I was born into the Israeli left. I grew up in the left. I was always a member of the left. I believed that the day that the Palestinians would have their own sovereign state would be the day when Israel would finally live in peace. But like many Israelis of the left, I lost this certainty I once had.So after months of searching, Wilf found a single Palestinian Arab willing to concede that Jews have a right to live in the land. At that rate, with no natural growth in the Arab population, it will only take 250,000 years to gain a significant minority who believes in real peace.
...But one of the most pronounced moments over the past several years that has made me very skeptical toward the left were a series of meetings I had with young, moderate Palestinian leaders to which I was invited by virtue of being a member of Israel's Labor Party.
I had much in common with these young Palestinian leaders. We could relate to each other. However, through discussion, I soon discovered that the moderation of the young Palestinian leaders was in their acknowledgement that Israel is already a reality and therefore is not likely to disappear. I even heard phrases such as, "You were born here and you are already here, so we will not send you away." (Thank you very much, I thought). But, what shocked and changed my approach to peace was that when we discussed the deep sources of the conflict between us, I was told, "Judaism is not a nationality, it's only a religion and religions don't have the right to self-determination." The historic connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel was also described as made-up or nonexistent.
Reflecting on the comments of these "moderates," I was forced to realize that the conflict is far deeper and more serious than I allowed myself to believe. It was not just about settlements and "occupation," as Palestinian spokespeople have led the Israeli left to believe. I realized that the Palestinians, who were willing to accept the need for peace with Israel, did so because Israel was strong. I realized that, contrary to the leftist views in Israel, which support the establishment of a Palestinian state because the Palestinians have a right (repeat: right) to sovereignty in their homeland, there is no such parallel Palestinian "left" that recognizes the right (repeat: right) of the Jewish people to sovereignty in its ancient homeland.
...So, it was somewhat ironic when, just several months ago, I received an email from the Israeli-Palestinian meeting's organizer to write a response to one of the program's core funders as to whether the program had an "impact on anything or anybody." I was asked to "reflect back a few years" and to write whether the program "had any impact on you — personally, professionally, socially, politically … " Naturally, I responded. I wrote that the program had a "tremendous impact on my thinking and I continue to discuss it to this day in my talks and lectures." I shared the above story with the organizer, recognizing that "it is probably not a perspective you want to share with your funders."
In response, the organizer sent me an email saying that there are "many, not one, grass-roots and political Palestinians who truly believe that Jews have a right to part of the land." I responded enthusiastically that meeting even "one Palestinian who believes that the Jewish people have an equal and legitimate claim to the land would be huge for me," and that "I've been looking for someone like that ever since I participated in the program many years ago."
...I was then asked to write precisely what would convince me that we have a true partner for peace in the Palestinians. So, I drafted the following phrase:
"The Jewish people and Palestinian people are both indigenous to the Land of Israel/Palestine and therefore have an equal and legitimate claim to a sovereign state for their people on the land." I added that this sentence could be expanded to say, "Both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people around the world have an equal and legitimate claim to settle and live anywhere in the Land of Israel/Palestine, but given the desire of both peoples to a sovereign state that would reflect their unique culture and history, we believe in partitioning the land into a Jewish state, Israel, and an Arab state, Palestine, that would allow them each to enjoy dignity and sovereignty in their own national home." I would also add here that it should be clear that neither Israel nor Palestine should be exclusively for the Jewish and Palestinian people respectively and both should accommodate minorities of the other people.
The organizer promised to get back to me. Weeks and months passed, and I was about to publish this piece, opening up the conversation, hoping to find partners who share my belief, so that I could rekindle my hope that peace is possible. At the last minute, I was contacted by professor Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, the head of American Studies at Al-Quds University and founder of the Palestinian centrist movement, Wasatia. All he asked was to change the word "claim" to "right," and "partition" to "sharing," saying that "right" was more positive, and "partitioning" had in the deep psyche of the Palestinians the negative connotation of the 1947 UN partition plan recommendation. He emphasized that 67 years later, he hopes that Palestinians would realize that sharing the land by a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, as envisioned by the UN resolution, was "the right thing to do" in 1947, since both people do have a legitimate right to the land, and remains "the right thing to do" today. I found these changes wholly acceptable and welcome. So the statement we share now reads as follows:
"The Jewish people around the world and Palestinian people around the world are both indigenous to the Land of Israel/Palestine and therefore have an equal and legitimate right to settle and live anywhere in the Land of Israel/Palestine, but given the desire of both peoples to a sovereign state that would reflect their unique culture and history, we believe in sharing the land between a Jewish state, Israel, and an Arab state, Palestine, that would allow them each to enjoy dignity and sovereignty in their own national home. Neither Israel nor Palestine should be exclusively for the Jewish and Palestinian people respectively and both should accommodate minorities of the other people."
Who else will join us in our journey to find true partners on both sides?
Wilf is not stupid - she recognizes the prevalence of the Israeli "self-flagellating left" and she is a member of NGO Monitor's advisory board (an infraction that led to her being banned from speaking at the Peace Now conference last year.) And there is nothing wrong with trying to find real Palestinian Arab partners for peace and to encourage them. It would be wonderful if European governments would fund Wasatia rather than the BDS-supporting NGOs they seem to favor.
But the Wasatia movement that Daoudi founded in 2007 gets essentially zero coverage in the Arab media. The existence of Daoudi (and his brother) is not an encouraging sign - it is a clear indicator that probably more than 99% of Palestinian Arabs disagree with the idea that Jews have rights.
Finding a dollar bill after searching for months in a ton of manure is not exactly a cause for celebration. It means that it may be time to re-evaluate the best way to spend one's time.