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Co-existence vs. Co-resistance: A case against normalization

In a recent debate on +972, proponents and detractors of normalizing relations between Israelis and Palestinians in the current political environment make their cases.

In his recent post on “normalization,” my colleague Aziz Abu Sarah was right about one thing, the topic is reaching a fever pitch within Palestinian society. What Aziz gets wrong is the logic of anti-normalization as he attempts to paint it as some form of unjustifiable reactionism, ignoring its most cogent and compelling arguments. In truth, projects that constitute “normalization” promote a false image of parity between the conflicting sides and foster a dangerous psychology within the minds of the oppressor that stifles progress towards a just resolution of the conflict.

Although the “anti-normalization” debate has been around a long time, its resurgence in public discourse can likely be attributed to two things: the rise of the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement and the beginning of a transitional period in internal Palestinian politics.

Due to the very nature of the BDS movement, everything pertaining to Israel is put under the microscope and scrutinized. Subsequently, any relationship between Palestinians and Israelis is done so in spades. BDS encourages its adherents to look critically at everything they do and everything that is happening around them. It is important to distinguish what works in the service of achieving Palestinian rights and what does not, or even works against it. This is why the BDS movement has produced strict and coherent guidelines for what can be considered worthy of boycott and what constitutes normalization.

Secondly, the era in which Palestinians and Israelis engaged in dialogue under the wider auspices and example of governmental-led negotiations is coming to an end—at least for the time being. We are now at the cusp of a transitional period in Palestinian politics where the lack of a clear strategy and path forward on the diplomatic and resistance fronts is forcing Palestinians to look internally at the state of their own society and political situation. Reconciliation and reform within their fractured political system are desperately needed in order to move cohesively in a new direction. Thus many Palestinians have started to re-examine the logic of their relationships with Israelis and criticize those Palestinians who have benefited immensely from it over the years while others around them have suffered.

When we consider the resurgence of anti-normalization, we must also remember that the post-Oslo period witnessed an explosion in normalization programs and projects between Israelis and Palestinians. Any organization, group or program that had “joint” or “co-existence” in reference to Israelis and Palestinians was instantly given credibility and financing on the world stage. Such programs became extremely lucrative and many people profited with little regard to the actual state of the conflict and its overall deterioration. Even prior to the breakout of the Second Intifada, but largely afterwards, normalization programs lost their relevance. We were no longer in the post-conflict transitional period we thought Oslo had ushered in, and things got worse, not better.

FEELING COMFORTABLE WITH OPPRESSION

It has become senseless for Israelis and Palestinians to act like nothing is wrong with the status quo and carry-on with such projects. Normalization may be fine for those bridging the gaps between people in India and Pakistan or Venezuela and Colombia—where the two sides are on equal footing—but not in Israel/Palestine where one side lives under the yoke and chain of the other. When we seek to normalize this relationship by giving each other equal standing and equal voice, we project an image of symmetry. Joint sports teams and theatre groups, hosting an Israeli orchestra in Ramallah or Nablus, all these things create a false sense of normality, like the issue is only a problem of recognizing each other as human beings. This, however, ignores the ongoing oppression, colonization, and denial of rights, committed by one side against the other.

Moreover, normalization creates a false sense in the mind of Israelis that they are working for peace, while in actuality, though maybe unwittingly, they are contributing to the calcification of the status quo. Their energy is misdirected away from root causes and channeled into making the current situation more tolerable—largely for themselves—by helping them to cope with wider injustices occurring in their name. Many Israelis who participate in normalization projects believe that they are detached, that they are not part of the problem, because they have some Palestinian friends or colleagues, even if they are doing nothing to rectify the actual injustices that have been committed by their society daily for over half a century. In the words of Israeli architectural theorist Eyal Weizman in his monumental work on the architecture of occupation, Hollow Land: “The history of the occupation is full of liberal ‘men of peace’ who are responsible for, or who at least sweeten, the injustice committed by the occupation. The occupation would not have been possible without them.”

Likewise, these normalization projects are put on display for all the world to see, so that they may all feel comfortable and say: look, the moderates are resolving the differences in a civilized manner. This is probably why the largest contributors to normalization projects are not Israelis and Palestinians themselves, but rather the international community. These programs work in much the same way as endless negotiations, offering a semblance of progress so that the world may deceive itself without having to take real action.

I do not discount the authenticity of Israelis who desire to see a just peace. Nor do I overlook the importance of meeting your enemy on a human level, of the power of these efforts in defusing tension, mistrust, and misunderstanding. But we can’t ignore the negative impact of normalization given the ongoing occupation and colonial enterprise. We must ask ourselves, what did all the normalizing get Palestinians after Oslo except for deterioration in their circumstance? For all the money pumped into these programs why are there no statistics or data showing they work? Why does no one think to question the effectiveness of normalization, including its proponents, in the case of Mr. Abu Sarah’s article? We can sit back and comfort each other that we are not fanatics or extremists, and that may be all well and good, but the fanatics are determining the reality on the ground while liberals and moderates provide a veneer of normality and progress.

The truth is when we “normalize” relations with Israel and Israelis without bearing to the political situation, we legitimize Israel despite its continued oppression of Palestinians and its colonial policies on Palestinian land. We must remember that the greatest boon in Israeli history came after the Oslo Accords were signed. Many countries around the world that had refused to have “normal” relations with Israel reversed their policies. This false peace opened Israel up to the wider international community, spurring unprecedented growth and trade. By reversing the normalization trend, we strip the conflict of many illusions and niceties in favor of exposing the raw truth.

Mr. Abu Sarah portrays anti-normalization like it is based purely on hate for the “other.” In order to do this he ignores the strongest arguments against normalization in exchange for obscure notions that take anti-normalization to the extreme; such as any instance in which a Palestinian and an Israeli come together constitutes normalization. In my own experience meeting people who are against normalization, I came to understand that Israelis are valued and encouraged to take part in the resistance movement to occupation. As long as an Israeli is working for Palestinian rights and the end to occupation, the cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians is perfectly legitimate and justified. This is the concept of “co-resistance” as opposed to “co-existence,” and should hardly be described as radical.

Yet, Mr. Abu Sarah’s article chooses to harp on these extreme cases at the expense of a serious argument over the topic. In what constituted an extensive blog post, there is little argument discussing why normalization activities are valid and beneficial; rather the entire piece is devoted to portraying anti-normalization as irrational. Some of his claims are true, such as those who use “normalization” as a character attack for dubious ends. But none of that still gets to the heart of the matter. I simply want to know, are we better off today because of normalization projects?

THE KIDS RETURN HOME

I wish to conclude this piece with an example of normalization from my own history. When I was fifteen years old, I was a participant in the Seeds of Peace program, which brings young teenagers from conflict zones together to a summer camp in the northeastern United States. Although originally set up for Israelis and Arabs, the program expanded over the years to include Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Indians and Pakistanis, and others. In each session there was also a delegation of American teenagers, of which I was a part. This was still prior to the breakdown of the Oslo Accords and the outbreak of the Second Intifada and most believed we were on the path to peace. Teenagers, who for the most part had never met someone from the other side before, would tell stories from their own experience in the hope of making their enemy understand them. Yet, I can still remember feeling at the time that the effort would be somehow wasted when these kids returned home because even I knew that, despite pretenses, there was no real peace on the ground. During my trips to the West Bank to visit my extended family, I would see and feel the military presence that continued to persist in the still-occupied territories. And in the “co-existence” sessions at Seeds of Peace, I would hear from those Palestinians what life still held for them.

