How can we find peace?

A couple of week ago, I responded to a post in a Facebook Group trying to create a grassroots movement for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  The post challenged us to outline our vision for peace, this was my response:

My vision for Peace isn’t a detailed plan. Simply, it is that Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs, Christians, Jews and Muslims learn to accept each other, learn that to live in that small sliver of land between the River and the Sea they must share it with people with a different background, different history, different beliefs but with a shared hope that their children can grow & thrive without the threat of war.

If we can achieve that, the details of the political solution will be easy to decide; unless we can achieve that, no solution will succeed.

There are two other pieces of writing I want to share here.  The first is an (long) article written by an acquaintance in Notts Friends of Standing Together titled There is no Magic Peace Fairy.   It tries to examine how people on both sides have become blind to the suffering of those on the other side, why good people are trapped by their own history to ignore the fact that most people on the opposite side also trapped in their history.  It is a hard read and made think about my own preconceptions and how open was I to having them challenged.

The other is a novel written by Haviva Ner-David called Hope Valley.  Set in 2000, after the failure of the Clinton/Arafat/Brak Camp David Summit, mostly around a Moshav in the Galilee that was built on the ruins of a Palestinian village cleared by the Hagenah during the 1948 war and the neighbouring Palestinian village where some of the refugees from the ruined village now live.  It looks at the intertwined lives of two artists, both with a serious illness, both with deep links to the land both who need to overcome their own misunderstandings & preconceptions.

These two pieces have helped me realise that simply calling for a ceasefire without trying to go further to achieve reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis will only postpone the next round of fighting, it will not bring the peace we all desire, it will not stop the injustice of allowing the conflict to carry on and engulf future generations.

As I have said before (as have many others), there are around 7 million Jews and 7 million Palestinian living in the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, both are tied deeply to the land, both have no intention of leaving, both will resist violently any attempts to remove them.  The tragedy is that too many on both sides are unwilling to try to understand the desires, dreams and longings of the other side, are unwilling to question their own preconceptions, are too easily led by those that have turned their fear of the other side into hatred.

This unwillingness to even try to understand the other side has spread from Palestine/Israel into their “supporters” around the world who too easily use phrases like “colonial settlers”, “terrorists”, “genocide” and worse to label the other side with no desire to listen or understand the fears that drive those on the other side.  This deafness and unwillingness to consider other stories has pushed the other side further into its own sense of righteousness and made it less willing to compromise.

This lack of dialogue is something we need to work to change.  We must try to not just speak to the Peacemakers on both sides but try to get through to those who do not want to listen, who are so sure of the righteousness of the side they support.

The only way to achieve peace is through compromise and real willingness to accept that while the history of those on the other side may be different, even contradictory, to the history those on the their side have accepted for years, it is still valid and just as true as their own.  No peace plan can work and allow Palestinians and Israelis find a way to share the land they both love without this acceptance, without the trust needed to accept the validity of the history of the other.

The road to peace will hard, it is a task that may seem impossible but unless we start, unless we try, there is no chance of getting there.

* Leon Duveen is Chair of Liberal Democrats for Peace in the Middle East, a new group of Lib Dems working to support those trying to a solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict and to providing information about these peacemakers.

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9 Comments

  • Miranda Pinch 1st Mar '24 - 6:54pm

    Leon. In theory you are right of course, but any compromise needs to be from Israel at this stage. Palestinians have been asked to make compromise after compromise and each time they have lost land and resources. There is very little left of what was Palestine, and the number of illegal settlements built on Palestinian land continues to grow. That is entirely one way
    All we hear from the very right-wing government of Israel is that they are not interested in a two-state solution and that the Palestinians are not even human and do not deserve the same rights as Jewish Israelis. Without equality of human rights, autonomy, freedom of movement and the application of international law there cannot be a true peace between two peoples.
    Until Israelis are prepared to share anything, including land and resources, it will indeed be a difficult road. Sadly, the only way to achieve it is to make the cost of keeping the status quo with its on-going ethnic cleansing, greater than making an agreement of some kind with the Palestinians.
    That does not seem likely right now without real and costly external pressure.

  • Leon Duveenb 1st Mar '24 - 7:34pm

    Miranda, my piece isn’t about the institutions of Israel or Palestine, it is about each of us Israelis, Palestinians, supporters or either (& both) learning to accept the validity of the narratives, history, stories, of both sides.
    The Israel Governments have failed the people of Israel, the Palestinian Authority has failed the people of Palestine, we need a new approach and that can (perhaps must) start with individuals on both side reaching out to build the peace their Governments have failed to prioritise.

  • John McHugo 1st Mar '24 - 8:44pm

    Leon, I agree with you and commend you for what you have written.

    One not so small point. You write about accepting “the validity of the history of the other”. That is so, if you mean everyone has their own story to tell about what happened to them (and to their ancestors), and we should all listen and respect what is said.

    But at the same time it is important to stress that there cannot be competing narratives of history, since historical facts – like all facts – are sacred, and not a matter of opinion. Over the last thirty or forty years there has been tremendous progress in historical understanding of Israel and Palestine, but there are those who try to reject or minimise it because it conflicts with their deeply held ideological beliefs. I have just read the historical narrative in Benjamin Netanyahu’s “A Durable Peace: Israel and its place among the Nations”, which is a good example of what I am referring to. We must all be alert to the dangers of history written on the basis of half truths and ‘alternative facts’ with an ulterior purpose.

  • Leon Duveen 1st Mar '24 - 9:29pm

    @John but does every one agree on all the facts? I have seen & read things from both sides that purport to contain “facts” but i think are not true from what I know.
    This is the problem we must face. Except where it is obvious propaganda from either side, I don’t think it is worth arguing over contested facts, we just have to accept that there are disagreements on them and move forward otherwise we end up tying ourselves knots over the past and can’t build a better future.

  • John McHugo 2nd Mar '24 - 10:41am

    @Leon,

    Yes, of course there are some facts which are contested, but there are many which cannot be seriously contested in good faith. Those are the facts to which I was referring, and which should be the building blocks for a shared narrative of history.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Mar '24 - 3:58pm

    Such a fine piece from Leon. As my friend and colleague vice chair of Liberal Democrats For peace In the Middle East , Mohammed Amin states, I too declare interest as the other Vice Chair. I encourage others to join us. It is this approach, exemplified by this article, that is indeed essential for us all. The world and its peoples needs this peace…

  • Peter Hirst 9th Mar '24 - 2:14pm

    How do we join you, is there a website and link? I think the first stage must be a cease fire that gives both communities the chance to recover from a terrible time. The situation in both sides is very different and requires different solutions. For Israelis they need to understand that their only chance for a lasting peace is to show some trust and love for Palestineans and use their influence at the ballot box wisely. For the latter, they will need help to rebuild their country and sort out their democracy, once Hamas is disposed of politically and mililtarily.

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