Israeli-Palestinian peace hope begins at grassroots
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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