The most poignant moment for me, however, was when a Palestinian teenager near the end of the program asked an Israeli teenager if he would still join the army and serve in the occupied territories, to which the answer was “yes”. To me, this said it all. What did this whole program mean if in a few years that Israeli teenager would be sitting at a checkpoint in the West Bank and shoving his M-16 in the face of a Palestinian while asking for his ID? Would it make him a more compassionate soldier serving in an inherently unjust system? When all the fun and games were over, we each returned to our respective societies and things stayed the same.

If these teenagers had returned to a cold peace, it may have been different. They could continue to work to establish more friendly relations between their respective peoples. But for Palestinians and Israelis, they live everyday in a system of imbalance and injustice where one side is oppressing the other through an engineered structure of superiority and subjugation. That is it. Normalization can try to make you forget that fact, but the next time a gun barrel is pointed in your direction, or a cousin is arrested and thrown in prison, or the home of a neighbor is bulldozed, or your relatives in Gaza fall under the bombs, you will be hard pressed to do so.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Former Soldier

      To respond to the author’s question about the purpose of Seeds of Peace when its participants return to their respective realities, I’d like to pose another a question.
      Is it possible that an Israeli believes that Palestinians are not on equal footing, and that the occupation is oppressive, but that there is nevertheless a security concern for Israelis? That one might believe that the occupation is evil (and responds to that by attending protests, voting, etc), but that Israel really does need an army to protect its citizens. Perhaps I’m naive, but I think that life for Palestinians would be much better- though it would be far from the lives that all people deserve- if every soldier in the IDF behaved in a more moral manner.

      Reply to Comment
    2. D

      Its interesting that you end this article with an example from Seeds of Peace. That is one organization which I have also had experience with. In my experience, there were a few Israelis who did not go into the Army after this program. Even out of those israeli’s that did, many have developed their convictions in time and started working in more “co-resistance” types of activities. Others do work, which you can not see but is still very important. They talk and reach out to their friends, families, and community and engage in duologue and debate that tries to change the dominant discourse in Israeli society.

      People rarely change their beliefs over night. 3 weeks in summer camp isn’t a magic pill. Its the beginning and it takes time. Now I don’t mean to suggest that trying to change the hearts and minds of Israelis should be your only mode of resistance. But what the Aziz Abu Sarah auricle mentioned is that it shouldn’t be target of the resistance.

      It is not your enemy. Its efforts to humanize the other side, break stereotypes, and bridge the narratives are not the problem. Its true that the likelihood that these programs will change the status quo are very low. But to be honest the likelihood of the BDS campaign achieving the same result is also unlikely.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mikesailor

      Former Soldier: “Security’ is the great lie promoted by all governments as a excuse to oppress ‘the other’, whether foreign or domestic. If you build on another’s land, or steal from him, or brutalize him, then ‘security’ becomes a necessity to prevent any redress. And the more unjust the system becomes, the greater the ‘security’ requirements and the more onerous its provisions. Let me ask you, if the settlements stopped and were reversed tomorrow, would the ‘security’ needs be so great? Would the checkpoints within the territories be required? If you allowed the Palestinians to become the masters of their own fate, would you need more ‘security’ or less? If the soldiers and the ‘security’ services were held to the same standard as ‘Palestinian civilians, sanctioned equally for their behavior as others would be, would you then require more ‘security’ or less? If you allowed, and enforced, equality under the law between both Jews and non-Jews, would you require such a bloated and brutalizing ‘security’? If you can see the injustice, yet willingly participate in maintaining and becoming part of the system which enforces such injustice, aren’t you part of the problem? All sorts of things are excused under the rubric of ‘security’, from administrative detention, through outright murder. Where do you draw the line and say, “No More’?
      The dominant discourse in Israeli society is ‘fear’. Fear of the Arabs, fear of the other ‘gentiles’, fear of the settlers, fear of the haredi and orthodox,fear of the seculars, fear of the ‘leftists’, fear of the ‘rightists’, fear of everyone unlike you, and even fear of those ins a similar position as you. The idea of ‘security’ plays on this fear. It offers a seemingly simple answer which feeds upon itself, an ever-growing insatiable monster bent on accumulating power. If ‘security’ doesn’t work to truly ameliorate such fear, then why would anyone think more ‘security’ would do the job? Yet that is the myth promulgated by those who seek to keep this endless merry-go-round continuing. Don’t worry, as I’ve said ALL governments play this same game, not just Israel. Yet, in Israel it is only more blatant than most others. Butressed by an endemic racism.

      Reply to Comment
    4. @D. I am not an enemy of dialogue. I believe in its power to build understanding and diffuse tensions, among other positive things, as i stated in the article. I also don’t believe in blanket condemnation of all things having to do with Israelis and Palestinians talking, especially if those things are directly working for the end to injustice and conflict. But there are many things we can aptly call normalization which have become part of the problem for all the reasons i stated in my article. We must use our own wisdom and common sense in distinguishing between these two things. And we must take seriously the argument that normalization is actually hindering progress as opposed to working in that direction. Indeed, I talk to Israelis and Jews without it being considered normalization (it’s not formalized as a co-existence project) and I am writing on a site with Israelis so that I may get out the truth about what is happening in this place to those who may not otherwise hear. Why should every other conflict have reconciliation after there is peace but here it should happen before hand? The unjust system must be overthrown before people can work on cementing peaceful human relations and promote things like ‘co-existence.’

      Reply to Comment
    5. truth?

      The truth is that there is no winner in the situation in Israel. Until extremists on both sides are put to rest by parties who are truly interested in peace and co-existance, Israel will feel the need to protect citizens with a strong internal army. When suicide bombers stop blowing themselves up in the middle of busy streets, killing innocents, they will be able to back down. But I am not naive to think this will happen tomorrow or ever. Because this is a ‘war’ that goes back forever and will not end in our lifetimes. BTW, Israeli teens are required to serve in the army when they turn 18 or they need to leave their country. They are brought up to believe it is there civic duty to protect their country. The intentions are honorable. No one becomes a soldier so they can hurt someone. They do it because they want to be patriotic.

      Reply to Comment
    6. L

      Omar, the things I am having a hard time with in your piece are:
      1. BDS – I have not found that across-the-board, activists in the BDS movement have taken a nuanced or critical approach to their decision-making. The ones who do, who are able to explain the rationale intelligently and focus on strategy and effectiveness really do stand out in my mind – that includes Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals. I would be interested to hear concrete examples of this critical, scrutinizing thinking process because I also recognize that it’s one I’m not privy to and so only rely on the final result – whether it’s a public statement or action – for my information.
      2. I am wondering whether you see all joint efforts between Israelis and Palestinians as normalization. You listed the dialogue and co-existence projects post-Oslo specifically and I agree with you about the negative impact of these and the inherent impossibility of them while Occupation exists BUT are there other joint efforts that are categorized differently for you (I assume you ARE a nuanced and critical BDS thinker)? For example, Ta’ayush in South Mount Hebron – joint-struggle in Budrus, Bil’in, Nabi Saleh, Silwan. I am not attacking – am really asking how you see these.
      I look forward to your response.

