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Speaking out for Palestine and Peace

Ami Isseroff

August 22, 2003

As expected, the roadmap for Israeli-Palestinian peace appears to have hit a dead-end, blocked by a massive suicide bombing in Jerusalem that left about 20 dead. Common sense dictates that anyone who wants peace between the Palestinians and Israelis must speak out loud and clear against suicide bombings and other terror attacks, but no peace groups have spoken out. "Non-violence" apparently does not include opposition to suicide bombings.

One might think that anyone who supports the rights of the Palestinians must fight for implementation of the road map, a plan for achieving a Palestinian state with international recognition and US backing. Anyone who wants a Palestinian state must speak out in favor of the central authority of that state, and its right to make agreements and enforce them. The Palestinian Authority declared an end to violence and suicide attacks. The suicide attacks defy the Palestinian government. However, common sense and Middle East politics don't mix, so the suicide bombings continue and PNA Prime Minister Abu-Mazen cannot act against them, because Yasser Arafat and others stand in his way. The Palestinian state-in-the-making is being destroyed before it is born, in the name of Palestinian "patriotism."

It is quite true that despite some concessions, Israeli assassinations and other moves were provocations that could be used as excuses for the suicide attacks. However, anyone who thinks that the attack in Jerusalem that killed 20 people was retaliation for Israeli actions is using the logic of a child. The aim of the extremists who perpetrated the attack is to derail the roadmap, to discredit the moderate government of PM Mahmud Abbas and to rally support to their groups. The assassinations carried out by the Israeli government may have had much the same aim, though at least they were not aimed at innocent people.

The extremists are succeeding. Led by extremists, and to the delight of the Israeli settler lobby, Palestinians are committing collective political suicide. The suicide bombings kill 20 or 100 or 200 Israelis. We are very sorry for the innocent lives lost. However, the bombings exact a much greater toll from the Palestinians. They are furnishing Ariel Sharon and the Israeli right with the proof that the Palestinians are not capable of forming a stable society that can support a state. The suicide bombings are killing the future of all Palestinians. Yet hardly any Palestinian advocates protest! Pro-Palestinian groups continue to cite Israeli misdeeds as if these "justify" the suicide bombings. What they are saying is "We are allowed to destroy our own central government in order to hurt Israel." But they are not really hurting Israel, they are only hurting Palestinian society and the Palestinian future.

In 1948, the new state of Israel faced a similar challenge. Previously, extremist right-wing dissidents had damaged the legitimacy of the Zionist cause and embarrassed the Zionist executive repeatedly. Notably, they  assassinated Lord Moyne in 1944, perpetrating the Deir Yassin massacre in April of 1948. Now, they wanted to maintain a private army, the Irgun, and imported a shipload of arms to support it. To assert central authority, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion ordered the ship, the Altalena, to be sunk in June of 1948. However, dissident groups were not broken up entirely. Israel paid a heavy price for this when Lehi extremists assassinated the UN mediator  Count Folke Bernadotte, provoking a bitter reaction. The assassination led to the final dissolution of all militias. Many have faulted Ben-Gurion for suppressing the underground armies of the left and right, including the Palmach that had been the elite force of the Zionist executive, but the current anarchy in the Palestinian Authority shows how right he was. Palestinians have searched in vain for the secret weapons of the Zionists that made possible the victory of 1948 and ensured the failure of the Palestinians. The secret weapon was not support of foreign powers or vast financial resources provided by a secret international Jewish conspiracy. The formation of a strong central authority,  the implementation of national unity and leadership that was able to carry out painful and distasteful compromises were the secret weapons of the Zionists. Without an organized government, there would have been no international support at all, and financial resources and arms would have been squandered in pointless violence.

The sinking of the Altalena and the banning of the Lehi did not lead to "civil war" and did not cause the breakup of Israeli society. Quite the contrary, they were regrettable but essential steps in evolving society to statehood. Can anyone imagine that the USA and the USSR would have supported a Jewish state if Ben Gurion and Haim Weizmann had represented nobody but themselves, and if there was no hope that the Jewish community could form a stable government? In the USA, a similar conflict did lead to a bloody and necessary civil war. Can anyone imagine that the United States would hold together and become a great power if the Confederate States of America had been allowed to defy central authority?

Israelis who oppose the peace process say, "There is nobody to negotiate with; there is no peace partner." Palestinians who insist on undermining the authority of the central government, and those who say that the PNA cannot be held responsible for terrorist acts because "they cannot control the extremists" are in effect, endorsing the claims of right-wing Israelis. If Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his government cannot control the extremists, they cannot form a state, and they cannot be negotiating partners.

The roadmap involves undertakings by both sides. The Israelis are obliged to begin dismantling illegal outposts, withdraw from Palestinian territory  and lessen restrictions on Palestinian movement. The Palestinians have an obligation to dismantle terror groups. Unwisely, the Palestinian government chose to lessen terror by an agreement with the terrorist groups instead of by dismantling them. This agreement, the Hudna, was not an agreement with Israel, and Israel cannot be faulted for not honoring it. It was unwise, because the terrorist groups, in addition to their declared goal of destroying Israel, have the immediate political goal of undermining the Palestinian Authority. Of course, they seized the first opportunity to sabotage the roadmap and the Palestinian authority. No peace will be possible, and no Palestinian state will be possible as long as these groups continue to exist.

