Savir's corner: An Israeli spring

"The courageous youth on Rothschild Blvd. must accept that our society and the Palestinian one are interdependent."

By
August 12, 2011 00:07
Columnist Uri Savir

Uri Savir 58. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The following “chat” could very well have taken place on Facebook among young Israelis, Palestinians and Egyptians. It is inspired by real Facebook chats.

David: Good morning Amer, this is David from Tel Aviv. How is the weather in Ramallah today?

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Amer: Not different from Tel Aviv, David. We are just one hour away, not on the moon. I am on my way to work at the Palestine Bank. We have more banks here than money! By the way, how was that giant demonstration yesterday night?

Dalia: Morning Amer, this is Dalia, we walked for 3 hours with 300,000 young people, and we all yelled our lungs out – “the people want social justice!” – or “Bibi, go home.” By the way, he happens to have a home. I met all my student friends from Tel Aviv University.

Mona: Morning all, this is Mona from Jenin, I have to ask, but what about peace? Dalia: The people are concerned not to appear “political.”

Mona: Tell them, peace is not politics.

David: I do tell them Mona, yesterday at my start up company, I told my colleagues – no peace, no social justice. Without peace all resources go to the security and settlement budgets.

Amer: Yes David, but no end to occupation – no peace.

David: I know, but you will blame the occupation for everything, even for bad weather. By the way, when will Palestinians start demonstrating, when is the Palestinian spring? Amer: Walla, we should. But we don’t know yet against whom or what! Bibi, occupation, Abu Mazen, Hamas, America?

Ahmed: Hi, this is Ahmed from Cairo, I have been away for two days, looking for a job. We knew very well against whom and what we made the Tahrir revolution.

David: Ahalan Ahmed, no doubt you are in the lead. But now we also have an “Israeli Spring”.

Mona: Seriously, in my views it is not important what we demonstrate against. Everything here is bad. We need to understand the power of the young to affect through Facebook and demonstrations. The politicians everywhere are useless and hopeless! So we need to demand and work for freedom and normal lives!

Amer: And jobs too! Money not just for the millionaires in the villas in Ramallah.

Dalia: You sound just like David. But we need to decide what societies we want to live in

David: I want to live in a society that is fair – where everyone gets a good and free education, can afford health services, and in which we all have decent housing and employment. A society free of prejudice and racism, free of fear of war and terror.

Amer: And of occupation! The politicians will not allow it. They will always help the wealthy, tax the poor, and dictate to the people, not serve them, evade difficult decisions.

Dalia: To hell with them! Ahmed: One is on his way…

Mona: We all want the same, but we Palestinians are different. We have no state, no freedom, we are living under the brutal force of occupation – at every checkpoint, on every road, in every trip we want to have, any goods we want to trade.

David: True Mona, but much of it is the fault of the Arab world. If you would not have rejected us in 1948 – we would have two states by now. Instead your leaders engaged in rejection, hate, terror!

Amer: Cut it out! My family lived in Jaffa for 500 years – until the Zionists came and colonized the land and the people. The Nakba put an end to our hopes!

Dalia: Hey friends, stop arguing about the past. Each of you has his right to his narrative. You cannot agree about the past, agree about the future.

Mona: We say, “Illy faat maat” – the past is dead. I think it’s an Egyptian saying, Ahmed.

David: Give us young people the mandate, and there will be agreement in a short time. Most Israelis don’t want the West Bank, don’t care about the settlements. They want security, and they don’t trust you. They also want the refugees to return to the Palestinian state.

Amer: We want an end to occupation, settlements and a free state. Security we can achieve together. Security is not just soldiers and tanks. It’s a state of mind of reconciliation and respect, and a state of a growing economy.

David: Peace will have to wait for our generation to take over.

Ahmed: Cairo agrees. But it needs to happen soon!

Mona: We must and can create a different future for our children, so they will live in a just society and in peace.

Dalia: And it is only people like us, people of our generation, who can bring about this change. Speaking of change, I’m off to Rothschild Boulevard – demanding social justice.

Ahmed: Meet me at the corner of Tahrir Square. It is where social justice and peace meet.

Dalia: I know, believe me, I know. Let’s chat again tomorrow.

This chat did not really happen.

It is inspired by recent events in our region. I have studied the discourse in Cairo, Tunisia, Ramallah and Tel Aviv and found many commonalities.

It is in many ways a similar generation all over the Middle East – a similar language; a similar disillusionment with traditional politics; similar grievances, and a similar sense of empowerment of the young generation.

I was able to test these common traits on a Facebook movement I recently created, titled “YaLa – Young Leaders,” which has been joined so far by many thousands of Israelis and Arabs.

Such dialogues indeed take place, sometimes pleasantly, sometimes with contention. But the similarity among the rebellious young generation cannot and should not be overlooked.

I know that many of the courageous youth on Rothschild Boulevard do not want to be identified with political positions regarding peace. Yet, they must accept, in their quest to achieve social goals, that our society and the Palestinian one are interdependent.

There cannot be social justice in the one without peaceful coexistence with the other.

The moral, financial and personal cost of an ongoing conflict is simply too dear.

For more affordable living and social justice, we Israelis are in need of a new order of priorities, which will include cutting security and settlement budgets. This is not a matter of “Left” or “Right.”

It’s a matter of our society, our country and its very future. A courageous society demanding change – an Israeli spring.

Uri Savir is the president of the Peres Center for Peace, and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo accords.


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