      Reply to Comment
    7. @L
      1. I cannot speak about activists across the board. All i was saying was that the BDS coalition has put together specific guidelines for what is applicable for boycott and what constitutes normalization.
      2. As I stated in my article I do not consider all efforts between Palestinians and Israelis as normalization. Indeed the title talks about co-resistance efforts, such as the joint struggle in the places you mentioned. There are other things as well like joint efforts about raising awareness, but as i said in a previous comment, I believe in critical thinking and common sense.
      Hope that answers your questions

      Reply to Comment
    8. Carl

      Omar, I’m not sure what you mean by normalisation. From the article I know you don’t agree with it, but you don’t seem to say what it actually means for you. Secondly, your view seems to be a very West Bank centric one. Surely Gaza is a triumph of non-normalisation but I’m not sure if many people would hold that up as model for ridding Palestinians of the occupation.

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    9. annie

      excellent article Omar Rahman, and much needed. i honestly think there’s this big blind spot where people just can’t see it and don’t get it. for example, L. asking that number 2. it’s as if he just cannot hear, or read.

      i wonder if there is something in his mind preventing him, psychologically. something that wants or needs to believe he is being shut out unfairly, the victim or something. the complaint, that BDS supporters are not ‘nuanced enough’. another task for us to explain, or prove ourselves. there is a chasm of either misunderstanding or incomprehension.

      sometimes it makes more sense to just leave them behind if they don’t or won’t get it. but you’ve written a very thorough article here. thank you.

      Reply to Comment
    10. annie

      carl, gaza? gaza is under lock and key/blockade. how, pray tell, could this be construed as “a triumph of non-normalisation”? next you’re going to be telling us they hold the key to their own future if they’d just get along.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Carl

      Annie: “pray tell, could this be construed as “a triumph of non-normalisation”” Because they have absolutely no relations with each other. I can’t be arsed responding to your end comment as it’s brainless.

      For the record, I’m in favour of much of BDS, but not as an across the board action. If you cut out all interfaces between the two sides, then you’re unlikely to shift the debate in your favour, leaving the stronger side to prosper. Israel’s policy of isolating Gaza and leaving Hamas and Fatah to disappear into a world of internecine warfare, archaic religiosity and tedious conspiracy theories has worked wonders for them. I’m not arguing that all contact is inherently good (watching Palestinians build the separation barrier being a profoundly dismal experience), but that you need to be very rigorous with your targets. ‘Seeds for peace’ may not be the most radical of approaches, but anything which gives the occupying side an opportunity to empathise with the occupied I find hard find fault with.

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    12. Richard Witty

      Thanks for presenting the concept of anti-normalization, not in provocative terms, but in self-development and clarification terms.

      In ways, that is similar to the early Zionist effort to change world Jewry, to create the “new Jew”, the one willing to work and create, rather than to be and be thought of only in old stereotypical terms.

      There are changes afoot. The world is not static. Specifically, and most importantly to my mind, is the prospect of non-likud led Israeli government, that does NOT have expansion and annexation as a primary component of its platform.

      I hope you understand the dilemma for Israelis, who also need a path for hope. That being that in the absence of active co-existence efforts, the only path open to them that are not inclined to political activism, is to join efforts that do not include Palestinian presence or voice.

      For Palestinian artists within Israel, there is the prospect of Palestinian art, music, film industries. But, the Israeli artists that are part of those industries already, Israeli and Palestinian, are among the most accepting and engaging with Palestinians of Israelis, and vice-versa.

      In that sense the urging, the requirement to be regarded as not disloyal, means to cut off one’s left leg, in the effort to strengthen (not even preserve), the right.

      I would want a path to have Palestinian friends, Palestinian business partners, Palestinian peer opponents in argument even, whether in Israel or in the US (I live in Western Massachusetts, not Israel).

      The other disaster for anti-normalization, is that it closes trusted communication about the existence and experience of the annexation effort, except through mostly polemic (dismissable) paths.

      How are people to learn, except with contact, even official? How are the officials to learn of the humanity of Palestinians, of the human consequences of policies?

      How are people, even officials, to learn that peace is possible with Palestinians, that there are brilliant, humane individuals that are capable of leadership based on a future of co-existance?

      Please retreat temporarily to gather your thinking, your reservoir of goodwill, your unity of purpose.

      But, please convey clearly that it is temporary, that relations are conditional, rather than of unconditional animosity.

      You have conveyed that, and that is laudable. Others have conveyed that much much less.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Sinjim

      Thank you, Omar, for presenting the Palestinian perspective so eloquently.
      .
      @Carl: I honestly don’t understand how, after reading this article, one can call Gaza a success of anti-normalization because “they have absolutely no relations with the other.” Where on Earth have any of the manifestos put out by Palestinian civil society orgs in support of anti-normalization demanded that Palestinians cut off all contact with Israelis?
      .
      In fact, the isolation of Gaza has been the “norm” for decades, well before the convenient excuse of Hamas came along. That’s not a success of Palestinian activism, but rather of Israeli military policy.
      .
      The very concept of “co-resistance” necessitates not only contact, but cooperation and coordination, between Israeli Jewish and Palestinian activists to oppose the occupation and the injustices of Israeli policy. I can’t think of anything more anti-normal than that.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Ned Lazarus

      Dear Omar, I may have met you in the past – I worked for Seeds of Peace from 1996-2004, and I recently completed my doctoral dissertation, which follows up with hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian graduates of the program. I would be glad to send my dissertation to you, in response to your statement that there are no studies showing that dialogue programs such as Seeds of Peace “work.” They work and don’t work in many different ways; they include many different people and produce many different experiences; some people find them valuable, some people don’t. But in my experience, and in my research, many of the participants, both Palestinian and Israeli (and from other conflict regions) found the experiences profoundly meaningful, in complex ways, but many of these very positive. Even the vast majority of people who are no longer involved in Seeds of Peace or dialogue at all spoke in great detail about the value of the experiences and relationships they derived through participation in the program. There is a great deal of which graduates are critical – but it is most often related to the organization and its American leadership, rather than the content of the program – and that is very different from the common, and misleading, argument that dialogue = “normalization.”

      On that issue, I urge you to understand that the chance to meet and hear from Palestinians had a powerful and lasting impact on many Israeli participants in Seeds of Peace – particularly regarding their decisions about whether to serve in the army, and for those who did, what they did and how they saw what was happening around them.

      In my experience, very few Israelis are ready for “co-resistance” as a first step. Through substantive dialogue and other similar experiences, some participants – not all, but this is actual dialogue between real people we’re talking about, not brainwashing – become able to understand, empathize, support and sometimes participate in precisely the kind of actions and politics that you do. That became possible through extensive, substantive personal contact and dialogue with Palestinians, provided by imperfect but meaningful programs like Seeds of Peace.

      I leave you with a quote from one Israeli graduate of SOP, who shares your critique, who is an advocate of “co-resistance” and is as an adult involved in explicitly politicized initiatives and no longer with SOP. This graduate said, “It did have a meaningful effect on my political consciousness, because I didn’t grow up with Palestinians. It was my entrance… if I had grown up in a [political] family… maybe I would have known – but I didn’t. I grew up in a typical Israeli family, so I really needed a real live [Palestinian] person talking to me for it to get through.”

