FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

We are the Patriots

by URI AVNERY

On June 28, an important event took place in Ramallah. Three hundred personalities, half of them Palestinians, half of them Israelis, took part in the founding conference of the first wholly integrated joint peace organization–the Joint Israeli-Palestinian Action Group for Peace.

This followed the publication, two months ago, of a joint political statement signed by 1500 Palestinian and Israeli personalities.

The occupation forces tried to prevent the Israelis from reaching Ramallah, some of them had to walk two kilometers in the heat to evade the checkpoints.

I was invited to give one of the keynote speeches. I would like–however immodestly–to publish it here in full. UA

Dear Friends,

Today we come together, Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinians and Israelis, to create something completely new: a Joint Action Group for peace.

Not for a hudna (truce), not for some temporary compromise, not just another little step in an endless step-by-step process, but for a real peace, for a just peace, for a peace with dignity, for a peace between equals.

What we are trying to do is completely new. We do not want to set up just another framework for cooperation between enemies, but a completely integrated task force. Not an Israeli movement with a Palestinian tail, nor a Palestinian movement with an Israeli tail. But an organization in which we all, Israelis and Palestinians, shall be full partners, united by a common vision of a free Palestine and a free Israel living together, side by side.

Of all the people I have met in the long fight for peace, the one whom I miss most at this meeting is Issam Sartawi, who was murdered 20 years ago. He would be sitting here. His spirit is with us.

Sartawi was a patriot, an ex-Fedai, who believed that the only way for the Palestinian people to achieve their national aims is to win the hearts of the Israeli people. In the same way, I believe that the only way for Israel to find a secure and prosperous future is to win the hearts of the Palestinian people.

Sartawi believed that the battle for Israeli public opinion is not just one task among many, but that it is the main front in the Palestinian struggle for liberation. In the same way, I believe that the battle for reconciliation and justice together with the Palestinian people is the main task of every real Israeli patriot. And we are the real Israeli patriots.

When we created the slogan “Two States for Two Peoples”, we did not mean separation. We certainly did not mean two ghettos living side by side, each surrounded by high walls and electric fences. On the contrary, we meant close neighborly relations, cooperation, partnership, open borders, free movement of people.

In order to convince our own peoples that this is possible, that this is not simply a dream of naive peaceniks, we must prove in our day-to-day activities that we can work together and speak together with one voice. It is a tragedy that in all these years, especially since Oslo, no joint peace organization has come into being.

Of course, we have often met in action. We have many common memories. We have been beaten up together, we were tear-gassed together, we have demonstrated together many times. But there was never the one thing that was needed: regular, systematic, continuous joint action, day after day, week after week, month after month. We must now correct this historic mistake, which has had grievous consequences for peace.

We are meeting in dark times. Targeted assassinations, suicide bombings, the killing of women and children have become routine events. On both sides, people live in a state of fear, hopelessness and apathy. But we have no reason lose hope. Looking back on the decades of our struggle, we see a steady move towards peace.

There were times when almost all Israelis denied even the existence of the Palestinian people. “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” said Golda Meir. Today, there is hardly an Israeli who denies it.

Many years ago, when we raised the idea of two states living side by side, we were a tiny minority on both sides. Today, the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians accept this idea, and the whole world supports it.

Thirty years ago, when we established the first contacts with the PLO, we were considered traitors. Today it is official Israeli policy.

Seven years ago, in a joint demonstration with Faisal Husseini (Had he lived, he, too, would be sitting here!) at the wall of Jerusalem, we broke the Israeli taboo and declared that Jerusalem will be the capital of two states. Today this idea is generally accepted even by those who hate it.

We are still very far from victory. Many hardships and much suffering still lie ahead. But if we act together, with vigor and determination, our vision will prevail.

We must be the lighthouse, the fixed light that gives the direction and shows the way.

What can we do in practice?

I propose the following actions:

* Set up joint expert committees to prepare within three months the full text of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, including detailed solutions for all the problems–borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, security, water–and present it to the public, showing that such an agreement is possible. If some disagreements remain, we shall say so candidly.

* Set up a joint Committee for Truth and Reconciliation, on the South African model, in order to examine the history of the last 120 years and establish a true picture, acceptable to both peoples.

* Set up immediately a joint Press Office, to address the Israeli, Palestinian and world media.

* Set up a joint operations staff, to plan public campaigns and demonstrations.

These are only a few ideas for discussion today. I am sure that many of you have more. Let’s put them on the table.

The main thing is, let us do it together and carry it through, until the peace which we all desire comes to this beloved country.

Some weeks ago, when we met Yasser Arafat, some journalists asked him when will peace come. He said: Both URI AVNERY and I will see it in our lifetime. Arafat is 74 years old, I shall be 80 in a few weeks. So let’s get moving!

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices of Dissent and Refusal. He can be reached at: avnery@counterpunch.org.

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
Binoy Kampmark
Class, Football, and Blame: the Hillsborough Disaster Inquest
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail