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.
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.