In case daily reports of the carnage in Israel and the Palestinian-controlled territories wasn’t stark enough in the abstract, hundreds of mock coffins lined up in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Tuesday offered a gripping visual aid.
“It is shock therapy,” said Yehezkel Landau, a native New Yorker now living in Israel and founder of Open House, an Arab-Israeli peace project in Jerusalem, as he surveyed the exhibit. “It helps us appreciate the qualitative and quantitative cost of this needless war we are suffering through.”
The display was organized by Israeli Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace, a group representing 190 Israeli and 150 Palestinian parents who have lost children in the ongoing violence. Those visiting New York included Tzvika Shahak, above center, whose daughter, Bat Chen, died in a bomb blast in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Square in March 1996.
The display notes that “1,400 human beings” have lost their lives since violence erupted in September 2000, following the collapse of peace negotiations. Their plea: For the U.S., as the only remaining superpower, to exert pressure on both sides to return to negotiations, even if it means posting an observer force in the region.
The display consists of 800 coffins draped with Palestinian flags and 250 with Israel’s colors. And what message should passers-by derive from the disproportion of Palestinian to Israeli caskets?
“It reflects the real ratio of the fatalities,” said Landau. “But it would be a shame if that eclipsed a positive idea. Playing a numbers game reinforces the polarization that is at the heart of the problem.”
There was another display at the same time outside the Israeli Consulate, a few blocks away, presented by Palestinian protestors. But there was no “numbers game” involved as they mourned Arab victims through posters and photographs.
There was no indication any Jews had died.