      Reply to Comment
    15. Carl

      Sorry Sinjim I don’t think I explained myself well. I’m not holding Gaza up as a goal or saying that anti-normalisation or anything like it has caused the situation. I’m using it to show a Palestinian situation where no ‘soft’ co-operation has existed for a long time, nor have Palestinian residents had the option to interact with Israelis other than through long distance violence. I’d say that this experience has greatly strengthened the Israelis and impoverished the Gazans politically. And yes, I know that the isolation of Gaza precedes Hamas, being old enough to have got a taxi there from Damascus gate. Without that isolation, the rise of Hamas and the reactionary politics which came along with it would have had a harder time.

      To emphasise, I’m not against all of the anti-normalisation movement: Barenboim et al are essentially a – well meaning – fig leaf who suck the politics out of protest. I just think that targeting ‘Seeds for peace’ misses the point, and lets the Israeli’s paint the Palestinians as rejectionists once again: unfairly I’ll add for the sake of clarity. Irrespective of the ethics, a headline like ‘Palestinians boycott Peres centre for peace’ would be an own goal that Lieberman would be proud of.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Sinjim

      @Carl: Firstly, normalization isn’t cooperation, “soft” or not. Comparing Gaza to anti-normalization activities is a non sequitur. It’s not as if Gazans would have even a minutely better existence if some Israeli orchestra played in Khan Younes.
      .
      Second, you bring up an interesting point about popularity and messaging, but you’re proposal is that Palestinians ignore these harmful organizations because their popularity is too powerful to overcome. Seeds of Peace is, of course, far from the biggest issue as far as normalization goes, but it’s still part of the problem. Ignoring it won’t make that problem go away.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Matan Lurey

      @Omar: You definitely make a better ‘case’ for specific kinds of ‘anti-Normalization’ that other activists, not that I agree with your stance.

      However, you have to understand the whole fanaticism of anti-Normalization/Boycott often goes to extreme, as shown by this latest development (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/palestinians-block-performance-of-israeli-arab-singer-under-pressure-from-boycott-movement/2012/01/03/gIQAmTGUYP_story.html?).

      If an Israeli-Arab, who did nothing other than grow in the country he lived in can’t perform in the West Bank because of “normalization”, what are the prospects of ANY solution – one or two?

      Thanks.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Carl

      Sinjim I don’t think it’s a non-sequitur, I think it’s a good way of illustrating where some of the logic of non-normalisation can lead to. To qualify that, I know that neither yourself, nor I would think any regulars on here, would militate for abject isolationism. The difficulty I think is that the logic of anti-normalisation can pave the way for something few of us would want: witness the threats leading to the cancellation of the conference sponsored by the Palestine-Israel Journal recently, and the way Fatah are trying to exert their control over which groups are valid.
      .
      That said, it’s a lesser point to the practical aspects of non-normalisation. I don’t ‘propose … that Palestinians ignore these harmful organizations’ as I don’t think they are particularly harmful. They allow a handful of Israelis to feel better about themselves, and allow a handful of Palestinians to use a passport or widen their daily lives by an inch or two. Positioning them as a central danger seems to me to be a diversion at the very least. Economic and administrative co-operation is a far bigger and better target. I really fear that targeting these organisations is akin to widening an open goal by forty foot and inviting the likes of Danny Danon to kick hasbara shaped footballs at it for a few years.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Sinjim

      @Matan Lurey is distorting the issue with his comment and as in previous instances insults Palestinian activists in the process. The fact is that this singer did a lot more than grow up in Israel. He served in its occupation army. He participated in the violation of Palestinian civil and human rights, and now he performs for other Israeli soldiers, who also participate in these violations. He has no inalienable right to perform before the people he harmed.
      .
      I wonder how many Jews would support a concert in Israel by a singer who also performs at official Hamas events. Would Matan urge Israelis to go to this concert for “coexistence”?
      .
      Given what happened to Basel Zayed, who was censored for his criticism of the PA, I’m glad that there was at least a victory for anti-normalization.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Henry Weinstein

      I think it would be better (and saner…) to use and enrich the concept of “Co-resistance” against injustice & oppression, which has a positive meaning, than to stay trapped in this “Normalization & Anti-normalization” ideological impasse.
      What follow are some remarks, after reading this article and comments, in the wake of the “What is normalization?” recent discussion. These critical remarks doesn’t concern directly your article, Omar, but the “Normalization & Anti-normalization” language and its political meaning.
      .
      “Normalization” is a totalitarian concept invented to control the minds of others, and blame deviationists who depart from the BDS guideline.
      “Anti- normalization” requires submission to BDS’ ideological commissars, who dictate to others the correct means of achieving resistance against oppression & occcupation.
      .
      While resistance against oppression & injustice has a reliable meaning in the language, “Anti-normalization” means you have to follow “Anti-normalization” rules & norms concocted by the BDS Church, and accept to conform to the Activist Inquisition’s orders.
      Worse: nobody knowing what means “Normalization” apart from BDS clerics, we can deduce that the invention of the pre-emptive concept “Normalization” was the mean to achieve mind control and scrutinize devationists.
      .
      “Anti-normalization” guidelines are not only intended to prohibit impure social contacts with non-adherents to the BDS ideological line, but first and last to oblige adherents and even sympathisers to scrutinize themselves to check according the BDS Gospel if they are still orthodox BDS adherents & sympathisers.
      .
      In the end “Anti-normalization” means that only orthodox “Anti-normalizers” BDS adherents are legitimate to conduct resistance against oppression & occupation.
      As a result activists around the world spend their time debating about the correct meaning of “Normalization & Anti-normalization”, instead of using a fair reliable language.
      Meanwhile oppression & injustice goes on and on, without much resistance but “Anti-normalization” sensational performances.
      .
      I’m afraid “Anti-normalizers” are actually normalizers who want first and last to normalize the minds of others, and that they have an oppressive agenda inside their own minds.
      .
      Tag: Food for thought

      Reply to Comment
    21. Miki

      Thankyou Omar for an excellent article and for getting to the heart of what was wrong with Aziz Abu Sarah’s pro-normalisation piece.

      @Henry Weinstein – as pointed out in the previous discussions anti-normalisation has been a central part of the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination long before 2005 when the BDS campaign began. All the BDS campaign does is enunciate clearly the principles of anti-normalisation which have been part of the Palestinian struggle since the 1930s.

      The definition given by the BDS campaign of anti-normalisation and normalisation is simply a codification of the concept as it is broadly understood within Palestinian society for the last 80 years. Just because Aziz Abu Sarah, who clearly has a pro-normalisationa agenda, decided to see it as a mishmash doesn’t mean other Palestinians do.

      Finally, your claim that “anti-normalisation” activists do nothing except correct “correct [the] meaning” of what normalisation is and isn’t, while doing end oppression and injustice is laughable and reveals how estranged you are from Palestinian activism both in Palestine and around the world.

      All of the Palestinian activists in the previous discussions who opposed Abu Sarah’s pro-normalisation agenda are active on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territories opposing Israel’s oppression and injustice against the Palestinians.

