Sadly, the lack of progress toward a two-state solution is creating a backlash among some Palestinians who are now turning against dialogue and cooperation with dovish Israelis. An article in Haaretz by our Israeli colleague, Hillel Schenker, “Don’t let them shut down discussion,”published on Dec. 30, tells the tale; here are highlights:
…. Last week the Palestine-Israel Journal, the quarterly I co-edit, was obliged to postpone a public conference we were organizing at an East Jerusalem hotel about the impact of the so-called Arab Spring on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, due to pressure on Palestinian speakers and threats against the hotel owner. …
A news item … earlier in the week stated that the Fatah leadership had decided to halt all unofficial Palestinian-Israeli meetings due to … Prime Minister’s Netanyahu’s insistence on continuing settlement expansion. Unnamed Palestinian officials were quoted claiming that Israel exploits such meetings in order to tell the world that a dialogue is taking place between the two peoples, and that it is only the Palestinian Authority that refuses to sit down at the negotiating table.
This seems like a parallel to the familiar criticism of such meetings by right-wing Israelis, who accuse Israeli participants of being concerned only about Palestinian rights, as opposed to Israeli security needs. Suffice it to recall recent campaigns by NGO Monitor, Im Tirzu and others against Israeli peace, human rights and civil liberties NGOs….
What was so threatening about a conference at which Israelis and Palestinians were going to discuss the potential impact of the Arab world’s uprising, whose speakers were to include Ron Pundak, co-chair of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum, and Khalil Shikaki, the renowned Palestinian public-opinion specialist?
Some Palestinians claim that such meetings constitute “normalization,” which has the effect of legitimizing a continuation of the occupation. On the contrary, one of the primary goals of such meetings is education, to shed light on the nature of the occupation that most Israelis and members of the international community are unaware of, and to produce initiatives that can help bring about an end to the occupation and a peaceful resolution of the conflict. …
…. However, it should be noted that senior Fatah spokespeople like former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath have stated that there was no Fatah decision against the meeting, and they continue to support joint Israeli-Palestinian activity that’s meaningful. The worsening situation in East Jerusalem was vividly described by my colleague and Palestine-Israel Journal co-editor Ziad AbuZayyad in a column in Al-Quds last Sunday. He wrote that young Palestinians in East Jerusalem feel “a sense of asphyxiation in the city due to the settlement surge in Silwan, Ras al Amud and Sheikh Jarrah.” One young man told him that he is “forced every day at sunset to bring his children inside the house, out of fear that they would be beaten, attacked and spit on by settlers.” They also “fear that their homes will be demolished.” AbuZayyad asked rhetorically whether it’s wise to boycott or protest against Israelis … who are dedicating their lives to fighting the very same situation….
Hillel Schenker is co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal.