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Yishai and Walid Schmoozing

Our Radio guy Yishai Fleisher is joined by Walid Shantur, an Arab American hailing from a village near Ramallah whom Yishai had met in Ithaca, NY.
Walid Shantur and Yishai Fleisher

YF: As we are sitting here and you talk about this, I sense a tremendous amount of pain on your face. Tell me about this pain

WS: Well yes. There is pain. When I talk to my family about this, they don’t really understand why I would talk like this and how they could benefit more from an Israeli government than from the governments that they have had. I’ve heard a lot of people say that Netanyahu can be counted on to look after Israel’s best interests. However, we have never had a government that has looked after out best interests. There is a lot of money that comes from the United States to the Palestinian Authority, and most of it does not go where it should be going and where it is the most needed. A lot of it ends up in Swiss bank accounts.

YF: Walid, has the Arab Spring meant anything to your family. Do they see any opportunities in it? Do they see anything that they may not want to be part of? Are they shocked at all about what is going on in Egypt and Syria? Is there any voice that says “let’s move away from that and look for something better?”

WS: It’s a very unpopular thing to say in the Arab world that we should move away from the Arab Spring, because often times there are ramifications. You had mentioned that Palestinians their selves are in Hamas’s crosshairs.

YF: Do you mean that it is hard to have freedom of speech in extremist controlled areas many times because the extremists target moderate voices?

WS: Yes, that is very well put. I may be guarded a lot of times in what I say. You may have to read between the lines a lot because I do have interests in the West Bank. The world is not a totally safe place.

YF: No it’s not. And a lot of times I’ve spoken with Muslims who have left the Orthodox area of Islam. They may go to mosque from time to time with their parents, but they won’t go up to the Temple Mount. They don’t want a portion of that fight anymore. They want to live normally, and are educated, and are constantly asking themselves what the best way to live is. The Arabs in my neighborhood on the Mountain of Olives often are the exact opposite. They don’t see any benefit to having me as their neighbor even though I try to live with them in peace as much as possible, and are often very hostile toward me.

WS: Many times Islam is not progressive in government, and in freedom of speech or choice.

YF: As we are sitting here an Israeli Police motorcycle just passed us, and you see within that the two different sides of Israeli culture. Sure, the policeman has an M16 strapped around him, and we are a nation with a lot of guns that looks many times like an embattled nation. However, you look at the Israeli who are passing him that are the flip side of the coin, relaxed strolling in their shorts and sandals with a fun atmosphere.

YF: You have had a lot of interaction with Jews and are blogging as well. Tell me about that.

WS: Well, today I blogged about the light rail. I blogged about how the building of the light rail says a lot about Israeli culture. The tracks run directly parallel to the sidewalk, and there are no guardrails. In the United States, that would never fly. In the United States, they rely on Uncle Sam to kind of look out for their own personal safety. Here, Israelis know they are responsible for their own safety. They don’t need signs telling them to stay back, and I respect that aspect of self-responsibility in Israeli culture.

YF: I think that’s true. An Israeli definitely needs to be more informed and in the know in this country that survives the kind of way that it does. It’s a country in which you definitely need to learn about things.

YF: Let’s ask you the million dollar question Walid. What do you think is the future of Israel and the Palestinians?

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