What Should Peace Look Like?

I was sitting outside a polling station on telling duty during the Bristol 2024 local elections when a concerned lady approached me who wore a badge with a Palestinian flag on it. She earnestly asked me what the Liberal Democrats’ position on Palestine was. Since I was the candidate for the concerned ward, I thought about cheekily informing her that if elected, my remit would not extend beyond South Bristol, never mind the lands of the former Mandate of Palestine. Instead, I carefully explained to her how I legally could not influence her vote this close to a polling station, but if she met me further down the road then maybe we could speak more freely.

I felt a bit like that young woman two years ago when I met my fellow friends and colleagues who would form the Executive of Liberal Democrats for Peace in the Middle East (LDFPME). I was still contemplating my long-term future in the group when our Chair Leon Duveen said something that gave me pause for thought. After discussing his previous life as a young Israeli conscript Leon said that he wanted to do what he could for peace “so no more scared teenagers with a weapon in their hand, will be put in the position where they may make a terrible mistake”. He clearly stated his belief that Israel maintaining the Occupied Territories and expanding settlements in the West Bank, in addition to be a crime against Palestinians is corrosive to Israeli Democracy. After hearing this I knew I was in the right place.

What do LDPFME believe? We believe that peace is in the interests of both sides, while acknowledging that the suffering caused by the conflict is far from evenly shared. We passionately believe in taking a non-partisan approach to discussing steps towards achieving a sustainable peace. To paraphrase an allied organisation, we believe in promoting solutions and not taking sides.

What should peace look like? The headlines are frequently filled with speculation about when the next ceasefire will be put in place as the post 7th October 2023 carnage unfolds. However, applying a ceasefire to this conflict is much like applying a bandage to a patient who needs life saving surgery. The would-be surgery is peace.

Calls for discussing a lasting peace is an open challenge to both sides and their supporters. Arguing over ceasefires has let extremists and their supporters off the hook from clearly articulating their vision for the long-term future of all peoples in the former Mandate lands. Putting peace on the agenda and putting those parties on the spot about how it would be achieved puts the onus on being informed and innovative over social media fuelled heated rhetoric. In theory it should also promote informed discussion.

There is no set formula for what peace should look like for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was arguably only an accident of history that made the UN Committee that considered the future of the former Mandate lands, that led them to the decision in favour of partition. The path that wasn’t taken was for a unitary commonwealth with all being equal citizens under one state. Some speculate that some sort of Arab League peace keeping force could help forge the beginning of a Palestinian state.

We welcome all of you to join us in such a discussion about achieving peace in an online discussion on 18th June at 7pm. We will look forward to seeing you there.

* Zachary Barker is a Lib Dem activist in Bristol.

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  • Mary Fulton 13th May '24 - 1:15pm

    I respect the views expressed in this article but can’t help thinking back to the situation in South Africa during apartheid – did we merely ‘argue for peace without taking sides’? I personally refused to buy South African produce as I felt the world had to apply pressure to the white population in South Africa (the ones with voting rights) to force them to negotiate a fair settlement.
    Similarly today, I refuse to buy Israeli produce as I feel the world has to pressure Israeli voters into choosing a different way forward and elect a government that will seek to reach a fair settlement with the Palestinians. If we don’t take a stand, we are complicit.

  • Leon Duveen 13th May '24 - 3:00pm

    Mary, whichever side you support, surely the main question must be how can we help those who live “between the Sea & the River” find a solution that most Israelis & Palestinians can accept.
    To take your SouthcAfrica analogy, no one was outvthere demanding the solution De Klerk & Mandela arrived at. For some it left too much in the hands of the white farmers and left those in townships with too little, for other to took too much from the whites and threatened their way of life.
    While I have my “ideal solution”, I no longer live in the area so can only help those who do find a way forward, a way that will be difficult, dangerous and demand the sacrifice of dearly held hopes from both sides.

  • Mary Fulton 13th May '24 - 3:51pm

    @Leon Duveen
    I largely agree with you, though we shouldn’t forget about the Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon whose situation needs to be addressed as part of the final agreement. My personal view is that a two-state solution could work if Israel withdrew from the illegal settlements it has constructed in the West Bank and the housing could be used for Palestinians returning from refugee camps.sadly, I don’t believe Israel will accept any compromise without international pressure being exerted against it.

