“You don’t promote the cause of peace by talking only to people with whom you agree.” Dwight David Eisenhower
Over the years, I have written countless articles, engaged in hundreds of debates and it is tough to admit I have had little effect in actually changing anyone’s mind. I naively felt that the justice of the Palestinian cause only needed the rational telling. For me this took the form of endless historical detail. I was a walking encyclopedia of facts, dates, and mind numbing detail.
Even though Palestinian leadership has always been suspect, too often there were self imposed boundaries of my critique. I rarely strayed from the boundaries of critiquing Israeli policy. This was by and large an unwritten rule. If Arafat was a buffoon, he was “our” buffoon and, for better or worse, a national symbol. This was the conventional thinking and even an informal adherence to the unwritten rule has created the external appearance that all Palestinians shared equally in his buffoonery.
Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that our lives have been changed and it is time to discard the old and embrace something new. It is time to acknowledge that there is a diversity and pluralism within our community that needs expression. In fact, about the only thing that unites over 8 million Palestinians all over the world is the desire to be free from Israeli Occupation.
As Palestinians, we are caught between the hammer and the anvil. There is the Israeli hammer and the Palestinian Authority anvil, both working to shape our people into a vision without soul. They agree with each other more than anybody cares to admit publicly. Both leaderships dare not speak things that need saying. Why? Because the leadership is not leading but following old, worn out ideas. But a new dialog must enter the public arena if we can find a way out of the morass.
The rapprochement of peoples is only possible when differences of culture and outlook are respected and appreciated rather than feared and automatically condemned. Once this process begins, then and only then can the common bond of human dignity be recognized and the basis of peace rear its head. It is difficult to forge a peace tempered exclusively with anger, for what it wants it buys at the price of its soul.
Israelis and my Palestinian brethren need to find a new sense of mission, purpose and reason for being, in short, a new image of the future that speaks to us in human terms and appropriate to the problems and opportunities of our situation. We BOTH need security, we BOTH need an end to Occupation, we BOTH need to be brave. Amelia Earhart, the famous aviator said, “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”
BOTH sides need to act with courage and dignity and to follow the ideals that give meaning to life. For Israelis, this means abandoning Occupation, and the brutality needed to maintain it. Occupation is a festering sore on its national psyche. For Palestinians it means abandoning the legacy of corruption and anti-democratic impulses that grips the entire region. In a real sense, we are bound together by a destiny that makes us brothers. Whatever we send into the lives of the other comes back into our own. This is true for the bad as well as the good.
If we possess the wisdom to know what to do, let the virtue be in actually doing it. Let us create a vision that is a promise of what we shall become. This requires a respite from the “pragmatists” and an embrace of “dreamers.” For without dreams, not much happens and behind every great achievement lies a dreamer of great dreams. Sadly, we hear so little of what the dreams are because both peoples are paralyzed with leaderships clutching to the past and old formulas. These have never worked in the past and will not work in the future.
While this is not a pragmatic exposition, it is a plea for a fundamental transformation of the spirit. In the late 19th Century, Darwin suggested that it was not the strongest of the species that survived, nor the most intelligent. Those that survived the evolutionary journey were those that were most responsive to change. Palestinians need a new leadership imbued with a responsibility to the suffering of its people. Israelis need to acknowledge that force is not the solution to what ails her.