John Lyons and his wife, Sylvie Le Clezio have written a wonderful book about their six years experience while working in Jerusalem when John was based there as Foreign Correspondent for the Australian newspaper.
The title refers to the wonderful apartment and balcony where they lived which had a picturesque view of the old city of Jerusalem and its surroundings.
If there is one book that every Australian, particularly Muslims should read for a better understanding of the Israel/Palestine issue, this is it.
During this time, they had the opportunity to see behind the façade of Israel’s huge public relations campaign to the reality of what life is like for the Palestinian’s including those who went to school with their son, Jack.
When they arrived in January 1999, John was largely sympathetic and supportive of Israel but when he left in 2015, he had become deeply concerned about the threat that the settlements issue and the policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu pose to the survival of Israel.
It is the chapters that deal with the everyday life of the Palestinians that are the most revealing.
In one titled Frankenstein’s Monster, he describes “the reality of the occupation is infinitely worse than the public realise” involving land grabs, house demolitions, burgeoning illegal settlements, separation of families, the indignity of the permit system, the racial divide of living standards and water supply, the checkpoints, the wall, the nastiness of the Israel Defence Force, the late night house arrests and imprisonment of children, the infiltration of Palestinian society and the never-ending cycle of violence.
He says, “I’d arrived in Israel in the belief that, whatever the country’s problems, it adhered to the rule of law. But the more I researched the reality of the West Bank the more I came to the gradual realisation that the manipulation of the rule of law was used in the quest for the Greater Israel”.
John is particularly critical of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his policies to effectively make it impossible for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
He was part of the 35 member press delegation that accompanied the Prime Minister to New York in September 2011 for the United Nations discussions about Palestine’s push for membership. He describes the impressive PR effort that Israeli waged to temporarily defeat that ambition and the appalling effort that the Palestinians gave to support their campaign.
John concludes his assessment of Netanyahu by stating “more than any other leader, he has been responsible for consigning Israel to a long-term war…. Netanyahu has killed off the two-state solution”.
In the final chapter, John finally concludes. “Almost 3 million people in the West Bank cannot be denied all civil rights for more than 50 years without dire consequences and almost 2 million people in Gaza cannot be locked forever in the world’s largest open-air prison. One day many of those 5 million will rise up…. If the whole world could see the occupation up close, it would demand that it end tomorrow.”
But as American president Trump has emboldened Netanyahu to increase new settlements and has announced that they recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the end of the pretence of America as an “honest broker” for peace in the Middle East are obvious to all and so are the chances of a peaceful resolution of the two-state solution. Instead, the Palestinians will most likely need to start negotiating as a majority of the population in a single state that will lose its Jewish identity.