PIJ Editorial Board Meeting, January 14, 2009
Participants: Simcha Bahiri, Galia Golan, Gershon Baskin, Walid Salem, Ari Rath, Ibrahim Bisharat, Lucy Nusseibah, Danny Rubinstein, Sam'an Khoury, Galit Hasan-Rokem, Anat Cygielman, Abdallah Kiswani, Daniel Bar-Tal, Pierre Klochendler, Najat Hirbawi, Hillel Schenker and Ziad Abu-Zayyad. Meeting chaired by Galit Hasan-Rokem.
1. Current Situation
2. EC Roundtables/Seminars
3. Refugee Issue
4. Simha Bahiri Youth Prize Essay
5. Funding Situation
1. Discussion on the Current Situation
Danny Rubinstein began by posing the question, what will be the future for Gaza? He is preparing a column for Calkalist, Yediot Ahronot's economic daily on “the day after,” to begin discussing solutions such as allowing Gazans to get jobs in Israel.
Gershon Baskin noted that according to the Peace Index poll, 94% of the Israeli public supported the war in Gaza, in the false belief that Israel ended the occupation in Gaza only to be repaid with rocket fire from Gaza. Also noted a distortion in Israeli understanding of what the current situation is in Gaza. This situation is made worse by the self-censorship of the Israeli media and the overall close off of Gaza to international media outlets and journalists. Having talked with senior Hamas officials, he noted that there was an undue arrogance in the organization's view of its ability to determine a ceasefire on Hamas’ terms. Poses question, would Hamas be able to govern the day after? Predicts chaos in Gaza without significant leadership to rebuild or govern Gaza. Without the rebuilding of Gaza, Gershon predicts a three state solution for two peoples with Gaza as a separate entity under Hamas control.
Ziad AbuZayyad noted that Hamas fighters and/or leaders are not the ones paying the price in Gaza. Rather, the brunt of the causalities and suffering has befallen the civilians. Hamas maintains military might and will likely regain control of Gaza after a ceasefire. They will be more empowered to demonstrate their presence as a governing entity in Gaza. However, the reconstruction of Gaza will demand large amounts of funds and cooperation that is beyond the power of Hamas or the PA and will require the involvement of the international community. In response to Gershon, Ziad stated that Palestinians would not accept a separate state in Gaza, as national unity is extremely important to the Palestinian community. Distinctions should be made between Fatah the movement and Fatah the political party. There is currently a disconnection between the two that poses a missed opportunity for offering genuine political leadership for the Palestinian people, leaving many to support Hamas as they find few alternatives.
Galia Golan states that the major mistake of Israel is not recognizing the Mecca Palestinian national unity agreement and the government that emerged from it. Recently the Syrians and Hamas have foiled attempts at reconciliation. Notes that Abu Mazen has been weakened and discredited by the war and poses question, what are the effects of current conflict on the Fatah government?
Hillel Schenker states that before the war he had expected the emergence of a right-wing government lead by Netanyahu. He surmises that after the war, a more center government is likely to emerge after the Israeli elections on February l0th. Anticipates that the war would end on Jan. 19th, just prior to Obama’s inauguration. Obama has stated he would be engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the beginning of his administration and has signaled that he favors a more diplomatic and multilateral approach to the conflicts rather than unilateral and military actions, which offers some hope for the future.
Ibrahim Bisharat states that Israel wants the PA to be an employee, or extension, of the Israeli government in the Palestinian territories. In the days after the war in Gaza, whether Hamas is left standing in power or not, there will be an extension of the PA in Gaza. We must address the underlying causes of the conflict, which has been a refusal of both sides to acknowledge the identity of the other. Final status agreements must be made without ambiguities, as was the case in dialogue prior to the war. We must move from an interest-based approach to the conflict to one that is concerned with the human elements of conflict.
Sam'an Khoury notes that 94% of the Israeli public may support the war, but there is a similar majority on the Palestinian side supporting the response of missile attacks on the Israeli south. Both sides should recognize that war would not bring resolution despite the lack of solutions after 15 years of attempts at the peace process. Both communities should make more concerted efforts to recognize the rights of the other and a shared right to the land.
