Interview with Liad Ortar pt 1
Interview with Liad Ortar of Tel Aviv University about his days in the Army and history from the Oslo agreement to Sharon.,INTERVIEWER:,Say and spell your name INAUDIBLE,LIAD ORTAR:,04:00:59:21>>>,My name is Liad Ortar L-I-A-D O-R-T-A-R I'm a masters student in Tel Aviv University. I master in the field of environmental consequences of war. I research the connection between the ongoing conflict in the world and especially in Israel and the destruction derogation of the environment. Prior to that I was peace now settlement watch team coordinator. After that I've been working with the former minister S------ I was assistant to the minister. I was an assistant to the minister ah after that I was a, a great peace campaigner in Israel. I lead quite a lot of public campaigns concerning Mediterranean pollution the air pollution all kinds of environmental issues. And since then I'm a private consultant I'm working with NGO's with public campaigns and doing my ah research in university.,INTERVIEWER:,INAUDIBLE,LIAD ORTAR:,04:02:11:16>>>,Most proud. I think the, the, the the situation basically this is a year ago. Two days ago it was the 6th of august and we mentioned ah it was 58 years to Hiroshima it's the Memorial Day for Hiroshima bomb. And exactly a year ago I was on a trip in Nepal and during my trip in Nepal I volunteered for 2 weeks in a, in a small village by the, by name of Godengoda. It's near a city of Polka. And in this time I'm spending in the village we ah organize a special memorial a special ceremony with the children over there. And we were about 12 people ah French and German and American from all over the world and we did ah and we just one after the other we read ah everyone read something concerning the war and, and the Nepalese translated the sentence to Nepalese to the local language and I said the language that the sentence in Hebrew. Like everyone said the same sentence in German, in French, in English and it was me standing in front of I don't know about 500 Nepalese children speaking Hebrew and everyone's looking quite admirably at me and saying that the only way ah that the only way to stop wars is by changing the one person behavior.,LIAD ORTAR:,04:03:44:10>>>,Like um this is the way to, to stop the ongoing wars all, all around the world and, and I remember this was a moment that I said I'm the only Israeli and I'm quite proud being that and representing the country and the nation.,INTERVIEWER:,What are 1 or 2 personal experience that have most profoundly affected INAUDIBLE?,LIAD ORTAR:,04:04:12:05>>>,Yeah. Um. You know when, when you grow up in Israel um you collect quite a lot of experiences and scenes from television. And um if I, if I want to look back in perspective to my adulthood to my growing up especially speaking politically wise and I'm looking for that one event I don't know, I don't know if I can ah pinpoint an event. But I can tell you that ah one of the most ah influential experience I had was when I was working Peace Now. And during, during that day destruction was quite different and you could travel around the West Bank and Gaza quite freely. It was a situation like this. And I remember going around with my car between one, between one ah settlement to the other. And I cannot forget the way that the settlers looked at me. This is something that really ah had a very profound impact on me because the way they looked at me as some like a INAUDIBLE someone from Peace Now coming over to their territory, espionaging them their new houses, their new settlements. It's, it's something very, very it was very difficult for me to bear this, this ah this glancing,LIAD ORTAR:,04:05:41:01>>>,I think the other ah event which is you know quite common to all of the other people in my, in my age is the is Robin assonation. Ah this was quite a trauma it was ah it was during also it is an experience that has a connection with religious people with settlers and it was ah when I was in the army I was ah time commander and I had all my soldiers around. We were all looking the television and they were all religious and then they said that Robin was murdered. And I cannot forget that that my response to the situation was profoundly different than their response. Like I was all shocked I start cry, I started to cry. I didn't know what to do with myself and I don't know what they did it was just different from my reaction.,LIAD ORTAR:,04:06:35:21>>>,This was quite a, quite a an important event. And through the years there were a lot, a lot more but these are something that I can you know mention. ,INTERVIEWER:,Was there a time that you were least proud to be an Israeli?,LIAD ORTAR:,04:07:00:07>>>,Yup. I was. I think um there's something very um when you look of, of life in Israel and I'm looking for the reason for the event that I'm shamed of the