FN Forbundet afholdte d. 28. januar 2016 en konference om konflikten mellem Israel og palæstinenserne. Næstformand i Dansk Zionistforbund, Jonatan Møller Sousa, deltog med et indlæg i en paneldebat, om hvordan det civile samfund kan styrke de svage parter i konflikten.
How can civil society strengthen the weaker parties in the conflict?
Jonatan Møller Sousa, Dansk Zionist Federation
28th January 2016
My name is Jonatan Sousa. I am an economist and I am the vice-president of The Danish Zionist Federation. The Danish Zionist Federation is a Danish/Israeli friendship organization with roots in the Jewish community here in Denmark.
I want to thank the UN Association for inviting me to this conference. I am grateful for the opportunity to voice the Zionist and Israeli view on this difficult topic of strengthening the weaker parties in the conflict.
The debate we have on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is very polarized. It is a vicious debate where each side sees the worst kinds of human traits in the other. Because of this we usually only have one side represented in events like the conference today. In that context I am very happy to be invited here today.
But please be aware that this is not a balanced panel – this is not a balanced conference. I am far outnumbered by pro-Palestinian activists.
What is the difference between a pro-Palestinian activist and a Zionist like me?
I do not consider myself anti-Palestinian. I actually consider myself as a friend of the Palestinians – they are our neighbors. I deeply and proudly support the creation of an independent Palestinian state that can live in peace next to Israel.
Now the way I see it, the pro-Palestinian activists are mostly concerned with blaming and condemning. Blaming and condemning Israel seems to be the most important thing for NGOs and activist who call themselves pro-Palestinian.
In answering how civil society can help the weaker parties in this conflict I want to give examples of how pro- Palestinian activists and NGOs have made things worse or made it more difficult to attain peace. And I also want to give my recommendations about how we can strengthen the weaker parties in the conflict.
Let me start with defining a goal that I think we all can agree on. What we need is a peaceful solution. A solution where there is no Israeli occupation in the West Bank, where there are no more missiles and rockets fired to and from Gaza, and if Palestinian terrorists attack Israelis with bombs or knives and the likes they will be arrested and sentenced by Palestinian authorities.
Peace would give both Palestinians and Israelis better lives, so why don’t we have peace?
After all 15 years ago US President Bill Clinton laid out a proposal giving the Palestinians an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza. President Arafat said no – the Israelis said yes. Again in 2008 – seven years ago – President Abbas was presented the opportunity for peace and the creation of an independent Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza – he said no – the Israelis said yes. Two years ago in 2014 President Abbas did not even want to come and negotiate with the Israelis. Every day that passes is a day where the Palestinian leaders are choosing conflict over peace. We could have had a Palestinian state for the first time in the history of the World. But Mr. Abbas said no. And he still does.
I believe the reason Mr. Abbas says no to peace is that there are strong forces amongst Palestinians and generally in the Arab world that do not care about an independent Palestine; they do not want peace but fight for the destruction of Israel.
Today we know these forces as Islamist terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Again, they do not fight for peace and an independent Palestine – they fight for the annihilation of Israel. Before Hamas and Islamic Jihad we had communist terror organizations that fought to annihilate Israel. Communist terror organizations that were supported by The Soviet Union and also by left wing activists in many countries, including Denmark.
The strength of Hamas and Islamic Jihad both in numbers and in sheer military force is the reason – I believe – that Mr. Abbas said no to peace. In recent polling data we can see Palestinian support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad between 40 and 50 percent. However the support for destroying Israel is much larger than 40 or 50 percent.
If this conflict is to end – if we are to have peace – then Palestinians must find a way to put the wish of annihilating Israel to rest inside their hearts and leave their weapons behind – and come and find peace with Israel. I understand very well the emotions of Palestinians who tell me that all they want is their country back – the country that we the Zionists stole – I really do understand it. I do not ask Palestinians to forget the wish for Israel’s annihilation. But I hope that this wish can be kept in the heart of Palestinians, while the weapons stay on the ground. Anything that promotes this will help us bring about peace.
What NGOs and governments and everybody else who wants to see a better life for Palestinians and Israelis need to do is this: They must start having a conversation with Palestinians about a peaceful solution. A conversation where the wish for annihilating Israel is understood and acknowledged – but where we ask the question ‘how we can get one step further one step closer to peace’.
We need everybody who working in Gaza or the West Bank to engage in a dialogue with Palestinians about weakening Hamas and the armed struggle to annihilate Israel. But in a way that is actually very Danish – with acknowledgement and respect.
