A critical reader asked a simple question: “What is your solution?”
It came at the end of a difficult, often heated email exchange, yet despite our differences, the question left the door open for something good. It is a question that must be answered.
And here are some of my thoughts, as a Palestinian, that I think are necessary for Palestinians and Israelis to try to embrace, and even improve, in order for us to find a solution.
Sometimes the “solution” is not an action, but rather a mindset. An attitude. The way an individual acts in response to a challenge.
Since I am not a negotiator and I don’t impose solutions, I can’t say the “solution” is returning all the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, ending the violence, recognizing Israel’s right to security, and more. Although that is what I believe.
But the solution to the conflict may be how we get to the solution itself.
Driving towards solutions
And here are my answers:
- Don't contribute to the problem by allowing personal feelings of anger and emotion to turn into hatred and stand in the way of reason, fairness and doing the right thing.
- Define a fair solution for the other side that you would accept if you were really in their shoes; advocate for that vision, based on peace, non-violence and mutual respect.
- Recognize that violence and pain will continue as the peace process struggles forward. And, it will get worse as we move towards peace because the extremists on both sides will do whatever they can to use "revenge" and "retaliation" as an excuse to stop compromise based on peaceful negotiations.
- Stop arguing about history. It is a debate that goes nowhere. Instead, let's recognize that we have differences. Be tolerant and respectful of those differences of viewpoints. Remain steadfast in seeking to forge one vision of peace based on the principles above.
- As individuals, we are not negotiators, so we are free to advocate ideal dreams or visions of a just peace. If Palestinian and Israeli societies were to stand up and demand a just solution for both sides, denounce violence instead of making it easy for the extremists to use it by exploiting our unrestrained emotions, we might compel our leaders to do the right thing.
- Reach out and respect your enemy. This conflict is not about Palestinians hating Jews or Jews hating Palestinians. It is about grievances that each sees but that the others do not acknowledge. Acknowledge the suffering we have caused for each other and maybe we can all be human again.
Easier said than done
It is all easier said than done, of course.
When a Palestinian suicide bomber blows himself or herself up in a café in Tel Aviv, the Israeli public will drown hope in anger.
When an Israeli military unit fires a missile to kill an alleged “terrorist” but kills nearby civilians or a family on a beach, the Palestinian public will drown in anger, too. It’s natural.
Voices of extremism will rise up and fill the airwaves with drum beats of retaliation and revenge. They will argue that there is no moral equivalency, whereas the greatest moral equivalency comes from the loss of any life, especially innocent ones, in a conflict that can be prevented.
In response to hope, some will throw around biblical and modern history, not in the hope that history may never repeat itself, but as daggers and darts intended to burst the balloon of optimism and hope.
I don’t know whether the current situation with the Israeli soldier will be resolved with the sparing of life or the continued loss of life, Israeli or Palestinian. If we rely on history, the future will be filled with bloodshed. Much Palestinian and Israeli blood will be spilled.
Majority must win
But we all know the truth of human nature and societies. There will always be a core group of haters and extremists, ideologues and fanatics who reject compromise and who see continued and uninterrupted violence as their road to destroying the other side.
But the majority of people are like taffy, pushed and pulled from all sides, and especially from the side of the extremists. They surrender to emotion because it is human nature. Frustrated, they allow their emotion to be used by the extremists to convey a sense of national will.
We can sometimes be weak. We have moments when we make mistakes. I know I am human. But that is true human nature.
So we need moderates to enter the fray and pull the majority of our societies back towards reason and sanity.
Moderate. It’s a word I define as someone who recognizes the injustices of the conflict on both sides. Someone who recognizes the crimes committed by both sides. Someone who sees the conflict not as Palestinians versus Israelis, but in its true polarity as having extremists on both sides who work in tandem versus moderates on both sides who work apart.
The solution is that when we, as Palestinians and Israelis, stop calling each other names, stop responding to grievances with counter grievances, and show compassion, we can bring back the majority of people to their true nature.
Palestinians and Israelis are good people. They are fair people. They embrace one God. They share religious history along with the true fundamentals of morality and the higher principle.
When we can return to being those people, then we will have found the solution.
Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American journalist, author and standup comedian. He can be reached at www.hanania.com .