country or who I am it is something that follows me through the years through different events. Ah one of the events it's it was a very big article in the, in the journal ------- in the, in the Saturday journal. They did a very big piece about ah the uprooting of olive trees. It was for me I, I was really I was ashamed, I was embarrassed, I was um I was saddened I was you know just can't find the right word to do that but it was a very tough experience for me ah especially when I have Palestinian friends from people from villages near ---quila. Ah I work with a Palestinian research centers and after that going back and talking with them knowing that your own people did something which is it's a crime. It's a crime against the environment. It's a crime against human, humans it's there's no other, no other way to define that.,INTERVIEWER:,Could you explain what happened to the olive trees?,LIAD ORTAR:,04:08:26:00>>>,Yeah. What the story ------- is that a systematic there's a system of stealing olive trees all the olive trees old ones and young ones ah during the construction of the fence. Ah Israeli constructors ah collaborated with local gangsters something like that and just systematically uprooted hundreds of olive trees and sold them to Israelis to the gardens in Israel to ah landscape ah garden in the streets of Israeli towns and um this is something you know I just when I go, when I travel around and I see all the olive trees in places that there's just no reason for them to be there I go around and ask myself ah are they originally from there or where are, where did they come from. This is story is quite a a shocking one. And the shocking thing that nothing happened after that like no one was persecuted. No one there were no charges brought up against those thieves just nothing happened we just went through the next day and went back to the normal life ah which is also quite sad.,INTERVIEWER:,INAUDIBLE,LIAD ORTAR:,04:09:46:15>>>,In 93 to 96 I was a time commander in the INAUDIBLE Heights. ,INTERVIEWER:,INAUDIBLE,LIAD ORTAR:,04:10:02:26>>>,Um luckily the majority of the time that I spent in the, in the army my service wasn't in the West Bank but was in Lebanon before our withdrawal in Lebanon and ah the --- Heights. Ah I did quite a lot of reserve time in the West Bank and I remember one, one incident in um you know in the, in the checkpoint there is kind of a routine ah that, that what the soldiers do they dry, dry, dry up this like the name of the routine. They just take the, the credentials for the, the passport all the id's from, from the people that come to the, to the check point and just let them dry up in the, in the sun for 2 hours 3 hours for no for no ah particular reason. I remember once when I when we started um to serve in the West Bank it was when I was a reserve solider I was a commander of this kind of checkpoint and one of my I went to do a checkup of the of the place and one of my, I saw a bunch of Palestinians standing in the sun and I asked the solider you know I was the commander and I had deputy and you do and you ah change roles I asked him what are you doing what are they doing if you, what's going on. He said ah it's ok I'm just trying them out. I said why's that. Because they don't have any they didn't have the passport and the passport is wrong something is, is a bit of a problem with them.,LIAD ORTAR:,04:11:30:07>>>,And I said it's not acceptable to me. If you anything against those people please call the police and let them arrest them and take them into custody and if not I ask you to set them free and let them go back to their houses. And the soldiers were quite mad at me what are you doing this is not the right way to do we've been doing that forever etcetera, etcetera. I say I'm not I do not care about what you use to do. I do not care about your, your norms or what it's regular to do in the checkpoints when I'm commander this it's not gonna continue and I just set those people free. And I think one of them we called the police and they took them because they had some kind of a problem. But ah ah luckily for me for my periods in the army and the regular service and in the reserve I didn't do quite a lot of time in the West Bank although I've been there a lot in Peace Now and in demonstration and I've been arrested there on the way to Havron and I've been to Havron quite a lot with Palestinian friends and I have a lot of experiences from them and a civilian as, as an Israeli not as a solider.,INTERVIEWER:,Why do you think Israel had to make a peace agreement with the Palestinians in 93?,LIAD ORTAR:,04:12:51:21>>>,I think when, when you look back at 93 and about the dynamics, the political dynamics that pushed Israel into um creating or um um advancing peace agreements with the Oslo accords and everything that happened to that over there I think this was