Policies have Brought Neither Peace nor Any Resolution to the Conflict
SOURCE: THE JERUSALEM POST
BY: MUBARAK AWAD
I take the unusual step of addressing Israelis on the eve of your election. I write as a Palestinian advocate of nonviolent action, who has dedicated much of my life to the search for peaceful solution to conflicts like our own with the Israelis. I think it is important to share with you, our neighbors, the feelings of many of us.
We are all tired, devastated by so many casualties, the loss of the lives of innocent human beings from both sides, most of them people whose only fault was to wish for fair treatment and above all, a peaceful, normal life.
We Palestinians follow your politics very closely, since our destiny is so interwoven with yours.
This is one of Israel’s most important elections in recent memory. More than ever before Israelis have a choice: continue the conflict or make peace with us, your Abrahamic cousins.
The current policies have brought neither peace nor any resolution to the conflict. Three generations of Palestinians refuse to be dominated by an occupation that does not provide us with our basic rights, the universal human rights to which Israeli governments have committed, expressed in multiple treaties you have signed.
A half-century of military rule over the Palestinians is an unsustainable situation and one that inevitably results in hostility and conflict. The conflict must be ended before more of your nation’s wealth is poured into it – not only money and other material resources but the most precious wealth of any nation: the lives of its citizens.
l strongly encourage every Israeli, Jew and Arab, to exercise your right to vote, and to vote for those parties that support a path to peace and reconciliation, to vote for leaders who demonstrate a commitment to end the hate and the discrimination. Your voice in this matter is crucial. Do not be fearful of the difficult times we are in. Rather be brave and honest. Be the change you want to see and cast your vote for peace.
As a Palestinian I envy you – your election and its process. Our own democratic process is long overdue and we Palestinians must hold ourselves to account for this. The restrictions and obstacles we face do not absolve us of responsibility. We managed to conduct democratic elections in the past, and we can do it again, with the willpower of our leadership and our people, and a commitment to nonviolent action.
Indeed, most Palestinians feel that nonviolence is the path to follow towards full freedom. But increasingly I hear the view, from colleagues and young people, that if we are not granted self-determination in the form of an independent state, then the time has come to join our Arab brethren inside Israel.
Our lives will be better as citizens of an existing state rather than remaining under occupation. So the way forward is for the Palestinian Authority, immediately after your elections, to hand over its governance responsibilities to the newly elected Israeli government. The Palestine Liberation Organization will remain our representative until the day we acquire our full rights as citizens of one state shared with our Jewish neighbors.
Such a political arrangement does not need to be permanent. We can take as an example the state of Czechoslovakia, brought into existence through the good will of the international community a century ago and recognized as a member of the League of Nations. At the end of the Cold War, the two components of this country amicably and by self-determination agreed to split into two sovereign states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The two now coexist side-by-side.
So too, it may be that at the present time, we cannot establish two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine. If so, and for as long as this is the case, let us live within a single state that respects the rights and dignity and needs of us all.
But make no mistake: endless occupation is not an option. Either Palestinians will enjoy their rights as citizens of their own state, or we must enjoy our rights as citizens of Israel.
Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right of every individual to take part in free and fair elections to determine their government. You can be proud that the drafter of this unique document was a proud Jew, Justice René Cassin, and for that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Facing the elections, I call upon all Jewish democrats in Israel to understand that three generations of Palestinians are denied this basic right that you are about to exercise.
You can see the legacy of Cassin when you look in the mirror. The commitment to his high ideals should be a priority. Please do not wait for a future Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, to then ask forgiveness for your mistake: vote now for peace with justice.
This is your chance to make your voice heard and choose a new path for your country. It’s your chance to make things right and vote for a just and equitable resolution to this conflict, not only for yourself, your family, friends and neighbors, but for Israel, the Middle East and the world.
The writer was born in Jerusalem. He is founder and co-president of Nonviolence International, Washington DC and is currently a visiting professor at the University of Haifa.