just as I see both sides, I see also those who fan the fire. I am not disregarding the hatred that is fanned in equal measure by Jewish and Islamic religious extremism. This hatred is persistent; it is deeply rooted among the settlers and the populist right [in Israel] who insist that all the land belongs to them and that there is no Palestinian existence. It is just as deeply rooted in the Islamic fundamentalist culture of hatred that has spread and that Hamas is fanning in Gaza, the same [culture] that teaches the children in the kindergartens – as exposed in a new video [about] how to kill 'the Jews' and how to 'slaughter them.' You teach a four-year-old boy how to slaughter? [How] to hold another child and slaughter him with a knife? What kind of person are you creating?
"Each of the sides needs the other for the message of destruction, which they preach, to become stronger. They exchange fire, mutually killing what is human in both sides."
THE TIME HAS COME TO SEE THE ENEMY AS HUMAN, AND MAKE PEACE
"Despite all this, I again stress: I will not hate. I will not hate. I will not hate the Israeli men and women. Just as I don't want to destroy the State of Israel. And while I defend the Palestinian men and women's right to exist in a state that will give them independence, security, and wellbeing, and oppose the systematic [Israeli] settlement policy that uproots peace, I realize that most of the voices opposing the settlement policy are Israeli, and emanate from within Israel itself – and that the ones who defend the Palestinian rights more than anyone are Israeli organizations, headed by Peace Now...
"This is what I argued in my previous article. I am reiterating it in order to clarify my position, which is clear and is biased towards the human being, whoever he is.
'Accordingly, deciding to visit Israel was not difficult for me. It was not difficult at all. What was difficult in this matter was the publicization of my visit. But just as I do not hate, so do I not lie. I went to Israel because it is a state whose existence I recognize. And, more importantly, I went there because I wanted to see for myself what is happening in reality – to see the [Israeli] in his [natural] environment. I did not regret it – on the contrary, I left with much that will allow me to write this series, in which I will set them before you in detail. I will tell you of what prompted me to say to Thomas, 'I know where we'll go for vacation – Tel Aviv'; I will tell you about the book I read during my visit to help me understand the Israeli point of view in the search for peace, by Yossi Klein Halevi, titled Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor. [I will tell you about] my visit to the Holocaust museum [i.e. the Yad Vashem memorial], from which no one emerges unchanged; about the Israelis of Yemeni origin whom I met by chance; about Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem...; about the Jewish Nationality Law that was promoted by a populist right wing minority, the nature of the discussion around it in Israel, and the opposition to it; about a moving human aspect of Israel's attitude towards some of its neighbors, victims of our wars. And, most important, I will tell you about the Israeli – the one that loves, laughs, fears, and weeps. The one that can be a friend. The one who when we see him, we realize that peace is possible.
"So do not hasten to curse me. Think about it a little. Striving for peace is not for times of peace – but for times of war. For times when your enemy becomes the object of your hatred. Perhaps the time has come to see this enemy as human, to be acknowledged before we decree his sentence – because if we are not emissaries of peace, who will be?"
 Ssrcaw.org, May 22, 2015.
YEMENI-EGYPTIAN LIBERAL DR. ELHAM MANEA: THE ARAB COUNTRIES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE STATE OF THE PALESTINIAN REFUGEES; IF THE RIGHT OF RETURN MATERIALIZES, IT WILL APPLY ONLY TO A FEW TENS OF THOUSANDS
Following her recent visit to Israel, Dr. Elham Manea, a Yemeni-Egyptian writer, human rights activist and women's rights activist who resides in Switzerland, began publishing a series of articles titled "If We Are Not The Emissaries of Peace, Who Will Be?" In the series, posted on the liberal website ahewar.org, she addresses various aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and describes her impressions of Israel.
In the first article in the series, she addressed the criticism that was directed at her for visiting Israel and the claim that her visit indicated a lack of sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians. She wrote that, unlike many of her critics, she has visited Palestinian refugee camps in the Arab world and is keenly aware of the Palestinians' suffering; however, she places the blame for their situation on the Arab countries, which have perpetuated their refugee status under the pretext of protecting the right of return. She called on the Arabs to recognize that Israel is a reality, and that if the right of return is ever realized, it will apply only to the remaining Palestinians who actually fled their homes in 1948, who number in the tens of thousands, and not to their descendants, who according to Dr. Manea "currently number five million." The latter, she said, will have to return to the territories of the Palestinian state, or else settle in their current countries of residence.
