by Naomi Ragen
December 26, 2002
I was invited to attend a V-Day tribute to the doctors and nurses of Hadassah Hospital. I had no idea what V-Day meant, and found out it had to do with the feminism of the Vagina Monologues, an off-Broadway play written by Eve Ensler. The delegates, including the playwright, and Jane Fonda, had been touring the area, with a stop in Jordan to speak to women there about violence against women. I actually have an acquaintance in Jordan, Princess Wdjan Ali, a wonderful woman who is battling for an end to honor killings.
One of the highlights of the evening at Hadassah was a presentation by Shoshana Gottleib, a young, religious mother of four, who told the audience how the van she was in was attacked by murderous machine-gun fire by terrorists, and how bending down to put orange peels in a plastic bag, she avoided the bullet that went through her headrest. As it was, Shoshana was critically injured, her spinal cord severed, paralyzing her for life from the chest down. One of the most interesting parts of Shoshana’s presentation was her revelation that the terrorists who opened fire on her were three policemen in Arafat’s Palestinian Authority, a fourth, who was Arafat’s personal bodyguard in Force 17, and a fifth who had been recruited with the promise of $500. One of the terrorists videotaped the attack on the van, and it was sent to Yasir Arafat.
While Fonda stood with the rest of us to give Shoshana Gottlieb a standing ovation for her narrative of courage and survival, and she sounded quite sincere when she called the doctors, nurses and victims treated at Hadassah Hospital — which is open to all and treats Arabs and Jews with total equality – real heroes (we even had a brief pleasant chat about playwrighting and women’s rights afterwards), I was surprised by some information that I heard later. First, as I paused to chat with Shoshana Gottlieb and her wonderful husband in the parking lot, she told me Ms. Fonda was planning to visit Yasir Arafat in Rammallah the following day. “She asked me if I had something I wanted to say to him,” Shoshana told me, “I told her, I want the video tape.”
Later, I understood that Ms. Fonda met with with Fatima al-Kasba, 37, who lost two teenage sons in the conflict, although we never did learn how. And I think it makes a difference if they died strapping on suicide belts, or as innocent bystanders, don’t you? Nevertheless, I give Ms. Fonda credit for coming to this area and for trying to understand the conflict, and for not coming out with inflammatory one-sided statements, although she should not have been demonstrating with Women in Black, the women’s group that pressed for the Oslo Accords, and, in so doing, put so many other mothers into the black of mourning.
While Ms. Fonda, I think, means well, I don’t think the same can be said of Labor and Meretz representatives, including the personal adviser of Labor chair Amram Mitzna, who met last week in London with representatives of the Palestinian Authority. Yes, believe it or not, they are still meeting with Arafat. The meetings took place under the auspices of the Peres Center for Peace (whose main accomplishments so far have been giving each other enormous salaries and sponsoring unsuccessful soccer tournaments between Arabs and Jews). Mitzna’s aide, along with those of Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Haim Ramon, Matan Vilnai, Zahava Gal-On and Roman Bronfman, met with a Palestinian delegation that included Mahmoud Yaseen, who is in charge of protocol in Arafat’s office (Hmm. I wonder if he’s the one to ask for Shoshana Gottleib’s videotape?), and the assistants of Information Minister Yasser Abd Rabbo, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Nabil Shaath, Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), and others.
“These meetings, designed to renew the dialogue between the parties, were planned a long time ago and did not take place until now for various reasons,” explained the director of the Peres Center for Peace, Ron Pundak (Ron was the main writer of the Oslo Accords. I once heard him say with a gleeful smile that he had put in so many clauses it would impossible for Israel to ever reverse the process). “It was made clear in the meetings that the real differences between the sides are not related to substance, but rather to a lack of trust because of the conflict in the last two years,” Pundak noted.
Not related to substance, huh? I’d say that videotape of the deliberate attack on Shoshana Gottlieb, which paralyzed her for life, and the $500 bucks Yasir promised the people who did it was substantive, even if the cowards, morons and brain-dead of the Labor Party and Meretz can’t figure it out.
“Both sides have expressed the will to reach peace and live in mutual respect and recognition, and to end the occupation and the terror, the Israeli participants said.”
Where have we heard that before? Oh, was it 700 Israeli dead ago? Ten thousand Israeli injured ago? Hadassah treated 2,100 victims of terror last year alone.
“This is the only way to promise both nations a future of good neighborly relations, peace and security within safe borders based on international recognition and other initiatives, such as the Arab peace initiative and the speech made by President Bush last June, the parties said.”
Blah, blah. You get it. If you elect Labor or Meretz, get ready for Oslo II, and the next round of dead and injured. The next two thousand mothers paralyzed for life for $500 (He never got the money, he said).
“Both sides aren’t hearing each other’s narratives, and maybe that’s our role as artists,” Jane Fonda said of the meetings with Israeli and Palestinian women. I for one, Jane, am listening. And what I hear, for the most part, is baloney.