Amani is live blogging her trip to Israel on CIJA’s Israel Young Leaders Program. See her all of her posts here.
As I wrote in my last post, I think we will be leaving Israel with more questions than answers. I came to Israel seeking answers to questions I had on the Arab-Israeli conflict, hoping to draw conclusions that would allow me to make inroads into my thinking on how to resolve the conflict. However, like others on this trip, I am leaving more confused than ever. At Tel Aviv University, after eating our Kosher McDonalds (no cheeseburgers here), we met with Professor Asher Susser to discuss the Arab Spring. He made us question our beliefs about the instruments we employ during times of conflict and the culture within the states that surround Israel. Why did we use R2P on Libya, but not in Putin’s Russia? Why are we not consistent with our employment of R2P? The Jordanians and Palestinians are not a different ethnic people, so why do the Palestinians not make Jordan their permanent home?
Khaled Abu Toameh, a Palestinian Affairs Journalist for the Jerusalem Post, was perhaps the speaker from which I gained the most, as he allowed me to look at the conflict from another angle. Toameh lives and works in Israel as there is no free and independent media in the Palestinian world. If a Palestinian wants to express his or her views on the conflict, they need to write in Israel or elsewhere. He has been accused of being pro-Israeli but argues that he is also pro-Palestine (one can be both.) For him, being pro-Palestine means he believes that the Palestinian people should be able to exercise the same democratic rights and freedoms that Israelis enjoy, such as the freedom of speech. If we want peace we need to be pro-both-sides, or no side at all, as taking sides just leads to more dividedness.
Toameh also addressed other important matters, such as how the 1967 lines were never official lines and that there was never an armistice. Today, maps with these lines are in the bedrooms, bathrooms and the kitchens of homes. Negotiating a peace with the PLO is also becoming increasingly difficult as there is no new young blood entering the organization. The average age of their membership is 75. In order to survive and continue to represent the whole, an organization needs to recruit people from the current generation. What will happen if the PLO ceases to exist?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but what I do know is that a hefty reading list awaits upon my return home.