  • Nonconformistradical 13th May '24 - 7:51pm

    “While it is Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza who will need to decide what peace looks like, I believe they need significant help from the outside world.”
    Mohammed Amin is right about this. I think it is a great pity that Israel’s allies haven’t continued over the years to nudge Israel towards an agreement. I perceive that after each outbreak of major trouble, when it dies down for whatever reason Israel’s allies breathe a collective sigh of relief and go back to sleep until the next outbreak.

    However, over the years attitudes among neighbouring Arab countries have modified moving from outright opposition to Israel to some sort of accommodation.

    Is this online discussion taking place on facebook? If so forget it!

  • I do find it rather odd that the first piece on this conflict by a non regular that LDV appears published since October 7th is a both sides piece inviting people to a discussion taking place elsewhere. I’d have expected more people would be wanting to talk about it and that our party’s internal debate on it would be more diverse and feature some stronger positions.

    But back to this article specifically, the fact that Israel would be better off with a peace deal a point that needs to be advocated by supporters of peace within Israel, but I am curious what relevance it has to UK policy?
    Israeli politicians will have heard such arguments before so it’s no good for us to simply tell them. The present government has also made it very clear that they really don’t care and won’t listen, they may get voted out in a few years but it would be silly to develop a policy that would only work in the event of a hypothetical future government taking power.

  • Zachary Adam Barker 13th May '24 - 9:45pm

    “Is this online discussion taking place on facebook? If so forget it!”

    We are using Facebook to advertise it via the events function. But the actual discussion will happen via Zoom.

  • Nigel Jones 14th May '24 - 7:48pm

    I agree with Zachary when he says “we passionately believe in taking a non-partisan approach”. When Hamas committed their evil act it was right to show support for israelis in their suffering, but soon after that what their government did should have signalled that we must not take sides in the conflict. We should also agree with the UN Secretary General’s early remarks to put it in historical context, which means acknowledging the trauma of both Jews (holocaust and anti-semitism) and Palestinians (their nakba 1948 and continued Israeli oppression, discrimination and hate).
    Hence Mohammed Amin’s comment here that outside help towards a solution is essential.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th May '24 - 9:49am

    I can and do echo the sentiments of Zachary, Leon, Mohammed, all fellow members of the exec of LDFPME.

    I encourage people to join. The conflict needs far more than excellent articles like here, and lively meetings like we hold. It needs hearts open and minds full, of ideas, for sure, yet with the approach we exemplify. Obviously the conflict has bias towards the so called side preferred. But as both have justice at their core, so too we have peace at ours.

    It is the starting point as well as the ongoing aim.

  • I would recommend that people read the charter of Hamas (which is available online) before making their minds up on this.

    Hamas are a violent, extremist terrorist organisation. They are both deeply misogynistic and anti-semitic. They are totally hostile to the idea of a two-state solution and regard peace negotiations as a “trap” that “legitimises the jewish presence in the Middle East” (which is why they reject them).

    Their extreme sexual violence and mass murder on October 7th was not an accident, rather it was a deliberate strategy – as is holding hostages (some as young as 1) for over 7 months.

    Hence, anyone casting blame solely on the Israelis (as many do) is just misguided on the reality in the Middle East (or actually anti-semitic in some cases). You can’t have peace when only one side in a conflict is willing to consider it and the other side regards the concept as something anathema.

  • Peter Martin 16th May '24 - 10:24am

    @ PaulR,

    You are right about the nature of Hamas but you might want to consider the reasons why such an organisation has acquired the credibility in Gaza that it has.

    A two state solution was nearly, but not quite, agreed in the Oslo accords of 1995. Later, in 2000, the Camp David negotiations failed after what had appeared to be a hardening of the Israeli position . The Israeli PM Yiztak Rabin had previously been assassinated for supposedly conceding too much in Oslo.

    So it’s not just Hamas who have rejected the two state solution.

    You write “You can’t have peace when only one side in a conflict is willing to consider it and the other side regards the concept as something anathema.”

    It’s an even more valid point when neither side is willing to consider it.

    So if an two state, or even a multi state solution, is no longer an option we should turn our attention to what a single state solution might look like.

