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Archivierte Meldungen aus den Jahren 1995 - 1999


Poisoneous Words:

Uri Avnery
Translation of an article which will appear
in Ma'ariv, August 30, 1999

There is no tyranny like the tyranny of words. We create them, and from that moment on we are their slaves.
For example: The Hebrew word for terrorist, "mekhabel". It is enough to put this label on any person or locality - for example, a PLO-run elementary school in Eyn-al-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon - in order to bombard it. Because we have to fight the mekhablim, wherever they are, and at any time.

Afterwards, the words "blood on their hands" were invented. Meaning Jewish blood which, as everyone knows, is redder than other blood. Someone who has "blood on his hands" - as distinguished from a settler who has killed a Palestinian boy - is a "two-legged animal", a "drugged cockroach", and must rot in an Israeli prison to his very last day. He will never be released (except if Ahmed Jibril succeeds in capturing an Israeli soldier, in which case we exchange him for a thousand mekhablim).

But as it so happens, some of my best friends are Palestinians with "blood on their hands". Since Oslo, I have become acquainted with quite a lot of Palestinians in the course of joint Israeli-Palestinian actions for peace, and some of them have become friends. By sheer accident, so it seems, they are all ex-prisoners who were released by the Jibril-exchange. Sirkhan has spent 13 years in prison, Hisham 21 years. Once I invited some of them to lunch in a Tel-Aviv restaurant, and we counted 54 prison-years around the table.

In the course of time I learned that this was no accident. In prison, the Palestinians have learned Hebrew and been exposed to Israeli radio and TV. They have come to admire Israeli democracy and especially loved the spectacle of MKs shouted at the Prime Minister. No wonder, then, that the prisoners with "blood on their hands" are the most ardent advocates of peace. They know Israeli reality better and understand better the need for peace. By the way, Sa'id Hamami, with whom I started the long march for Israeli-Palestinian peace some 25 years ago, and who paid for it with his life, was a former commander of mekhablim, and so was Issam Sartawi, who also sacrificed his life for peace. He had the blood of actress Hannah Maron - among others - on his hands.

Therefore, the haggling over the prisoners looks to me both hypocritical and disgusting. Without the words "mekhablim" and "blood on their hands", everybody would understand that these are enemy soldiers, who served their country as we served our country (which, by the irony of history, happen to be one and the same country). They shed blood as we shed blood. They hit civilians as we hit civilians. They followed orders as we did follow orders. And the people who gave the orders - to them and to us - are now sitting together around the negotiating table. What would we have said if the British had taken the prisoners of the Hebrew underground with them to England, and held them in their prisons even while their former commander, Prime Minister Menahem Begin, was there on his state visit?

Prisoners of War

If we would call the incarcerated Palestinians "prisoners of war", as suggested by minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, the problem would have been solved easily. Everybody agrees that prisoners-of-was are to be released when peace comes.

However, our representatives have come to understand that the prisoners are good objects for trade. Every prisoner has a price. One can get something for him. But that's the attitude of a street peddler, not of a peace-making statesman. Experience shows that if we release all the prisoners at once, as a shining gesture at the start of final-peace negotiations, most of them, including Hamas people, will become advocates of peace, like their comrades of the Jibril-exchange. That is - to use the mentality of our representatives - a "wholesale" price, much bigger than the small "retail" price we can get for them if we haggle over each individually. But before we can do that, we must liberate ourselves from the poisonous words.

Today, in Gaza, a conference on this subject will be convened. I was invited to speak, and shall say there what I have written here.

Uri Avnery - Article will appear in Ma'ariv, August 30, 1999
haGalil 29-08-99

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