      Other activists such as myself have lived in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for extended periods of time – in the last 7 years, I have spent half of that time on the ground in the Occupied Territories working with Palestinians opposing Israel’s occupation. The other half of that time is spent in my home country actively engaged in Palestine solidarity activism, working with Palestinians who have been forced to live in exile and working in solidarity with them to support their struggle for justice and self-determination (which includes everything from doing street stalls, showing films, writing articles, speaking at public forums and conferences and a yes, organising BDS activities and pro-Palestine rallies and speakouts).

      I am not unique in engaging in this breadth of anti-normalisation activism, nearly every other Palestine solidarity activist I have ever meet similarly engages in this breadth of ant-normalisation activism, whether or not they have actually had the opportunity to spend time in the Occupied Palestinian Territories or not. Why? Because it is what is asked of them by majority of Palestinian civil society, who oppose normalisation and have done since the 1930s.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Henry Weinstein

      Miki,
      Don’t put words in my mouth like if I was a puppet: I didn’t write “correct (the) meaning”, and the things you pretend I said.
      The sentence (fragment of my analysis, actually) you misquoted is:
      ” “Anti-normalization” requires submission to BDS’ ideological commissars, who dictate to others the correct MEANS of achieving resistance against oppression & occupation”.
      .
      So when you write: “Finally, your claim that “anti-normalisation” activists do nothing except correct “correct (the) MEANING” of what normalisation is and isn’t, while doing end oppression and injustice is laughable and reveals how estranged you are from Palestinian activism both in Palestine and around the world” (nota bene: I cite the full sentence without misquoting & distorting, contrary to Miki, readers), you totally misquote and distort without any respect what I said in my analysis (which should be read at least with respect, because it was an intellectual work, for free), and it’s more than despicable c’est minable.
      .
      Thank you to have illustrated one of my arguments, Miki.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Sinjim

      Henry, your comment doesn’t represent the reality of Palestinian activism. As Miki states, quite accurately in fact, anti-normalization predates the BDS movement by decades and has wide acceptance among the activists who show up and put their lives on the line to protest the occupation every Friday. Why show such disrespect for these people with this invective?
      .
      The BDS movement was formed when the vast majority of civil society organizations among Palestinians, which already supported anti-normalization came together to come up with a common definition for what it ought to mean. Why is it a bad thing for Palestinian activists to have a shared understanding of what their tactics, strategies, and goals are?
      .
      As you accuse Miki of distortion for what seems like an honest mistake, you yourself are distorting the views of the anti-normalization activists. For example, you claim that only the shadowy “BDS clerics” know what normalization is, which is seriously bordering on a conspiracy theory. In fact, the movement put out a piece that goes into detail about exactly what normalization entails. It was posted on this website, Henry. I am hardly a “BDS cleric,” and I know what normalization is.
      .
      Additionally, you claim that anti-normalization wants to prohibit all “social contact with non-adherents of the BDS ideological line.” This is false. The definition of anti-normalization as accepted by BDS has nothing to say about social interactions. Their concern is not whether you have dinner with someone or meet them at a nightclub. They are talking about organized political action only.
      .
      You are, of course, entitled to your own opinion about anti-normalization, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.
      .
      @Carl: I’m unaware of any anti-normalization effort that has gone out of its way to attack Seeds of Peace as a “central danger.” That said, I do believe that such normalization activities are harmful.
      .
      I grew up in the diaspora among Palestinians who also grew up in the diaspora. I had a distorted idea of what life was like. All I had ever known was that we were scattered throughout the Middle East and the world, and that many of us live in the squalor of refugee camps. That was normal to me. Until I began to understand how abnormal such an existence really was.
      .
      Organizations like Seeds of Peace contribute to that normalization, Carl. They contribute to the colonization of Palestinian minds, which entice us to believe that our state of being is an acceptable reality, and that’s absolutely harmful, even if they’re not close to being the most harmful.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Henry Weinstein

      Thank you, Sinjim.
      .
      Ok, tell me again what “Normalization” is like if I was your servant.
      Problem is I’m a free man, not your servant.
      .
      I invite everyone to read my full comment posted Tuesday, January 3, 2012 5:38 pm: here are my words, here is my truth, not elsewhere.
      .
      The analysis I posted is centred on “Co-resistance”.
      .
      Tag: Who disrespected who?

      Reply to Comment
    25. D

      @Sinjim

      I would argue that organizations like Seeds of Peace definitely do not lead Palestinians to accept their reality under occupation. How exactly do you see what is a essentially a dialogue between two sides as leading to this?

      You believed that you’re situation of growing up in exile was normal until you looked around and realized that you were different than the other kids. Children always believe that their situation is normal until they compare themselves to others. We are all normalized by our society to one extent or another.

      The best way to break free of that, to develop your own opinions and to decide for yourself what is normal (to whatever degree thats even possible) is to enter into dialogue.

      In your past comments on this site, you are usually the first one to talk of Palestinian agency and and giving Palestinians credit. Do you really think that Co-existence programs could possibly whitewash the occupation for them. How could they possibly do that? How could hearing the other side of the story and having a chance to tell your story make you accept the status quo.

      I realize that the occupation is not a situation of equals, but that still doesn’t mean that we can’t come into dialogue as equals.

      Omar says that this has never been done in other conflict situations, is that reason enough not to work at it in this situation?

      I don’t see what harm can come out of changing the hearts and minds of Isralis and yes even Palestinians that hold prejudiced and uninformed views of the other. What are you afraid of that this will lead to a compromise?

      Reply to Comment
    26. Sinjim

      @Henry: You aren’t my servant. You’re free to do what you want. The definition of normalization was provided in an article posted on this website. Go read it if you want or don’t.
      .
      @D: Why do you assume that I’m talking about when I was a child? I’m talking about when I was in my early 20s. I had bought hook, line, and sinker the rhetoric about the conflict.
      .
      I know most Palestinians understand exactly how bad their state of existence is, D. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how they view its acceptability. Palestinians who live under occupation have to adapt to it in order to survive. Palestinians who live in refugee camps have to adapt to living there in order to survive. Adapting necessarily means accepting, and the point of anti-normalization is to say to yourself that you refuse to accept such an existence and that you will do something to reverse it.
      .
      What Seeds of Peace does is misdiagnose the problem. It pretends that the reason the conflict is ongoing is not the machinery of occupation, is not the ethnic cleansing of half the Palestinian people from their homeland, is not the racism that Palestinian citizens of Israel face. No, the problem is that no one talks to each other. So they bring Palestinians and Israelis to talk to each other as if they are equals, in responsibilities and rights.
      .
      Talking to each other is important. Immensely so. But Seeds of Peace and other farcical initiatives like it don’t want to move beyond that. They don’t want to teach anyone who passes through their programs to resist these injustices. They just want people to talk. They want to keep everything “apolitical” so as not to offend anyone. By refusing to teach the Palestinian and Israeli participants the real cause of the problem, by refusing to talk about the necessity of Palestinians’ rights, they are teaching the former to accept their current existence, even if they never forget how painful it is. That’s why anti-normalization is so important. It encapsulates everything that’s wrong about this state of affairs and gives Palestinians a means to resist the normalization of their oppression.
      .
      Let me finally say, I’m so tired of being lectured to about not accepting dialogue. I have not objectified Israelis to the point that I value dialogue with them as an end in itself. If the point of the dialogue isn’t to get Israelis to understand what their country is doing, then it’s a waste. Israel appropriates my homeland, my people’s future, and my culture all to its benefit, why should I let it appropriate my time to that end as well?

