Is­raeli-Pales­tinian peace hope be­gins at grass­roots

Lethbridge Herald - - HOMETOWN NEWS - Dave Ma­bell LETH­BRIDGE HER­ALD

There’s still hope for peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween Pales­tini­ans and Is­raelis.

But it can be found at the grass-roots level, a Leth­bridge au­di­ence heard Thurs­day. The cur­rent po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are not work­ing to find so­lu­tions.

That’s the view of two Cal­gary-based speak­ers in­vited by the South­ern Al­berta Coun­cil on Pub­lic Af­fairs. Mod­er­a­tor Trevor Page noted it’s the 12th time the topic has been aired at SACPA over the last decade.

Mount Royal Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor Mark Ayyash, who’s also di­rec­tor a peace stud­ies ini­tia­tive in Cal­gary, pointed out the long-sim­mer­ing con­flict isn’t based in re­li­gious or cul­tural dif­fer­ences.

Rather, it be­gan just af­ter the Sec­ond World War when Bri­tain and al­lied na­tions backed a plan to cre­ate a home­land for sur­viv­ing Jewish fam­i­lies, who’d been fac­ing ac­cel­er­ated re­pres­sion in Europe be­fore the Holo­caust. Pales­tini­ans who’d been liv­ing for cen­turies on the land des­ig­nated by the war’s vic­tors were forced off their prop­erty — with 55 per cent of them be­com­ing Pales­tinian refugees.

“Ev­ery­thing stems from that ex­pul­sion,” Ayyash said.

But now it’s be­come a shared prob­lem, he said, and some ev­ery­day peo­ple on both sides there are get­ting to­gether to seek so­lu­tions.

“If we don’t achieve that, peace and jus­tice will al­ways be out of reach.”

At the same time, he told a ques­tioner, or­di­nary peo­ple around the world should de­mand clo­sure of the Gaza prison camp, where Is­raeli of­fi­cials are said to be hold­ing Pales­tini­ans in con­cen­tra­tion camp-like con­di­tions.

“It’s one of the most hor­rific sit­u­a­tions in the world to­day,” Ayyash said. “The en­tire world is com­plicit.”

A Pales­tinian who lived un­der Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion be­fore mov­ing to Canada, Ayyash was joined in the pre­sen­ta­tion by re­tired lawyer Fuad Ab­boud. Forced off their land, Ab­boud’s fam­ily be­came refugees in Lebanon but he later reached Canada and earned his law de­gree at the Uni­ver­sity of Bri­tish Columbia.

On pa­per, he said, Is­rael was founded on the ba­sis of equal­ity among all, whether Pales­tinian or Jew. But a state of emer­gency was de­clared soon af­ter — and it’s ba­si­cally re­mained in ef­fect ever since.

In North Amer­ica, how­ever, Ab­boud said groups of peo­ple from both back­grounds con­tinue to meet and to seek im­prove­ment in their home­land.

“It’s im­por­tant to re­ally lis­ten to the other side,” he said.

It should be pos­si­ble for both groups to live peace­ably in one coun­try, he main­tained.

“The way for­ward is to say all peo­ple are equal,” and act ac­cord­ingly.

But that’s not go­ing to be achieved by still more Amer­i­can med­dling, Ayyash warned.

The U.S. con­tin­ues to back Is­rael to sup­port of its own in­ter­ests in trade routes and re­sources, he said. But any at­tempts to im­pose an Amer­i­can agree­ment on the Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans would spark fur­ther ag­gres­sion.

“No­body on the ground would ac­cept any of those terms,” Ayyash said. “It will back­fire.”

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