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Uncommon Dream About the UN

Here's what I imagine:

Abbas at the podium, dwarfed by the cold marble wall behind him, the quintessential small, gray man, no charisma, no management skills, no bridging vision, not even a modest word "leader" associated with his name, and asks, halting, please, if the audience would kindly allow Palestine to call itself a state. No borders, no freedom of movement, no autonomy, just statehood. Just the word. Say it. Please.

Followed by Netanyahu at the podium, tall, suave, alpha-male to his graying temples, powdered down for Fox News, in mellifluous tones, impassioned and victim all-at-once, invoking the drama of Auschwitz and the little-engine-that-could, asking, please, if the audience would kindly deny Palestine its statehood. Not that it would make a difference on the ground. Just say no, he says. Because.

This morning I had a visit by Fathi, a Palestinian who has coffee in my home almost every day as he makes his rounds looking for odd jobs in the neighborhood. "What will happen if the UN says 'yes'?" he asked me. I squirmed. "Not much in the immediate future," I said, even though I had been telling him for weeks that I was praying the UN would say 'yes'. "It will make a difference, but not all at once," I explained.

So I was thinking, why was I hoping and praying and signing petitions that would encourage that very odd audience to agree to Palestinian statehood? Those 193 people, each from somewhere else, speaking languages at home that I have never even heard of, and trying to get them to agree with the little gray man instead of the silver-tongued orator.


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I know all the objective reasons that statehood would be a good thing, but when I think about its important diplomatic implications, my mind keeps slipping into the emotional one: the pat on the back statehood would give to this long-suffering people. "Yes," this audience would be saying, "The time has come to bring the nightmare to an end."

So P.M. Abbas folds the pages and puts it into his pocket, fumbles off the stage, and makes his way to his seat. And P.M. Netanyahu strides past the teleprompter into his seat.

And then, I imagine, the whole audience rises as one, in respect for what they have heard, allowing the integrity to touch their hearts, floating above the false notes, and gather another nation into their community.

"Do you think they'll give me back my land?" asked Fathi. "I don't know, I hope so," I said, "but not so fast."

But, at long long last, it is beginning.

Gila Svirsky

Gila Svirsky is a veteran peace and human rights activist, having headed some of the major peace and human rights organizations in Israel -- the New Israel Fund, B'Tselem, and Bat Shalom. She has been a member of Women in Black since its inception, and co-founded the Coalition of Women for Peace, which brings together nine Israeli women's peace organizations. E-mail:

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