      Reply to Comment
    27. Laila

      Thank you Omar for a great piece and explanation of what we Palestinians see as normalization. You see the BDS strict definition of normalization although adopted by most Palestinian Civil Society but it varies from a person to the other. Even co-resistance is not for the full rights of Palestinians could be normalization.

      But only according to BDS it’s that which doesn’t place Palestinians and Israelis within the boundaries of the (Formal) relations.

      Even in the case of dialogue, if Palestinians and Israelis are places in an equal/ normal position that would be considered normalization of the abnormal relation. As long things are straight forward occupied vs. occupier and people acknowledge those 2 factors things would not look normal.

      And by acknowledging the Palestinians rights we are talking about right of return, freedom, justice and equality. Without this being the umbrella of the relation then it loses all its meanings to become nothing but 2 people meeting to discuss whatever food or sports.

      Now in regards to co-resistance; if the relation between and Israeli and a Palestinians starts on these bases and then its builds up from meeting in a protest, to getting to know and trust each other to any form of friendship, that is not normalization. AS LONG AS it starts on the right track!

      Reply to Comment
    28. AYLA

      @Omar–thank you for this measured piece–it’s easy for people such as me (my bent is to favor dialogue above all) to hear this. I wont have time to devote to reading or responding deeply for a day or two, so just wanted to make sure I expressed gratitude while you and all were still on the thread. this is going to be a very important year. may we all find our way to acting for the higher good (justice on the ground). ultimately, we may need to think less, and feel more (not kumbaya–more like heart-truth). and act on our clear instincts. God willing: together. if it weren’t so kumbaya coming from a jew, I’d say Inshallah. it’s a lot nicer than Bezrat Hashem. sadly though, we’re all too smart and cynical for our own good.
      *
      I’d like to see more articles about a) what TO do (vs. what not to do), and b) how to bridge the gap between those whose heads are firmly in the sand (most people) and those actions. I fear we’re shutting down the middle steps–draw a new map for us.

      Reply to Comment
    29. L

      @omar thanks – I think if I have further questions I’ll ask you directly – I appreciate your response a great deal.

      @annie – you present the easiest of easy ways out – suggesting to just leave “people like L” behind. I think you should be careful about how small you’re drawing your circle. As a committed human rights activist exploring these questions and open to hearing honest responses (like Omar’s), I am hardly the person you’d really want to leave behind in the struggle.

      And with that I sign off.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Richard Witty

      Co-resistance keeps the same relationships and the same attitude.

      If that is needed temporarily, to gather internal strength (literally internal, not the detailed imposition of political correctness), wonderful.

      If that is intended, internalized, communicated as a permanent relationship, then that is just war stated in nice terms.

      Ultimately, Palestinians will have to get to health themselves, and acceptance of the other (also healthy, and inevitably in different cultural terms).

      Palestinians face a very difficult dilemma, of their own identity, beyond the normalization/anti-normalization discussion.

      Are they to be:

      1. Mediterranean/Israeli/Palestinian as a descriptor of geography ONLY – Citizens of one democratic geographic community.
      2. Palestinian as separate from Israel AND from the Arab world. Distinct.
      3. Arab

      Different Palestinians have presented themselves historically as alternately all three.

      But, it is the future that is the object of activism. What will be?

      Reply to Comment
    31. Michael T

      If there is something to learn from the Sharif boycott case is that Anti-Normalization activists in the West Bank don’t differentiate according to race & ethnicity who they boycott or not.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Laila

      @ Michael T, the boycott of Sharif Durzi had nothing to do with the fact that he is Durzi, but that fact that he is an Israeli who did previously sing for the Israeli Military and have no connection to the Palestinian society whatsoever, that kind of people yes we do boycott. He is not Palestinian.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Miki

      @Henry Weinstein – you have just demonstrated that you are clearly aren’t familiar with what you wrote. The sentence you have cited is not the one I was referring too. Instead, I was referring to the section of your post that states the following: (see the 3rd and 2nd last paragraph of your post): “As a result activists around the world spend their time debating about the correct meaning of “Normalization & Anti-normalization”, instead of using a fair reliable language. Meanwhile oppression & injustice goes on and on, without much resistance but “Anti-normalization” sensational performances”.

      You clearly imply here that supposedly activists are spending their time correcting the meaning of normalization and anti-normalisation and doing little to actually oppose the oppression and injustice that is going on. This as I pointed out is factually wrong.

      And you are right I don’t have a lot of respect for your analysis because you have constantly misrepresent not the BDS campaign but have constantly distorted the views of anti-normalisation activists, as Sinjim points out. This is despite the fact that Sinjim and other activists (including myself) have explained in detail in the posts on the other discussions re the subject why your arguments are factually wrong. You clearly don’t respect the facts if you continue to repeat the same distortions, even after you have been proven to be factually wrong.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Hannah

      Omar, I’m curious I guess in the seeds of peace example, what would define co resistance in your mind. Would SOP have to be explicitly political or take a specific stand? In my mind – and for full disclosure also as someone who was an American camper in the late ’90s- one of the most radical things you can do in any situation is to allow a teenager to potentially think for themselves. As someone who currently studies public health and adolescent decision-making my work no longer has much -if anything- to do with the middle east but I do think my work was fundamentally shaped by the experiences I had as an American Jewish camper at seeds and also what I watched as a counselor later on… The process of creating the space for a few people to think beyond their boundaries, families, borders, nations, delegation leaders will not in and of itself create peace but it may create some amazing new leaders, friends, parents… This seems like anti-normalization to me in many ways. I don’t write this because I don’t also struggle with the idea if two sides who are in inherently unequal positions meet there will most likely still be an unequal solution but rather because I see this as inseparable in some ways. Maybe normalization of business relations or security or media or something is fundamentally problematic but if people cannot engage with each other as people in situations that are no explicitly political I have very little hope of any kind…

      Reply to Comment
    35. Henry Weinstein

      Miki,
      Please, next time you refer to my wording, I suggest you humbly – instead of cutting-up in a very hurried way- to take the time to quote the full section you dislike particularly: it could have help me to localize which part of my post you were referring.
      I admit I was wrong to blame you for misquoting the sentence I thought genuinely you were referring: it was another sentence at the end without great importance to my eyes, an over-generalizing skit line I confess.
      That doesn’t change my opinion on the way you distorted my viewpoint about BDS language & logic and its implications, neither the fact that I don’t have to ask your permission to analyze this ideology.
      It was a critical analysis, factually.

