Discard Failure: Recognize the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Makers

mai abdul Rahman        November 22, 2014

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Despite the current bleak political landscape in Palestine and Israel, it is important to note that since 1967, the peaceful Palestinian-Israeli non violent movement continues to offer a positive collaborative paradigm based on shared common goals and tangible outcomes. Palestinian- Israeli peace nicks are active transformative agents, who risk life and limb to liberate their societies from the yoke of the Israeli occupation that harms, scars, and victimizes both equally–the enforcers of the occupation, and the Palestinians that Israel occupies and besieges.

For decades, and with little recognition countless of secular and faith groups within Israel and Palestine have tirelessly worked to advance peace in the Holy Land. Their collaborative efforts share one common objective: to end Israel’s military occupation and Gaza Siege through non violent action. It is high time we start meaningfully engaging with Palestinian and Israeli visionary leaders, who have proven their interest in bringing about a just dignified peace for both people.

While most inaccurately assume that few within Israel are challenging Israel’s occupation or Israel’s current state of affairs, the Israeli and Palestinian peace movement daily document and report on the impact of Israel’s policies, military occupation, wars, and Siege on the Palestinians. Case in point, the recent acts of violence perpetrated by lone Palestinian individuals in East Jerusalem are a consequence of desperate frustration and hopelessness that permeates throughout the Palestinian society. Since then, Israeli and international journalists have committed few articles on the bleak conditions of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. This was also the case after each Israeli war on Gaza (Christmas 2008, October 2012, and July 2014), where Israelis and internationals devoted several columns on the condition and plight of Palestinians living under an Israeli mandated Siege. These efforts are certainly helpful. However, for several years and counting, the Palestinian and Israeli peace advocates have published countless of reports on the consequences of Israel’s policies in East Jerusalem. They have consistently warned that Israel’s human rights abuses, Siege, illegal settlement expansion policies, and Israel’s continued annexation of Palestinian homes and lands are pushing Palestinians to the brink. Furthermore, several Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations record and publish annual reports on the arduous living conditions of Palestinians.

What happens in Palestine and Israel affects the people within Israel’s illegal Separation Wall and beyond. The recent violence in the Palestinian Old City of East Jerusalem risks the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike; and has the potential of jeopardizing the peace treaties between Israel, Egypt and Jordan. Needless to say, preserving the status quo in Palestine and Israel is chipping away the prospect for peace that the two people deserve and desire.

First of all, why did the leaders of Palestine and Israel fail to deliver the peace their people crave? And how did consecutive US administrations contribute to the decades long succession of failed leadership in Palestine and Israel?

  • Despite their many years of negotiations, Palestinian leaders have miserably failed to alter Israel’s policies, loosen Israel’s strong military grip on the West Bank and East Jerusalem, never mind limiting or ending Israel’ seven years Gaza Siege.  Palestinian’s failures are a consequence of the Oslo Accords that have limited the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) ability to wrestle Israel’s hold on all matters Palestinian. Also Palestinian’s economic (private and public) and diplomatic (public) dependence on the international community, Israel, and the US compromises their ability to take independent decisions. For example, the PA depends on US funding with strings attached that limit the PA’s ability to pursue alternative options outside the US- Israeli peace negotiations framework. So in spite of their best efforts, Palestinians have yet to halt the building of one illegal settlement, persuade one Jewish settler from annexing a Palestinian home, convince one Israeli settler to cede a Palestinian home, or stop one Jewish family from settling on Palestinian lands
  • Israeli leaders fail to recognize the consequences of the volatile conditions they create on the ground. They are oblivious on the impact of following the same tired policies that demean the dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians. They also fail to consider how Israel’s policies pillage the rights and freedoms of Palestinians. For example, Israel’s failure to mitigate the recent events in East Jerusalem cannot be underestimated. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s disregard to address the plight and concerns of the Palestinians; and his role in lowering the bar of civility within his coalition, and Israel’s extreme political and religious right have haplessly led Israel from one debacle to the next. Netanyahu has yet to recognize his role in radicalizing the Palestinian and Israeli societies.
  • Meanwhile, for decades the US has been wedded to a peace process that is more focused on an open-ended “process,” than concrete outcomes and deliverables. The US diplomatic process has produced a litany of start and stop incomplete diplomatic ventures that have yet to produce tangible outcomes. Also, despite public US frowning on Israel’s illegal settlement construction activities, the US in fact, funds and supports Israel’s settlement enterprise and its extremist leaders. The US offers tax-exempt provisions and tax shelters to a host of corporations, developers, and non-profit organizations who benefit from investing in the building and expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements. The Israeli settlements “violate the Geneva convention’s prohibition against an occupying power transferring its population into occupied territory.” Recently, the European Union outlined specific measures to stop Europe’s private and public sector from investing, profiting from, and perpetuating Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. Meanwhile, US companies continue to profit from Israel’s occupation and illegal settlements. Most disconcerting, US funding of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has weakened Israeli moderates, and Israel’s political parties that support the two-state solution. In short, contrary to US declared interest in advancing the two-state solution, the US is complicit in building concrete barriers to lasting peace.

