Monday, October 19, 2009

Movement to moderate Jewish voices at J Street could reignite moderate Palestinian voices

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For years, APIAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, has had Jewish American political thought in an extremist headlock, a new voice of Jewish American moderation is rising in strength called J Street. The organization, which is being pilloried by extremist pro-Israel conservatives, holds a major conference on Israel and Middle East next week in Washington D.C. I'll be participating in a special blogging panel of Israelis and Palestinians who support compromise and peace based on two-states organized by Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam.

There is no doubt that Jewish American thought on peace between Palestinians and Israelis has been driven to the far, extremist right by AIPAC and its network of pro-Israel funding mechanisms. In fact, in part because of AIPACs powerful lobbying, many Jewish Americans who normally would support peace based on compromised have been pushed into a corner embracing a one-sided peace in which Israel retains all that it has taken over the years without making any sacrifices for peace while demanding that Palestinians do everything from surrendering some West Bank Lands, compromising on Jerusalem, accepting some of the illegal all-Jewish settlements and accepting a state that lacks the true power of sovereignty over its lands.

At the same time, many Palestinians are being pushed into the corner of extremism by the failure of the Palestinian leadership to achieve any real concessions from Israel. There is a growing movement of Palestinians who are now calling for a "one-state" solution which is not a solution at all but the end of the Palestinian Revolution and claim to nationhood. The one-state agenda basically abandons the occupation as the primary evil in the current relationship between Israel and Palestine, and instead naively proposes that the Arab population will grow at such a rate that eventually Israel and Palestine will become one Arab State, the original goal of the Arab World in the 1930s and 1940s that laid the groundwork for six decades of Palestinian failures.

Palestinians live in occupation and in the diaspora for the fundamental reason that they have allowed their emotions to lead them into believing the notion that nothing less than total Jewish surrender can compensate for their suffering and their failures and military losses. In other words, Palestinians have been taught that the shame of their failures can be compensated through rejection and emotion, and in many cases, unrestrained violence of vengeance that often targeted innocent civilians.

Every time that the Palestinian leadership sought to compromise with Israel and achieve a step forward towards the two-state solution, Hamas terrorists using a bastardized distortion of Islam as their standard intentionally targeted Israeli civilians in suicide bombings. This ongoing violence gave many Palestinians the only form of fulfillment, a macabre sense of justice.

This failing among the Palestinians to develop a reasoned strategy to support a compromise that would maximize their returns pushed many Israelis and American Jews into extremism themselves. They use Palestinian failure as a justification to reject true compromise and this formula has become the foundation of AIPAC's political assaults. It has held American public opinion hostage through ignorance of facts, leading them to believe that it is the Palestinians who refuse to compromise when in fact it is the dominant Israeli government that, even during the peace process, continues to expand settlements, confiscate Palestinian lands and provoke hostilities through policies of confrontation and even violence.

Next week in Washington, Jewish Americans who still believe in two-states, and peace based on compromise will meet to discuss how to strategically move the two-state solution out of the margins. Their success can also motivate Palestinian moderates to reinvigorate their own support of two-states and peace based on compromise.

What is that compromise? Most Palestinians know what it is. Palestinians know that they cannot defeat Israel, but they can continue to make the lives of Israelis miserable and painful, at a cost of making their own lives miserable and painful too. That's the Hamas option.

They also know that if Israel were to become serious in peace, and if moderate Jews and Israelis can reclaim control of their public opinion, they would reciprocate and support peace based on compromise. And that compromise entails very clearly defined concessions for both sides. Israel surrenders the majority of Palestinian lands it occupied in 1967 and end its provocative military attacks not just against Hamas but other Palestinians in the West Bank. It means that Israel stop expanding its settlements and instead begin dismantling the settlements. It also means Israel accepts that there must be a Palestinian presence in Jerusalem that would represent the capitol of a Palestinian State.

It also means that Palestinians accept the reality that the right of return may be a legal legitimate right, but that it is an unrealistic right that can never be achieved. Palestinians must accept the fact that refusing to compromise on the Right of Return is in fact a form of punishment on the Palestinian people living in the diaspora with no hope other than the empty promises made to them year after year by Palestinian fanatics who refuse to compromise. Those fanatics will fight to the very last refugee to prove their point.

But before Palestinian moderation can re-establish itself, the moderate Israeli and Jewish movement must re-assert itself. They Pace Now is dead and that the leftists in Israel no longer have a voice in Israeli policy. If Jewish and Israeli moderation is dead than the future is bleak for everyone. But if it can resurrect itself, it is very possible that might reignite the moderate Palestinian movement.

And that moderate Palestinian movement is the only hope Palestinians have for the future. We can remain interlocked in an unending conflict in which Palestinians sustain far more punishment than the Israelis, with no real hope of statehood, or we Palestinians can recognize the reality and replace emotion and hate with passion and reason. If we can, we might see a sovereign Palestinian State in our lifetime.

-- Ray Hanania

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