      Reply to Comment
    36. sh

      @Sinjim – “The very concept of “co-resistance” necessitates not only contact, but cooperation and coordination, between Israeli Jewish and Palestinian activists to oppose the occupation and the injustices of Israeli policy. I can’t think of anything more anti-normal than that.”
      .
      To me that sounds normal not anti-normal and perhaps it’s why some of the rest of us were puzzled, as I was. I found the BDS guidelines impenetrable, didactic and wondered why BDS had to write them. Someone here said that when one senses antagonism, one’s own inner voices drown out whatever signals are coming from one’s interlocutor. Perhaps that’s it.
      .
      I’m really grateful to you, Lucy on another thread, Omar for taking the trouble and the time to explain it. For one thing, that proves that anti-normalization does include talking to Israelis.
      ——-
      I think the fact that Boney M had to desist from singing By the Rivers of Babylon shows a strait-jacket side to the co-existence versus co-resistance debate, which I think Henry sensed too. Also, to the person who decided that Barenboim is a fig-leaf for Israel, during one of the Reith lectures he did for the BBC a few years ago he explained the abstract parallels to conflict resolution that are part and parcel of music. Sucking politics out of the conflict and following it via chord progressions instead is a fantastic, much more spacious way of seeing our daily struggles in perspective – Barenboim gets lots of flak from Israel too if it’s any consolation.
      .
      More than the other pieces on the subject over the past few days, this one and all the comments it provoked have been a great, educational read. Thanks.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Our project ‘The Best Plans’, that people have now contributed over a year in man hours to initiate, is one that gets a dose of the hammer of ‘anti-normalization’. This is extremely disappointing as the project doesn’t seek to normalize anything. Quite the opposite, we seek to expose the abnormal positions and to bring together the most extreme viewpoint with those of the moderates. We are providing a platform for expression of ALL viewpoints.

      The Best Plans Project is already faced with participation issues from the Palestinian community that start with the Israeli travel permits which effectively wipes 30% + of those who would like to attend any conference that requires ‘movement’ off the list. A great wake-up call for Israelis that think everything is ‘normal’ in Palestine. I fail to see how introducing a Palestinian ‘subnormal’ is going to have any positive effect whatsoever. It does little more than empower a Palestinian political elite and strip even more power from the community. In our case the right of free speech.

      Our project isn’t run on a Zionist viewpoint but on the processes of conflict resolution and a commitment to provide a platform for the expression of all positions. We are already dealing with conflict in the center positions where X won’t be involved because Y is involved and X thinks 10% differently to Y. Indeed it is easier to get people from the ‘squatter movement’ and Hamas to have discussions as they want the same thing, the evaporation of the Other.

      I support people that say ‘stuff you’ to being told how to think and what to believe. I support people that seek solutions through quality processes that enable FULL expression of all points of view. The project would love to have a plan that said ‘no normalization until…’ and we will give such a submission equal treatment, our commitment is very clear ‘we will even take a plan from the Nazi Party if one is offered’. We will deal with this ‘normalization’ issue which has nothing to do with the concept of our project in a positive manner and use this to our advantage.

      Anyone who considers a democratic Palestine is one where opinions are silenced, clearly is on the wrong side of the democratic fence. Anyone who considers that talking to people of the same ilk is going to achieve more than a word fest is clearly on the edge of bonkers. While I respect and understand the intent of ‘anti-normalization’ the primary groups that are effected are those working to create a new understandings between people. It plays directly into the hands of those that benefit from ‘more of the same’. It is a sloganistic fad that is easy to support by people that see their future as sheep.

      Reply to Comment
    38. pshift

      Omar,

      I do not wish to reveal the organization i work for though it is deeply involved in the conflict. I have been giving the issue of normalization a lot of thought. There is, undoubtedly, some rational and justification for the movement (the anti movement) but there are quite many flaws in it. Perhaps, first, it puts Israeli Palestinians in a very difficult space being part of the Palestinian people as well as Israeli law abiding citizens. That is something that the movement does not, in my eyes, relate to in any way and it is a cop out. Second, saying that “As long as an Israeli is working for Palestinian rights and the end to occupation, the cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians is perfectly legitimate and justified.” leaves too much to inerpretation and perhaps that is the key.

      A blanket approach is wrong and counter productive. There is no doubt that the arguments against normalization are correct but there is a rift between revolutionary theory and ideology. when there is progress theory leads, when there is no progress ideology rules.

      We need a more discretionary approach. We cannot, must not, stop talking. The Anti-normalization should be asked what is necessary from an Israeli intitution or professional to work with a Palestinian professional on education, health, energy, science, or whatever, so as not to be considered bad normalization. Perhaps a statement, a joint statement, something clear about the fact taht the occupation is evil and should be ended and then to get to work on whatever the work is. We must find some middle way. Rulling out all talk between Palestinians and Israelis except for demonstrations against the occupation is wrong in my eyes.

      P

      Reply to Comment
    39. Henry Weinstein

      Thank you, Yani & Pshift.
      I wrote something that might interest you about One-Siders from each side who just want to impose their norms & commandments on others in the “What is normalization?” comments section, Thursday, December 29 2011 5:36 pm.
      I really think it’s a One-Siders vs Two-Siders issue, and that Anti-normalizers have a lot in common with Israeli segregationists, i.e with Anti-Palestinians.
      .
      So here Boney M is asked to not sing By The Rivers of Babylon’s lyrics – “By the river of Babylon, there we sat down / Ye-eah we wept, when we remembered Zion” -, and there we are being asked to not mention the Nabka…
      .
      Yes SH, I sensed also blind hatred & antisemitism when I ‘talk’ with some BDS activists in France. And it’s not a superficial view, a good friend of mine – and a talented artist – tried to convert me to the Anti-Israel-Crusade, flooding me with documentation & links. He is still trying, but at least I can talk with him.
      Same appaling blind hatred among Pro-Israel fanatics, the best recent example being all this maniac lobbying in the USA against an Islamic cultural space near World Trade Towers site.
      .
      If Bob Marley was alive, SH, I wonder if he would be allowed to sing “I’m gonna be Iron like a Lion in Zion” and other tunes… What a wonderful world.

      Reply to Comment
    40. AYLA

      this is such a good thread, thanks to the primary post. I do have a better understanding, now, of the intentions behind anti-normalization as they are expressed here. Like PShift and Yani, I agree with them: dialogue should aim to expose and address our system of injustice and oppression.
      *
      And yet. @Ned Lazarus makes my core point: most Israelis are not ready for Co-resistence as a first step.
      *
      The only reason that I have been able to become friends with Palestinians without Israeli citizenship is that I live in a community of people who came to Israel via the Arava Institute. I was already liberal politically and was aware of a basic level of injustice, but in a very liberal, jewish, american way; I knew what I knew, and not what I didn’t. Thanks to knowing people from Ramallah, Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugee families, I grew much more aware. From there, I began to read differently, learn differently, seek out different, less comfortable ways to cross boundaries and see for myself. Now, I’m in for co-resistence.
      *
      Many of the programs and events that get shut down have an agenda to expose injustice and to address injustice.
      *
      The whole thing reminds me a bit of the abortion rights issue in the states: so much time and energy and money goes into the debate, whereas if half of that time and energy went into sex education and services, there would be many fewer abortions, which, guess what, is what everyone wants: the essential goal is actually common. The rest is politics.
      *
      Palestinian participants in any dialogue should work to shape the nature of that dialogue (including in pre-planning). Make *that* the work of anti-normalization, from within.
      *
      Because if we leave this to the politicians, people, God help us.

      Reply to Comment
    41. JJ

      @Omar, thank you for this article and sharing your POV as to why “normalization” hinders the goal of ending the occupation. I’ve heard many times first the occupation needs to end, and then peace will be achieved. I understand that from where I’m sitting (in Israel), we have the luxury to be patient, and you do not. I understand why some dialogue groups can be seen as a “veneer” of peace-making, but don’t get at the core problems – don’t even have that in their main goals per se, either. In truth, I agree that “some” are missing the boat and may be causing more disappointment, (and therefore anger and a backlash in many ways).

