A Real Palestinian Peace Movement
About 10 years ago, in May of 2002, as a college freshman, I wrote an op-ed in The Harvard Crimson titled “An Arab Peace Movement.” I wrote:
Palestinian peace advocates should do two things. First, they should organize. Second, they should protest suicide bombings in addition to the Israeli occupation.
A model for Arabs to follow is Peace Now, an organization founded by Israeli reserve officers in 1978. With branches in the U.S., Canada and Europe, it is the foremost Jewish peace organization. It organized massive protests throughout the 1980s and 1990s that influenced Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Even Israel’s Labor party under former prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak eventually adopted many of its views. In response to the current conflict, Peace Now advocates a withdrawal from the occupied territories, a two-state solution and an end to violence.
There is no Arab or Muslim equivalent to Peace Now.
I actually think this article holds up pretty well. It’s true, there is plenty of non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, though still perhaps not enough. But that’s not the whole of it. Palestinians cannot simply adopt the tactics of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. They need to advance the only pragmatic end goal: a peaceful, two-state solution.
This is the crucial point. Calls for a one-state solution are de facto calls for the destruction of Israel. Even Norman Finkelstein (Norman Finkelstein!), a critic of Israel so vociferous he makes Noam Chomsky look like a Likud party apparatchik, recognizes that the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement is simply a front for a group dedicated to Israel’s peaceful destruction.
As I wrote ten years ago:
Some non-violent anti-occupation Arab organizations do exist, including Addameer, LAW (a Palestinian human rights organization) and the Arab Association for Human Rights. But compared to Peace Now, these groups are tiny.
More importantly, Peace Now does not exist to oppose Hamas; it opposes the Israeli occupation. There is no broad-based Arab equivalent.
Today, in addition to Peace Now, there is also J-Street. There remains no Palestinian equivalent. If there are, I haven’t heard of them, and you probably haven’t either. Their voices are muted, and their members can meet in a phone booth. They need better PR. And they need a better message. Remember, Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t just preach non-violence, he told whites what they wanted to hear, namely, that his goal was peaceful integration, not separation.
In this instance, Palestinians must peacefully advocate the opposite goal. They must say: we recognize Israel, and we simply want our own state, and we will do anything peaceful to achieve that result.
As I concluded my article:
Peace comes through compromise, admission of guilt and self-criticism. Arab progressives need an organization like Peace Now. No such organization exists, and Arab voices of peace are reduced to whispers.
I’m proud of what I wrote 10 years ago. Things have gotten worse since then. But I don’t think the answers have changed. We still know the way forward, even though it seems even farther in the distance. But we still have to try to get there.