  • Nonconformistradical 16th May '24 - 10:43am

    @Paul R
    “Hence, anyone casting blame solely on the Israelis (as many do) is just misguided on the reality in the Middle East (or actually anti-semitic in some cases). You can’t have peace when only one side in a conflict is willing to consider it and the other side regards the concept as something anathema.”
    Are you implying that the current Israel government is willing, seriously, to consider a peace deal?

    How far do you think it reasonable for Israel to go in defending itself against hamas terrorism?

  • @ Nonconformistradical
    How reasonable do you think it was for the Zionists to claim the land now known as Israel….
    The Zionists instigated the modern conflict…

  • Nonconformistradical 16th May '24 - 12:07pm

    We are where we are – with a part of the area known as Palestine having been accepted many tens of years ago internationally as Israel.

    Where we are is the Oct 7 actions of hamas. How far do you think Israel should go in defending itself?

  • @ Nonconformistradical
    Yes we are where we are, Oct 7 was just another event in a whole sequence of events going back decades… only fools believe Oct7 was a new turn of events.

    > How far do you think Israel should go in defending itself?
    So the British did the wrong thing in NI, its response to the Troubles should have been to fire rockets into the Falls Road?
    There is no justification for the massive over reaction we see all the time with Israel. Remember “Hamas” (which only one of several groups holding hostages in Gaza) arose in response to Israeli aggression…

  • Mick Taylor 16th May '24 - 2:47pm

    When you have two sides, neither of whom is willing to make peace, then the only way to stop the fighting is to stop arming the combatants. There did seem to be a suggestion that Biden might do that, but he is now going to give Israel another $billion in arms. Iran will of course continue to arm Hamas.
    It is only the backers of Israel and Hamas that can now force them to make peace and that isn’t going to happen. I believe that if the angel Gabriel himself appeared both sides would try and attack him rather than heed any message.
    Generations of educating people in hatred – on both sides – cannot easily be reversed.
    I now don’t believe that there is any prospect of peace and that the dire situation in Gaza will only get worse. Israel will continue its campaign to destroy Hamas and Hamas will continue to try and destroy Israel. God help us all.

  • @Mick – good words, I agree.
    Although I did misread your point as:
    then the only way to stop the fighting is to step among the combatants. Ie. Step in like an adult to a playground fight and separate the children.

    However, in review, I expect both stopping arming the combatants and stepping between them will be necessary…

  • Nonconformistradical 16th May '24 - 3:51pm

    “There is no justification for the massive over reaction we see all the time with Israel.”
    At last. I now know exactly what you think. I agree.

    @Mick Taylor
    “I now don’t believe that there is any prospect of peace and that the dire situation in Gaza will only get worse.”
    Certainly in the forseeable future.

    We are a very long way from a point akin to the apartheid situation – where it seemed to me that eventually leaders from both sides agreed that “we can’t go on any longer like this” and then the process of dismantling apartheid could be started.

  • @Nonconformistradical – Given the nature of Hamas, Israel is perfectly entitled to take on and defeat Hamas – just as the Allies were perfectly entitled to take on and defeat the Nazis during WWII.

    Lest anyone forget the civilian casualties caused by the Allies in the process were much greater in Normandy alone (before and after the D-Day landings) than those we see in Gaza today. Yet I doubt anyone is going to stand at the Cenotaph next November and accuse the fallen of having participated in a supposed “genocide”.

  • As the son of a Normandy veteran (175 Squadron, Hawker Typhoons, RAF) I was very sorry to read Paul R write as he does about French civilian casualties post D.Day. He fails to refer to any source or reference.

    According to the UN, over 36,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been killed since the current conflict started. The official figure for civilian casualties in Normandy post D-Day is less than half that figure – many a result of German activity (they did not just pack up and leave quietly).

    Dad, thankfully, survived, though the experience and stress shortened his life. He lost many close friends, some of whom are now named on the Typhoon Memorial at Noyers -Bocage. I well remember Dad recalling how seeing Belsen in April 1945. It reinforced why he knew what he was fighting for.

  • Peter Hirst 27th May '24 - 1:44pm

    It’s a good question. There would be a cessation of conflict. There would be free movement for Palestineans, especially away from their homeland if that is what they want. There would be free access to Gaza for humanitarian organisations, private firms, especially those involved in reconstruction. An arms embargo could be included if there are sufficient security guarantees.

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