This week, I participated in a panel discussion of Palestinian
and Israeli bloggers that took place in Washington DC in
“conjunction” with the convention held by “J Street,”
the new moderate American Jewish lobbying group. “J Street” is more
moderate than AIPAC, but the truth is anything is more moderate than AIPAC, the
rightwing lobbying organization that has had American foreign policy in a
Normally, discussions with Israelis and Palestinians are
difficult enough but I was participating long distance using Internet video
from Chicago, making it even more difficult. So, I was on my best behavior.
When it was my turn to talk, I gave my usual spiel: Jewish
and pro-Israeli American must define a new representative group that is more
moderate in its approach to the Middle East conflict. Too often, the extremism
of American Jews pushes Israel even further to the extremist right and instead
of contributing to peace, Israel ends up causing more problems.
At the same time, I said Palestinians need to be more
forceful in defining the “moderate voice.” Do we or do we not
support a two-state solution? Has it all be just talk and are we sincere?
We must support two-states, I said, because two-states is
the only solution. One-state, as more and more Palestinians are advocating out
of anger and six decades of failure, would be the Palestinians’
“Final Solution.” We can’t afford to let the extremists hold
us hostage by causing so much violence that it gives Israel more excuses to
back away from compromise and make Palestinians suffer even more.
Let’s face it, Hamas spent the entire 90s opposing peace
and using suicide bombings not to kill Israelis as a primary goal but to kill
the peace process and if they took some innocent Israeli lives with then so be
it, they felt. In my mind, fighting while Palestinian leaders were negotiating
with Israelis at the peace table was an unforgivable act of terrorism by Hamas.
Another Palestinian panelist on the program decided to
attack me. What a shock. Like I have never been attacked by an uncompromising Palestinian
before. She said the “only solution” is the “one-state solution.”
She said that using terms like “moderates” and “extremists”
was disrespectful to “the cause of peace.”
What “peace” is she talking about when you
embrace the one-state final solution of the Palestinian problem? It’s not
a peace plan but a declaration of continued conflict. But then the lifers in
the activist movement have always been willing to sacrifice the rest of our
lives so they can make a point of principle at a podium in front of a large
audience. I think if there ever was to be peace, the activists would be out of
jobs and that must scare them more than admitting their failure to defeat
Israel and having to compromise for half of Palestine.
Well, I am not willing to ride the frogs back or play the
role of the scorpion. And the way we have cut off our noses to spite our own
faces, we have no Palestinian identity remaining. The fact is this conflict has
raged 61 years and in those years it has been the Palestinian secular national
identity that has been the big loser. We are slowly being erased in Jerusalem,
in pre-1967 Israel and in the West Bank, too.
Israel has exploited our failure to accept reality and refusal
to fight for a reasoned goal rather than an unreasoned dream. We cannot go back
to 1922. With all the recent failures and violence, I am worried that we can’t
go back to 1967, either.
But there is still time to compromise and create two states.
Many Palestinians can’t do that because they
can’t let go of the anger and the rage. We have suffered endlessly at the
hands of a great oppressor, Israel. We suffered whether we lived as so-called
“citizens” in Israel, under occupation since 1967 or even in the
Diaspora in refugee camps or as homeless activists in unfriendly countries like
America. The Goldstone Report is not an attack against Israel. It is a
statement against injustice. But we Palestinians want to use it as a bludgeon
and we shouldn’t.
For all the suffering, the real challenge is not in seeking vengeance.
The suffering of Gaza is irrelevant to the solution. Gaza will be fine if we
achieve peace. Peace is the answer to the trauma. Peace can allow Palestinians
to build a state and I am confident that no matter how much land we are able to
extract from Israel’s grip, the state we create will be far more
Democratic, far more free and eventually far more powerful than Israel pretends
to be today.
In fact, creating a Palestinian State would be a favor to
Israel which will never have peace if it continues to refuse to recognize
But two states means compromise and compromise means that
Palestinian refugees will have to be told the truth that all the cowardly
Palestinian activists refuse to tell them. They are never going back to their
original homes and lands. We cannot turn back the clock except in our dreams;
and dreams can easily turn into nightmares.
They should be recognized for their suffering. Israel must
accept its role in causing their suffering and they must be compensated so that
their children can live with the dignity of freedom rather than a life of
If the Jewish American community can somehow ratchet their
people away from the lure of the extremists and settler terrorists who also embrace
a suicidal one-state plan for an all-Jewish Israel from the Nile to the
Euphrates, then maybe we need to help moderates like J Street and find a way to
The battle is no longer one between Palestinians and
Israelis. Today’s fight, six decades since the Nakba, is a battle for
survival between moderate Palestinians and Israelis versus extremist
Palestinians and Israelis.
I won’t apologize for using the “M-word.”
And I won’t let the extremists put me down.