1. Who needs it?
A couple of weeks ago i attended a lecture Hanan Ashrawi gave here at Cornell (you can watch the video here). The title of the talk was: “Peace in the Middle East: Who Needs It?” and I went there with hopes to hear some new ideas and fresh perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian situation (after all, she is the only woman in the Palestinian legislation body, she must be unique). And indeed, she started the talk with a rather optimistic and yet pragmatic note, stating that all the parties in the region need the peace and that peace is reachable. However, a few moments later she went into a rather standard (dare i say narrow and one-sided) spiel about Israel being evil, Palestine being miserable, and the international community being impotent. From what promised to be an intellectual conversation, the meeting turned out to be into a scene of diplomatic propaganda. Even when faced with questions, Ashrawi didn’t take the opportunity to engage in a meaningful conversation, but instead sticked to the familiar, cliched answers.
That whole experience left me disappointed. Maybe i should not expect to hear from politicians anything meaningful, but their one-liners. In that case there is little (if any) hope left for shifting the situation in the ME one way or another.
2. Do not let questions confuse you!
Actually this stroke me when i was watching the Ahmadinejad’s talk in Columbia. It reminded me too much about that previous talk i described above. Every time Ahmadinejad was asked a question he didn’t find convenient to answer, he would go back to the few messages he decided to stick to in his talk. Sometimes it was rather funny when the question and the answer were completely unrelated.
Ashrawi was a bit more sophisticated; probably also thanks to her good English. But at the end of the day, she sticked to the same strategy and for a single moment did not allow the questions to distract her from the message she came to deliver.
3. October 18
This one was supposed to be more optimistic, but, sorry, it didn’t work out.
There is an initiative, called “One Million Voices” that seems innovative and different in the way it approaches the situation. On October 18th they are organizing a demonstration that was supposed to take place simultaneously in Tel-Aviv, Jericho, and a number of cities worldwide. In my eyes, the uniqueness of this initiative is in its focus on the solution, on the final goal, and on peace, as opposed on the endless debates about who was here first or who is more miserable or more righteous. I think this is a very important difference that makes it to stand out compared to other peace (or so-called peace) initiatives.
The thought of seeing a first Palestinian demonstration that is not merely against Israel, but is actually for peace, was very inspiring for me. However checking the website of the initiative today i learned that the Jericho part is canceled due to “security considerations”. It is not clear what those considerations are, though people on the website hurried to blame Israel for doing that (which doesn’t really make sense to me, but ok). Now it will be interesting to see if that will turn out to be yet another anti-Israeli demonstration or it will still remain a demonstration for peace. I was actually looking forward to this event.
4. The absurd of boycotting
I wrote about my thoughts on using boycott as tool for promoting peace before. Reading the comments on “One Million Voices” website, i witnessed another example for the absurdness of this approach. Some people commenting on the website called for boycotting the event because it “falls under the category of normalization”. It is accused in assuming “equal responsibility of ‘both sides’ for the ‘conflict'” and in being “sponsored by Israeli institutions (mostly from the private sector) and endorsed by mainstream Israeli political figures”.
I’s probably my ignorance, but i always thought that bringing people together and making them to step over issues of pride and prejudice is actually a step towards peace. Boycotters on the other hand view cultural and political violence as the only way to solution. Well, one thing this whole development does not add is hope for any change in the ME.