      However, I don’t understand why those who believe in “anti-normalization” have to use part of their energies to sabatoge conferences, like the Israeli Palestinian Confederation’s conference in December. I feel like someone like you and and someone like Aziz are on the same team, but have different approaches. So, why try hurting the other? It’s like what Ayla said about the abortion debates in the States … imagine if instead of fighting each other, you actually addressed the main issue and worked at it together (through your own ways)? it also reminds me of the Martin Luther King vs. Malcolm X debate … over “integration” with white people. I understand that “anti-normalization” here in Palestine is strategic and not about cutting off all relations with Israel or Israelis, but it still very limiting. For example, if an Israeli activist or org is against the occupation but does not explicitly address the Right or Return, does that mean they can’t help? I just think that making rules for who is “acceptable” to interact with and who is not acceptable is really painting things in black and white, and in the meanwhile, you may be cutting off people and organizations that could be extremely beneficial.

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    42. Seth Morrison

      I respectfully disagree with Mr Rahman. If all contact with peace oriented organizations were to cease we would be left with only the far right wing dominating Israeli society.

      Speaking personally, the many wonderful Palestinians and Jordanians that I met while volunteering for the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies have educated me about their lives and caused me to move far to the left in my advocacy for peace. When these dedicated young people hosted me in their homes or took me to meet groups of their friends in coffee shops in Ramallah and Amman I heard first hand what their lives were like.

      The best proof that these programs do work is the consistent polling of average Israeli citizens who support a two-state solution. Sure, these programs are not perfect but the educate thousands of Israelis and Palestinians and help them learn to respect “the other”.

      Yes, the teenager Rahman mentioned will still join the IDF, but the concepts planted at Seeds of Peace will help moderate his behavior and maybe encourage him to actively resist violence.

      It is only be working together and educating each other that we can build a foundation for peace.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Sinjim

      @Ayla, you thank Yani, but he or she wants to put all solutions to the conflict on the same level so that they can all be discussed. You may be comfortable with that given your privilege, but Palestinians will resist ethnically cleansing them, which is one of the distinctly possible solutions to this conflict, as a legitimate idea. There is no opposition to talking or education among anti-normalization activists, but they are not willing to respect dehumanizing rhetoric used against them anymore than American black people would be in a discussion of race. Yani’s organization seeking to treat all solutions as equally legitimate and up for discussion is the definition of normalization.
      .
      @Henry: Can you understand why the word Zion is a painful one to hear for Palestinians living under a Zionist occupation? Can you understand what the connotations of that word are for Palestinians? It is not anti-Semitic to not want to hear that when you’ve lived the Palestinian reality. Not wanting to hear a song praising Zion at a concert is not the same thing as a government outlawing the recognition of a people’s history.
      .
      @Pshift: You are wrong about Israeli Palestinians. The anti-normalization movement puts them in a different position because they live within Israel. Their situation is specifically addressed and there is no demand placed on them to cut off contact with Israel in the way outsiders are asked to.
      .
      @Seth Morrison: This is hypocritical. The AIES is funded by a racist organization, the KKL, no different from the Council of Conservative Citizens in America with the exception of its immensely greater power within the state. The AIES is founded on racism and ethnic cleansing as it would not survive without the KKL. You may be comfortable to accept money from such organizations, but most Palestinians who have to deal with the KKL’s policies with their lives and their families’ lives are not.
      .
      As for Israelis who support the two-state solution, yeah, they support a two-state solution. They also support maintaining the siege on Gaza indefinitely, keeping their troops in the Jordan Valley, retaining settlements like Ariel and Maale Adumim, and preventing the just solution to the refugee crisis.
      .
      Apparently now, some ratty ass soldier being nice to Palestinians as he barges into their homes at the middle of the night to kidnap fathers in front of their children or the children themselves is a sign of the wonderful work these “peace organizations” do. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. You are all worried about co-existence, when Palestinians aren’t even assured of their existence.

      Reply to Comment
    44. Omar, the Palestinian who blocked on the ground, in Jerusalem, Beit Jala and Ariel, so called “normalization” activities, have acted against what you call “co-resistance”.

      Israelis and Palestinians promoting alternative solutions to the failed Two-State Solution are seeking to put an end to the occupation. Those are the one who have seen their efforts torpedoed. You failed to understand that the failed PLO leaders – still sticking to the dead Two-State Solution – are in fact sticking to their chairs, afraid, like all dictators, of the power of grass-root movements which could bypass them.
      You didn’t said a word against that.

      Two sentences you said are right:

      ‘I came to understand that Israelis are valued and encouraged to take part in the resistance movement to occupation. As long as an Israeli is working for Palestinian rights and the end to occupation, the cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians is perfectly legitimate and justified.’

      That is why you should denounce the boycott of co-resistance by thugs sent from the Fatah headquarters.

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    45. AYLA

      @Sinjim–I’ll consider what you said about @Yani’s post. Ultimately, at the end of the day, my core beliefs about all this are hard to shake because they are just that: core beliefs. However, if most Palestinians are offended by these beliefs, then I have to reconsider. What’s most interesting is the dialogue you’re striking up with @Seth Morrison, because he actually resigned from the KKLs board for the exact reasons you’re raising; his resignation is doing a lot to raise awareness (a lot more than shutting down the AEIS would; that would have about zero effect on awareness about the KKL’s activities, or on the KKL itself). Seth Morrison is exemplary to me of someone who is making choices, based on his own moral compass and personal evaluation about what’s productive and what isn’t, on a case to case basis, as each person should.
      *
      although I’m very moved by what you’ve said, as per usual, believe it or not, Sinjim, the average Israeli also believes that their existence is at stake. As long as people fear, that fear plays a very real role in this conflict, no matter how little symmetry in reality.

      Reply to Comment
    46. Sinjim

      @Ayla: Thanks for that information. I appreciate that. So I tip my hat in his direction and apologize for my combative language. I will say that it’s strange that he’s taking issue with Omar’s argument, when he himself is engaging in an act of anti-normalization by cutting off organizational ties to the racist AIES. That’s exactly what anti-normalization activists are asking people to do. Why is it praise worthy when @Seth Morrison does it but not so when Palestinians do it?
      .
      I don’t believe that the anti-normalization movement is a destructive one. No one would have a problem with the AIES abandoning the KKL and ending its praise of that organization. However, if reform is impossible or not desired by its leadership, then going defunct is the next best thing. The organization is not more valuable than Palestinian well-being.
      .
      Without downplaying anyone else’s fears, I stand by my statement about existence. Co-existence, by definition, comes after conflict resolution not before. The inordinate amount of attention given to this concept rather than to concretely moving to rectify the problems is not only a strategic mistake but morally indefensible.

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    47. pshift

      @Ayla – very good point about fear. The Palestinians must understand the fact that that they are dealing with a nation that is suffering from a deep post trauma. Hundreds, if not 2 thousand years of abuse has made fear into a drug from the Jews. All those who wish to obtain a real solution must take this into consideration and see how we can deal with this deep and troubling problem. I’m sure there is a key to this. I just haven’t found it yet. That being said, the only thing to fear is fear itself and FDR said…good night all.

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