Gershon Baskin
Political and social entrepreneur activist in Israel and Palestine

The Reality We Have to Change

I am writing this to the Palestinian public. I am writing as a friend of the Palestinian people and as someone who has spent the past 45 years working to end the occupation and to see a free Palestinian state established in the occupied territories with East Jerusalem as its capital. It has always been clear to me that Israel will never have security if Palestinians do not have freedom and dignity. It is also true that Palestinians will never have freedom and dignity if Israel does not have security. There are seven million Israeli Jews and seven million Palestinian Arabs living between the River and the Sea. Neither side is going anywhere. Neither Israeli Jews nor Palestinian Arabs will give up their right to self-determination. While both sides have very different narratives of their history and who did what to whom, both peoples are here and the mutual denying of their rights to exist as a nation will only lead to more bloodshed and suffering.

What Hamas did on October 7 in Israel crossed the line between humanity and what is on the other side. What Israel has been doing in Gaza since October 7 has crossed the same line. This has to end. How many more years will we accept denial, death, and destruction of each other? Too many lives have been lost. Too many innocent people are gone forever. Both sides are responsible, both sides need to take responsibility. Yes, it is true, that there is an occupier and an occupied and the occupied often feel powerless and think that violence and revenge are the only way forward. The Oslo peace process was supposed to bring an end to violence and the beginning of freedom and security for the Israeli and Palestinian people. But we all know that Oslo was a miserable failure and the occupation became more entrenched and lot crueler. Israeli military and settler violence is out of control. Palestinian violence against Israel increased to the level of the massacre done by Hamas mostly against Israeli civilians from their homes in communities along the Gaza-Israel border. That assault by Hamas was celebrated by Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. There was almost no expression of condemnation and rejection by Palestinians of what Hamas did. Israel has now massacred tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza. There are almost no voices of sorrow or condemnation from the Israeli public witnessing the destruction of Gaza. We are all very good at demonstrating our loss of humanity and empathy towards each other. But this cannot be the way forward.

I have been calling on the entire international community led by the OECD states to finally recognize the State of Palestine and to grant Palestine full membership in the United Nations. This will not end the occupation immediately but it will remove Israel’s right of veto on Palestinian statehood. We have had enough of 30 years of talking about the two-state solution while most of the OECD countries still only recognize one of the two states. In English, we say “either put up or shut up!” This also means that the Palestinian people have to take on the responsibility of being a state within the communities of nations. The immediate challenge will be to create Palestinian unity that is willing and able to govern responsibility in the West Bank and in Gaza. The challenge in Gaza will be to create a governing authority that eliminates the armed struggle from the Palestinian agenda and continues the just fight for freedom and dignity without violence, even if the occupation is an expression of violence. No country in the world will fund the desperately needed resources for the reconstruction of Gaza if anyone believes that the armed struggle will continue. There will be no way to prevent the full reoccupation of Gaza by Israel if there is a military threat from Gaza and that includes the shooting of rockets and the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. The war of Al Aqsa Flood must be the final and last war between Israel and the Palestinian people. The trauma that we are all experiencing has to end with a new resolution by both sides that there is no military solution to this conflict. Palestinians who continue to suffer the most should now, officially and finally, accept ending the armed struggle not as surrender. It is an act of courage and morality and the very best strategy to encourage the international community to force Israel to end the occupation. It is also the best way to convince Israelis that Palestinians are genuinely ready to live in peace next to Israel. Israelis must be convinced that the intentions of Palestinians to make peace are genuine, just as Palestinians need to know that from Israelis.

This war has led people all over the world, including in Israel and in Palestine, to wear the same necklace of the Land of Palestine, the Land of Israel, from the River to the Sea. This land is the Land of Palestine and it is also the Land of Israel. We can either go on denying the existence of the other people and their rights to be here or we can begin to accept the reality and to look forward. Before this war, I believed that the two-state solution was dead. This war, Hamas’ victory, is the revival of the two-state solution. It may not be the best solution in an ideal world, but it is the solution that enables both peoples to live in security, freedom and dignity. The pain of suffering and trauma of this war seems to be counter-intuitive to believing in a solution for resolving this conflict, but this is the choice that we must all make.

If you want Palestine to be free and you want Palestinians to live with security, freedom and dignity, it is time for new political leaders and for old and new political parties to stand up and declare that we Palestinians will continue to struggle for our freedom and to end the occupation, but we will we not use violence. Not stones, not guns, not bombs, not Molotov cocktails and not rockets. International law may grant the right to use all means to fight against occupation, but we Palestinians have paid too heavy a price for our struggle already. Now we turn to the international community to join with us, hand-in-hand in bringing about our liberation. Our struggle will be led by the moral conviction that we are right and just and that we are not alone – the international community, including our Arab brothers and sisters, will no longer tolerate the Israeli occupation. We as Palestinians will do our responsibility – we will hold free, fair and democratic elections. We will not allow political parties or people who support an armed struggle to participate in those elections. We will be responsible for ourselves and towards ourselves and Palestine will be a state that we will be proud of.

This article has been published in Arabic in Al Quds newspaper –

The writer has dedicated his life to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He has negotiated with Hamas for 17 years. He is a founding member of “Kol Ezraheiha – Kol Muwanteneiha” (All of the Citizens) political party in Israel. He is now the Middle East Director for ICO – International Communities Organization, a UK based NGO.

About the Author
The writer is the Middle East Director of ICO - International Communities Organization - a UK based NGO working in Conflict zones with failed peace processes. Baskin is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is also a founding member of “Kol Ezraheiha - Kol Muwanteneiha” (All of the Citizens) political party in Israel.