Article By Asher Shla'in

[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]

Hope For The Palestinians

Through The Disengagement's Rejection

The plan to evacuate territories, leaving them to whoever's control, has suffered a defeat, perhaps temporarily. Is it possible to use the current confusion for introducing a reality of hope for Israelis and Palestinians?

During the internal debate in the Jewish society, the Palestinians' fate never came up as an argument for or against the plan. Israel's minister of defence said that his support of the plan was not "good for the Palestinians" - thus contradicting another opinion that saw the plan as a "victory" to the Palestinians.

Tired of the horrors of war, the Israeli public has developed an indifferent attitude to the welfare of Palestinians as human beings, who actually suffer from the current situation much more than Israelis. This also indicates despair from the chance to live in true peace. If any of those who promoted the disengagement mentioned the hope for peace, I believe it was only a lip service to public opinion, mainly overseas.

Since I have not given up hope for true peace, I present an angle that is not yet accepted by either supporters or opponents of the disengagement. I usually seek to identify the real needs of individuals and communities, as opposed to the interests of those who gain from perpetuating and aggravating the conflict. What we need is to achieve reconciliation between the two populations. This does not mean appeasing enemies with the hope of alleviating their attacks on us.

Implementing the "disengagement" will damage the remaining chance to promote peace between Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians. Postponing the separation seems to keep the door from closing on the hope of reconciliation, although this chance keeps narrowing as the war rages on.

In my article "An Alternative To Disengagement" (published in HopeWays' 'Peace Voices' before the Likud vote) there is an action plan for reconciliation through dialogue. We should now use the rejection of the disengagement to create conditions that would offer some hope for the Palestinians - since in the present reality there is much to fill their hearts with despair.

Israel's authorities are required to correct their past mistakes and plan a new interim rule, under which all parties involved would be able to design a common reasonable vision for the future. This time, Israel would have to look after the Palestinians' human, security and economic needs, and also promote their freedom to speak their mind in public without fear. This will require a thorough preparation of the IDF, both morally and professionally.

We should remember that Palestinian civilians are the first to suffer from the endeavour to carry out hostilities against Israel: The internal terror oppresses and robs them, puts them on the line in clashes with Israel's security forces, deprives them of livelihood and freedom - all this for a political ambition hostile to Israel, that involves corrupt personal gain for the various terror activists.

Therefore, we should show respect and care for the Palestinians' needs, without neglecting the crackdown on the terrorists and the measures of caution and defence. This calls for a fundamental change in the security forces' perception of their role.

All Israeli security forces should take special courses of education and training, aiming to change their modes of operation, as well as reforming the troops' motivation at all levels as many unwise and unjust actions would be corrected. I have already made detailed suggestions about the proper conduct in our checkpoints.

In addition, we are required to actively and efficiently restrain those Jewish civilians who take liberties in hurting their Arab neighbours' person, property or dignity. Such actions must be uprooted at all costs!

At the same time, based on the self-improvement measures, the line of our media policies would be adapted, both for Israelis, Palestinians and the international media.

An honest admission of past mistakes, although unpleasant, cannot cause any real harm. In any case, regretting real injustice seems to me more reasonable than apologising for settling Jewish civilians next to Muslim or Christian people, which could benefit them all as humans.

Asher Shla'in, 27/May/2004

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