I received the following email on Wednesday from a Sister of St. Joseph whom I respect and trust. She, in turn, received this message from Dick Platkin, a member of the group Jews for Peace. He is currently visiting Israel and the West Bank. Here's the essence of what he says, in brief:
I have just returned from a work visit to Ramallah. I am very concerned and disturbed by what I heard from friends and colleagues there. The calm appearance of the city hides the sizzling bubbling under the surface. The West Bank is on the verge of explosion.
As an illustration of what I've heard from people I spoke with, on the way home I listened to some Palestinian popular radio stations. All of the songs were full of praise for Hamas and al-Qassam Brigades -- "let's hit Tel Aviv with our rockets" and even much worse than that. It was horrible to hear the drums of war and battle calls coming from the radio ...
The Peace demonstration in Tel Aviv last night was not aired on any Arab station and the Palestinian public has not heard that there are Israelis who still talk about peace.
The atmosphere is very pessimistic; people expect that the ceasefire will not be renewed and the fighting in Gaza will resume. After Gaza, the fighting will emerge in the West Bank.
The atmosphere of the war is spreading and the public willing to enlist, they know there is a lot to lose, and yet the feeling is that this is a war of necessity -- a war to protect their home, a war for Palestine.
I know the West Bank well. In recent years I have been there several times every week. What I heard and felt today is very worrying. For me, this feeling is accompanied by the belief that Israel has no idea how explosive the situation is.
On Tuesday, I interviewed two guests about the event that produced the "aftershocks" we see today: the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. One guest was a Jewish historian, the other a Palestinian professor and peace activist. Israelis celebrate that time as a coming of nationhood and independence; Palestinians refer to it as the "Nakba," or "catastrophe," because so many Arabs were displaced from their homes. The Middle East has not been the same since.
At one point in the interview, I said, "Well, currently there is a cease-fire in effect ... " They both stopped me suddenly and shook their heads. In the hours immediately before that interview, the cease-fire had been broken and the conflict had resumed.
That news was sad to hear. But things will be even worse if this spreads to the West Bank.