, Executive Director, Palestinian Peace Coalition/Geneva Initiative.
, Director of Policy and International Efforts,Heskem/ Geneva Initiative
Former Palestinian Minister of Culture and Information Yasser Abed Rabbo and Ziad AbuZayyad, who were both supposed to appear at the event, were both denied permits to enter Jerusalem, and were thus not allowed to participate.
“People-to-people activities cannot substitute for hard political work and saying to the Israeli government that there will be consequences for their actions.”
Daniel LevyGershon Baskin:
The issue we are dealing with is titled: “People-to-People: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It?” but we should also remember the good things that People-to-People activities did. Many people have gone through the process — thousands of people from both societies from the times before Oslo and afterwards; however, few people know about it. The governments did not give enough support to this process.
There are many obstacles that we have to address in this area. This obstacle of people not being able to reach this event is typical. Sharon and Abu Mazen decided to activate people-to-people activities, but on the Israeli side Silvan Shalom never did anything practical to get them back on track. We cannot expect best results if Palestinians on all levels, in addition to some Israeli non-governmental organizations, are trying to make it succeed, while the Israeli government places many obstacles.
From right: Elias Zananiri, Executive Director, Palestinian Peace Coalition/Geneva Initiative; Hillel Schenker, PIJ Co-Editor; Gershon Baskin, Co-Director, the Israel-Palestine Centre for Research and Information (IPCRI) and PIJ Editorial Board Member;and Daniel Levy, Director of Policy and International Efforts, Heskem/Geneva Initiative.
One cannot be critical of the people-to-people activities, as some of the heroes of the peace process have been involved. In our situation the people-to-people effort carries a great deal of baggage, especially on the Palestinian side, since it attempts to normalize [relations] within an abnormal situation. Here, one side has to apply for a permit to engage, and [only] if the Israeli side has the “courtesy” to grant a permit. So we should realize that there is a real issue of rejection of normalization on the Palestinian side. I am not against doctors meeting doctors, etc., but we have to recognize that there is something tricky about the non-political side of it — it is open to the accusation of normalizing the occupation.
As long as we are in a two-state paradigm we're not in a place which says: Terrible things happened here, and we need to heal from what happened so that we can go back to living together.
So we should recognize that this is a luxury; perhaps we are asking for too much. People-to-people activities cannot substitute for hard political work and saying to the Israeli government that there will be consequences for their actions. Until the daily reality that Israelis and Palestinians live in changes, we cannot really have people-to-people activities.
Shouldn’t we start winning [over] Hamas members into the dialogue? P2P funding is dwindling and we should convince donors that it is an essential part of the negotiating process. We should consider steps towards revealing the truth in order to be able to reach reconciliation.
The PIJ's joint Palestinien-Israeli event attracted a large and diverse audience, including Michel Sabah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; Khulud Khayyat Dajani, Associate Dean of School of Public Health, Al-Quds University; and author Beverley Milton.
The question is whether Hamas wants to come on board and join negotiations. Abu Mazen actually fought to get them into the elections and to join the democratic process. Hamas won the elections but didn’t really win public opinion. The Hamas government is totally incapable of doing anything. Before asking if they will have joint activities with the Israelis, we should see if they agree to joint activities with Fateh. They are incapable of operating on the ground, as they still act as if they are in the opposition. Hamas [members] want to impose their own will on everybody else, so it is very difficult to work with them.
Hamas, it is agreed, are not visitors in Palestinian society and it could very well be that they will be here for a long time. But political P2P work could be a very potent antidote against unilateralism. Any peace camp worth its name should not give in to unilateralism; the only alternative is to continue towards negotiation. We should help keep the door open and not close the door definitively by implementing convergence.