"I went to Israel on a research and learning trip that taught me a great deal and I do not regret it. Most people from Arab states who visit Israel do so in secret... because our societies force us to lie and be hypocrites. [They make us] afraid to say what we really believe, to utter sincere words, or to openly do what we want. [This fear] sometimes drives us to curse those we love.
"[But] I am neither a liar nor a hypocrite. I publicized [my trip to Israel]. So why the criticism? Do you think I do not understand the meaning of the [Palestinians'] pain and loss?... That I do not empathize with them? How many of you have visited the refugee camps in the Arab countries? I have visited several as part of my work as a journalist and academic, and burned with the pain of the disgraceful reality [I saw there]... You know who I cursed then? [I cursed] the Arab countries that force them to live in homes like cages or dungeons, on the pretext that granting them permanent residence will lead to their naturalization and undermine the 'right of return'...
"Lebanon denies the Palestinian men and women the most fundamental right to a dignified existence... This reality of the discrimination against them is well known and familiar in many Arab countries... I still remember how the authorities in the Arab [states] humiliate Palestinians when they enter and leave the country. Anyone who travels is familiar with this reality... Have any of you thought to take to the streets and protest against it, and demand a change to this racist discrimination? Or is it easier to focus [the blame] on Israel?
"In Lebanon, energetic efforts are underway to change this situation, despite the difficulty [of doing so]... One of the proposals that may amaze you... is based on the rationale that many who deal with this issue quietly understand. I understand and respect the right of return. But those who comprehend [this issue] know that when the return to Israel occurs, it could possibly apply [only] to the remaining Palestinian men and women who actually left their villages and lands or were driven from them in 1948. They numbered no more than 750,000, of whom [some] 50,000 are still alive. It is the fate of their descendants, who currently number five million, which is the [main] issue. Many have come to the understanding that these people will return to the new Palestinian state that will be founded as part of a comprehensive peace agreement, or will receive compensation and settle in the Arab countries where they currently reside, or outside them in the new world.
"Please do not hasten to curse me harshly, because those who work in this field know what I am talking about. Did you not hear the criticism directed by Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis at UNRWA during his official visit to Jordan in May 2018, when he said that UNRWA had become part of the problem in the region because it perpetuates the refugee camps, and that more efforts must be made to integrate the refugees in other countries instead of giving them [false hopes] of returning to the Palestinian lands? Switzerland is known for its staunch neutrality and its commitment to peaceful conflict resolution... When its foreign minister makes such a statement, it is worth noting...
"You think I am whitewashing Israel, but does it need whitewashing? It has its bright sides and its dark sides, and I am well familiar with both. You object that I must say I visited Palestine, not Israel, but [the fact is that] I visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. I am staunchly in favor of the two-state solution, even though everyone thinks that calling for it today is delusional. When a Palestinian state is established, I will refer to it as Palestine. Israel exists. It has a right to exist, just as the Palestinian state I am demanding has a right to exist. I am not saying this out of generosity. All the peace talks mentioned negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians and spoke of [Israel's] withdrawal to the 1967 borders. Nobody is talking of the 1948 [borders]. Perhaps you find the claim that Israel does not exist reassuring, but I consider it irrational. It will not change the reality which is recognized by international law and by the international community.
"We must insist on the establishment of the Palestinian state... and on a halt to the settlements... [We must insist] that U.S. President Donald Trump has no right to change the legal status of Jerusalem, and most importantly, that Israeli Arabs be treated as equal to Israeli Jews. But in doing so, we must understand the mentality of Israel, which fears for its security – and not without reason, since it is surrounded by Arabs who think that 'Judaism' is a curse."
 For more about Dr. Elham Manea's visit to Israel, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7607, Yemeni-Egyptian Liberal Dr. Elham Manea: 'I Went To Israel And Don't Regret It'; Peace With It Is Possible, August 6, 2018.