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The massacre in synagogue, Israel wonders

Interview with Manuela Dviri

For many years, Manuela Dviri has devoted her life to promote dialogue and active cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. Dviri works with the Peres Center for Peace and has created a project for cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian doctors to provide medical care in Israeli hospitals for children who cannot be treated in Palestine due to lack of funds or facilities. Dviri is a writer and a journalist who works with many leading newspapers in Israel and Italy.

We talked to Manuela Dviri a few hours after the brutal attack on the synagogue Kehilat Bnei Torah in the Orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem. During this attack, two Palestinian suicide bombers killed four rabbis, a policeman, and wounded seven people gathered for prayer before being gunned down by the guards.

After the operation Protective Edge, Israel ended up in a spiral of tension culminated in the attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem. What do you think of what is going on?

There are several aspects to consider. On one hand, to put it mildly, the statements of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government have done nothing to improve the intense situation in Jerusalem. In particular, some members of the government have gone on change the status quo of the city, which is so fragile that it does not take much to bring it down miserably. On the other hand, they have set forces in motion from the Muslim world, such as ISIS, and they seem to moderate Hamas movement. The whole Middle East is in turmoil in recent months. Aside from Israel and Palestine, there have been issues in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Egypt, which makes this situation even more difficult. A few days ago, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and King Abdullah of Jordan met to try to mitigate the situation. However, there are known and unknown forces that have shown interest in leaving things as they are. The only good thing in my point of view, at least right now, is the statement of the head of the Shin Bet Yoram Cohen, who, in spite of the accusations made by the Palestinian Prime Minister Netanyahu, has decided that Abbas is not responsible for what happened.

What does everyday life look like in Israel?

The daily atmosphere has not changed. People live as before because it is easy for humans to get used to everything. I live in Tel Aviv and for those like me who live far away from Jerusalem, life goes on normally. But pessimism is the main change that I feel new.

It is not difficult to understand the fear of those who live in a Middle Eastern country such as Israel, which, in addition to having to deal with the threat of Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, is also found at the doorstep of ISIS, practically beyond it, in Syria. In the immediate future, outside of Jerusalem, nothing changes. However as the fear of the others, along with feeling victims of the media attacks, grows, we feel alone and become pessimistic. The more one becomes pessimistic, the more one closes in on themselves and the harder it is to accept that there may be other reasons, especially when others are engaging in such physical violence. In this context, I would like to remember the terrible images of taled (shawls rituals) thrown to the ground and the rabbis killed with strokes of kitchen knives and cleavers during the morning prayer. These are images that we Jews remember as moments of a sad past that we were hoping to never have to see in the State of Israel.

In a situation as complex as this, what can you do for peace?

I think, and have always said, that extremists recognize each other. However, it is equally true that the moderates can identify each other. It is necessary that the moderates in the world continue to talk and try to do everything possible to improve the situation because the opposing forces are very strong.

For years, you have been engaged in projects for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians...

For nearly eleven years, through the Peres Center for Peace, I have worked on a project that provides medical care for Palestinian children in Israel who, for various reasons, cannot be treated in Palestine. In recent years, more than 10 thousand Palestinian children have been treated. A child is a child and has the right to health and life wherever he is born. This is my way to communicate with each other. To believe in life and in the future.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said that there will be harsh reactions following the attack. What can we expect in the future? What will happen to the peace negotiations?

We can expect more violent and different attacks from each other against the Israeli civilian population. However, I do not think that Netanyahu will attack Gaza again, despite this last attack being by Hamas. I have some idea what kind of reaction is being prepared. As for the peace talks, unfortunately, Obama is very weak right now and salvation will not be sure on that front. However, the overall picture has changed. Egypt, Jordan, the same Palestinian authority, Israel, are all facing the danger of ISIS. With a better guide than Prime Minister Netanyahu, they may seek new alliances but the attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem will probably lengthen the survival of the government that was expected to fall.

What do you reproach to the Prime Minister who led the government in recent years?

Netanyahu, psychologically, feels like a victim: of anti-Semitism in the world, of being surrounded by enemies, of the Iranian atomic power. He somehow exploits fear for his political purposes. But the lack of perspective, courage, and a minimum of hope for the future, will ultimately strengthen the extreme right wing parties that at least, in their own way, give answers.

Netanyahu, in my opinion, will be severely judged by history. Of course it is to me, if it counts for something.

26 November 2014

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The first legal definition in the domain of mass persecution dates back to 1915 and concerns the massacres of the Armenian populations perpetrated by the Turks, which were followed by the trials of the perpetrators before the Martial Court. In the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 the Great Powers use the terms "crimes against civilization" and "crimes of lèse-humanity". In the aftermath of Second World War, face the Holocaust tragedy, the Military Tribunal of the Nurnberger Trials against Nazi officials started the proceeding by stating the crimes on which it was competent... On 9 December 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously approved the Convention for the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, which is considered as the most heinous crime against Humanity. 

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