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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Dayerizadeh: Exactly.

Uri: "Send me back home. I need to go back home."

Dayerizadeh: I don't know if Israel is like this too, but does it seem like time goes by slower [in the Middle East] than here? People take the time to wake up and eat breakfast and more for lunch and take the time to enjoy it.

Uri: And coffee. We have coffee time six times a day.

Dayerizadeh: Work comes after family time.

That's the one thing I love about going there in the summer — you really get to relax. [Aside from the fact that] the taxi drivers are a little crazy and scary.

Riley: I literally tore the leather in the back seat of the taxi [from gripping it so hard in fear] the first time I got in one. I went from Ben Gurion [Airport] to the middle of Tel Aviv, and they just drive like 120 kilometers an hour, no regard for traffic lanes or other cars on the road.

Dayerizadeh: Personally, as soon as I get out of the airport, my eyes are closed. In Tehran, I don't even know how people are alive walking down the street. They have motorcycle taxis, where you can fit three people on a motorcycle, and they get them in between the cars to get where they are going to.

Riley: The number one cause of death in Israel is not fighting, it's not heart disease. It's traffic accidents.

Dayerizadeh: That's true. And when there's traffic accidents, it's fatal.

Uri: Palestinians always like to claim that we're killing a lot of Israelis, but they're just not admitting it [so Palestinian press accounts insist], "Oh, they just threw them in cars [to hide the cause of the deaths]," and I'm reading this, "Do you guys really look at Israelis as people who would do this type of thing?" And they're like, "Yeah, they're doing this because they don't want to demoralize their people. They have weak morale."

Riley: There is a huge amount of propaganda that goes on.

Dayerizadeh: In Iran, they're saying things like if a Jew finds a Palestinian child, they will kill them and drink their blood.

Riley: In 2004, years after Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty, the borders open, you can travel back and forth between those two countries — it's $40 for a visa, but still you can travel back and forth. Jordan published a news story in the official newspaper that said that [Jews drink blood.]

Riley: Egypt, I think it was last year, did a miniseries based on the Elders of Zion [an anti-Semitic forgery dating to Tsarist Russian that purports to be a blueprint for world Jewish domination].

CL: If that is the way Jews are portrayed in "friendly" nations, what are the chances of peace between Israel and Palestine?

Riley: The overwhelming feeling [in Israel] is that even if Israel dismantled the settlements, gave up the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and half of Jerusalem, the attacks [by Palestinians] would still continue. I'm not saying that that's right, but that's what the mindset is in Israel.

Because of groups like Hamas and Hizbollah, whose aim is the complete destruction of the state. While that is the stated goal of Hamas and Hizbollah, Hamas represents such a small portion of the Palestinian population, hardcore believers, that really if you did give up that stuff and you did establish a viable Palestinian state, 95 percent of the Palestinian population would go on with their lives.

Uri: Hamas was silent for about six years. You didn't hear one thing coming out of Hamas during Oslo, except during the flare-up during the whole Hebron massacre. Other than that, only after the Intifadah [the uprising against Israeli occupation] has Hamas become a problem. I lived in Ramallah for seven years, and I only heard about Hamas in the last two years of my life [there], during the Intifadah. It was a dying political organization.

Riley: The problem is it's getting its support by the fact that the Israelis continue their military occupation. It's getting worse.

CL: Of all the places in the class you could sit, [Trev] ended up sitting next to [Saeed]. [Rafraf] always sits next to [Raheleh], but you guys know each other from other classes and things. Most people would think, "Wow, they can't like each other."

Barrak: She's Iranian, and when I first met her, I was like, "Oh my God, an Iranian sitting right next to me." We had a couple of classes together. But last week, I was telling her, "Look at our class. We have a Palestinian and an Israeli, and me and you; it's ironic." It never happened in any of my other classes.

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