Longing for an Arab-Israeli spring

Can't the Israeli-Palestinian people co-exist under a two-state solution? The youth can and the elders need to start.

Faheem Younus November 23, 2012
Plato may have inadvertently summed up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict 2,500 years ago when he is thought to have declared:
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

The cyclical bloodshed in the Arab-Israeli conflict is a direct consequence of the rigid postures of the jaded and faded leaders on both sides. On one end, we have the Palestinian codgers – with thick accents and thin visions – vowing for the annihilation of the Zionists. They know it’s impossible. And on the other are the Israeli sly foxes – with slick strategies and silly logic – vouching to “flatten all of Gaza”. They, too, know it’s impossible.

From my standpoint, all the six key players on both sides - Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas; chief Palestine Liberation Organisation negotiator Saeb Erekat; Hamas’ leader in exile Khaled Mashal; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Israeli President Shimon Peres and Defence Minister Ehud Barak – should be retired.

These grouchy old men with a mean age of 68 are incapable of seeing the light of the future without inserting the darkness of the past into the equation. Every compromise to them is a sell out.

That’s why I long for an Arab-Israeli Spring. I long to see the streets of Gaza and Tel Aviv pouring with Palestinian and Israeli youth leaders, who value the safety of their grandchildren more than the legacy of their grandfathers.

If my dream came true, such a leadership would have to hit the ground running. I would suggest they make the following four unpopular decisions – decisions the current leaders are incapable of:

1) The Palestinians should immediately accept Israel’s sovereignty.

Guys, do you really believe denying Israel her right to exist has any meaning left to it? And please, invest in brand development. I mean, who would negotiate a peace deal with an organisational name like Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas)Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigade? And lest I forget: Stop shooting those medieval rockets at your own future, please.

2) The Israelis should stop building new settlements.

Friends, they generate an enormous amount of resentment and the international community overwhelmingly considers them illegal. Even President Obama remarked in his 2009 Cairo speech,
“The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

3) The Muslim Palestinians should never use the word ‘jihad’ to justify attacking or killing Israeli civilians.

That Google churns out 11 million matches for the term ‘Palestinian jihad’ in 0.16 second should be embarrassing to a true Muslim. Calling such savagery ‘jihad’ mars the true Palestinian jihad; the struggle of existing without sanitation, crawling around barriers and facing daily humiliation ─ disseminate this jihad through social media. Throw a rock and it only goes a few dozen feet; but publish a heartfelt op-ed in the New York Times and it rocks the highest echelons of the US policymakers.

4) The Israelis should embrace Mitt Romney’s credo of,
We cannot kill our way out of this mess.”

Disproportionate use of force against innocent civilians has gained Israel nothing but violent resurgence. Fewer people buy into the argument of terrorists using civilians as human shields. Put yourself in their shoes. How can turning these stateless and homeless people into hopeless people ever benefit Israel?

Taking these four steps will build trust, allowing for a peaceful two-state solution to sprout in this wishful Arab-Israeli Spring of mine.

It’s not that wishful though. Such young leaders exist on both sides of the check posts. One Voice Movement boasts over 300,000 grassroots voices, each from Israel and Palestine, supporting the two-state solution. And Global Giving mobilises over 4500 youth leaders to teach them leadership skills in non-violent activism.

Children are not as afraid of the dark as we think.

On the Israeli side, they have made playgrounds out of the concrete pipes used as bunker shelters. And on the Palestinian side, they don’t stop kicking the ball as F-15 jets fly over them. It’s the older generation of the Arab-Israeli leaders who are afraid of the light.

And that’s the real tragedy.

This post originally appeared here.

Read more by Faheem here or follow him on Twitter @Faheem
Faheem Younus The writer is clinical associate professor at University of Maryland School of Medicine, USA. The author can be followed @Faheem http://twitter.com/#!/FaheemYounus
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


dr dang | 11 years ago | Reply @Parvez: This fight began even before anyone alive was born.. Its their fight Pakistan, stay out of it. You have your own battles to fight.
Virkaul | 11 years ago | Reply @atiqa: in today's world disputes are settled through negotiations and not through battles. In order to have a dialogues a minimum of two parties are required which means that both Palestine and Israel must accept and recognize each other as legal entities. Otherwise no dialogue is possible. Then, is Palestine of today a single entity as envisaged in Oslo accord? Gaza and West Bank are like two separate states with no common boundary like East & West Pakistan. Hamas controls Gaza and Fatah controls West Bank. Both are so different and both must be engaged in negotiations. While both fight each other, Israel enjoys it. The problem is that the issue has become so old that many lives are linked with negotiations and a solution be found some day, those jobs would be gone. The vested interests salaries come from tax layers of West. In such a situation, a statesman with tall political status with true intention of finding a solution is required or else, this drama would continue. As regards Pakistan is concerned, it needs to correct it's own record in Balochistan, FATA, KPK and Karachi before commenting on international matters. Palestinians also remember Pakistani troops massacring them in the sixties under Zia.
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