Palestinian peace activists

The Israeli bus ride during morning rush hour reminded me of taxidrivers in Istanbul; if you weren’t awake when you boarded you were soon going to be!
The bus ride to Abu Dis was uneventful (well, we were boarded once by police who singled out a few people for an id check then let us continue). There, we met Sulaiman Al Hamri of Combatants for Peace. His critique of the vast majority of peace organizations operating in this region was dishearteningly familiar. People are ideologically invested in the talk of peace (especially when doing so provides a reliable income) but are unable or unwilling to do the hard work that making peace requires. From Sulaiman, and later from Tamer (Holy Land Trust), it is apparent how acutely aware they are of the Palestinian people being shuffled like pawns among many state powers with particular interests in maintaining the situation as it is: such as the violence by Hamas against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip being a warped “justification” for anti-Arabism and also a warning to moderate Muslims against extremists.
Fatah supporters demonstrated today, and we learned that the University hosting our conference in Abu Dis will be closed (as are all Universities) in accordance with President Abbas’ declaration of three days of mourning.
Today’s discussions were among the most political we’ve had since arriving. I recognize elements of established discourses – patterns of talk that repeat themselves, invoking ritual responses that keep the cycles of mistrust and animosity spinning ’round and ’round. These discourage just as much as the institutional maw mangles the good intentions of liberal peace activists, but within all the talk are still seeds and possibilities: the 1% of the one-in-fifty-five Israeli citizens who refuse to join the army because “I will not kill another human being,” the survivors who joke of suicide bombers in order to manage their own fear, the graffiti artists who decorate the Palestinian side of the wall: Love All People.
Two meals, hours of talk, and three checkpoints later, we returned to a haunt in the Old City. Tomorrow: Dialogue under Occupation II begins.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *