By Vacy Vlazna
The tolling of the bell for the death of the two state solution has long faded and it is time to end futile mourning and death denial and look to new ideas, new efforts, new steps towards the reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis that will underpin harmony in the inevitable one democratic state underwriting equality for all its citizens.
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski’s article, My Jewish and Palestinian students visited Yad Vashem together appeared to be a gesture towards peace. I say ‘appeared’, as Pilichowski, a US citizen is a self -claimed ‘settler’ who, 2 years ago, took advantage of the privilege of aliyah, – the move to Israel open to all Jews but denied to all Palestinian refugees. Pilichowski and his family took the extra step out of Israel into the West Bank to live in an illegal settlement, Mitzpe Jericho.
As there are half a million Jewish illegals in the occupied West Bank who will eventually be neighbours with Palestinians in the one democratic state, Pilichowski’s initiative to help Palestinian and Jewish students to learn about their future together was a welcome, albeit small step.
To ensure such steps truly bring the younger generations to respect the Other and achieve political and social harmony, settlers* like Pilichowski must,
- Own the daily crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated by his government and its military and not plead ignorance, “I couldn’t imagine the vitriol that colored their view of them [Israeli soldiers].” Ignorance is apologetics. Pleading ignorance while he is teaching Torah and Politics in Modi’in, the largest illegal settlement on land stolen from the Other, from five Palestinian villages: Ni’lin, Kharbata, Saffa, Bil’in and Dir Qadis, generates many steps backward.
- Pilichowski false premise, “Palestinians aspire for dignity more than liberty.” normalises the illegalities of Israel’s and hence, as a settler Israeli, his violent occupation, his theft of Palestinian land, his apartheid policies, his human rights abuses. The truth is, Palestinians aspire to their rightful dignity, liberty and political sovereignty guaranteed under international law.
- End labelling and alluding to Palestinians as “Terrorist or not-yet-terrorist.” Own the state terrorism of his government.
- End the moral smugness; “The Palestinians were being put in mortal danger just by attending. What did that say about their community’s desire for peace and the chances of us achieving it?” ‘Mortal danger?’ most likely from the the IOF. Consider Palestinian understandable mistrust (see No.6) of Israeli Jews and the efforts of Shin Bet to recruit collaborators. And in this instance, consider would a settler child, from a radicalised settlement such as in Hebron, be willing to have his face exposed in reconciliation photos taken by an Iman.
- Pilichowski took Palestinian students to Yad Vashem, now he should take his Jewish students on a Zochrot tour of the 670 Palestinian villages that were destroyed by Jewish forces in 1947-8 and in which Palestinian villagers were slaughtered and from which 700,000 Palestinians were expelled and denied right of return. And take them to Ground Zero i.e. Gaza.
I would salute his insight, “I am an optimist and I believe that if Israelis and Palestinians got to know each other as people and not “the other,” peace could happen organically.” however his comment on his Facebook page on 22 July, reveals moral dissemblance and (redundant) incitement to introduce the death penalty already enforced through extrajudicial executions,
“As an Israeli, I want my government to take two steps in response to each and every Palestinian terror attack. The goal of these steps would be to ensure justice reigns and terror is minimized. I’d like to hear your thoughts.
1) Execute the terrorist. After a fair trial, with an ability to appeal, the death penalty should be sought and the terrorist should be executed. Justice demands this, and we won’t allow a “hero” to preach to other would be terrorists from his jail cell.
2) Build a new settlement. The Palestinians must be made to see that if their response is terror instead of negotiations, they will lose concrete territory in Judea/Samaria/West Bank. After 9 years of refusing to negotiate they must be penalized in a tangible way.
As an American, I want my government to take the following two steps:
1) Pass the Taylor Force Act that will cut off funding for a PA that incites its people to terror through its martyr’s fund.
2) Hold the PA responsible for each terror attack and refuse to assist the PA until it renames ALL parks, city squares and schools named after terrorists.”
- Shed the mask of peacemaker and become a true peacemaker committed to the essence of the Torah, “All that is written in the Torah was written for the sake of peace.” Tanhuma Shoftim 18, and to the Jewish Prophets, “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3)
Yes, respectful, empathic, HONEST grassroots (more powerful than the military lawnmower) connections with the Other face to face, heart to heart, step by step will organically define the path to peace.
* Israeli dissident, Miko Peled states, “But you know as well as I that we are all settlers, and all of Israel is occupied Palestine.”
– Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters and editor of a volume of Palestinian poetry, I remember my name. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was convenor of Australia East Timor Association and coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.