Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Pursuing "Peace" in Israel/Palestine

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Pursuing "Peace" in Israel/Palestine

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Nine years after the ouforeak of the second mtifada (uprising) in September 2000 and sixteen years after the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993, Israelis and Palestinians seem as far as ever from a final status agreement. Diplomatic efforts by the George W. Bush administration--notably the Performance-Based Road Map to Peace and the 2007 Annapolis Conference--avoided the core conflict issues, and delayed such negotiations by emphasizing "provisional" borders. (1) Not only do such tactics allow more time for consolidating "facts on the ground" that can prejudice final status negotiations, but the lack of a political horizon undercuts moderates working to "sell" peace to the public. (2) Military approaches to solving the conflict have also failed to achieve results. Qassam rocket attacks from Gaza have resulted in dire poverty from an on-going siege of the Strip, while Israel's military attempts to secure the release of soldiers captured by Hamas and Hezbollah in 2006 have failed, bringing condemnation of the government's war effort. (3) The intense conflict in Gaza and Southern Israel during Operation "Cast Lead" (December 27, 2008-January 28, 2009) resulted in over 1300 Palestinian deaths, four Israeli deaths, not to mention the thousands of Palestinians and scores of Israelis who were injured. (4)

Several problems exist in mainstream scholarly and media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and efforts to "manage" or "resolve" it. (5) First, there is little consideration given to what the term "peace" means to Israelis and Palestinians, who not only tend to have quite different views regarding the notion but also view it as a "dirty" word given the failures of the Oslo "peace" process. Second, the focus tends to be on conflict and on failures or obstacles rather than on the Israelis and Palestinians who continue to work nonviolently for a just, lasting, and secure peace between the peoples. While it is important to identify the obstacles to a durable, negotiated settlement at the official level so that scholars, policy makers and practitioners can address those challenges, "success" stories from groups that have persisted in pursuing peace even in times of violent conflict can similarly assist in the effort. Not only can the experiences of such groups inform policy choices by Israeli and Palestinian political actors, but news of such groups' efforts can work to ameliorate the negative stereotypes prevalent in both societies and the "no partner" narrative that dominates the discourse. Mainstream media coverage and the traditional portrayal of this conflict in literature tends to differ significantly from the lived situation on the ground, zeroing in on particular events, failing to cover others, and providing one-sided interpretations, which omit the multiplicity of perspectives found in Israeli and Palestinian societies (Deadly Distortion, 2005). (6) In order to counter such myopic treatments of the conflict and to illustrate alternative frameworks for "peace" pursued by nongovernmental organizations, this article will provide a) an overview of official peacemaking efforts, b) a discussion of varying Israeli and Palestinian perspectives on "peace" and c) snapshots of a range of nonviolent civil society peacemaking efforts that have continued despite the absence of official peace efforts.

TALKING ABOUT TALKING: THE OSLO "PEACE" PROCESS

The Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat. The Accords were the result of secret back-channel negotiations mediated by Norway and pre-empted the official negotiations that were simultaneously being conducted under the auspices of the US State Department. (7) Although the accords were widely heralded, they were also widely misrepresented as a peace agreement; instead, the Oslo Accords consisted of an exchange of letters of mutual recognition and a Declaration of Principles (DoP) that established a "transitional period not exceeding five years, leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. …

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