Let me give you a concrete example. If I were to speak with a Palestinian refugee living in Gaza or the West Bank – I would like to start a dialogue with this person about whether or not she is actually a refugee. Does she not feel at home in the West Bank or in Gaza? I don’t know if you follow me here. But when the UN and a plenitude of NGOs talk about Palestinian refugees they include people living in the land that will one day become Palestine – people who live in the West Bank and Gaza. It would be a step in the right direction to stop referring to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza as refugees, and see what kind of conversations that would have. By calling them refugees you are saying that their home is somewhere else. Home is in Israel – not in Palestine, not in the West Bank and Gaza.
Now, I want to give you two examples of how the blaming and condemning of Israel has led pro-Palestinian NGOs into campaigns and opinions that do not help anybody and certainly do not help bring about peace.
The first example is NGOs and activists who support “Stopping the blockade on Gaza”. What would it mean if Israel lifted the current bans on import to Gaza? It would mean that Hamas in Gaza is free to receive weapons, artillery, rockets and missiles. Running a campaign that says “Stop the blockade on Gaza” really means “Free import of weapons to Hamas”. Now this is something each of you can investigate for yourself. Just Google and find out what Israel is currently banning Gaza from importing and you will find on that list are materials that are used for weapons and war.
So how can civil society help strengthen the weak parties in this conflict? My first suggestion is to end all calls to “stop the blockade on Gaza”. There is no blockade on Gaza- there is a weapons embargo. And everyone who wants a peaceful solution in this conflict has to understand that free access for Hamas to import weapons into Gaza is a sure path to more war and less peace.
The second example is calling for boycott of products made in Israel or in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Now I have no problems with people who are either for or against Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In the Danish Zionist Federation we have members who are for and members who are against – and all are welcome and have very good arguments and reasons for their opinions. So do not get me wrong – I am not asking anybody to support settlements. But I do want to make clear that settlements are not the large impediments to peace that most people tend to believe here in Denmark.
There were Arab armies and terror organizations that fought to annihilate Israel before there were any settlements. When Israel removes settlements we do not see any more peace or any less war.
Look at Gaza where Israel in 2005 removed all settlers and all soldiers – did we get more peace? No. Hamas took control and have sent more than 18.000 rockets into Israel.
And the minute a Palestinian leader says ‘yes’ to peace – says ‘yes’ to creating an independent Palestinian state -the settlers become Jewish citizens of Palestine. Just like we have 1.5 million Arab Palestinians with full citizenship in Israel, there would be between 100.000 and a half a million Jews who are residents of Palestine. This is the magnitude of the “settler problem” and it does not constitute an impediment to peace. If for some reason the Israeli settlers do not want to live in Palestine, then they will move to Israel – or if for some reason the Palestinians do not want Jews to live in Palestine, then we’ll take it from there.
Now if you boycott products from Israeli settlements you are just hurting the economy in the West Bank. Thousands of Palestinians work in Israeli settlements – thousands of families are dependent on the income from these jobs. If you boycott these products then the jobs are move to Israel and are taken by Israelis. And it does not take much imagination to understand that in order to get to a peaceful solution we need more jobs – more prosperity for Palestinians in the West Bank – not more unemployment.
So to sum up: How can civil society strengthen the weaker parties in this conflict? Well, first of all we need to recognize that the the weaker parties are the Palestinians who seek peace, Palestinians who do not support the terror and violence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and other Islamist terror organizations. We must remember that the Palestinians in general suffer the most in this conflict. Peace will first and foremost mean an improvement in their lives. But as long as Hamas and Islamic Jihad have military power and political support to wage wars against Israel we will not have peace. If we weaken terror and hate we can gain peace.
Unfortunately pro-Palestinian NGOs and activists only want to blame and condemn Israel. I see misguided campaigns like the “Stop the blockade of Gaza” or the “Boycott settlement products” hurting the chances for peace – either by increasing weapons in hand of Hamas or by hurting the West Bank economy.
We need to start listening more to each other. If people in Denmark want to make a difference then my recommendation is to come to Israel and to the Palestinians and listen to what is actually being said. And find ways to talk about peace and a two-state solution – but without being judgmental.
Thank you so much for your time. Afterwards I will be happy to answer any and all questions. If you by chance do not get to ask your question you are welcome to contact me by email or on Facebook. I will be happy to reply. Again thank you.