The roadmap, which may be the last hope of the peace process and of the Palestinians, is in the gravest peril, yet for unknown reasons all the peace groups - Israeli, international, and Palestinian, are silent. How could it be? Does some moral stricture prevent advocates of non-violence from speaking out against murder?

The Palestinian state-in-the-making, the demonstration that Palestinians are ready, able and eager to undertake self-determination, is challenged by forces of anarchy, yet Palestinian patriots are silent. What misguided patriotism supports anarchy? It is a wonder that real Palestinian patriots do not seek out the extremists who plan these attacks and hang them as collaborators. Only a small group, led by Sari Nusseibeh, has spoken out against suicide bombings. What is this tiny effort compared to the tens of thousands of fanatics in Gaza howling for revenge. Revenge against whom? Revenge that in the end is revenge against themselves, against their own government, against their own best interests.

At the funeral of Hamas leader Abu Shanab, killed by Israelis for planning and executing suicide attacks, there were tens of thousands of extremists shooting guns in the air and screaming defiance and revenge. Could a demonstration in support of the Palestinian government bring out a crowd of a thousand? If not, then what hope is there for Palestine, and what hope is there for peace? A Hamas leader in Gaza said at the funeral protest this week that Israelis must choose between government under the rule of Islam and government under Sharon. Everyone can understand from this statement that there can be no peace as long as Hamas exists. No Israeli Jews will live in an Islamic state.

Palestinians and their supporters, who should be calling for support for the central government are instead busy finding excuses for the violations and justifying the extremists. The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) as well as other Palestinian groups ignore the bombings and concentrate on Israeli violations of an imaginary Hudna agreement, and the PNA media outlets take much the same stand. Abu Mazen and a few supporters are left alone in the field to rally support for their government as it tries to implement its commitments.

Outsiders cannot stop the suicide bombings, and outsiders cannot save the Palestinian state and the Palestinian future. That is up to the Palestinians. Only they can save themselves from anarchy, government by gangs and madness. However, groups that are supposedly committed to non-violence, including Jewish and Israeli peace groups, cannot be silent about suicide bombings. They were silent about the violence of September 2000 or excused it in various ways, and this error has all but destroyed the Israeli peace movement. 

Even the most impractical peace activist has to understand that as long as the suicide bombings continue, any other issue we raise about the occupation is a nonstarter, and will backfire against the peace movement. What is the point of demonstrating against the security fence? Every suicide bombing recruits tens of thousands of Israelis in support of the security fence that is supposed to stop such bombings. What politician can risk being against the fence when week after week suicide bombings occur in the very places that will be protected by that fence? What is the point of demonstrating to end the occupation? We cannot really ask Israelis to give up territory in return for peace, if there is no government on the other side that can take the responsibility for keeping the peace. We cannot go all out to support a Palestinian state, if the Palestinians themselves disown the authority of their government. We cannot insist that Palestinians will accept a two state solution, when the Hamas continues to advertise that all "Palestine" must be under Islamic rule. From a moral standpoint, it is incomprehensible that groups that are nominally committed to non-violence justify the suicide bombings or are silent about them.

The Palestinian extremists are wrecking the peace process. Perhaps we cannot stop them, but we must register our protest. We must try. Palestinians will certainly not listen to Ariel Sharon or Avigdor Lieberman asking them to stop suicide bombings. Could they also ignore Uri Avnery and other Israeli peace advocates if they protested against terror? Could they completely ignore Peace Now? Too bad that these groups are silent or voice the usual weak protests drowned in rhetoric about the "cycle of violence." The occupation may be killing us all, but the suicide bombings are killing the future of Palestine. Don't stand by while the Palestinian people commits suicide. Don't let the extremists bomb-out the peace process. The time to speak up is now.

Ami Isseroff,

More about Suicide Bombings

Several years ago, Palestinian official Sari Nusseiba initiated the following petition signed by Palestinian leaders:

Urgent Appeal to Stop Suicide Bombings
By Dr. Sari Nuseiba
We the undersigned feel that it is our national responsibility to issue this appeal in light of the dangerous situation engulfing the Palestinian people.

We call upon the parties behind military operations targeting civilians in Israel to reconsider their policies and stop driving our young men to carry out these operations. Suicide bombings deepen the hatred and widen the gap between the Palestinian and Israeli people. Also, they destroy the possibilities of peaceful co-existence between them in two neighboring states.

We see that these bombings do not contribute towards achieving our national project that calls for freedom and independence. On the contrary, they strengthen the enemies of peace on the Israeli side and give Israel aggressive government under Sharon the excuse to continue its harsh war  against our people. This war targets our children, elderly, villages, cities, and our national hopes and achievements.\

Military actions are not assessed as positive or negative exclusively, out of the general context and situation. The assessment is based on whether they fulfill political ends. Therefore, there is a need to re-evaluate these acts considering that pushing the area towards an existential war between the two people living on the holy land will lead to destruction for the whole  region.  We do not find any logical, humane, or political justification for this end result.

