The Fowler Avenue Peace Talks

An Iranian, an Iraqi, a Palestinian and a Jew walk into a USF poli-sci class ...

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(More laughter from the group)

Uri: And I'm just like, "Whoa, c'mon now, they're having this conversation debating if Iranians and Arabians are the same thing." For like 10 to 15 minutes, I'm waiting in the Subway line, and the girls are still debating the same thing, and they go to college, they go to USF, the same school that I go to.

Dayerizadeh: Wow.

Uri: And they don't know whether Iranians are Arabians.

Dayerizadeh: They don't ask the like, what — 30-percent Arab population of USF? Just go and ask them, anybody.

Uri: It's just random things that you run into. It's crazy how they are so lost.

CL: Does that happen to you at all [Raheleh]?

Dayerizadeh: People all through elementary school and middle school and high school were always asking questions like, do we ride on camels or do we have cars? Do we have air conditioning? Do we have TVs? It's just a misconception of, like, we're living 100 years back there. And the only place that is up with technology is America, and there's no way the Middle East has anything but sand.

Uri: And oil.

Dayerizadeh: Oh yeah, oil. I never met more ignorant people about that. I think more people in the Middle East know what's going on here, what we have here, than what we know what people do there.

Uri: A lot of people give me that argument, too, but it's because America affects the Middle East.

Dayerizadeh: More than the Middle East affects you.

Uri: I don't know if it's ignorance or what. I think that at the university, it becomes ignorance.

CL: Talking about American misconceptions about the Middle East, the Arab world and Israel, Trev, do you go to Israel often?

Riley: I try to make it a regular thing, but I'm trying to break that habit.

CL: The expense?

Riley: No, no, it's not the expense. It's the people. The first couple of times you go as a tourist and it's looking at it through a tourist's eyes, and it's like, this is so cool. Then afterwards it is the reality that people are really rude and obnoxious. You kind of start to see that they do kind of act like they have got a chip on their shoulder. It's like they are the center-of-the-universe type of mentality. So even though I'm Jewish, they're still like that to me, because I'm not Israeli.

CL: So it's like a second-class citizenship of Jewishness?

Riley: Exactly. And the funny thing is, it's really the European Jews.

Uri: Yes, it's a big problem.

Riley: They act like that, and they do it not only to the Arabs but to the Spanish Jews, the Mizrahi Jews. An overwhelming sense of superiority. Quite honestly, I remember reading all these anti-Semitic books that talk about how Jews always acted like they were the chosen people, like they were deserving people. I've been there a couple of times, and I'm starting to see what they are talking about.

I just watched a movie last night, Paradise Now; it's a Palestinian film.

Uri: I've watched it, yeah.

Riley: And it was talking about how the Palestinians are feeling humiliated and rejected. And I can kind of understand what they are talking about. The funniest thing was, my girlfriend's father is Israeli, born in Tel Aviv, grew up in Tel Aviv, served in the IDF, was in the 1973 War, moved to the United States and has lived there for the rest of his life. This is the first time he's gone back to the country in 30 years, for any length of time. And we go to Eilat [a well-known vacation destination on the Red Sea]. This was vacation time, you know, you're scuba diving.

Uri: I've been there. Swim with the dolphins.

Riley: Exactly. And by the end of the week in Eilat, he was so sick and tired of Israelis he was ready never to come back to the country again.

Uri: I have friends who have lived in the West Bank their whole lives, and when they come to America, they give me a call. And their expressions of how America looks, they're just like, "Wow. There's no way this place is real. It's a dream world. Everything is so perfect. There's no garbage on the floor," they tell me. "What did you do with all the garbage?"

The scariest thing about it is once they get into the American life and start working, they give me a call back six or seven months later and say, "What am I doing in this country?"

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