I spent a large part of my life in an anti-Jewish environment. This defined my identity as Palestinian, Arab and Muslim. Only the encounter with the supposed enemy saved me from hatred.

The Palestinian people would do well to rid themselves of that too. Europe should demand this of him and stop pitying the people.

I am now 46 years old. I spent the first 28 years of my life at the center of the Middle East conflict. I was born into these states and grew up with them. When I was growing up, we often spent weekends in Gaza on the beach and we did our shopping in the Palestinian territories almost every week. Half of my grandmother’s family lives there to this day.

Now save articles for later in “Pocket”.

I grew up watching an Arabic TV station in the region that has always portrayed Israel as the enemy – and still does. My grandfather fought on the side of the Arab forces against the newly established Jewish state. My father was born in Palestine in 1946, my grandparents were peasants who could neither read nor write. My father spent the first two years of his life on the run. Again and again my grandmother had to hide in the mountains with him from the bombing raids that the Israeli army flew against our village during the war of independence. Those were traumatic experiences that shaped my father’s life. Experiences that he still carries within himself.

If I had to cite episodes or experiences from my childhood that shaped me or in which my thinking is reflected particularly vividly, then it would be the following events in particular that I consider essential and that are at the same time symptomatic of the social mood that prevailed at the time . Of course, we too were influenced by the world views and resentments that grew out of the political crisis.

On my first birthday, my maternal grandfather’s gas station was robbed. The perpetrators were armed and shot my grandfather. He succumbed to his injuries a few months later. That was a difficult time for me. In addition to the early loss of my grandfather, mainly because my mother was absent for a long time, physically and mentally. First she took care of her father, then she mourned him.

For 18 years I lived with the firm conviction, even more with the “knowledge” that those who did this to my family were Jews. I despised her for killing my grandfather. And also for being Jews.

More from Ahmad Mansour: Column by Ahmad Mansour – “Raised to hate Jews”: Mansour explains how we are solving the anti-Semitism problem now

But looking back, I wonder how I was able to carry the certainty that they were Jews for only 18 years. In fact, the two perpetrators were arrested a few days after the attack. My family and the family of the perpetrators met in court. They were Arabs from a neighboring village. I only found out about this during a more or less random conversation with my aunt, when, out of curiosity, I asked about the whereabouts of the perpetrators.

Ever since I was born, I have hated the occupiers, the Jews. In January 1991, I realized how immense this hatred is among the Arabs. I was cowering with my parents and siblings in a room in our house that my father had converted into a shelter with plastic sheeting and boards. The whole country feared an Iraqi gas attack. Like all of our neighbors, whether Muslim or Jewish, we had stocked up on plenty of food and supplies to be prepared for a protracted war. Fear and tension were in the air. And then came the sirens. We heard the explosions of bombs. I’ve never been more scared in my life than I was that day.

In the silence after the attack, I saw the anxious eyes of my two little brothers behind the large lenses of their gas masks. Suddenly there were loud screams. I was fourteen years old and I imagined: this is what death sounds like. That’s what death sounds like. Minutes later the screams became clearer. It wasn’t death – it was jubilation! The joy that an Arab country had managed to attack Israel. Our neighbors danced on the roofs, they cheered “Allah’hu akkbar” – God is great. They were beside themselves. I was stunned: We were all afraid, both Palestinians and Arab Israelis. We had all been threatened. Where did so much hate come from?

Anti-Semitism was so normal in my everyday life that it took me a long time to question it. I probably didn’t ask any more questions because I grew up in exactly the same structure of oppression and fear that many children and young people still experience today. An environment that suppresses all approaches to critical thinking and developing a solid personality.

Also read: Islamism expert – Mansour calls for better concepts against anti-Semitism

Only studying in Tel-Aviv gave me the opportunity to get to know Israeli Jews, break down my prejudices, think more about my biography and look at a lot of it critically. And most importantly, it allowed me to change perspective and emotionally understand my counterpart’s dreams and desires. Friendships grew out of encounters and I was finally able to get an objective picture of the country and the people, not determined by my family or by the collective. Today I feel much freer, more self-determined and responsible since I no longer blindly follow any slogans.

But why does this conflict not end? Why don’t the political leaders in Israel and Palestine finally find a solution? Why do peace deals fail again and again?

If you ask that question to the Palestinians, even to my family, the answer is very clear. “The Jews don’t want peace, they want to keep oppressing us and stealing our land.” No other answer will be tolerated. If you question this narrative, you will quickly be portrayed as a traitor. If you ask the Israelis about a solution to the conflict, you often get the answer: “We don’t have a partner on the other side who can be trusted.”

The reality is much more complex. Certainly there are radical forces on both sides who do not want peace. If I, as a Palestinian and as an Arab Israeli, as someone who grew up with hatred, had one wish, it would be for an inner-Palestinian reflection. The politics of the last 70 years have achieved nothing. The Palestinian political leadership has rejected all compromises, bringing misery and trauma to their people.

War against Israel using Arab armies simply hasn’t changed anything. It only led to more land loss and terror against Israel, which some still celebrate as legitimate resistance to this day. Logically, it also led to countermeasures. Palestinian life hasn’t gotten any better since 1948. All of this is a product of radical, uncompromising, stupid politics by actors who are still not ready to be at peace with the existence of a Jewish state and to accept Jews as neighbors.

For many, Israelis are the descendants of Jewish Europeans who unjustly took possession of the land. They still dream of a river-to-sea Palestine, which in fact means Israel would no longer exist. They mostly ignore the fact that the Jewish people have 3,000 years of history in this country, that the existence of Israel has primarily to do with the Holocaust in Europe.

If you want to help the Palestinians have a better and more secure future, if you want to free the Palestinians from restrictions, if you want to help them live independently, so that the children of Gaza and the West Bank can enjoy a good education and achieve prosperity , then one should stop considering the people only as victims.

For as long as anyone can remember there have always been many conflicts, wars and displacements in the world. No conflict has ever been resolved through a continuous celebration of victimhood. The actual solution is obvious: break free from being a victim, strive for reconciliation and look for compromises.

Those who have a genuine interest in the Palestinian people cannot appease their conscience by “keep it up” and transferring funds that only serve the personal enrichment of politicians who cultivate their victim status business model and use the funds to support terrorist structures. Those who want to be pro-Palestine cannot run after anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and people who have no genuine interest in reconciliation, encounter and compromise.

Anyone who wants to help the Palestinians should start making demands on the political elite in Palestine as soon as possible. This should persuade them to free themselves from anti-Semitism, to campaign for a genuine, sustainable acceptance of the Israeli state and to credibly distance themselves from terrorism and extremism. If all of this happens, I am absolutely convinced that more and more people on the Israeli side can be persuaded to finally make peace with the Palestinians.