Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Israel and Palestinian Peace: What are the goals?

Since returning from the delegation trip to Israel and Palestine in early November, I have given 3 subsequent presentations about what I saw and learned, and included these learnings in a series of other presentations last week on global human rights issues.  Each time I presented and was asked questions, I learned even more about the challenges of advancing human rights in a world of institutional activism that often dehumanizes people by painting groups with broad brushes, blurring vital differences.

As I had learned from speakers in the Mideast, the goals of the peace movements are not clear.  One spokesperson (from the Israeli Coalition Against Home Demolitions) stated that his goal is to keep the hopes of the Palestinians alive "until they figure out what they want."  Then there is the  Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that has 3 stated goals, one of which is "Respecting, protecting and promoting the Rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194", which was written in 1948. (The Kairos Palestine Document echoes the same sentiment.)  But there is disagreement among the BDS leaders about what this means.  One co-founder stated unequivocally that this means he has the right to get his grandparents property back and kick all the people who have lived their for as much as 3 generations.  Another leader stated that this is not a realistic goal in the 21st century but should be the spirit in which negotiations are made.  I personally suspect that "right of return" is no more likely than Rapid City, SD being given back to the Lakotas, but I also have not heard much conversation about how this would play out.  For some it seems to be the goal, and for others it's an absolute deal-breaker.

Then, yesterday, there was this posting by a Quaker from Annapolis who is living in the Mideast.  He wrote about the "Principles of Peace", part of the Geneva Accord that is supposed to be the model for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  The first of these principles is "End of Conflict; End of All Claims."  This is the kicker among peace advocates for this region: there is a global, widespread call for peace and justice, including from Israelis and Palestinians.  But does this vision of peace include "End of All Claims" or "Right of Return"?  If it's the latter, does this include not only Palestinians displaced in 1948, but Jews from Hebron who were relocated to Jerusalem by the Brits in 1929 with a promise of right of return?

A conservative friend of mine said to me recently he is fascinated by how the desire for peace in the Mideast is dividing liberals.  I am increasingly believing it is because we can get caught up in movements that, on the surface, simply want peace but actually have very different views of what that looks like.  "End of All Claims" or absolute "Right of Return" are gulfs apart.  By signing on to the BDS movement, we are being asked to endorse "Right of Return" whether we know it or not. It's unfortunate.  I think we could rapidly find greater harmony in pushing for bringing an end to the settlements, home demolitions and occupations, and for equality for Palestinians in Israel (the other 2 goals of the BDS movement), but we have to be diligent and aware of what is being attached to this. Many good bills in our own congress are shot down because of suspect attachments.  "Right of Return" plays the same role in peace efforts for the Mideast.


Anonymous said...

Please remember that a majority of Palestinians are refugees in exile from their homeland. To give up the inalienable right to return to one's home means that millions of Palestinians are left out of the "peace" you describe.

What about a shared homeland in Israel and Palestine where the government/s uphold the equality of all people of the land regardless of religious identify or ethnicity. There is room for all.

Brad Ogilvie/The William Penn House/The Mosaic Initiative said...

I agree there is room for all, but that is different than insisting on reverting back to pre-1948 ownership, which is what some are calling for.