We're back in Jerusalem again, this time for a talk by Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. We will be able to see how his perspective differs from that of all our previous speakers. His proposed solution is a peaceful "divorce" between Israel and Palestine. I will now be telling the story from his point of view--remember, this is his truth and narrative.
According to Abu Toameh, there are two reasons for the lack of a successful peace process. The first is the absence of education for peace with Israel, and the second is the absence of the Palestinian Authority's actual authority to sign peace agreements.
Abu Toameh tells us how he is tired of the hate, violence, and radicalism being used in both sides' rhetorics, but especially in how there is an entire generation of kids raised on the idea that Palestinians will kill all Jews and/or Jews will kill all Palestinians. He thinks that currently, the reality is two sides living in fear of one another, but he also argues that Palestinians essentially "wish" they were Israeli citizens, given the benefits and higher standard of living.
He says that the real victims of the conflict are Palestinian civilians because they are being thrown around by their administration without receiving any compensation. Palestinians are physically and ideologically divided into two rival entities, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. He tells us these two entities are basically at war with each other; they disagree on more things between each other than the Palestinian Authority disagrees with Israel.
Hamas and the PA fight over money. They aren't fighting over who can bring democracy and justice to the Palestinian people; they are fighting over who gets power. To Abu Toameh, it is one of the best things that could have happened to Israel: Palestine having infighting! Abu Toameh just wants the PA to learn to live with the concessions they would have to make in a peace negotiation so that stability can be brought to the Palestinian people.
Abu Toameh himself is an Arab-Israeli. He tells us that he chose to work for the Israeli journalists because he has more freedom of speech within Israel than he does in the West Bank. He says he can criticise the Israeli government if he wanted to, and that there would be no consequences affecting his safety.
According to him, the only place in the Middle East that Palestinians feel safe is Israel; "problems" he faces while living in Israel are nothing compared to problems he would face if he were living in, say, Yemen or what used to be Syria (still upset about the whole Syria-maybe-not-being-a-country-anymore thing). He says that outside of Israel, there are women being sold into sex trafficking, hospitals being bombed, and children starving to death. Israel is simply one of the only stable places in the region.
In the end, Abu Toameh is a person who is trying to live life above the poverty line. Even our guide in Ramallah, Josh Koonin, said that many Palestinians would kill to have an Israeli passport (because of all the benefits that come with it), though they would sooner die than admit it.
Abu Toameh believes if it weren't for Israel's presence in the West Bank, Hamas would have taken over the West Bank a long time ago. To Westerners, that appears to be the worst case scenario. This statement echoes what other speakers have said: that Hamas could win a Palestinian majority popular vote.
He then moves on to talking about BDS, or the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions moving that is taking root in many Western cities--especially Berkeley. The idea behind BDS is that people will not buy products made by Israeli settlers living in illegal West Bank settlements; BDS boasts that it is "ending international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians."
However, the reality is that there are many Palestinians being employed by Israeli settlers, and by boycotting on such a narrow scale, it actually hurts Palestinians and takes away their paychecks, which are an immediate source of food on the table. Abu Toameh says that BDS is something the international community can comfortably support from the warmth of their own homes while Palestinians are suffering from the results on the ground. The reality in the region is that all sides need to be working together, not demonizing each other.
This lack of education is what blocks the road to peace. The next issue about the PA not having much authority also has ties to BDS.
Abu Toameh says that BDS is a boomerang and has a negative effect on the peace process. The PA claims to support BDS because, to the surface-level eye, it is pro-Palestinian. The PA will say things to further the idea that they are boycotting all things Israeli, in a sense. However, the Palestinian public also sees the PA doing peace talks with Israel and compromising on certain terms, which they are not okay with. The public sees the PA saying one thing and doing another, so according to Abu Toameh, BDS will actually turn around, fly back like a boomerang, and damage the PA's credibility (which, again according to him, already does not have much credibility).
Beyond just BDS, the Palestinian Authority has already lost much credibility in the eyes of their citizens because of corruption and the continued low standard of living throughout the last few decades. Abu Toameh is unsure whether or not the PA has the authority to sign any peace negotiation on behalf of their people; since the PA is no longer democratically in power, he doesn't know if the people would accept the PA's decisions on anything. This also ties back into the issue of Hamas. If or when Hamas comes into power, Abu Toameh does not know if the Palestinians would keep any peace negotiation made by the PA as true and valid.
Next, Abu Toameh shifts the focus to the international community and his solution of a "divorce," which we will cover in the next chapter!
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