After a trip to the region, European Parliament Member Daniel Cohn-Bendit is convinced that Israelis and Palestinians can “be realistic and create the impossible”: two independent states.
A recent trip to Israel and its occupied territories has given me more reasons for hope than despair. The unbearable processions of dead and wounded from the Middle East has been relentless for more than 50 years now. From a foreign perspective, from France or Germany for instance, the idea of a peaceful and long-lasting outcome has seemed less and less feasible as the days go by.
On Sunday, while the world's media were focused on the front of a New York police station, I was terror-stricken again when I learned of the wave of victims following the Nakba Day commemorations. The Palestinian people call it "the day of the catastrophe" because it commemorates the creation of Israel in 1948. Israeli people die, Palestinian people die, and then we are back to square one again, as if any tiny hope to see two free democratic states coexisting had vanished.
Still, I will not give up hope, even if in this particular case, I'm letting my reasoning be influenced by emotion. I have just come back from quite a long trip to Israel and some of its occupied territories. Even if the situation is still very complex and deeply enmeshed with other issues, the people I met there gave me more reasons for hope than for despondency.
As the Israeli government falls back on certitudes that leave less and less room for the other side, we are seeing such fierce resistance to this self-styled "established" order that I have the feeling people are not resigned to war and confrontation.
Among many encounters, meetings with Yehuda from Hebron and Nomika from Sderot were undoubtedly some of the most intense in a long time. Yehuda is a former Israeli soldier who was involved in the West Bank occupation. One day, he could no longer tolerate the methods used by his army. So he joined the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence, which denounces the colonial behaviors that can jeopardize democracy.
A soldier in the past, he will go on being a soldier, but to defend the existence of Israel, not of settlements. When we were in Hebron, he reminded me that Jews and Arabs had been living in peace in that city before the 1929 Hebron Massacre, in which 67 Jews were killed. Today, a few settlers are forcibly setting aside part of the city where more than 140,000 Palestinian people live. He thinks Israel will not be able to continue imposing such injustice for much longer.
Nomika is a woman who lived in terror of being hit by rockets launched from the Gaza Strip. When a rocket is launched, you have no more than 20 seconds to take shelter or rescue the children playing in the streets. Her friends who were killed or wounded did not have those 20 seconds.
In retaliation, the Israeli army continued bombarding Gaza City. Nomika could not stand the situation any longer. She got in touch with the Palestinian people living in the Gaza Strip. She wrote a tex message, saying "Not in my name and not for me you went to war". Nomika believes that reconciliation is not simply a wish, it is a necessity. Is there any other solution than to create two independent states?
A few months ago, nobody thought that the Arab Revolts would happen, so today I am tempted to say to my Israeli and Palestinian friends: be realistic, create the impossible!
Photo - Laika