like um a blink something um a phenomena. Something which is not a norm in Israel that a bunch of people leading people from the academia and foreign civil, civil servant from the minister of affairs or foreign affairs they stood up and they said we are taking control of our own destiny. We are um leading or we are paving our way, our the Israel way for the future or the Israeli Palestinian way for the future. We cannot continue um to run our life with no without any leadership, without any direction like, like a boat surfing on the water. We have to take charge of this surfing boat ah by the name of the state of Israel and we have to lead them to a save haven. ,LIAD ORTAR:,04:14:15:02>>>,And this what happened in 93. And, and I go back to what I said in the beginning it was a blink. It was something of a of a uniqueness because since then it all stopped and for the last 5 years and especially 3 years during the anitfata and it it's period that exact it relates directly to the 35 years of occupation till ah the Oslo agreements. We have um a leadership one after the other, one after the other Israeli governments that's basically doing nothing. Basically sitting on this ah crumbling ship ah which is the Israeli Jewish sovereignty over the state of Israel and going from one place to the other trying to survive storms, trying to survive war and just hoping that the next day it's going to be better. Like the most phenom, the most common Israel ah ah phrase it's gonna be ok. Like we're not gonna cause that to be ok. We're not gonna lead that to an ok harbor we're just gonna wait and something will happen and god will come and, and save us. And this is I think happened in 93 and sadly it was a unique event in our history um that was um was hurt was um undermined by, by enormous pressure from the Israeli society from Israeli society to my opinion lead by the settlers and their ah high role position in, in the government and by the army. ,LIAD ORTAR:,04:16:02:05>>>,These are two enormous powers in the Israel society. They took the Oslo agreement, they took ah um they dynamics of um reconciliation and crumbled it. And I'm, and it's not and, and for reason I'm not talking now about Palestinian side because no one is a saint but I formally I look upon myself as to look for the blame and not, not ah turn to my neighbor.,INTERVIEWER:,How did you feel personally emotionally immediately in the days after the Oslo agreement?,LIAD ORTAR:,04:16:44:18>>>,Yeah ah. It was a day that I was in the army. I just began my service.,INTERVIEWER:,INAUDIBLE,LIAD ORTAR:,04:16:53:00>>>,(HEBREW) In the days after, after the Oslo agreements it was these were my first days in the army and, and um (HEBREW),INTERVIEWER:,INAUDIBLE,LIAD ORTAR:,04:17:23:24>>>,The days of 93 at the beginning of the ah Oslo agreements and all the you know the new winds that were blowing, blowing in the Middle East you know peace and everything ah I was in the army. It was the beginning of my, of my service and I remember we were all very ah optimical, optimist. Optimistic about the situation. Um it was we really had the feeling of a new era beginning. An era of ah of reconciliation. An era of ah um new times, new times of peace. It was um the high point of the high tech um boom. Everyone were working and earnings quite a lot of money. We had the Israeli market had ah was growing enormous rates. Um it was good time but basically I, I passed through them when I was in the army.,INTERVIEWER:,Did you have hope or INAUDIBLE this was just a blink?,LIAD ORTAR:,04:18:43:20>>>,No we were hopefully but I remember when I started my work in Peace Now ah in 96 and I started to reveal the real situation what's going on in the West Bank the ongoing settlement continue, of the settlers building new places the situation that they were in I knew something was wrong. I knew something ah that basically the situation is not solved. That the situation in the every day life for the Palestinians is, is as worse as it was for the last 30 years the basics dilemma, the basic hardships of life didn't change. And, and the Israeli people and the Palestinian people do not know each other. Do not know, do not know um know each other hardship. Don't know each other ah life's or different attitudes towards life. And one of the main thing, main um ah efforts that I did join during those days was to ah initiate quite a lot of dialogues meetings in the Vesalom near Jerusalem between Israeli students and Palestinian students. I, we even tried to build a joint Israeli student Palestinian Israeli student organization with a joint newspaper Israeli and Arabic. I, I really imagined that as a, as a triangle that it's like two triangles of two nations the, the connection was only on the top level. Only on the, on the pinpoint of those triangles and these were the people that were one to the