Reason #6901 why peace is impossible
When the Israelis and the Palestinians were trying to make peace back in the 1990s, one of the buzzwords was “normalization,” the attempt by both sides to learn to live together.
But in these days of ceaseless friction, normalization has become something of a dirty word, particularly for Palestinians. [Only for Palestinians – EoZ] Nearly 50 Palestinians from the West Bank encountered these bitter sentiments when they went to Israel for an unusual one-day trip last week.
Their itinerary included visits to Israeli-controlled crossings into Gaza and conversations with Israelis who live nearby. Mustafa Hbub, a Palestinian living in Israel who dreamed up the trip, says he wanted West Bank Palestinians to visit Israeli communities and take home this message of peace.
“The war caused destruction for both Israelis and Arabs. Let’s stop this. Peace is done by people, not leaders,” says Hbub, referring to the seven weeks of fighting this summer between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.
Hbub doesn’t equate the damage in Israel to the vast destruction in Gaza. But he wanted Palestinians get a peek into the experience of ordinary Israelis. Hbub got help from Buma Inbar, a Jewish Israeli involved in all sorts of efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together.
Inbar says he knew this effort would fail the moment he saw Israeli TV cameras out the bus window at their first stop.
“Something like 10, 12 cameras of TV stopped there. And I see the Palestinians. I say, ‘You want it or no?’ They cry, ‘No, no, no,’” Inbar says.
It turns out that a different Israeli involved in planning the trip had tipped off the Israeli media.
But why would that be an unpleasant surprise for the Palestinian visitors?
“Honestly, it’s complicated. Even in Palestine, it’s complicated,” says Alin, a young Palestinian woman on the trip who only gave her first name. “People don’t want anyone to understand something in the wrong way, that’s it. And also maybe people are afraid.”
Afraid exactly of what, she wasn’t sure. But she knew she didn’t want to find out.
“When you say Israelis and Palestinian are together, it’s not nice and it’s not acceptable. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but for me, no, I will not put myself in that situation, OK?” she says.
Normalization sounds kind of nice, but actually, it’s a real insult. [Only for one side – EoZ] Many Palestinians see playing soccer or even doing business with Israelis as a betrayal — accepting Israeli dominance by acting like everything is normal. This is problem for peace groups.
American Donna Stefano directs the Mideast office of Seeds of Peace, which brings Palestinian and Israeli youth together for summer camp. She says anti-normalization pressure has a real impact on Palestinians.
“When they return from camp, and they try to explain the powerful personal transformation that they’ve had, it just gets thrown back in their face that, ‘It’s normalization, it’s normalization. You’re a traitor talking to Israelis, you shouldn’t be talking to Israelis,'” she says.
A trip conceived of, and organized by, the Arab side is very rare indeed. Practically all of these initiatives usually come from the Israeli peace camp. But as long as ordinary Palestinian Arabs are threatened for even thinking of Israelis as human beings, peace cannot happen.
And even Western-funded Palestinian Arab NGOs like Miftah are against any real peace programs that involve coexistence.
Palestinian Arab society as a whole is against real peace, and Arabs who want to make a difference are demonized and threatened if they say anything publicly. This hate is encouraged by Mahmoud Abbas’ supposedly moderate government.
Nothing on the horizon suggests that things will ever get better. Without a sea change in Palestinian Arab attitudes towards Israeli Jews, there is no chance that any real peace could ever happen.