Clearly, as it stands Palestinians have little leverage; nevertheless their leaders have one long record of successive failures to advance the peace the Palestinian people thirst and long for. Israel’s failure to adjust to the new world consensus in favor of an independent Palestinian state, and the global wide agreement on the two-state solution is perpetuating a system that is beholden to a bygone era. Israel’s political leaders’ failure to reckon with the overwhelming support for a Palestinian state is only serving to create unproductive disharmony and dysfunction among Israelis and Palestinians. Meanwhile, the US remains stuck in a worn out peace ‘process’, and a repetition of tired pleas, and old rehashed policies. Ample evidence suggests that despite US declared interest in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and US political influence and diplomatic might; and the billions of US tax monies appropriated to Israel and Palestine, the annexation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank continues on unabated.

No one disputes this simple fact: Palestinian and Israeli leaders, as well as several US administrations, time and again have demonstrated their failure to bring about peace to the Holy Land. The collective leadership failure (Palestinian, Israeli, and American) has far-reaching repercussions for both Palestinians and Israelis; and negatively compromise US international standing, diplomatic image and clout, and strategic interests.

Political leaders affect and shape the institutions and the people they lead. They influence actions that are reproduced through policies, practices, processes, and expectations. They impact the norms, climate, and culture of government and society. Consecutive and chronic failures become firmly grounded through the continuation of non-productive policies that promote toxic behavior across every political and social sector. Leadership failure once entrenched trickles down and manifests in the political discourse and the social attitudes and temperament of society.

Understandably, the pernicious political climate among Palestinians and Israelis is breeding a culture of hopelessness and frustration. It is also gravely manifesting among average Palestinians and Israelis who are succumbing to living under hellish conditions rather than aspire for the peace they yearn for. How are we to change the toxic sense of helplessness that has infected and polluted every potential or current political leader and party that has the means to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation? Give credence to those engaged in non violence and peaceful resistance- Palestinian and Israeli.

Since 2005, Palestinian villagers of Bil’in and Israeli peace activists have organized and participated in weekly peaceful demonstrations. Despite the risk involved hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis have stood shoulder to shoulder to protest Israel’s Separation Wall construction plans. Together they face IDF soldiers, who harass them in equal measure, shoot at, and detain them. They weekly document the unnecessary force the IDF employs against unarmed protesters that have resulted in the injury and death of Palestinian villagers, Israeli, and international peace activists. All was not lost. Israel had originally planned to divide and annex 50% of the fertile agricultural land of this small Palestinian village. As a consequence of this collaborative non-violent campaign Israel re-routed its Separation Wall construction plans, and reduced its land annexation of Bil’in to 25% – not an absolute success, but nonetheless a measurable improvement to Israel’s original plan that would have annexed half of the entire village.

In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Palestinians and internationals breach Israel's illegal Separation Wall

On the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Palestinians and international peace protesters breached Israel’s illegal Separation Wall.

More recently, on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Palestinians organized an “On to Jerusalem” peaceful march, where hundreds of Palestinians breached Israel’s Separation Wall. Palestinian organizers described their campaign as an act of peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation and its complex set of military measures that confines them and violates their freedoms and rights to worship. Their campaign featured a statement issued by the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B’Teselem), which clearly states that Israel’s Separation Wall is a source of suffering for the Palestinians that cuts social ties, isolates Palestinian villagers from their farmland, and affects their livelihood. The insertion of this simple statement illustrates the trust and respect B’Teselem has earned among Palestinians with its sincere forthright documentation of the impact of Israel’s military occupation on the lives of ordinary Palestinians.

The Palestinian and Israeli non violent peaceful movement has the potential of restraining the forces within their society that hinder the cultural and political change required to usher peace. Although the Israeli military occupation separates and cuts off the far majority of Palestinians and Israelis from one another, the Palestinian- Israeli peace movement works and collaborates across both communities. Furthermore, despite the difficulties these Palestinian-Israeli peace activists face they continue to successfully cultivate cooperative relationships based on their common objectives. They embrace a vision of great things to come and a better future free of fear. While their political leaders fail to articulate a clear vision or offer a sensible plan, the Palestinian-Israeli non violent movement offers clear reasoning as to why both societies will benefit from ending the occupation. Above all the Palestinian-Israeli non violent movement is capable of mending and healing their societies.

Albert Einstein described “insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So how are we to unlock the insane abyss the Palestinians and Israelis find themselves heading towards?

The Palestinian- Israeli peace movement is capable of changing the current morbid militant narrative Israelis and Palestinians have come to accept. Courageous Palestinians and Israelis and a whole lot of American faith and non-faith groups realize that the liberation of Palestine will also liberate Israelis. It’s time we support the growth of the peace movement in Israel and Palestine, recognize its potential, and highlight its credible successes across both societies. In turn they will liberate the US from investing our treasure and diplomatic clout in the continuation of failure. But first, the US should do its part by recognizing the Palestinian and Israeli non-violent movement as a legitimate credible political movement.

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