Sunday, May 12, 2013

An Israeli peacenik meets the reality of Palestinian Arab intransigence

Lital Shemesh is a young, liberal Israeli journalist, considered a rising star in the Israeli media who openly expresses her political aspirations.
Peace? From the Palestinian Standpoint, There is a Past, No Future 

by Lital Shemesh

I participated in the Dialogue for Peace Project for young Israelis and Palestinians who are politically involved in various frameworks. The project’s objective was to identify tomorrow’s leaders and bring them closer today, with the aim of bringing peace at some future time.

The project involved meetings every few weeks and a concluding seminar in Turkey.

On the third day of the seminar after we had become acquainted, had removed barriers, and split helpings of rachat Lukum [a halva-like almond Arab delicacy] as though there was never a partition wall between us, we began to touch upon many subjects which were painful for both sides. The Palestinians spoke of roadblocks and the IDF soldiers in the territories, while the Israeli side spoke of constant fear, murderous terrorist attacks, and rockets from Gaza.

The Israeli side, which included representatives from right and left, tried to understand the Palestinians’ vision of the end of the strife– “Let’s talk business.” The Israelis delved to understand how we can end the age-old, painful conflict. What red lines are they willing to be flexible on? What resolution will satisfy their aspirations? Where do they envision the future borders of the Palestinian State which they so crave?

We were shocked to discover that not a single one of them spoke of a Palestinian State, or to be more precise, of a two-state solution.

They spoke of one state – their state. They spoke of ruling Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Akko, Haifa, and the pain of the Nakba [lit. the tragedy – the establishment of the State of Israel]. There was no future for them. Only the past. “There is no legitimacy for Jews to live next to us” – this was their main message. “First, let them pay for what they perpetrated.”

In the course of a dialogue which escalated to shouts, the Palestinians asked us not to refer to suicide bombers as “terrorists” because they don’t consider them so. “So how do you call someone who dons a vest and blows himself up in a Tel Aviv shopping mall with the stated purpose of killing innocent civilians,” I asked one of the participants.

“I have a 4-year-old at home,” answered Samach from Abu Dis (near Jerusalem). “If God forbid something should happen to him, I will go and burn an entire Israeli city, if I can.” All the other Palestinian participants nodded their heads in agreement to his harsh words.

“Three weeks ago, we gave birth to a son,” answered Amichai, a religious, Jewish student from Jerusalem. “If God forbid something should happen to him, I would find no comfort whatsoever in deaths of more people.”

Israelis from the full gamut of political parties participated in the seminar: Likud, Labor, Kadima, Meretz, and Hadash (combined Jewish/Arab socialist party). All of them reached the understanding that the beautiful scenarios of Israeli-Palestinian peace that they had formulated for themselves simply don’t correspond with reality. It’s just that most Israelis don’t have the opportunity to sit and really converse with Palestinians, to hear what they really think.

Our feed of information comes from Abu Mazen’s declarations to the international press, which he consistently contradicts when he is interviewed by Al Jazeera, where he paints a completely different picture.

I arrived at the seminar with high hopes, and I return home with difficult feelings and despair. Something about the narrative of the two sides is different from the core. How can we return to the negotiating table when the Israeli side speaks of two states and the Palestinian side speaks of liberating Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea? How can peace ever take root in a platform which grants legitimacy to terrorism?

This is not the first time a group of Israelis who pine for peace have met with their liberal Arab counterparts - only to find that they have no counterparts at all. 


David Goshen said...

After years of bitter anti Israeli propaganda it is understandable that only the one state solution is considered by the majority of Palestineans.Fortunately we have no choice other than the 2 state solution for the simple reason that we have seen the ethnic cleansing carried out by the PA of most of the Arab Christians.We need secret talks & no referendums to arrive at peace.
David Goshen

Levi said...

What shocks me is very simply this; why has it taken so many Israelis (mainly from, but not limited to, the left) for ever to realise there is NO peace partner? There has never been. When Israeli universities and city centres were teeming with 'Shalom Achshav' activists and their peace placards smothered Israel, there wasn't one single parallel movement in the entire Arab world. Where were the calls for peace then in the Arab world? Nowhere. Where is the genuine, sincere call for peace now in the Arab world? Nowhere. The Arab world, especially Arab Palestinians, vociferously claim there is no Israel, no Jewish Tel Aviv, Haifa or Jerusalem. The logo of the Arab Palestinian delegation to the UN foretells their end Israel. Some problems simply do not have solutions. Israelis should stop self-flagelating as they indulge in tedious exercises in semantics in search of the inexistent. For ever, Israelis have dreamt of a peace partner who doesn't exist - and never will! Not even the demented efforts of the architects of Oslo have given way to the birth of a partner for peace. Many on the other side of the divide are focused on destroying Israel piece by piece. Many on the Israeli side of the divide are focused on constructing bridges to peace.....on a volatile cesspool of shifting sands.

Robert Hand said...

Hello, reality!

RussellG Modiin said...

I don't want to be an "I told you so" commentator - but as shown in the last elections - Israeli's are mostly (very) concerned about their economic ability to cope with the cost of living. Security was not a serious issue this time as they have accepted the Government's and IDF's ability to protect the country. Peace with the Palestinians is no issue at all. Israeli's have given up on peace with the Arabs completely whilst a two State solution doesn't get a second thought. Against this background, the EU and particularly the USA are asking Israel to make major moves to re-establish talks leading to peace with the Arabs. The American State Department lost the plot years ago. What is it that they don't understand about "Never Again"

chesna said...

of course there is a choice:

deportation for those who want to murder innocent civilians.