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The Dominion of Death
Nurit Peled-Elhanan, Israel
December 1, 2001
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.
Translated from Hebrew by Edeet Ravel, Montreal, Canada.
Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan is a long-time Israeli peace activist and recent winner of a peace award from the European Parliament. Peled-Elhanan is the mother of Smadar Elhanan, 13 years old when she was killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in September 1997.
Published in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot (Tel Aviv), December 1, 2001.