Alternative Palestinian Agenda
Alternative Visions for Peace: New Voices from Palestine
November 22, 2002
Speech Given at the Public Reception Held at the Madison Concourse Hotel
I would like to start by again thanking all the cosponsors of this event: the Peace Council and the St. Benedict Center and my sincerest thanks to the St. Benedict Center for their hospitality in providing us with their wonderful facilities for the workshop. I would like to also thank all of the activists who worked hard to make this workshop possible and put tremendous time and effort into organizing the lecture series at the University. Together you showed our special guests from Palestine that they have friends in Madison. And yes, I say that to our guests, yes, you do have friends in Madison. I would like to welcome you all to a warm, open-minded, and peace loving city.
Some of you have received an invitation to this event from the Peace Council. As I went to the post office to drop these invitations off, the guy from the post office asked me, "Are you from Palestine?" I said, "Yes." Then he paused, and asked surprised, "Tell me, what connects you with the Peace Council?" I was shocked, and thought to myself, and said, "I just told you I'm from Palestine." What was shocking to me is the surprise between the connection between Palestine and peace. I thought to myself, who in the world needs peace more than Palestine?
But the more I thought of it, I recognized that it probably has some deeper meaning than misinformation and biased media in the United States. It has to do with the misuse of the word peace. I as a Palestinian activist come from a culture of activism that grew sensitive to the word peace, even though throughout our activism we never lost sight of our aim for peace for our people in Palestine. Under the title peace, we were presented with endless plans that claimed peace, but actually were attempting to normalize injustice. Many proposals for peace were presented to us that asked us to live with injustice, to accept to be treated less than others in the name of peace. Many of these plans were not searching for peace but were trying to convince us, the Palestinians, that peace is surrender. Peace to them is to accept the superiority of the Israeli army, which means that I would have to live in Bantustans, fragmented communities, peace under their plans meant that a mother cannot visit her daughter, that families must remain dispersed, that a farmer cannot reach his field to harvest, or the market to sell his crops, that the doctor cannot reach the hospital to help his patients, that the student cannot reach his school or university.
It is no surprise that this conflict has escalated as a result of a 'peace process.' This escalation now casts doubt on how this conflict can ever be resolved. But as the conflict escalates between us and the Israelis, the need to resolve it becomes even greater. So we invited Palestinian grassroots leaders and intellectuals to meet and discuss new thoughts and ideas toward resolution. We did a lot of good work this week and generated many good ideas and I am pleased to say that we had a very successful workshop. Not only establish a common understanding of the conflict and a shared set of principles towards its resolution, but it is clear that this workshop is just the beginning of a new and fresh approach to peace and resolution.
I will share with you the guiding principles that we developed:
Acknowledgement that Palestinians
and Israelis are integral components of historic Palestine
Affirmation that Palestinians
decide their own destiny
Respect for individual and
collective rights of Palestinians and Israelis and other communities
Mutual accommodation of Palestinian
and Israeli concerns and aspirations
Recognition of the shortcomings
of the two-state solution and the need for new viable alternatives
Declaration that a viable resolution must address all aspects of the conflict
These principles will guide our engagement with our people, with the Israelis, and with the international community.
In my view, a viable resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must first and foremost consider the historical context of the conflict. The establishment of Israel in Palestine in 1948 resulted in the displacement of the majority of the Palestinian population from their homes, the destruction of 420 Palestinian villages and the displacement of their population, and the evacuation of 11 Palestinian cities and towns in order to accommodate Jewish immigrants from Europe. This history of a nation being robbed remains an enormous load on our shoulders. We carry this burden from generation to generation, from father to son, we carry it in good times, we carry it in bad times. A resolution to the conflict must allow us to come to terms with this history, acknowledge it, so that we can bring ourselves to move beyond it. All of these peace plans that were presented to us decade after decade with lots of famous people behind them, all of them, my friends, paid no regard to this history and burden on our shoulders.
Second, a resolution must be comprehensive and address all the issues related to this conflict and all segments of the societies that are in conflict. Ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is our immediate concern, but that is not the end of the conflict. The concerns of the Palestinians displaced in 1948, the Palestinian refugees, the majority of us, must also be addressed. The Palestinians in Israel, who compose 15% of our population, are suffering continuous acts of discrimination, humiliation, dispossession, land expropriation, and real threats to their own safety must also be an integral component of a resolution.
We recognize that in spite of the injustice that fell upon us with the creation of the state of Israel in our homeland Palestine, today a new Israeli identity has emerged in Palestine and this new ethnicity in Palestine is entitled to live in freedom and dignity, and enjoy their right to self-expression and national identity. And we do not accept to hold Israelis hostage to this history. We recognize this for them, but we accept no less for ourselves. We, too, must live in freedom and dignity, and enjoy our right to self-expression and national identity.
As long as Israel
continues to define its existence based on our exclusion from our homeland,
it is inevitable that this existence will continue to be challenged. The path
to peace starts with a mutual recognition and must be based on accommodation,
not exclusion. On those principles we extend our hands to peace and to all
those who share these principles in order to bring peace to Palestine and