Crowing over his success in breaking up the old Arab order, President George W. Bush has been strongly hinting that the first shoots of democracy pushing up through the sands of the Middle East will soon blossom into peace. Truly representative Arab leaders, we are assured, will put away the qassam and katuysha rockets and embrace their former enemies. The model – at least in the thinking of the White House – is the peace process supposedly under way between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, sealed in a handshake last month at the Sinai beach resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel Sharon are now doing business because both speak the same language of democracy – or so the Bush argument runs.
You won’t hear about the story of my Palestinian friend Ali Zbeidat and the threatened demolition of his “illegal” home, either from the hundreds of international correspondents in Jerusalem or from the Hebrew media – not even from those remarkable Israeli journalists Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, two lone beacons inside Israel in the campaign for justice for the Palestinians. None of them will tell you about the story of Ali’s family and the imminent physical and financial ruin of their lives by Israel, even though Ali’s plight is far from unique. There are tens of thousands of other Palestinians in the same desperate situation as Ali, living in homes Israel defines as illegal.