The task of leading Palestine following the war in Gaza is going to be more challenging than ever. The leader who rises to the task could be the person who brings peace to his people after 75 years of struggle, pain, losses and suffering. The person who becomes the leader of the Palestinian people will either be another link in a long chain of wrong decisions or the person who breaks the link and forges forward on a new untaken path. The same is true for whoever will rise to be the new generation leader of Israel. Both leaders will either continue the futile, painful and traumatic path of all of the previous generations or become the new leaders who will break from the past, not forgetting it, but stay mainly focused on the future. Who are those leaders who will stand up and say: everyone, Israeli and Palestinian, living on the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has the same right to the same rights? Both peoples living on this land have the right to be on this land and they will remain on this land. The era of mutual non-recognition must come to an end. Now it is time for a new beginning.
Dear Marwan Barghouthi, Marwan – this is written to you. For the past two decades you have been the most popular Palestinian leader. All public opinion polls in Palestine over the last decades demonstrate that you win the popular vote against every other possible candidate. Your people seem to want you. Are you the next Palestinian leader? Are you the person who has the foresight and ability to break from the past? Will you seek revenge and preach hatred towards the Israeli Jewish people who share this land with you, or will you recognize the right of that people to live on this land? This is where it begins. After the unspeakable atrocities committed by Hamas and other Palestinians in Israel on October 7 and the support that those horrendous actions received from too many Palestinian people, Israelis are more suspicious, more fearful and feel more hate towards Palestinians than ever before. I am quite sure that Palestinians witnessing the atrocities against the people of Gaza, the massive killings and destruction are more suspicious of Israelis, more fearful, are angrier and feel more hate towards Israelis than ever before. Marwan, are you going to put fuel on the rage that your people feel or will you stand up and reach out towards the Israeli leader who will reach out to you to put out the flames?
Your people and the Israeli people need a Palestinian leader with the moral compass of Nelson Mandela. It should come from the stronger side, I agree, but it will not. There is no humiliation in being the bigger man standing on the higher moral ground and reaching out to those who have oppressed you. Your people need a leader who sees beyond yesterday to a brighter tomorrow of promise and hope. Your people have suffered enough, you have suffered enough. You have paid the price for the armed struggle against Israel. There is no promise in the armed struggle. The Palestinian people have the right to resist occupation, and occupation must end, but the armed struggle has only brought death and destruction and no honor. The Israelis have believed for too long that they can occupy the Palestinian people and have peace – October 7 changed that. On October 7 and perhaps even on October 8, Palestinians may have celebrated, they may have thought that they were on the road to liberate Palestine. When the extent of the atrocities committed by Hamas became clear, along with the abduction of hundreds of Israeli citizens from the homes, the Israeli resolve to remove Hamas from ever being able to control Gaza or any part of Palestine became completely justified. That Israeli resolve is now being demonstrated by too much death and destruction in Gaza. Whole families are being wiped out, tens of thousands of children have become orphans. What will rise from the ashes of these horrors? Will it be another generation willing to die for Palestine and for Israel or will it be a new generation of Israelis and Palestinians who say it is time to live for Palestine and for Israel. It is time to put an end to the killing and the dying.
Marwan, if you are really a leader then you will understand the challenge before you. Palestine does not need another hero willing to be a martyr for the cause. Palestine needs a leader who will liberate through the morality and the justice of the cause and by the way that is chosen by that leader to embrace the enemy with a full commitment to make peace. Peace is not surrender. Peace is embracing the limitation of power, force and violence and choosing life, dignity and compassion. The Palestinian leader who will embrace the enemy and dispel their fears which have grown stronger, will be the Palestinian leader who will achieve freedom and liberation and dignity for his people.
Marwan, I knew you well 22 years ago before you went to prison. We have communicated indirectly over the years. I know that you still support the two states solution and you want peace for your people. I know that you will not tolerate to live under occupation any longer. Are you the leader I described above? Are you that person who will write the new chapter of our shared destinies? If you are, don’t remain silent – we all need to hear your voice.