Q&A: O'Malley Meets with Palestine Prime Minister on Trip to Israel

Boston City Councilor Matt O'Malley and state Rep. Ed Coppinger were two of a dozen or so elected officials who were invited to Israel with the Jewish Community Relations Council.


District 6 Boston City Councilor Matt O'Malley spoke with Patch.com about his recent trip to Israel in mid-December. 

Patch: Why did you go to Israel?

O'Malley: I was invited to go with Jewish Community Relations Council with 12 or 13 elected officials from around the state. It was an educational trip to share best practices, meet with our colleagues in government in different Israeli and Palestine governments. We met with the Prime Minister of Palestine (Salam Fayyad) and the mayor of Bethlehem (of the Palestine side). We met with Israeli city senators in Haifa.

Patch: What did you do in Israel?

O'Malley: It was an incredible trip. We met with many government officials, members of military, professors, and saw historical sites during out time in Bethleham. We saw the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem, visited some of the beautiful natural resources like the Dead Sea and different parks.

We had a very interesting meeting with a venture capitalist in Palestine. With a company formed by an Palestine Muslim and an Israeli Jew and they're building the technological structure to do an expedia.com for the Middle East. And we heard about the challenges they face. They both studied in America and moved back.

Patch: What was the goal of the trip?

O'Malley: The goal was to build relationships and get a better understanding of the Middle Eastern conflict. We learned about historical struggles and conflicts in the Middle East.

Patch: What were the highlights for you?

O'Malley: Just the history. To be in Bethlehem a week before Christmas, and to see where Jesus was born, and walk his final route and the Stations of the Cross was emotional and spiritual. It meant so much to have that opportunity. To meet with those other government officials, the academics. I feel like I have a better understanding of the Middle Eastern conflict, yet more confused because it’s so complex and such a layered conflict. I feel like I understand more about what we need to do to attain a two-state peaceful solution.

Patch: What did you think of the Dead Sea?

O'Malley: It was terrific. To be able to float in the water where it’s impossible to swim or stand up. To be steps away from Masada a 3000-year-old palace - the mosaic tiles are still intact.

Patch: How safe did you feel compared to being in the USA?

O'Malley: To be honest, I felt safe, there were moments where my heart raced a little bit faster. When you’re coming from Palestine into Israel and armed guards with AK-47s board your bus to check your passport. And to hear an errant gunshot when walking the old streets of Jerusaelm... Overall we felt safe. It was just an incredible experience.

Patch: Did you see lots of redheads?

O'Malley: I did not see a lot of redheads. 

Meqdad Taheri January 11, 2013 at 03:45 PM
1. We all want peace, and yet, after more than a century of conflict, the struggle between these two nations remains more intractable than ever. Why? Because each side is entrenched in its own narrative, to the exclusion of the other’s. Its faults notwithstanding, one must admit that Israel has taken some steps since the Oslo Accords toward acknowledging the Palestinian suffering. These steps are reflected in school books, in the media, and through other informational outlets. The Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza, for instance, are now referred to as “Palestinians,” and most Israelis would like to see a Palestinian state emerge. The fact that Israeli voters don’t reflect these wishes has to do with fears of surface-to-air missiles two miles from Ben-Gurion International Airport, and scarred memories of blown-up buses and pizzerias. The Palestinians, unfortunately, have done little to allay Israeli fears. While Palestinians clamor for the removal of onerous checkpoints and barriers, militant attempts to penetrate these barriers and attack Israeli civilians have not ceased at all since the second Intifada. Similarly, school books and speeches, in Arabic, have grown radical, to the point of portraying Israel’s very existence as a crime. Little has been done to acknowledge the Jewish roots in Palestine. The fact is that the Jewish presence in Palestine goes much farther back than most Palestinians, as well as Arabs and Muslims in general, would be willing to admit.
Meqdad Taheri January 11, 2013 at 03:46 PM
2. Before 1948, Palestine was ruled by a series of empires. Before that Palestine was Judaea—a Jewish country. Jews have lived in Palestine continuously for more than 3,300 years. "Palestine" was the name given to the Jewish homeland in the second century by the Romans, in an attempt to break the Jewish adherence to the land. This was a century after the Jewish temple was destroyed and more than a million Jews were massacred. The Jews stopped fighting the Romans only after they had no more fighting men standing. As Evangelist William Eugene Blackstone put it in 1891, “The Jews never gave up their title to Palestine… They never abandoned the land. They made no treaty, they did not even surrender. They simply succumbed, after the most desperate conflict, to the overwhelming power of the Romans.” The Jews persisted through the centuries under the various empires, after the Arab invasion of 635AD (which they fought alongside the Byzantines), and after the Crusade massacres of the 11th Century, which decimated much of their population. They never stopped returning, and their numbers recovered. In the 19th century, before the Zionist immigration, Jews constituted the largest religious group in Jerusalem.
Meqdad Taheri January 11, 2013 at 03:46 PM
3. Few Palestinians realize that Jewish customs, religion, prayers, poetry, holidays, and virtually every walk of life, documented for thousands of years—all revolve around Judaea/Palestine/Israel. For thousands of years Jews have been praying for Jerusalem in every prayer, after every meal, in every holiday, at every wedding, in every celebration. The whole Jewish religion is about Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. Western expressions such as “The Promised Land,” and “The Holy Land,” did not pop out of void. They have been part of Western knowledge and tradition dating back to the beginning of Christianity and earlier. After the Crusades, the Jews—including many who have returned over the centuries—lived peacefully with Arabs, often in the very same villages, as in Pki'in, in the Galilee, until the Zionist immigration of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Article 6 of the PLO Charter specifically calls for the acceptance of all Jews present in Palestine prior to the Zionist immigration. These Jews were simply another ethnic group in a region composed of Sunnis, Shiites, Jews, Druz, Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Circassians, Samarians, and more. Some of these groups, like the Druz, Circassians, Samarians, and an increasing number of Christians, are actually loyal to the Jewish State.
Meqdad Taheri January 11, 2013 at 03:47 PM
4. Incidentally, genetic studies consistently show that Zionist immigrants (a.k.a., Ashkenazi Jews) are closely related to groups that predate the Arab conquest, like the Samarians, who have lived in Palestine for thousands of year. Palestinian denial of these facts may lead to events such as the ones brilliantly depicted in Jonathan Bloomfield’s award-winning book, “Palestine,” in which actual history and predicted events are thinly veiled as fiction. If, as the current Palestinian narrative goes, the Jews are not a people indigenous to Palestine but rather an invading foreign colonialist body, then they must be fought until they are removed from this land. Anything short of that, by any standard, would be injustice. Thus, war and bloodshed will continue until the Palestinians start acknowledging the Jewish narrative, and the fact that Jewish roots in Palestine date back thousands of years, long before the Arab invasion.


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