My word: Normalization: The real road to peace

THE MARCH OF HOPE, organized by Women Wage Peace, makes its way to the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem last week. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
THE MARCH OF HOPE, organized by Women Wage Peace, makes its way to the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem last week.
While friends and acquaintances were in throwback-to-the-Sixties mode last week, I rained on their parades: The hit parade and a peace march, that is.
The first friends to be shocked were Bob Dylan fans when I confessed that ever since I’d heard of the elusive songwriter’s Nobel Prize for Literature a playlist of Leonard Cohen’s greatest hits had been going through my mind. I wonder if even the Nobel committee by now isn’t thinking they should have granted Cohen the prize instead.
In any case, without detracting from Dylan’s repertoire, his songs are precisely that: songs. Try reading as poetry “And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard / And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall” rather than hearing it as lyrics and you’ll understand the problem.
It’s not the poems of medieval Spanish Jew Yehuda Halevi, whose works are still being set to music in Israel, or King David’s psalms, whose ancient Hebrew words also are constantly given modern Israeli melodies.
I realize it would be hard to grant King David such a prestigious award – not because he’s dead, but because there would be some member of UNESCO who would immediately file a motion that David’s name was Daoud and his psalms, written in Hebrew, were actually Islamic literature.
The second group of friends and acquaintances whose enthusiasm I dampened were among the thou- sands of participants in the “March of Hope,” from Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border to the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. Organized by the NGO Women Wage Peace, they gathered outside the PM’s official home where they sang songs and gave off good vibes in a sort of Kumbaya experience, barely marred by the fact that the prime minister put up a black curtain to literally cut himself off from them.
The following morning, I met a friend who was still on a high from it.
I tried to gently explain my reservations. I don’t believe women are more likely to make peace than men – especially considering that wars broke out on the watch of prime ministers Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir. I also don’t believe that women suffer more from the death of a child or loved one in war or by terrorism, although they might express it differently.
Liberian activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Roberta Gbowee, an impressive figure with a powerful message against violence, was among the noteworthy people in Jerusalem who joined the battle cry for peace. And as I told my friend, I’m far happier seeing thou- sands rallying for peace rather than demanding war or celebrating a “Day of Rage” – but it seems limited in its real impact.
Sometimes it seems people are more interested in recreating the narrative and vibe of the Sixties than recognizing and addressing today’s very real problems. It’s one of the reasons the word “apartheid” is thrown so ridiculously at Israel.
Far more significant than the peace march was the succa set up by Efrat Council head Oded Revivi. He invited local Palestinians to join him in the traditional temporary booth during the Tabernacles holiday, part of an ongoing effort to build bridges between the Palestinian villages and the Gush Etzion community.
No sooner had I praised it, however, than four of the Palestinian participants were arrested by Palestinian Authority police, leading Revivi to post on Facebook a demand for the release of those “being interrogated for the crime of drinking coffee with Jews.”
Following intense pressure, the four were released, but the not-so-subtle threat against normalization remained.
It reminded me how in July, a Palestinian man was interviewed in the Israeli media about how he stopped to help the family after the terrorist drive-by shooting in which Rabbi Miki Mark was killed. No Nobel Peace Prize for him. He was fired by the PA for helping Jews. The PA evidently demands permanent conflict to go along with the Palestinians’ “permanent refugee status” at the UN.
This is the lie behind the BDS movement. Boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel, singling the country out for a delegitimization campaign, is not about improving the lives and situation of Palestinians: It’s about negating the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state.
When Israel objected to the latest joint Palestinian-Jordanian UNESCO resolutions purposely ignoring Jewish links to the Temple Mount and Western Wall and keeping the Old City on the list of “endangered sites,” the Palestinian representative absurdly accused Israel of “politicizing” the issue.
But the regular attempts to rewrite history (negating Christian biblical roots as well as Jewish ones) do nothing to bring about peace and justice: They are turning it into a religious war – jihad.
And where was the outrage when Palestinian rockets were launched from Gaza on Jerusalem in 2012 and 2014? Who would have been blamed had one landed on the Temple Mount (or Haram al-Sharif as it’s known to those firing the rockets)?
In an interview this week with the widely read Arabic-language newspaper Al-Quds , published in Jerusalem, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman presented his plan for a two-state solution involving swaps of populated lands.
His ideas aren’t new. He has touted them regularly for a dozen years. Sadly, the response wasn’t new either and it had nothing to do with substance.
Among the most vitriolic was the statement issued by the Palestinian Syndicate of Journalists: “The syndicate considers the interview in itself a deplorable form of normalization with the occupation, what’s more a cooperation with it,” the statement says. “...The union renews its categorical rejection of all forms of normalization with the occupation, including the media normalization.”
There’s more but it doesn’t get any better.
I wasn’t surprised. At the European Federation of Journalists Conference in Sarajevo in April, Shaike Komornik, on behalf of the Israel Federation of Journalists, and I, representing the Jerusalem Association of Journalists, persuaded the representatives of the Palestinian Syndicate of Journalists to agree to the JAJ’s long-standing proposal to establish a hotline between our respective associations to help journalists who encounter problems in the course of their work.
We sat and chatted over coffee in the hotel bar together with the chief Palestinian representative, Nasser Abu Baker, and a local Palestinian journalist, but there is no photo to record the moment. Abu Baker adamantly declined to have his picture taken together with Israelis.
If it is dangerous for them to be seen in public sharing a coffee and conversation with Israelis, they have them- selves and their own rhetoric to blame.
As soon as the news of the hotline was published in Arabic, the Palestinians backed off, decrying any move that could be interpreted as normalization.
The Palestinian journalists should be among the first calling for a free press. They also should have been among those questioning the arrests of other Palestinians for sitting down to chat with Israelis.
It doesn’t matter how many roads we walk down, to paraphrase Dylan, we won’t be on the road to peace until both sides are willing to recognize each other and focus on what we have in common. Normalization should be, well, normal, not a crime against humanity.
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