The peace process needs more champions

The peace process needs more champions
By Ray Hanania

If we leave the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations up to the negotiators, before you know it, the negotiations will be dead and we’ll be back to the status quo of continued conflict, more settlements and the steady erasure of Palestinian rights.

Israeli fanatics and extremists are out in force and so are the Arab extremists. They are organized and effectively trashing the peace process while their weak counterparts, the “moderates” are still trying to figure out what to do.

The “moderates” are so timid when it comes to peace based on compromise, and that’s the problem. Years of conflict, suffering, atrocities committed by both sides and growing hatred have made it far more difficult for Palestinians and Israelis to shake hands.

The arguments of the fanatics sound more compelling today than they did 20 years ago when they needed suicide bombers to block peace based on compromise.

The BDS movement which, depending on who you hear it from, calls for a boycott of everything Israel or just products and businesses originating in the occupied West Bank, got a big “PR” boost recently from the European Union.

The EU approved a ban on doing business with any Israeli settlements or Israelis businesses based in the Occupied West Bank, but the ban does not apply to the EU’s 28 member nations.

A boycott of the West Bank settlements is based on the International Rule of Law and more importantly on principle. West Bank settlements are bee hives of Israeli fanaticism, and bases for violence that have targeted Christian and Muslim Arabs. The West Bank was occupied by Israel in 1967 when Israel attacked the Arab countries, arguing the Arabs were planning an invasion. Knowing what we know today about the Arab military on June 5, 1967, an “invasion” is a stretch.

Still, the EU action strengthens the power of the Arab rejectionists who argue that Israel should not only dismantle all of the illegal settlements, but should reverse its Jewish identity and instead embrace Democracy so that “Christians, Muslims and Jews can live together as equals.”

Unfortunately, there isn’t a place on Earth that Christians, Muslims and Jews share where they all live together as equals. Christians have significant problems not only in Israel but also in the Muslim World.

When you ask the rejectionists what they want beyond returning to the status quo of 1947 prior to the United Nations vote on partition, they have no answer. All they can do is cite instance after instance, most legitimate, of how Israel has trounced on Palestinian rights, illegally confiscated lands, expelled and even murdered civilians without due process (Israelis call it “extra-judicial killing), and expanded their illegal settlements.

The peace process is supposed to reach over the turmoil and the unsolvable conflict by offering a compromise for both sides based on the recognition of two-states, a sovereign Israel and a sovereign Palestine, with security for both nations.

It’s not farfetched, but it means Palestinians must give up the Right of Return – millions of refugees today descendant from families forcibly evicted by Israeli forces from their lands and homes won’t be able to go back to them if they are located in Israel, except through Israel’s immigration system, which disfavors non-Jews.

And Israelis must put their expansionist Zionist ideology in check and stop trying to grab more Palestine land for racist settlements that are racist because they are built for only one group of people, Jews.

When you look at the problem that way, you see the issues are surmountable, but only if both sides give up on their extremist desires.

The extremists are not going to give up on those desires. Short of total victory over the other side, they are willing to sustain the conflict indefinitely. The Israel-Palestine conflict has resulted in hundreds of thousands of displacements, injuries and deaths, but it has created an industry for the fanatics. It’s given the fanatics jobs, and celebrity status.

In today’s industrialized world, hate sells far more than love and hatred for Israel and hatred for Palestinians have huge followings. Conferences are built around noble goals like Achieving Peace,” but are filled with strident voices of anger that border and often cross into hatred.

The mix at these conferences organized by Israelis and Arabs is part of the problem. Moderates, who support peace, are willing to participate in conferences organized by groups that want the destruction of the other side.

Many moderate Arabs will attend conferences that are often filled with anger and vitriol against the “peace process.” For the fanatics, the longer they can prevent peace, the more they have given themselves weapons to denounce peace.

The mantra of the extremists is simple: “Peace hasn’t worked and will never work.” Well, the claim is due in a large part to their rejection of peace negotiations. The Israelis murdered Peace champion Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin while Arab extremists engaged in despicable acts of suicide bombings, encouraging young children and teenagers as well as brainwashed adults to blow themselves up among Israeli civilians. The suicide bombings did not achieve any military goals, but they did create such an outrage that peace was often easily derailed.

The peace process needs more than just Palestinians and Israelis agreeing to sit at the negotiating table. It needs more than the backing of President Barack Obama. It needs more moderates who are willing to stand up and speak out.

This could be the last opportunity to achieve peace. The alternative is conflict and violence.

The moderates need to stop enabling and empowering the fanatics. There should be a zero tolerance for fanaticism, hatred and especially violence. The moderates need to become more active and build their base. And, they need to work together, something that hasn’t been very successful in Arab or Israeli culture.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. Reach hi at or follow him on Twitter at @RayHanania.)

Categories: Middle East Topics

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