Signatories: Below are some of the Palestinian intellectuals and public figures who have signed the petition:

Dr. Sari Nuseiba       Dr. Hanan Ashrawi     Saleh Rafat
Salah Zuheika          Mamdouh Nofal         Hanna Sineora
Dr. Mohammad Ishtiya   Ibrahim Kandalaft     Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj
Dr. Moussa El-Budeiri  

IFLAC - an international peace group, has also called for an end to suicide bombings at


It is reproduced below:


From the Office of World IFLAC


Dear Friends and Colleagues,


You are invited to join the “Iflac Pave Peace Campaign” against the glorification of Suicide Bombings. Please Publish and Post the following APPEAL to your Governments, Institutions and the Media, as well as to your own lists, as widely as possible.



The National Palestinian Poet, Mahmoud Darwish, writes in one of his well -known poems: “The Suicide Bomber (the Shahid), teaches me: there is no beauty except freedom."  This irresponsible attitude by a poet who has a great influence on his Palestinian brothers and sisters, leads to the glorifying and adulation of the "shahid" as a hero, instead of condemning him as an enemy of humanity and of his own people. Suicide bombings, like the atrocious one in Jerusalem on August 19,2003, will not lead to the creation of a Palestinian State so yearned for by the Palestinian people, but only to the continuation of the abominable cycle of destruction and tragedy, and to the closing of the opportunity for ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, presented by the new peace talks based on the "Road Map." Suicide Bombings are a serious drawback to the creation of the Palestinian State.

 Israeli writer Amos Oz asks the question: "How can it be that these conglomerates of fanatic Arabs and extremist Jews manage to block the road for peace and to push us all again and again into the infernal cycle of violence and vengeance?" This condemning question should be the attitude of all responsible writers and leaders around the world. Today, Israelis and Palestinians should urgently join hands together to save the newly-born "Road Map" baby before it suffocates. 

The suicide bombing on the same day (August 19,2003), of the UN Embassy in Baghdad, killing 24 people who had come to help Iraq get back on its feet, shows that suicide bombing is not a philosophical question, it is a continuous and atrocious reality targeting all “infidels,” which has to be dealt with in the most urgent and powerful way.  The fanatic suicide bomber of the "Hamas," and the "Jihad El Islami" blew himself up in a two floor bus in Jerusalem and murdered in cold blood 19 people, many of them babies and children, and severely wounded more than 120 people.  The horrifying carnage in the bloodied Jerusalem Street was another tragic slap on the face of humanity.

IFLAC: The International Forum for the Literature and Culture of Peace, condemns this horrible carnage of innocent people, under the diabolic banner of pseudo "heroism", and calls on the UN and all the governments and conscientious people in the world to cry aloud "No!" to these demented suicide bombers, and to condemn them as enemies of humanity. We have to divulge their real identity, not as "sacrificial heroes" as they are hailed by fanatic extremists, but as the tools of diabolic forces that are against life and peace.  The indoctrinating of little Palestinian children in summer camps, to yearn to become suicide bombers, should be outlawed.


This morning on Television, the wife of the suicide bomber glorifying her husband's murderous action, cried out: "I hope Allah will accept him as a Shahid!" This is surely not Allah's bidding, it is the devil's bidding and should be forcefully and powerfully condemned by all.  All these fanatic extremists should be made to realise that such horrifying acts do not lead to heaven, but on the contrary lead straight to everlasting Hell.


Every human being should condemn this horrible act and the insane cruelty of inciting young people to end their lives by committing suicide, just so that they can blow up as many fellow human beings as possible! Mr. Abu Mazen, Head of the Palestinian Government, has strongly condemned this atrocious suicide bombing. His brave words brought hope that the Peace Process between Palestinians and Israelis will continue in spite of all. He forcefully condemned the terrorist suicide bombing in Jerusalem, and announced that his government is cutting its ties with the terrorist organizations: "The Jihad El Islami" and the "Hamas".   If indeed, Mr. Abu Mazen, will have the strength to disarm these dangerous terrorist groups, that are probably linked with "El Quaeda," it will give more chances to the fragile "Road Map" to be strengthened and to lead to a flourishing Palestinian State by the side of Israel, and with fruitful and satisfying relations between the two neighbors.  


A general and powerful Campaign against the glorifying of Suicide Bombings, initiated and coordinated by the UN in conjunction with all the governments in the world, institutions, organizations and NGO's, can still save the Road Map and the Road to Peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and lead to a fruitful and harmonious resolution of the Palestinian Israeli Conflict. 


 Prof. Ada Aharoni
 President IFLAC: International Forum for Culture and Conflict Resolution.
 P.O.B: 9934
Haifa, Israel 34341 

 Homepage:  http://ada.up.co.il
 Books: http://books-ada.up.co.il 
  IFLAC: http://iflac.up.co.il

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