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Trees in a Hurricane

By Uri Avnery, 28.10.2000


When a hurricane strikes a forest, every tree is tested. The rotten ones are uprooted and swept away by the wind, sometimes far away. The strong ones, those with deep roots in the earth, remain standing.

The Israeli peace forces are being tested now. The winds of war are blowing. Some peace camp celebrities (alias "Leftists") were uprooted and blown all the way to the right. Others doubled up, stuttered or fell silent. But an impressive number of people stood straight and were counted.

The Israeli media, all of them mobilized for the war propaganda effort (except for a few remarkable individuals), are having a ball. It's fashionable now to talk about the "disintegration of the left". Those poor fellows who are beating their breasts in the style of Bolshevik "self-criticism" are enjoying the limelight. They weep pitifully: The left was wrong; There is no partner; Arafat is a villain; We must rethink everything from the beginning.

Why, for God's sake?

We have said all along that there will be no peace as long as the Palestinians are not allowed to realize their just demands: to set up a state of their own with the Green Line as the border between Israel and Palestine, with Jerusalem as the capital of the two states and the settlers going home. We have said that the building and enlargement of settlements, confiscation of land, demolishing homes and building "bypass roads" all over the West Bank are creating terrible anger. We have said that if the Palestinians despair of the "peace process", there will be an explosion. Anyone who took the trouble over the last few months to read my articles on these pages knows that I warned again and again that a new - and this time armed - Intifada was going to break out.

All this is happening now before our eyes. But they say that this shows the right-wing was right. How's that? Well, when the guns are firing, logic is the first casualty. Even among some of the "leftists".

As a matter of fact, there never never was one, unified peace camp in Israel. Many groups, with quite different backgrounds, opinions and even temperaments, are active in the field.

One division is between the sentimental and the political wings. To the former belong people who look mostly inside. What's really important to them is their moral stance. Somebody once joked that after every peace demonstration some of them look into the mirror and exclaim: "My, how beautiful we are!" People mock them as "Yeffei Nefesh" ("Those who have a beautiful soul") and coined the phrase "They shoot and weep".

For these, the Palestinians serve more as an object for the application of the moral ministrations than as an equal partner with his own personality. Therefore it took them so long to recognize the PLO, accept the idea of the Palestinian state, agree to East Jerusalem becoming the capital of Palestine. Such people are liable to fall down in every serious crisis, such as the Lebanon war (‘Silence! Shooting is going on!") the Gulf war (Yossi Sarid: "From now on, let the Palestinians search for me!") and the present Palestinian war of liberation ("There is no partner!")

The other wing of the peace camp, the political one, to which I belong, understands that if one wants to make peace with the Palestinian nation, one has to understand its aspirations, feelings, fears and hopes (as they must understand ours). Only such understanding can create the basis for co-existence in this country and this region. That's why we started our contacts with the PLO leadership in 1974, that's why some of us have spent untold hours in conversation with Palestinians from all walks of life. That's how we were able, ten to twenty years before all the others, to recognize the Palestinian people, the PLO, the State of Palestine and its sovereignty over East Jerusalem and the Haram-ash- Sharif. It's not a matter of love but of historic reconciliation, without which peace cannot come.

Another difference between the peace forces concerns their domestic political orientation. The adherents of the first camp have a deep - even hereditary - attachment to the Labor party. They can mount the barricades against Sharon and Netanyahu, but find it extremely difficult to raise their voice when Labor is in power. Labor, after all, is the "Lesser Evil". We "Don't have Another One". That's why they break down when it's a Labor party leader waging war against the Palestinian people.

The other camp has no such problem. We protested when Rabin (and his chief-of-Staff, Ehud Barak) deported the Islamic activists in 1992, and we supported Rabin when he signed the Oslo accord a year later. We voted for Barak, but we fight against him when he becomes the grave-digger of peace.

The Peace Camp will emerge strengthened from the present test. The strong will remain strong, the bent will straighten up again. For those who were uprooted, we shall not shed a tear.


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