other the leaders, the politicians, the foreign ministers but if you go to low, to a lower level of this triangle you had 2 nations that didn't know one another.,LIAD ORTAR:,04:20:31:11>>>,Didn't know the difference between one another and basically didn't accept that or were not aware that it was especially for the Israelis that the hardship of life continues in the West Bank and it can not go on forever. And when you live an everyday life in Israel which is quite a pleasant one and a modern life it's very easy to close yourself into your own border and not know what's going on in the on the other side and pretend that hey today it's ok so probably everything is ok but it's not because something is tumbling under the water.,INTERVIEWER:,During Oslo right after Oslo what were your highest hopes about the Palestinian situation?,LIAD ORTAR:,04:21:21:18>>>,Um I think that the highest hopes. I think the hopes that I had um during the days after Oslo um concerning the Palestinians and concerning the Israeli um was to get um the root of life into a normal way as, as fast as it can be. Like I said hey it's a new page I'm just I want to turn the page around and turn from 60 page 61 to page 62 and forget what happened before that. And forget what happened in the first 60 pages like it's a fresh start we are starting from scratch. We are starting from zero to ------. We have a clean board in front of us and let's start all over again. And it was and it's still quite a naÃ¯ve approach towards life and especially towards the Israeli Palestinian conflict which is rooted to so many um so many things aspects in life religious ones um some cultural one so many.,LIAD ORTAR:,04:22:38:10>>>,So I thought that for maybe the biggest thing the, the har, the one thing that I hope for the Palestinian is for them to turn and to be like me. Without me being able or wanting to become a little bit like them. And and ah and it didn't happen and it didn't happen because I went over and I had friends and we had lunch together and I had canafeenablos and I was in Ramadan and hervron and they invited me for dinner after in the, in the later evening after when you can eat in Ramadan. And I said hey everything is normal because we're eating together and we're speaking over the phone and when you take this criteria's into west life or in the life in west countries and say hey this is being normal. But in the evening they still have to go through quite a lot of checkpoints and they cannot go abroad. And if they go and if they are to go from Jordan to Egypt they have to go through Saudi Arabia and not through ah Gaza which is you know 50 minutes drive. And um and we just couldn't understand that. And basically not, not a lot of things changed for them and for us. Ah we embrace this, this aspect of normality and say hey everything is ok. And everything wasn't ok. And then it blew up in our face.,INTERVIEWER:,You mentioned before that the settlers and the army were the ones that brought down and you believe that the Palestinians were betrayed. Do you see the Palestinians as being betrayed or do you think it was a joint thing that brought it down or?,LIAD ORTAR:,04:24:31:18>>>,Um we're looking at, at the betrayed role in this conflict. Um I do not think it's it's the Palestinian that were betrayed because as, as I told you as I mentioned before um I formerly and, and basically I look upon myself the guilt for the um for the reasoning the situation happening the way it is and not at the Palestinians. And I do not think the Palestinians were betrayed. Maybe they were but it's not the most important issue for me. The most important issue for me and the one that is that was betrayed in this conflict is the Israeli people. Is, is the majority of secular people that want to live a normal life in this country. And they are the one that are being betrayed in an everyday basis foremost by the settlers. Being cynically ah that they are cynically using the army for their own benefit or cynically using the institution the, the explosion, the terror attacks the blood that's being spilled all over for their religious fundamental reasons of um um redeeming the, the country and waiting for the messiah the all of Israel is our country and we can do whatever we want etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. ,LIAD ORTAR:,04:26:00:03>>>,They are the one that ah cause the, the betrayal on the Israeli people on the Israeli nation and on the future of the Israeli state as a sovereign and Jewish country that I believe its future is shaken in an every day basis and it's quite um it's, it's going farther, farther from reaching that, that goal. Especially what, what they do they took Zionism and put a keeper on that and turned that into a monster.,INTERVIEWER:,INAUDIBLE Palestinian actions that you feel less confident in after the Oslo agreement?,LIAD ORTAR:,04:26:44:25>>>,Um I can tell you that the events of open the tunnel in Jerusalem in the wailing wall INAUDIBLE open the tunnel INAUDIBLE it was a very tough event for me ah because one of my, one of my friends in school died over there. He was in an armed vehicle and he was shot ah ah during those fights. Um so looking back at the events that Palestinians did after Oslo this was the, this was the event. Um I can not remember I think there were quite a lot of small events like stabbings or things like that happened on an everyday basis but you know we even got use in the last 2 years for explosions that tens of people died so you cant imagine a scenario when you get used to people being stabbed and nothing happened and the country is not tumbling around them. ,LIAD ORTAR:,04:27:53:29>>>,I think it was like the Israeli side and the Palestinian side just took the Oslo agreements and did all they could in order to destroy that, destroy the chance of um living together to nations in one country.,INTERVIEWER:,Why do you think Camp David failed?,LIAD ORTAR:,04:28:25:16>>>,You know the, when you um ah you look on Barak behavior and Arafat behavior and you want to find who'd guilty is it Barak guilty is it Arafat guilty. I think Arafat did an enormous mistake by the side of the Palestinians. It was ah I think they got over their proposal that they do not have any chance of getting that proposal again concerning ah territorial ah exchange of land and the right of return and all of the other things that brought up in Camp David. But I think also Barak did quite a lot of mistakes and um it was his um aggressive way of conduct negotiation. The thought that you can come over ah enter this political swamp the Israeli political swamp from being a general of chief of staff. And by clearing the desk with a, with a with throwing your hand and you can start all over again and this is the end of, of the conflict. Um I think it was a wrong attitude. I think a conflict the Israeli Arab conflict is something that will ah continue for quite a lot of years. I think hundreds of years you can look at Ireland. And I think the main um part that wasn't embraced paradigm one main um um way of analyzing situation it wasn't embraced by, by Barak and it was quite a mistake that a conflict um has a historical roots and is gonna stay here. ,LIAD ORTAR:,04:30:28:25>>>,And the way to solve that conflict is not by ah untangling it and forgetting it it's by causing the conflict to be irrelevant for our everyday life here. And um and you have to give this conflict space because it is something that has to do with everyone's life in Israel. It doesn't matter if you're an Israeli that I was for example born in Heifa and grew up with Arabs. And with um knowing that maybe the place that my grandmother lived use to be of Arabs of 48 and if it's, if it's the refugees of 48 that live in Syria or in Lebanon or if it's the, the refugees of 67 that live in, in big cities in the west bank and not in their villages. So the conflict it's, it's a part of our identity and we have to embrace that we have to make peace with the conflict first of all and nothing thinking it's gonna be one clear day that we're gonna all wake up and peace is gonna prevail and that's it and it's all gonna vanish. It's not gonna vanish. The conflict is here and it's here to stay and we have to turn it into part of our life and turn into an irrelevant factor of our life.,LIAD ORTAR:,04:31:46:13>>>,By putting other by introducing new factors like economic like ah environmental one something that I'm promoting quite ah extensively these days. By both nations looking at our common resources the water, the air, the ground, the biodiversity and understanding the conflict hey we've been in conflicts we are continuing to be in conflicts but let's deal with that. Let's not think that if we're gonna divide east Jerusalem or west Jerusalem or give sovereignty to god it's gonna solve everything because it's not gonna solve.,INTERVIEWER:,Describe a personal experience that made you most confident that peace can prevail INAUDIBLE,LIAD ORTAR:,04:32:52:02>>>,You know when you look and something that I've been mentioning till now when you look for that one event um that changed attitudes towards peace, towards war, towards the conflict I, I, I do not believe in this way of analyzing the of analyzing reality. And um you know there are 2 processes in life. You can divide any kind of process into two kinds, two categories. One it's a goal orientated process. And one is a process oriented process. I do not believe that when you, when you start um a peace process or any kind of, of, of negotiation process between two ah rivals and say hey I want at the end to reach a two state solution so let's, let's ah get over the procedure the bureaucracy over the way let's just get this