A “Peace” Party

I was recently invited to the global, “Dance for Peace,” in which parties are being held around the world in the name of electing an Israeli government that according to the organizers, will “bring peace” and “transform the middle east.”  The organizers intend to “blur the boarders between countries and the artificial separations of nations, religions, colors, and to strengthen… our similarities as members of mankind.”

I am unable to participate. The implications of these statements are well intended and highly destructive.

The Palestinians were offered statehood by the UN in 1947, and by former Israeli Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert in 2000, 2001, and 2008. The Palestinians rejected statehood each time.

While some suggest that the offers were not good enough, the offer of the UN mirrored and equalled what the Jews were offered, and accepted, at the time. While some say that Israel negotiates out of its interests, it is hard to suggest that the UN was interested in making a bad offer.  Israel’s subsequent offers exceeded the UN’s, so we need not doubt their sincerity.

I don’t blame the Palestinians for the entirety of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but neither can I accept the implications of saying that it is upon Israel to install a government that will simply “bring peace.”  This places the burden entirely on Israel.

The intention is pure, and though it may be Israel that is having an election there is a perceived imbalance that harms the situation. The appearance that the Palestinian leadership need not account for negotiations or for the lives of the Palestinian people is deeply troubling.

Furthermore, it is imperative that we emphasize “our similarities as members of mankind,” without “blur[ring] the boarders between countries… nations, religions….”  Despite, “our similarities as members of mankind,” the “separations of nations [and] religions,” are anything but, “artificial.”

I don’t tell others to be like me, and I expect the same respect from them. The key to world peace is the ability to celebrate the cultures of the world, not to eliminate them. I am offended that my religious, national, and ethnic identities should be held to be anything less than essential.  As I celebrate my identity, I encourage others to celebrate theirs. It is our ability to celebrate diversity that will bring peace.

Affronts to other’s identities cause peoples to perceive themselves to be under attack, leading to push-back. Outside attempts to negate other’s identities leads to fundamentalisms that can catalyze war.

Blurring the separations between peoples makes me out to be less of an American-Israeli Jew, and the Palestinians less Palestinian. Breaking down the differences between Palestinians and Israelis negates the need for two states for two peoples.

Am I overreacting to an event organized for a good cause? What harm does dancing do, and who would oppose peace?

We live in a sound-bite world. The intention to “blur the boarders between countries and the…separations of nations…” is a sound-bite that is antithetical to my beliefs. The idea of a global demonstration expressing “hope [for] a[n Israeli] government that would bring peace…and transform the Middle East,” is a sound-bite that distorts a complex issue.

While I have my disagreements with Prime Minister Netanyahu and will not be voting for him, even he helped develop the Palestinian Authority through the Hebron and the Wye agreements during his first administration. During his second term he instituted a temporary freeze on Jewish building in the West Bank, and expressed his interest in negotiations. For most of the term Palestinian President Abbas refused to negotiate. Under Netanyahu’s current term Tzipi Livni lead talks with Abbas. Livni, who no longer has to call Netanyahu her boss continues to say that Abbas was a bigger impediment than Netanyahu.

I recently heard Netanyahu’s challenger for Israel’s premiership, Isaac Herzog, say that an Israeli leadership interested in Palestinian statehood is not the main barrier to two states. If elected, he does not commit to bringing about two states since he cannot control the Palestinian moods.

Given that Netanyahu has allowed Palestinian statehood to advance under his administrations, and that even Herzog wouldn’t commit to the establishment of a Palestinian state, what outcome does this demonstration aspire toward? Herzog is clearly “pro-peace” so his election would be acceptable to the organizers.  Unless Netanyahu is “pro-war” what need is there to demonstrate? “Who would oppose peace,” is exactly the point, because despite his flaws Netanyahu does not revel in war. That implication, amplified to the world, harms the situation and offends.

About the Author
Baruch Stein holds a BA in Political Science from Penn State University, with minors in Middle Eastern Studies and Jewish Studies. He has experience volunteering for political campaigns, and political advocacy organizations in both Israel and the United States. Born and raised in Pennsylvania he has now been living in Jerusalem for more than eleven years.