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White Plains forum presents both sides of Israeli-Palestinian argument

By Liz Anderson
Originally published in The Journal News

WHITE PLAINS — “The Wall” snakes between Israel and the West Bank, often wandering deep into Palestinian turf. As it is built, it cuts people off from their jobs, their schools, hospitals and even the fields where they tend their crops, forcing them to travel back and forth through checkpoints that can be closed at any time.

Palestinian Ayed Morrar, 47, and Israeli Jonathan Pollak, 23, have found common ground in launching nonviolent protests of the barrier under construction in their native land. Yesterday afternoon, they brought their message of resistance to the Community Unitarian Church in White Plains as part of a New York City speaking tour.

Morrar helped lead his village, Budrus, in more than 50 demonstrations that succeeded in pushing the wall’s edge back from his village. Pollak has participated in more than 200 demonstrations in the West Bank.

Ayed called Israel’s presence in the area a “catastrophe.” But he said Palestinians have two choices — to “keep all your life crying” or to struggle against it, which he called “easier for your spirit.”

Their presentation included a brief history of the region, film clips of several protests, and pictures of the barrier, which varies in its construction from razor-wire fences, earthen berms and other obstacles to concrete slabs.

Pollak called the wall an “apartheid barrier.” He said he believes Israel has built it on Palestinian land to further “cantonize” the area, seize control of its water resources, preserve many existing Israeli settlements, and grab as much land as possible.

“You call it apartheid. I call it a security wall,” Florence Glazer, 71, of Yonkers, told Pollak. She asked him if he would support the wall if it were on Israeli turf.

“I personally don’t think building barriers between people is any way to protect for the security of anyone,” Pollak replied.

Glazer said later that she had expected more of a debate between traditional Israeli and Palestinian positions. Still, she said, she learned something about the wall’s intrusion past the traditional border and into Palestinian turf.

“It bothers me,” she said of that fact.

Zuhair Suidan, 61, of New Canaan, Conn., a Palestinian, said speeches such as yesterday’s are “a small seed” in promoting peace. “Unfortunately, I think they are working against major policies and powers that are opposing their message,” he added.

Morrar, he said, succeeded in moving a portion of the wall “in one little town.” But overall, Suidan said, “the violations are pervasive.”

Cheryl Zuckerman of Scarsdale said she had tried to get other people she knows from synagogue to attend, but finds it hard to convince people to view their religion and politics separately. Still, “very gradually, people are coming out that want to listen,” she said.