let cause we both know what's gonna be in the end. Then you loose everything because the one thing the thing is that is most important to my belief is knowing that there's importance in being the process itself. And running to the end. I do not know what's gonna be at the end of the Israeli Palestinian um I don't know peace process or let's say acquaintance program process. ,LIAD ORTAR:,04:34:20:27>>>,I do not know what's gonna be in the end and as I continue reading and analyzing the situation I, I tend to believe that the solution that should be at the end is a one state for two nations with different component and different federal way of governing and not one fence that is dividing this country in a brutal way environmental way into 2 different ah segregation camps or like but, but to stunt the way that they um south African policy in a, during a partite. ,LIAD ORTAR:,04:35:01:23>>>,So there isn't to my opinion one event that made me believe in the peace process. It's, it's the every day life it's the small thing. It's the, it's the one event about the olive trees. It's the event about confiscating land. It's the event about demolishing houses in east Jerusalem without the, the municipality giving any other alternative or planning alternative to the people that live here that are a quarter of a million people. So I do not believe in one event that changed everything. I believe in, in the importance of being in a process and understanding the small steps during, during this process and it's important. And, and the one thing that is most important thing for me um the main focus to my opinion is not the Palestinians. Palestinians their our cousins, their our friends, their our, their our are equals to us and this is something we have to relate to. But in order to promote any kinds of agreement it's time for the Israeli people the Israeli nation to stand up and decide what's good for its future. What where do you want this ship to go. And this is something that hasn't been happening in Israel for the last 35 years and we've been just drifting around from here to there. And, and ah this is the most important thing standing the Israeli nation and saying for our future the best thing is to do 1, 2, 3 and starting to do that and not waiting for those INAUDIBLE for something to fall out from heaven and save us all.,INTERVIEWER:,You don't want to pinpoint specific actions of the Israeli government that you think have not been conducive to the peace process since Oslo? ,LIAD ORTAR:,04:37:14:02>>>,I'll give you um when you look back on the dynamics from Oslo agreements till these days and I'm looking for the events that did difference basically to my opinion or to my perspective of life I think one of them was Manta Humar (HEBREW?) I think this, this was very important event because basically um it was one of the last places that you could ah make a geographical or establish a geographical connection between east Jerusalem and ah and Ramala and the city from, from the north. And I've been in all of these, these neighborhood. Um and it was, it was amazing. It was a mountain, it was a forest with, with ah with pine trees. It was like in the middle of desert Judah in the middle of Jerusalem. All houses around, around it everything is dry. And then you have a gray mountain. And this mountain became like the goal of, of Netanyahu of his, of his government.,LIAD ORTAR:,04:38:26:05>>>,And it was, and we were, I had I was in numerous ah demonstrations over there I was I think I was arrested there, I was chained there. We were, we did so many things over there but nothing we couldn't do anything to stop there. And now it's a mountain of houses. Um that's still the connection the geographical connection between Jerusalem east Jerusalem to the north parts, the --- of, of Ramala. So --- this is one of the things. I think the other, the other event is for me was very important was also during the time of, of Netanyahu um it was the 50 jubilee of Israel 50 years. And ah and decided that the formal events of 50 years formal ones are going to be in hevron. It was something which was unbelievable to us. I was working then in Peace Now. We were, I was after Peace Now we were shocked. And we had a large demonstration on the checkpoint stores --- and there were fighting's and we were clashing with the police. And I was arrested there I was beaten by the police. And, and we were standing there trying to shout out shout out to the Israel nations hey look what's going on we are celebrating 50 years but on the expense, expense of a whole town being under curfew. This is something that cannot continue. Sadly not all of the people heard our cry but this was quite an, an effective event. And um those are when I look back maybe those are not the historical events that changed history but for me they were very important ones.