OpinionIsrael at War

On losing faith in peace

If creating a Palestinian state means watching the West Bank devolve into another Gaza, is that really a pro-peace policy?

Members of the "Standing Together" movement protest outside the Israeli parliament on May 14, 2020. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Members of the "Standing Together" movement protest outside the Israeli parliament on May 14, 2020. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Matthew Schultz
Matthew Schultz

Standing on a Tel Aviv street corner at six in the morning in the pouring rain, I had never felt less hopeful about the future. That’s the thing about cold, dark, wet mornings. They make a pessimist out of you, which made the day’s plan—attending a pro-peace conference in Haifa—feel all the more onerous and absurd. 

It had been my partner’s idea to go. For the past few months, he has been eagerly following the social media accounts of “Standing Together,” a Jewish-Arab grassroots peace movement that has been growing in popularity since the war started. 

I decided to join him for one simple reason: I want the war to end. I want our hostages returned to their homes. I want our soldiers returned to their families. I want the nightmare of death and displacement faced by innocent Palestinians in Gaza to be over. I want the residents of Israel’s southern and northern towns to be able to return to their homes without fear of rocket attacks, anti-tank missiles, or invasions. I want mothers—both Palestinian and Jewish—to know that their children are safe. 

And so, knowing that Standing Together stands for all these goals, I registered for the event. To my surprise, when I did so, I discovered that I was already a member. Moreover, I have been donating 18 shekels ($5) to the organization each month for the past few years without realizing it. I tried to remember when I signed up, but it evaded me.

By the time we arrived in Haifa, the sun was out, which gave us a burst of energy. The conference center was lively and crowded. We saw soldiers in uniform, women wearing hijabs, religious and secular Jews—all mingling together for the common cause of peace and a better future. 

But while the crowd was high on energy, the speakers were low on substance. They talked about ending the war, but had as little to say about the day after as Netanyahu. What mattered to them was that the fighting stopped, but no one had anything to say about the inevitable implications of an immediate ceasefire. Would Hamas return to power? Would they start planning the next Oct. 7? Would the people of the Gaza envelope be able to return to their homes? Would we just end up in another war in two years? 

Nothing. Just vague calls for “a new way forward.”

Former Joint List MK Dov Khenin spoke enthusiastically about the need for an “all for all” deal, which would mean setting free every single Palestinian prisoner—including many of the terrorists who committed the Oct. 7 atrocities—in exchange for the return of Israeli hostages.

Now, this may indeed be a worthwhile price to pay in order to rescue the hostages, but it’s nevertheless a devastating price that involves letting depraved murderers escape justice. Let us not forget that the architect of Oct. 7, Yahya Sinwar, was released from an Israeli prison in a deal to secure the release of Gilad Shalit. A word of acknowledgement about this heavy cost would have been welcome, but Khenin championed the “all for all” deal as though it were a shiny prize to be won, rather than a grim reality to be accepted. 

Most shocking of all was the invocation of the case brought against Israel by South Africa at the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Rather than denouncing this act of lawfare, the speakers lamented that The Hague didn’t grant South Africa’s request for a ceasefire.

“The Hague won’t save us,” said one speaker. “We must save ourselves.” 

I left feeling uninspired.

I don’t remember when I signed up to become a monthly donor to Standing Together, but I can imagine why I did it. I did it because I believe in peace and equality and because I’m desperate for Israel to have a future that isn’t defined by war and strife and controversy. Most of all, I did it because I believed such a future was possible.

Apparently I’ve stopped believing. 

Part of it has to do with what I’ve seen Hamas do. 

Part of it, however, has to do with what I’ve heard the peace camp say…or not say. 

If ending the war immediately means leaving Hamas in power, is that really a pro-peace policy? 

If creating a Palestinian state means watching the West Bank devolve into another Gaza, is that really a pro-peace policy?

Perhaps, but no one at Standing Together articulated anything like a real vision for how to create the future they’re calling for. And so, even though the sun had come out, I returned to Tel Aviv as pessimistic as I had been in the morning. 

Nevertheless, I decided not to cancel my monthly donation. Though I’ve lost hope right now, I’m thankful that there are those out there who haven’t.

Originally published by The Jewish Journal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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