(photo credit: REUTERS/Ali Jarekji)
The Al Quds al Arabi newspaper, published in London, gave voice to senior Fatah
member Hatem Abdel Qader Eid from Jerusalem announcing that Fatah has decided to
boycott and prevent all meetings between Palestinians and Israelis, official and
non-official. Being one of the leading Israeli advocates of such meetings and
someone who has organized more than 2,000 of them over the past 24 years, many
people have asked my opinion of the move.
First of all, I put little
faith in Al-Quds al- Arabi. The paper brings to mind the old joke that the only
thing (usually) accurate in the newspaper is the date. Its editor and publisher,
Abdel Bari Atwan, is a strange character who is known for taking money from all
kinds of bizarre and infamous sources.
Secondly, Hatem Abdel Qader Eid is
without doubt a serious Fatah leader, popular within Fatah, especially in places
like the Shuafat refugee camp, his home district. But he is also well
known for his opposition to meetings with Israelis, so this is not a new
position for him.
I have not yet heard or seen an official decision of
Fatah to boycott all official or unofficial meetings with Israelis. That does
not mean that such a decision might not be in the offing. It could happen, and
if it does, I believe it would be another unfortunate mistake by the
It is important, though, to understand the Palestinian
argument against negotiations in order to be able to counter
it. Palestinians claim that Israel’s goal is to achieve legitimacy from
the Palestinians and from the Arab world. The Palestinians and the Arab world
are willing to grant that legitimacy, but only when Israel pays the price:
ending the occupation and allowing the creation of a Palestinian state in the
territory of the pre-1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its
Until that time, most Palestinians and most of the Arab world
would agree that Israel should be denied legitimacy and normalization. By
normalization they mean normal relations that exist between states – cultural
relations, scientific cooperation, joint educational programs, etc.
anti-normalization campaign is part and parcel of the BDS campaign (boycott,
divestment and sanctions) – locally and internationally. The BDS website defines
the group as “a global movement against Israel until it complies with
international law and Palestinian rights.”
PALESTINIANS LIKE Hatem Abdel
Qader Eid say the Arab League offered to “establish normal relations with
Israel” in the context of the comprehensive Arab peace initiative launched at
the meeting of the Arab League in March 2002 in Beirut and ratified every year
The Arab plan calls for Israel to withdraw to the June 4, 1967
lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of
Lebanon, and also for the “achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian
refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly
The plan furthermore says Israel must accept “the
establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian
territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with
east Jerusalem as its capital.”
Arab leaders say this initiative is the
basis for negotiations between the Arab states concerned (Syria, Lebanon and
Palestine) and that once Israel reached full peace agreements with those states,
the entire Arab world would recognize Israel, enter into peace agreements and
establish normal relations. In other words, full
normalization. That offer has been on the table for 10 years but Israel
has never formally responded to it.
Many Palestinians, especially in
activist civil society organizations, are tired of waiting. They believe
they must do something to shock the system, to create an understanding that
Palestinians are not willing to continue to live under full Israeli control
forever. One of the steps they are taking is to boycott Israel and
Israelis, including meetings with Israelis.
For some reason they have the
misconception that meeting Israelis in workshops, seminars, conferences and
other activities organized by peace organizations – Israeli or international –
is a form of punishment or some kind of motivation to get those Israelis to work
harder for ending the occupation and making peace.
ideas are mistaken and misconstrued and are counter-productive. I have
asked Palestinian friends who support this form of anti-normalization just how
not talking to me will advance the cause of Palestinian statehood, an end to the
occupation and peace with Israel. I have yet to find a supporter of
anti-normalization who can answer that question.
If I were a Palestinian
I would seek to have dialogue with the most extreme right-wing Israelis who were
willing to talk to me, as I have sought out dialogue with those extremist
Palestinians who have been willing to talk to me. I personally do not ask
Palestinians to speak to settlers, but we Israelis in the peace camp do need to
speak with settlers in order to work together for answers that will enable the
two-state solution to be viable.
Palestinians who wish to speak with
settlers know how to find them – they are right outside of their windows. They
don’t need me for that.
Anti-normalization campaigns are bogus and
self-defeating and if Fatah leaders like Hatem Abdel Qader Eid support them,
then I expect and hope to hear louder voices from within Fatah who demonstrate
by actions that they will continue to search for real peace with Israelis who
are equally committed to end the tragedy of our conflict which has gone of for
much too long.The writer is co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine
Center for Research and Information, a columnist for
The Jerusalem Post and a
radio host on All for Peace Radio.