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A Strategy for Peace:  

Support Israel and Palestine


Ami Isseroff

June 29, 2001

There is no denying that the cause of peace in the Middle East has suffered a grievous setback since last September. Those who have the cause of peace at heart - rather than advocacy of some narrow political goal - realize that this setback should be the occasion for a new strategy and new thinking.

Note - "Support Israel and Palestine was published at MidEastWeb and PeaceWatch in June, 2001. It won honorable mention in the Search for  Common Ground annual awards of 2001 and was reprinted by permission at http://www.sfcg.org/cgnews/menarticleframe.cfm?articleid=118.

A new slogan was born in the 2001 Support Israel campaign in the U.S: "Support Israel and Palestine." It could be more than a slogan. It could be the start of a whole new way of looking at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the same spirit, Father Elias Chacour, a Palestinian priest, made these remarks at commencement exercises at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia:

"You who live in the United States, if you are pro-Israel, on behalf of Palestinian children I call unto you: give further friendship to Israel. They need your friendship. But stop interpreting that friendship as an automatic antipathy against me, the Palestinian who is paying the bill for what others have done against my beloved Jewish brothers and sisters in the Holocaust and Auschwitz and elsewhere. And if you have been enlightened enough to take the side of the Palestinians - oh, bless your hearts - take our sides, because for once you will be on the right side, right? But if taking our side would mean to become one-sided against my Jewish brothers and sisters, back up. We do not need such friendship. We need one more common friend. We do not need one more enemy, for God's sake."

{End of quote]

Supporting Israel and Palestine is a win-win program that all decent friends of peace should advocate. It makes it clear to audiences on both sides that the speaker is not a traitor or an enemy, but someone who supports their side.

Supporting Israel and Palestine means supporting a way for both people to live together. At this time, it must mean all of the following together:

Support for the Mitchell Plan as a whole - freezing settlements alone or stopping the violence alone will not support both Israel and Palestine. Doing both will help both people. Both together can open the way to further negotiations and the beginning of hope.

An end to the occupation - the occupation is not compatible with support for Palestine.

An end to the violence - the violence is hurting both Israel and Palestine. There will be no progress toward peace until the violence stops, and both peoples desperately need peace.

An end to the closure - collective punishment is hurting innocent Palestinians, and damaging Israel's image. It is bad for Israel and Palestine.

An end to incitement - plans for destroying Israel and cries to "kill the Jews wherever you find them" are not support for Israel.

An end to the blacklists and anti-normalization - Israel and Palestine can only live together if their people communicate with each other. The people who compile the blacklists are the ones who yell the loudest about "apartheid". Anti-normalization and blacklists must result in apartheid.

Support for democracy in Palestine - tyranny, corruption and religious fanaticism do not help Palestine.

"Support Israel and Palestine: is a good slogan. "Peace process" was also a good slogan. Each side however, took it to mean different things. Each leadership wanted to use the peace to continue the struggle by other methods. For the majority of Israelis, "peace" meant legitimization of the occupation and its perpetuation. For the majority of Palestinians, "peace" meant destroying Israel through the right of return - a return to Haifa and Tel Aviv.

There is an equal danger that Support Israel and Palestine will be misunderstood and misused. People hear and understand whatever they want to hear and understand. An anti-Zionist radical wrote to me that end the occupation is exactly the same as Support Israel and Palestine. It is not, just as it is not the same to say that one side should stop fighting (surrender) as it is to say that both sides should stop fighting (peace). End the Occupation alone or Stop the violence alone are not half of supporting Israel and Palestine, but the opposite, a call on one side or the other to admit defeat.

In the perception of the Palestinian public, rightly or wrongly, the violence is the only way to get Israel to accept fair terms for Palestine. In the eyes of the Israeli public, the occupation is the only way to prevent the Palestinians from establishing a base for destroying Israel. Israelis point out that The occupation according to the Hamas, extends to Haifa and Yaffo and Tel-Aviv and Beersheva - to all of Israel in fact. To most Israelis and many Palestinians, End to the Occupation means end Israel. The only way to change those perceptions is to get Israelis to speak out against the occupation in large numbers, and equally, to get Palestinians to speak out against boycotts, Hamas, terror and abuse of the right of return in large numbers.

Support for Israel and Palestine does not mean support either for the policies of Israeli PM Ariel Sharon and the Israeli government or for those of Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat and the PNA. We should not delude ourselves. Behind the words of both leaderships, their goals are not conducive to peace or support for the real needs of their peoples. Both sides are embarked on a course that is ultimately bad for the Jews and bad for the Palestinians.

Support Israel and Palestine can only be a successful rallying cry if it is adopted by both Palestinians and Israelis. The Israeli peace movement cannot hope to gain back any real acceptance in Israel if it continues to offer uncritical and unreciprocated solidarity to Palestinians. Peace has to work both ways. Solidarity and support has to work both ways. Otherwise, calls of the Israeli peace movement to "End the occupation" are viewed at best as unrealistic by most of the Israeli public.

Support for Israel and Palestine means support for nonviolence and for self-determination for both peoples. Anyone who cannot support both principles is not a friend of peace. Anyone who really wants to end the conflict and the suffering will get behind both principles wholeheartedly. That could be the beginning of hope for a new beginning.


This article originally appeared at PeaceWatch. PeaceWatch is a publication of MidEastWeb.


Copyright 2001 by Ami Isseroff,  PEACE and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA.

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