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BITTER PEOPLE IN THE PROMISED LAND

Arabs and Jews fight for the same land and in many ways are mirror images of each other.

That's one of the points made in "Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits In A Promised Land," a documentary based on David K. Shipler's Pulitzer prize-winning book that airs on PBS tonight (8:50 p.m., Ch. 11 and 9 p.m., Ch. 7).The show is not a political treatise - it is a portrait of people, Arabs and Jews, who talk to the camera. Without the subtitles - that is, without the underline that identifies who is speaking - it is sometimes hard to tell one side from the other.

"For 10 days we watched their houses . . . to determine the best time to hit them . . . One night, we placed two bombs, one in the car and another in the garage."

The speaker is Hagai Segal, a convicted Jewish terrorist describing how he placed a bomb in the car of an Arab mayor on the West Bank.

"The Molotov cocktails are now made with expert knowledge . . . If it hits a soldier, he would probably die or be hurt . . . If there is a group, maybe two or three will die and two or three will be injured."

This time the speaker is "Josef," a violent Arab activist.

Or listen to the way each speaks of the land that is now Israel.

"The land was always very central to Jewish self-understanding . . . Spirituality in Judaism was always carnal, physical, something you can touch. And therefore, you could never have a God if you didn't have a people, and you could not have a people if you did not have a history, and you could not have a history if you didn't have a land which challenged you to embody that history in daily life . . . And this is what the Arabs don't understand."

That is the view of Rabbi David Hartman, an Israeli philosopher. Then there is the other side, what the Jews don't understand, as expressed by Jamil Hamad, a West Bank Arab journalist, who said:

"The impact of the loss of the land again, is a very sharp, is a very bitter factor in the Arab spirit. It could kill your spirit. When you lose your land, when you lose your property, when you lose your house, it means that you become a person of no home, of no goals, of no aims . . . The fact that they have been uprooted, or lost their land in the war, is still a ghost which is chasing the Arab spirit."

"Arab and Jew" gives the viewer an historical perspective on the founding of Israel, its wars with the Arab states and how things reached the unhappy impasse from which there seems to be no escape.

The older people, Arabs and Jews, can remember different days, before the Arab League killed Jewish children and the Jewish terrorist perpetrated the massacre at the Arab village of Deir Yassin.

Raphael Eitan, a member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, and a former Israeli Army chief of staff, recalls in his youth fighting with Arabs over the use of fields.

"We could be fighting them till the evening," he said, "and in the evening we would go to the village, go to their houses and be invited in, to sit and eat and drink. Or they would come here. This was life."

There really are three separate set of Arab-Jew relations here. One is between Israel and its neighboring Arab states and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO only recently granted Israeli the right to exist.

A different situation surrounds the Left Bank conflict, the area the Israelis took in the Six Day War in 1967 and have aggressively settled - to the dismay of the Arabs living there.

A third problem exists between the Jewish Israelis and the Arabs who did not flee when Israel was formed - who live there and consider themselves citizens of a country that treats them as second class citizens.

"I feel part of this country. The country is my roots. It is my country," says Rita Huri, an Arab social worker - a soft-spoken, highly literate young woman.

On the other side, there is Galila Barkai, a Jewish high school teacher and right wing activist, who is part of a group in Upper Nazareth who want to keep Arabs out. Apartments for sale bear the legend, "For Jews only.

"I educate my children that the only place in the world that belongs to you, the only place in the world that no one can tell you, `Go away, you don't belong here,' is the State of Israel because it's a Jewish state," she says. She also says, "I don't want them (Arab children) mixing with my kids in my town."

Part of the problem exists because Jewish and Arab children in Israel are educated "side by side, not together," as the documentary points out. There are attempts being to have the children mingle and learn each other's humanity, because something must be done in a country where a Jewish cab driver in Jerusalem is quoted as saying:

"We should go to the Arabs with sticks . . . and we should beat them on the heads, we should beat them and beat them and beat them, until they stop hating us."