Peace Movements Must Carefully Choose Those Demands That Have the Most Potential of Bringing Peace

Palestine Peace

Sometime back I went to an event organized for peace in Gaza. Reaching a little before the speeches started it was encouraging to find several friends here who were so keen about peace in Gaza.

However as the meeting progressed I had some sense of unease. While there was much that was said here that was supportive of the basic objective of peace as early as possible as well as a justice-based two state solution, there was also a tendency to shout slogans which could be interpreted to mean that Israel has no right to exist, at least not on the land where it is located now, as all land here rightly belongs to Palestinians. When I mentioned this to an acquaintance who was also at the meeting he stated—what was the situation before 1948? Hasn’t all this land been stolen and snatched from the Palestinians?

He spoke with a strong sense of justice being on his side of the argument.  But is this the best way to take forward the cause of peace? He avoided this question.

We are all familiar with the situation in several meetings held for good causes at which the more extreme suggestions get the most applause. But when it comes to moving forward with real solutions, then what is applauded the most is often not very helpful for finding solutions to complex problems and contentious issues.

So it is very important for peace movements in particular to be very careful about which demands to raise and prioritize, and they must be able to self-analyze and ensure that it is not constant agitation but achieving real peace that is their true objective, and that the demands they raise and their actions in support of these are in tune with their true objective.

The pursuit of peace must always be integrated with justice. However for deciding what is justice in a particular context the most important objective of achieving peace must always be kept in mind. There may be an understanding based on an extreme interpretation of justice which however cannot be reconciled with the pursuit of peace. To give an example, the undoing of all the historical injustices, including disputed ones, may not be reconcilable with the achievement of peace. Let us not forget that at a practical level, peace is almost always achieved in a spirit of give and take.

The concept of avenging past injustices by causing similar type or similar extent of harm, or even worse harm, to the other side whenever this becomes possible is completely contrary to the pursuit of peace but this kind of message or thinking is often spread widely.

What should be regarded as the essential requirement of justice? In any conflict the distress and violence caused to the victims of aggression should stop immediately. Efforts to reduce their suffering by meeting all their needs such as food, shelter, health care should be initiated on a big and adequate scale. For the longer term such arrangements must be made that they do not have to suffer similarly in future.

In the context of Gaza what people need is that all aggression should stop, relief and rehabilitation should come in a very big way and for future, a robust form of statehood for Palestine should be assured, not a watered- down version.

These essential requirements of justice for Palestinians do not have any contradiction with the people of Israel having a peaceful and satisfactory existence.

In this context while welcoming the decisions of Norway, Ireland and Spain to recognize Palestine as state, we should also listen to their accompanying messages of peace. Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store has stated, “We must keep alive the only alternative that offers a political solution for Israelis and Palestinians alike: Two states, living side by side, in peace and security.”

Store further said, “The Palestinian people have a fundamental, independent right to self-determination. Both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to live in peace in their respective states. There will be no peace in the Middle East without a two-state solution. There can be no two-state solution without a Palestinian state. In other words, a Palestinian state is a prerequisite for achieving peace in the Middle-East.”

This is a clear and simple articulation of an understanding that seeks to reconcile peace and justice objectives in a way that should be acceptable to most reasonable people who value peace and justice.

The Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that this decision to recognize Palestine as state was not made against Israel or the Jews or in favor of the Hamas. The Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris while announcing the decision to recognize Palestine as state also said that the Hamas attack of October 7 was barbaric. He called for the release of all hostages taken by Hamas. Then he added, “But let me also be clear. Hamas is not the Palestinian people. Today’s decision to recognize Palestine is taken to help create a peaceful future.”

So the coordinated decision of these three countries provides a balanced perspective which is against aggression by any   side and which wants justice-based peace to move forward.

Such a perspective will be needed more and more in the days to come. In the middle of the policy of extreme aggression by Israeli ruling elites, supported by some of the most powerful, arms supplying countries like the USA and Germany, some hope is created by the balanced peace perspective of these three countries and the growing peace movement. This peace movement should continue to increase its efforts and at the same time be very careful regarding the ways in which its demands are raised so that these are entirely in keeping with the objective of early achievement of justice-based peace.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Planet in Peril, Earth without Borders and A Day in 2071.                       


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