We have convinced ourselves that there is no partner and that all Palestinians are murderers. So what if the polls show that half of them want two states and that there are activists working towards this goal?
By Maya Glassman
[Maya will be an SNS speaker on one of our upcoming 2019-20 school tours, speaking alongside a Palestinian partner about her experiences of growing up in Israel and the work she now does to change the reality on the ground. If you’re interested in booking a workshop during one of our tours, details can be found at https://solutionsnotsides.co.uk/events-and-tours]
Nobody speaks about peace anymore. It’s become taboo. And why should we talk about it? There’s no partner, they’ve refused peace, they want the entire land of Israel for themselves, they’ll never give up on the houses they once had in Haifa and Akko… We’ve discussed this matter for decades, time after time, to the point of boredom. We’ve accepted the reality: soldiers will die in battle, the children in the area around Gaza will live with ongoing trauma, and Israel’s borders will never be officially set. One can’t shake these axioms, lest we expose a crack in our bubble of indifference and the subsequent questions challenge us: is there really no partner? Are all Arabs really killers? And if not, where did my assumptions come from? And what do they say about me?
Let’s talk about the viability of the two-state solution. Let’s talk about Palestinians as subjective entities even as the poisonous drops of demonisation bubble in our blood. Let’s talk about peace.
Recently, a public opinion poll on Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank was published. It was conducted by leading Palestinian pollster Dr. Khalil Shikaki from the PCPSR research institute. The findings revealed that the percentage of Palestinians who support the two-state solution is double that of those who support one state. 49% support two states, while only 24% support one (by the way, support for two states is higher in Gaza than in the West Bank). The conclusion is clear: the Palestinian public is a partner for peace, even while detractors and skeptics claim the opposite.
One of the spins that those who oppose a peace agreement have successfully infused into public discourse relates to Palestinian refusal: “They have always refused peace, and will never initiate a peace proposal.” History shows otherwise. Abu Mazen offered official proposals to solve the conflict both to Ehud Olmert and to Benjamin Netanyahu, which included a demilitarised Palestinian state sans army, land swaps that allow for Israeli annexation of settlement blocks, a merely symbolic number of refugees returned to Israel, recognition of Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem as part of Israel and an official declaration of the end of the conflict. Perhaps, then, there’s some reason to keep talking to him?
Sometimes, when we challenge the truths that we have spent so much effort to build in order to defend ourselves, the reaction is deep rejection: “How can it be? Fake news, fabricated numbers, there is no real partner. It’s a fact that I don’t know of a single Palestinian peace organisation, never met a pro-peace Palestinian, and I see them every day on the news throwing stones or incendiary balloons at us.”
Indeed, when the separation barrier that stands so opaque and tall between us separates Israelis from Palestinians, there aren’t many opportunities to personally get to know the other side besides what we can access through mass media. It is hardly surprising that most Israelis don’t know about Palestinian peace organisations.
Here are a few of them: “Zimam” is a youth movement that promotes pluralist, democratic, and non-violent society that builds the foundations for a future peace. “Ecopeace” is an environmental organisation that works towards regional and environmental development for peace through joint cooperation between Jordanians, Palestinians, and Israelis. The Palestinian Geneva Initiative (also called the Peace Coalition) is based in Ramallah and active in Gaza as well, and promotes support for the two-state solution throughout the Palestinian public. The list goes on.
Have you heard of the Youth Committee in Gaza? It’s a group of activists that was started in 2010 by the journalist Rami Aman from Khan Younis, which works to stop the violence and advance peace. The group’s vision is to create a bridge between Israelis and Palestinians: a year ago they organised the release of one hundred doves into the sky, with notes attached calling for freedom and peace.
The doves were scattered throughout the Jabaliya Camp, to the east of Khan Younis, and in a camp in East Gaza. The following messages were tied to the birds’ legs: “We want freedom,” “we want peace,” “we want to live in safety,” “we want to lift the blockade,” “we want justice and democracy,” “we want to live in equality,” “we want to live with dignity,” “the right to move and travel,” “the right to services,” “the right to education,” and more.
True, we also get incendiary balloons from Gaza, but the reality isn’t black and white; rather, it’s gray and complex. Alongside the horrific balloons we are also sent doves of peace. We must not fall into a dichotomy that allows us to cover ourselves with a lie that justifies indifference, “because that’s how things are.” With this approach, we will forever suffer from unnecessary bloodshed. We must adopt a more flexible way of thinking and avoid mental fixations. We must open our eyes and do all in our power to bring peace. There is a partner on the other side.
[This piece was originally published in Hebrew on Ynet News: https://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-5549190,00.html. The views expressed on this blog are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of Solutions Not Sides or its staff.]