Addressing the violence:
my roadmap to peace
By Eyad El Sarraj
Very few people believe that the "vision" of United States
President George W. Bush will be realized through the declared roadmap.
This is not only because there are many formidable and powerful
enemies of peace in all camps, and not only because both publics
are in a serious state of mistrust and despair. Indeed, the roadmap
has a structural problem because it is missing the primary principles
that should guide it and does not spell out the details of the end
People on both sides are traumatized by terror and violence and
confused and bewildered by the political haggling. Nobody knows
what shape or borders or viability the Palestinian state will have.
No one knows if there will be refugees returning. And no one knows
the fate of Jerusalem.
In order for peace to set sail there should be some guiding principles.
The most important is equality. This is not to say that the conflict
is between two equals. Overwhelming Israeli power and unconditional
United States support has no comparison on the Palestinian side,
other than the tragic balance of terror that has been reached with
Israel through suicide bombing. But neither side should be treated
differently from the other. This principle should be applied in
all issues, although Palestinians may willingly surrender their
right to have a military because they understand that Israelis are
obsessed with the fear that Palestinians will use the arms to take
back the Palestinian villages and towns that are now part of Israel.
It is a matter of principle that Palestinian fighters be granted
recognition and immunity from prosecution in Israel. They believed
they were fighting for their country and people. Both sides' soldiers
should be forgiven and permitted to reenter life as normally as
possible, while allowing room for internal prosecution of ranking
officers who ordered crimes against humanity.
Israel will recognize the Palestinian right to return and Palestinians
will accept the Jews' right of return. If Jews are allowed to return
after 3,000 years, it is only natural that Palestinians have the
right of return after less than six decades. In this respect, no
nation, group or individual can claim the privilege of being "chosen".
I am, like every other human being, as chosen as any--and no better
The other principle that both sides must accept is that violence
will only bring violence, that persecuted Jews have in their own
way persecuted Palestinians who in their own way persecuted themselves
and others. Both communities today suffer an endemic state of violence.
During the relatively quiet seven years of Palestinian Authority
governance, violence within Palestinian society rose by 300 percent
every year. Israel has seen a sharp increase in all forms of violence
and today the Israeli army has one of the highest rates of suicide
in the world.
For this reason, the roadmap should include provisions for internal
as much as cross-border reconciliation. Peace means creating a way
of life, not only scripting a treaty between two politicians. Both
Israeli and Palestinian societies must undergo a process of national
reconciliation. Palestinians will have to experience a process of
grieving for lost land, home and loved ones. This period should
also include a process for granting forgiveness and clemency to
collaborators with Israel, allowing them to reenter life as usual.
Too, Israel will have to undergo a process of acknowledging its
responsibility and apologizing for the hurt caused Palestinians,
while taking responsibility for Palestinian compensation. Israel
must accept world condemnation of its occupation of West Bank and
Gaza as the root of evil. Indeed many Jews have warned against the
serious detrimental and demoralizing effects of oppressing another
nation and subjugating millions of people who simply want their
freedom and rights. Such a brutal and long-standing occupation has
produced an inhumane environment for Palestinians, with horrifying
The most tragic development of the current Intifada is the invention
and use of suicide bombing on a horrific scale. Resulting from the
Palestinians' failure to win over the Israelis, suicide bombing
is the ultimate expression of despair, promising not freedom but
revenge. Naturally such operations of "terror" have added
to the arsenal of Zionist propaganda that states that Israel is
the only and ultimate victim, aiding further in the repression of
It is not surprising that Israel's propaganda machine has managed
to link Palestinian suicide bombing to international terror. Suicide
bombing and the killing of civilians inside Israel is all that is
needed to convince the world that Jews continue to be slaughtered
as victims of racial and religious hatred and of the barbarism of
As part of any peace agreement, Palestinians must accept that murdering
innocent children and women in buses and restaurants in Tel Aviv
and Jerusalem is a crime, one that should be made prosecutable by
law. While suicide bombing is understandably a brutal form of revenge
for the inhumane condition of occupation, this should not justify
terror. It is tragic that suicide bombing of civilians has undermined
Islam's message and the Palestinian demand for freedom.
If peace is a way of life then resistance through peaceful means
should be the Palestinian method of struggle for liberation. A peaceful
resistance would liberate not only Palestine and Palestinians, but
also Israel and Israelis. Peaceful resistance will allow Israelis
the chance to look inward, release their repressed guilt and accept
responsibility. Violence will only force them to look outside for
an enemy. And when Israelis apologize for the crimes committed against
Palestinians, it will help both.
For the Palestinians, this will be their opportunity to feel dignified
by responding with the honorable, "Yes, we accept your apology
and we accept you." On the other hand, apology will help Israelis
to feel whole, rehabilitating their injured selves from their grief
and loss and repressed guilt.
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