The following letter was written by a Palestinian leftist activist in the West Bank. It was published (in Hebrew) in December 1988 in issue #1 of Meha’ah (Protest), organ of a coalition of some of the more radical Israeli anti-occupation protest groups. The letter is directed to the less radical – and wholly Zionist – ‘peace camp’, including the Peace Now movement.
THE PALESTINIAN COUNCIL expressed its ‘appreciation for the courageous role played by the Israeli Peace forces, who confront the forces of fascism and racism, and for the support that these forces extend to the struggle of our Palestinian people’.
WHERE ARE YOU?
A letter from a Palestinian to the Israeli peace camp
The Intifada has brought about many changes in the Palestinian population of the Occupied Territories, one of the most important of which concerns their attitude towards Israeli society. In the past, we used to regard the Israeli population as uniform; we attributed little significance to the contradictions and differences of opinion inside it. During the last year, however, there has been a qualitative change in this approach both at the level of the national leadership and among the population, or at least among the more politicized population. To a considerable extent the Intifada has been directed at the Israeli peace camp. We did not believe that with stones and strikes we would liberate the occupied lands; one of our main goals has been to create a public opinion supportive of our struggle and our rights, and there is no doubt that this target largely determined which forms of struggle we adopted and which we rejected.
After a year of heroic struggle, with stones and bottles against live ammunition, I have to say to you, frankly and painfully, ‘you have disappointed us!’ For years you used to claim that the Israeli national consensus supporting the policies of the Israeli government is due to the methods of struggle adopted by the Palestinian national movement, and that a change in those methods is essential, if a mass peace movement in Israel is to be formed. This claim has turned out to be baseless. We have displayed unprecedented restraint; we have struggled an entire year with bare hands against armed troops, who do not hesitate to use their weapons against women and children; and we have waited for you. A month went by, and another month, and another. A year has passed and yet only a few thousands went out on the streets to protest against the policies of Rabin and Shamir. Where are you? Where are the tens of thousands that filled the public squares after the invasion of Lebanon?
A year ago, the Israeli peace camp was a source of great hope for us. Now it is a source of great frustration, especially following the 19th meeting of the Palestinian National Council. You wanted the PLO to recognize the principle of Two States in Palestine, and you got it; you wanted the PLO to accept Security Council Resolution 242, which does not even recognize our national rights, and you got it. We have delivered our part of the bargain, but what about yours? Where are the gigantic demonstrations against your rejectionist government? What additional concessions do you wish to extract from us before you would be willing to join us against your government, instead of supporting the Israeli government against us?
Residents of the refugee camps and old women in the villages ask us with regret, ‘have there not been enough broken bones and deaths and detentions to arouse those progressive Israeli forces? How many deaths do they need in order to support us?’ Addressing the progressive Jewish public is not something that can be undertaken lightly, and is not an obvious choice for the residents of the Occupied Territories. Usually, they know the Israelis as those who wear uniforms, beat with a club, operate a hatzatzit [armoured mechanical catapult used by the Israeli army against Palestinian demonstrators], and are full of contempt and hatred. With few exceptions, they have never experienced the good side of Israeli society. The national leadership is ahead of the rest of the population, and it needs the trust of the masses to maintain the policy of restraint – against extremist tendencies, against Muslim fundamentalist tendencies. Today, these tendencies can stare us in the eye and say, where are your progressive Jews?!
The Palestinian struggle will be victorious, sooner or later. But it is the attitude of the Israeli peace camp that will determine what will be the relationship between the two peoples after the Palestinian Independence.‘Ali J., Jerusalem