Walid Salem observes that the war in Gaza begs a revisiting of the issues within peace circles such as occupation. Who occupies whom? How do we face the new difficulties presented by a ceasefire when such an arrangement will not address the issue of occupation? He predicts that occupation will continue in Gaza until a final agreement comes through. Without an agreement, he surmises the following possible options: (1) Fatah in the West Bank would align with Hamas in Gaza, (2) Fatah will rule in West Bank as if nothing has occurred in Gaza, or (3) another intifada will arise to force an agreement. We need more cooperation based on the Arab Peace Initiative and a more comprehensive approach to a resolution of the conflict.
Galit Hasan-Rokem notes that support for the Oslo peace process was significant up until the assassination of Rabin. There is now a necessity to discuss the role of civil society activism in a situation where the political leadership has advocated the taking up of arms and violence. How can we move forward after this war? The population on both sides has long been prepared to move towards peace, it is the leadership of both sides that are unwilling.
Danny Bar-Tal states that Israel is at a point where it would be unwilling to accept anything less than victory, and it is in the Israeli psyche to achieve this through military means. There is a continual construction of history within the Israeli psyche that continues to sow conflict.
Lucy Nusseiba asks whether security come through the use of force. How can anyone not want to act in the face of the suffering and violence in Gaza? Gershon interjects, stating that the Israeli media is not portraying the situation in Gaza to the Israeli public. Lucy responded that civil action is not possible with the continual dehumanization of the other. There needs to be an identification of the suffering of the other. In addition, rebuilding Gaza is not just about infrastructure, but the physical and psychological conditions of a population that has been subjected to chemical warfare and the use of white phosphorus in Gaza.
Ari Rath concurs that the ceasefire and end of war would be reached before Obama’s assumption of office. Notes that Israelis have access to Al Jazeera reporting that circumscribes the restrictions placed on Israeli media and are able to see the events going on in Gaza. The official talks in Cairo with the Hamas delegation are notable because of Israel's absence. In doing so, there has been a de facto legitimization/recognition of Hamas as a political entity that can be engaged at similar levels as the PA in the West Bank. Gershon interjects that most Israelis don't watch Al Jazeera.
Ziad AbuZayyad states that Israel wants Hamas in Gaza so that they can continue to justify the aggressions against Gaza. Gershon notes that he has been in contact with Fatah members and others in the West Bank who do not want the violence to stop in Gaza until Hamas is eliminated. Ziad responds that this is a popular Israeli fabrication but the fact is that the violence has prompted greater support for Hamas amongst Palestinians.
(Ziad has to leave to give a TV interview on the situation).
2. EC Roundtables/Seminar
Pierre introduces the outlines of a new project with EU funding. The goal is to produce draft papers and project outlines for possible resolution of conflict. Purpose is to advise the EU on new policy approaches to the conflict. Proposal has received a grant of 40, 000 Euros and would take place during 2009. To begin the project, three central issues of relevance must be identified. Additionally, ten Israelis, ten Palestinians, and ten international experts who are knowledgeable about the issues chosen have to be identified who will participate. They will draft a policy paper on the specific issues after three closed-door conferences. Summary papers, interviews of participants, and draft resolutions would be published as materials of reference in the PIJ. The project will conclude with a public international conference will all of the roundtable participants.
Galit favors emphasizing the role of Israeli civil society in the resolution of conflict. She proposes three topics: (1) the psychological obstacles to the emergence of an active civil society on both sides; (2) the political obstacles and the rethinking of regional and international involvement; and (3) the need for a new vision in the resolution of conflict.
Danny does not favor devoting efforts to the core issues of conflict in the three sessions, but would rather consider questions such as, what are the barriers to a resolution and how do we overcome them? How do we reignite the peace process?
Galia concurs, stating that the core issues have been discussed often and has received much attention without moving the peace process forward. She notes that PIJ would be covering the same issues over again if the journal were to focus on core issues of conflict. She suggested a focus on the political or psychological obstacles to resolution.
Gershon observed that it is important to consider a new role for the international community, the EU, the new Obama administration and the Quartet in the peace process. However, we must move beyond process. Israel does not have long-term policies or visions that focus on a resolution of the conflict, instead it is constantly responding to crisis, real or perceived. A new vision or conceptualization of peace is necessary before we talk about another peace process.
