Gershon Baskin
Political and social entrepreneur activist in Israel and Palestine

This is what I understand:

Hamas has asked for guarantees that the war will end. Hamas does not really take stock in those guarantees; more than them, Hamas wants to hear the words from Binyamin Netanyahu: the war has come to end! This is the victory picture that Hamas wants and they know that it is the picture of defeat for Netanyahu and for Israel. That picture tells the world the story of the struggle for freedom, liberty, and dignity of the Palestinian people. It is the story that we, the people of Israel know all so well. It is the story that we tell every year during Passover. And I know that these words will anger so many people, but this is in fact the bigger picture of what we are living. I do not justify for even one second the murder by terror of thousands, and not even the murder of one single child. In my mind, if achieving freedom means that many innocent people are killed, then we have to question the value of that freedom. Moses, the great prophet revered by the great monotheistic religions brought to us the commandment: Thou shall not kill. Too many innocent people have been killed since October 7, 2023. Too many of our people have died and we have killed too many since we the Jewish people began our struggle for freedom, liberation, independence and dignity in our ancient homeland. But when we will look back at our history after October 7, and we tell our story we must recognize there was also alongside of us the history and the story of our Palestinian neighbors who have also struggled for their freedom, liberation, independence and dignity. This may be hard to swallow, but it is the truth.

The great and mighty army of Israel cannot destroy the idea of Hamas nor can it destroy the yearning of the Palestinian people for freedom, liberation, independence, and dignity. We the people of Israel spent 400 years in Egypt as slaves, victims of the wrath of ancient Egypt and their Pharaohs, but we were also victims of our own minds. We adopted victimization as our mindset and stayed steadfast to our suffering. In modern times, we have been the victims of the hatred of the world as we remained steadfast to our own separate identity, culture, traditions, and even religion. We broke loose from the chains of bondage and became a free people, but our struggle for freedom was costly. We killed and we were killed. And this has repeated itself over time. We were just beginning to overcome the battle scars of our fight for independence and freedom when in 1966 we canceled the military government that ruled over of Arab citizens from 1949. Israel was an idea that sparked the imagination of many around the world. A nation built on the ashes of the Holocaust, gathering its people from all corners of the world to their ancient homeland. Israel’s birth occurred because the Jewish people refused to continue to be victims. But Israel’s birth was not without shame. In 1967 Israel defeated the Arab armies and became the occupiers of the other people living in this land.

The other people living in this land, the Palestinians, who were the majority in this land became a dispersed people, cut off from their roots and scattered throughout the region and the world. It would take a decade after the Nakba in 1948 before they formed their national liberation movement and launched their struggle for their freedom, liberation, independence and dignity. They have adopted for too long the mindset of victimhood and it has impacted negatively on them as a people. In their struggle they too have suffered greatly. They have been killed and they have killed. Their just struggle for freedom, liberation, independence, and dignity is not without shame. That is perhaps the biggest lesson that all of us Israelis and Palestinians must learn before we are really free. The struggle for freedom is just. The longing to be a free people in your own homeland cannot be erased or even diminished by the sword of those who seek to prevent that longing. Armies can defeat armies, but they cannot defeat a nation that struggles to be free and independent. Israel has no more power to extinguish the fervor for freedom of the Palestinian people than does Hamas or any Palestinian military group to extinguish the fervor of the Jewish people in Israel for their freedom. We can defeat them in battle, as they can defeat us in battle. In the face of the enormous death and destruction since October 7, there are no victors here. We have all been defeated in this war, but we can learn from this defeat. We must learn from this defeat or else we will all continue to lose.

Now is the time for us all, Israelis and Palestinians, to put aside forever the thirst for power, money and honor. Now is the time to exhibit compassion and mutual understanding – because too many of us have lost and have suffered. Now is not the time to embrace victimhood, and we must cease the victimization of the others. Revenge will achieve nothing positive even if the desire for revenge burns deeply within our hearts. We must be stronger than those harmful emotions – even though they are keenly understood.

As we approach Israel’s Independence Day and Palestine’s Nakba day, let’s recall the words of Israel’s Declaration of Independence launched as Israel was already waging its war for freedom, independence and dignity: “In the midst of wanton aggression we call upon the Arab inhabitants of the state of Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the state, with full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its bodies and institutions, provisional or permanent. We offer peace and amity to all neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to co-operate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and reconstitution of the Middle East.”

Likewise, the Declaration of the State of Palestine provides us all with noble ideas and challenges our human spirit: “Governance will be based on principles of social justice, equality and nondiscrimination in public rights on grounds of race, religion, color or sex, under the aegis of a constitution which ensures the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Thus shall these principles allow no departure from Palestine’s age-old spiritual and civilizational heritage of tolerance and religious coexistence… The State of Palestine proclaims its commitment to the principles and purposes of the United Nations, and to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights… It further announces itself to be a peace-loving state, in adherence to the principles of peaceful co-existence. It will join with all states and peoples in order to assure a permanent peace based upon justice and the respect of rights so that humanity’s potential for well-being may be assured, an earnest competition for excellence be maintained, and in which confidence in the future will eliminate fear for those who are just and for whom justice is the only recourse… The State of Palestine herewith declares that it believes in the settlement of regional and international disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with the UN Charter and resolutions. Without prejudice to its natural right to defend its territorial integrity and independence, it therefore rejects the threat or use of force, violence and terrorism against its territorial integrity or political independence, as it also rejects their use against the territorial integrity of other states.”

Let us return to these words of inspiration and let them be the compass for us all. All people living on the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea must all have the same right to the same rights. The common freedom, liberation, independence and dignity for both peoples is the only way to provide security for us all. The Israeli struggle to live as a free people in this land can only be won if the Palestinian struggle to live as free people in this land is also achieved. That is what we should understand. That is what we must learn from this horrible war. When a hand is outstretched in a genuine wish for peace it will be grasped by another hand genuinely seeking peace. So as we remember the fallen and cherish the memory of our loved ones who are no longer with us, let us make these sacrifices have meaning and value as being the last to fall in war.

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.
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