Can things get worse between Palestinians and Israelis?
The answer, as we can all see, is a definitive “yes.”
The reality is that until we find leaders on both sides who have a vision for a just and fair peace, things will worsen.
There’s going to be more violence. More killing. More frustration. More parents crying over the death of their children. More families weeping at the loss of their land. More communities despondent as violent events darken their hopes for peace.
But as things do get worse, hope becomes more powerful.
One of the big problems in this conflict is that the extremists have always had so much power. Instead of seeking peace, they play to public emotions to “settle scores.” But when you settle one score, you create new scores to be settled on the other side.
Palestinian extremists have always used violence as a response to Israeli actions. Israeli extremists have always used the violence to justify more violence, more home demolitions, more land confiscation and more illegal settlements.
It’s just a part of the vicious circle of life that dominates Palestinian and Israeli relations.
Is there an Israeli leader who has the courage to do what needs to be done? Is there a Palestinian leader who has the courage to do what needs to be done?
We’ve seen a few. Yitzhak Rabin, a terrorist to most Palestinians, found the courage to make peace with the enemy. Israeli fanaticism murdered him.
Yasser Arafat, a terrorist to most Israelis, found the courage to recognize Israel, though he couldn’t lead his people the peace that began with Rabin.
What Rabin and Arafat achieved was sledge-hammered by extremists.
‘We can survive despite the despair’
Is hope dead today? No. Instead, as the violence escalates, the death toll mounts, and the confrontational voices grow louder and angrier, hope becomes the stronger option.
Hope does need new leaders, and none exist on either side.
Someone needs to stand up and redefine the paradigm of Palestinian-Israeli relations, defined not by reason but by unreason. Emotion. Vengeance, Suffering. Frustration. Fear. Distrust.
We must redefine the relationship from the simplistic view that this is a conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. It’s not. It is a conflict between extremists and moderates.
Extremist Israelis and extremists Palestinians, versus moderate Israelis and moderate Palestinians.
Sounds difficult. The headlines don’t look encouraging. People are dying every day. Believe me when I say the dead we mourn today will be pushed aside by the dead we will mourn tomorrow, in conflict and, unfortunately, in the early stages of peace.
Hope tells us we can survive despite the despair.
Because maybe an Israeli leader will step forward who has the courage to define a vision of a peace that is based on fairness and justice, not on the emotions of the enraged public.
Maybe a Palestinian will stand up and courageously define a true path towards nationhood. Peace. National dignity.
I’m not going to give up on that.
It’s too easy to be a fanatic. It doesn’t take much intelligence, common sense or aptitude. Anyone can be a fanatic. Just look at some of the haters whose views populate the chat boards below. People whose comments are sharpened live weapons rather than meant as medicines to overcome national ailment.
But it takes real courage and it takes real intelligence to embrace hope in the face of death.
‘It is always difficult to be a moderate’
Ehud Olmert has the right approach but the wrong answer when he says Israel should impose a solution. If he were really a reasoned leader, Olmert would impose a just and fair solution, knowing violence will not immediately abate. Impose a solution that defines boundaries that Palestinians can accept, not that insures Palestinian rejection and that feeds the extremists.
Return to the 1967 borders. Keep Ariel and other settlements, but trade back Israeli land to the Palestinians. Offer a real plan to share Jerusalem, not the sham offered verbally and never on paper to Arafat by Rabin’s successor, the almost-courageous Ehud Barak.
Acknowledge the suffering of the Palestinian refugees and compensate them not just with money but with compassion and respect.
Palestinians should not allow Israeli actions to provoke them away from the only real option they have, peaceful compromise and a sharing of the land of Palestine. Speak the words of hope not hatred. Turn away from Hamas, even though they never really turned toward Hamas at all. The majority of Palestinians rejected Hamas in a poorly structured election process that gave fanatics the edge. And, Palestinians must genuinely embrace the concept of compromise as a solution, not a tactic.
To the moderate, recognize that your value is greater today than before. It’s not lessened as many of you feel. Don’t give up. Don’t let the words of hatred distract you from what needs to be done.
It is easy to be a fanatic and spit out words of anger.
It is always difficult to be a moderate, and requires courage to stay a course based on fairness, justice and preserving mutual respect.
Extremism is a monster. Palestinians and Israelis must learn together how they can stop feeding it.
Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist, author and standup comedian. He is the founder of Comedy for Peace and can be reached at www.hanania.com