Why Israeli-'Palestinian' 'co-existence' groups don't promote peace or coexistencehaven't led to peace or co-existence.
In December 2009 Therumpus.net published an interview with Michal Zak, “a forty-nine year old Jewish resident of Neve Shalom, a village with a population mandated at exactly 50% Palestinian Arab/Israeli Jew.” A facilitator at the “school for peace,” she was asked by Jesse Nathan whether “Palestinian resistance” also includes suicide bombers. Zak responded that they are “in a category of violence against civilians - as opposed to violence against soldiers which is the most legitimate, and violence against settlers, which is second on my list.” Zak claimed that bombing civilians “just makes me see how desperate they are.”
The interview is emblematic of what "coexistence" often really means in the Israeli-Palestinian context: the “Israeli” side adopts the Palestinian narrative and supports, almost wholeheartedly, Palestinians. The Palestinian side embraces the “Israeli” view - insofar as the Israeli view is the Palestinian view in this coexistence situation. They "coexist" as Pro-Palestinian Palestinians and Pro-Palestinian Israelis. Palestinians who are killed in “martyrdom operations” are martyrs, Israeli soldiers are killers, Palestinians always have a “right to resist,” while Israeli rights to do much of anything are diminished. Palestinian nationalism is good nationalism, Israeli nationalism is chauvinist and fascistic and unacceptable.
For coexistence to ever be meaningful, it would have to build several real bridges. First, it would have to not only be a case of Israelis supporting Palestinian nationalism and Palestinians supporting Palestinian nationalism. It would have to really challenge Palestinians and hold them to the same accountability as Israeli society in terms of encouraging progressive and liberal values – to say nothing of recognizing the legitimacy of Jewish nationalism in the Land of Israel, not just "sorrow for the Holocaust". Second, it would have to appeal to not only secular Jews on the left and Palestinians who are nationalists. Third, it would need to have indigenous Palestinian support and funding from Palestinian backers and Palestinians playing an integral part in running the organizations.
If Palestinians aren’t stepping forward to start “Dabka for Peace” or “embroidery for peace,” the situation isn’t going to improve. Coexistence work should not be a cover for radical anti-Israel views, such as one “coexistence” activist who compared the hardship of waiting at a checkpoint in a Palestinian bus to the mass murder of Israeli civilians on a bus, in an essay now removed from online called “a tale of two buses.” Blowing people up, shooting them, sniper fire, “resistance” and tunnels; none of that has anything to do with coexistence.
In the long run, as many of the Palestinians who said they don’t go to coexistence groups precisely because they enjoy the authentic friendships they have with Jews “as people first, not ethnicities,” the real coexistence comes when these kinds of artificial frameworks disappear. “I can coexist at a bar over some drinks,” one woman told me. Indeed.This has been precisely the problem with the 'peace process' from Day One. In the aftermath of Oslo, Israeli kids were given an 'education for peace,' which meant learning to see the narrative from the viewpoint of the 'other.' The 'Palestinians' were only taught the 'Palestinian' narrative. Israel has for 30 years or more had groups like 'Peace Now' and 'Tush Shalom.' No such group has ever existed among the 'Palestinians' (and the 'Palestinian Authority' or Hamas would likely kill - literally - any such group if it ever came into existence).
What's worse is that seeing a narrative from the viewpoint of the 'other' weakens one's belief in one's own narrative. There's a huge difference between seeing one's own narrative as the only legitimate one, and between seeing two conflicting yet somehow equally valid narratives. Israelis have been taught to critically question the narrative they have been taught while 'Palestinians' have had their own narrative more and more deeply ensconced in their minds.The result is that Israelis' belief in their own narrative - particularly among the young - has been weakened (although there has been some walking back of that weakening since the second intifadeh) - while 'Palestinians' belief in their narrative has been strengthened.
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