Whenever serious confrontations and disputes emerge in international contexts, there is a frequent tendency among those committed to peace to try to reach some hasty solutions so that at least violence can stop. This is justified when the costs of ongoing violence are very heavy. In the case of international negotiations including those with the mediation of bigger powers, often the perspective of the bigger powers is reflected which may not entirely be in accordance with the concerns of justice. While all such efforts for peace often make important contributions in difficult circumstances at least in terms of checking terrible violence, these by themselves are not adequate and must be followed or accompanied by other more broad-based efforts which seek to find more durable solutions, which not only try to stop violence but also try to remove the causes of violence.
In this context a very creative and useful suggestion can be to try to seek durable solutions to vexing, prolonged disputes on the basis of the principles of justice, equality, peace, protection of environment and biodiversity. As this writer has been arguing persistently, these four principles together constitute the way forward for humanity and should be combined to deal with various situations in such a way that these are consistent with each other and with the most important survival objective, that of protecting life-nurturing conditions of earth. For the sake of easier discussion these four precepts (represented by the alphabets J, E, P and P) and the survival objective (S) can be referred to together as the JEPPS approach. It can be very useful and a very creative effort to examine the issue of resolving very complex and prolonged disputes from the perspective of JEPPS.
One of such complex and prolonged disputes is in the context of Israel-Palestine relations. Hence let us try to see what JEPPS may imply in this context. As survival issues such as rise of temperature, freshwater shortage and projected sea-level rise are much higher in this region compared to the world average, the survival issue is very important in the context of this region and from the point of view of the survival of all people living here ( or in immediate vicinity) regardless of their faith and ethnicity, the most essential task is to protect the basic life-nurturing conditions of the region which is possible only on the basis of cooperation and peace among all people. This is clearly the most important truth for this region.
Yet what has been happening here is that in conditions of increasing hostility and even hatred, people have been moving more and more away from protecting the life-nurturing conditions of the region and their ability to cooperate with each other. The increasing hostility of people is first on the basis of faith, ethnicity and nationality and the more violent and hostile persons and forces try to emerge in leadership roles in both sides. As can be seen today, with the help of wider forces, they have largely succeeded too, although in a very narrow sense as in the process they commit so many illegalities and unethical acts that their own position becomes precarious too. In the second stage, these forces need to turn against those of their own people who stand for peace, ethics and hence for truth. This process can also be seen today as some of the most noble persons in Israel face increasing aggression of the ruling establishment there. On the Palestinian side also the more aggressive forces have been gaining ascendancy in various ways.
In such conditions it is very difficult to find solutions on the basis of JEPPS but it is at the same time very important to try to do so and keep alive the imagination of what is possible.
The principles of justice and equality mean in this context that people of all faiths and ethnicities have more or less equal rights to the land, water, mineral and other natural resources of the region. According to one viewpoint, Israel has been particularly keen to displace the Palestinian people from Northern Gaza recently because in the coastal waters close to North Gaza substantial natural gas deposits have been located. Hence abundance of natural resources can become a reason for evicting and displacing original inhabitants, as has tragically been seen several times in the course of history. In the West Bank region there is a constant tendency of settlers to occupy and colonize more and more land of the Palestinians and in the middle of this overwhelming tendency very important tasks such as soil and water conservation and promoting agro-ecology get neglected.
So, applying the JEPPS approach, the real challenge is to try to ensure equality and justice based use of all natural resources like water, land and minerals in such a way that all people have suitable livelihoods that help to meet the basic needs of all, and all people cooperate to protect this basic natural resource base with such efforts as soil and water conservation, afforestation and agro-ecology, in the process contributing much also to climate change adaptation and mitigation.
This will contribute not just to many-sided protection of humanity but in addition also to protection of all other forms of life who are increasingly becoming innocent victims of militarization, an important collateral damage that is often not even mentioned.
Hence an agenda based on linking equality and justice with protection of environment and biodiversity in conditions of peace and cooperation is the best way forward for this region, and is also the most suitable for protecting the life-nurturing conditions in unprecedented difficult times of a survival crisis.
This calls for constant efforts of people devoted to such an agenda, and in particular for the strengthening of the peace movement for a much bigger, continuing and thoughtful role. Constant efforts to change prevailing value systems in accordance with JEPPS must be made, particularly among the new generation. The United Nations and its various agencies can also contribute much to this, but its aim should be to bring real change and not just to register a mere presence or implement a project or two.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children and A Day in 2071.