Walid offered other suggestions, such as (1) politics and ethics, (2) reshaping the agenda for Middle East peace, and (3) barriers to peace (social, political, cultural, structural, organizational, physical, political, perceptional, etc. covering all aspects). Or if discussing civil society, to specify joint Israeli-Palestinian civil efforts rather than civil society in general. Should also consider regional civil society, or revisit the concepts of security for both communities. He also suggested a discussion of the “software” issues of conflict involving identity, citizenship, recognition of rights, and good governance.
Ibrahim suggested a topic that would discuss democracy as a political tool for both Israelis and Palestinians in the conflict.
Other ideas were to focus on how to change public opinion, and how to deal with the political systems and echelons in the region.
Some said that we have to go beyond the concept of “peace process”, which is getting us no where, while others said that we can’t progress without a peace process.
Another approach was to deal with what was defined as the “software” of the conflict – identity, citizenship and good governance.
3. Refugee Issue
Hillel introduces the next publication of the PIJ which will be devoted to the refugee issue. How should we approach this?
Simha observes that traditional approaches to refugee issues focus on compensation, Palestinian property claims, right of return, etc. There is little discussion concerning the Jewish refugees that fled Arab lands/countries to settle in Israel and their descendents.
Ibrahim asks, how do we make this refugee issue different from the previous PIJ publication on the same topic? We should approach it from an international law or humanitarian perspective or focus on the political settlement of the refugee issue.
Galit recommended including literature that would address the refugee experience.
Danny noted that Nadim Ruhana and Yoav Peled did a study on views of Jewish Israeli public opinion towards solving the refugee problem.
Gershon suggested looking into (1) the economic costs of resolving the refugee issue based on a recent and similar projection by the Paris Center or (2) looking into how Israel has worked to delegitimize the presence of UNWRA in the Palestinian territories.
Walid poses another issue to consider, what should be the future citizenship rights/status of refugees after permanent status agreements?
The question of the relationship between residency and citizenship should be explored. Another, what are the living conditions of refugees today, and what would it be in the future (pertaining to refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan)? Also what do Palestinian refugees today think about their future?
Galia suggested a consideration of the existing proposals such as the Geneva proposal, the Clinton proposal, etc. in resolving the refugee issue and also looking at other cases of displaced persons and refugees and what has been done to resolve similar problems in other conflicts. Also, how do international agencies view the solution to the refugee problem.
Gershon mentioned the emergence of refugee bloggers and finding them through new and emerging media outlets to gain their viewpoints/perspectives on the refugee issue.
Other ideas raised include dealing with the question of the internal refugees within the State of Israel, and the 460 villages that disappeared after 1948.
It was noted that Arieh Arnon and Saeb Bamya did a study on the costs of resolving the refugee problem within the AIX project.
Names mentioned for the issue included Andre Azoulai, the adviser to the Moroccan King, Yehuda Shenhav and Salim Tamari as a possible Palestinian coordinator.
It was noted that there has been a systematic Israeli attempt to delegitimize UNWRA, and the question was raised about what happened to the refugees in Gaza during the current war.
Perhaps a link should be created between the refugee question and the settlements.
One possible focus for a roundtable discussion is the different interpretations of UN GA Resolution 194, and a possible participant would be Prof. Eyal Benvenisti.
4. Simha Bahiri Youth Prize Essay
Hillel introduces the new Simha Bahiri Youth Essay Prize, which is being launched due to the generosity of editorial board member Simha Bahiri and his family. This year’s theme for the Simha Bahiri essay contest, “What does peace mean for you and your generation?” It has been suggested that the contest would be open to Israeli and Palestinian youths aged 15-22. Essays can be submitted in English, Hebrew and Arabic. The judges will be Simha Bahiri, the editors and possibly other members of the editorial board. The proposed prize would be a $1000 award for each winner from either side. Winning submissions would be published in the PIJ, read on the AllforPeace radio station, and a public ceremony would take place.
Gershon suggested that for the amount of prize money being offered, perhaps there should be two separate categories of submissions based on age because there would be a difference in capability between high school and university students.
Suggestion is turned down after brief objections.
Danny says that it might be more appropriate to have the age range from 17-25, since there is a vast difference between how 15 and 22 year olds write.
5. Funding Situation
We have funding for the next issue from the Norwegians, and funding from the EC for the roundtable/seminar project, and other applications are pending from USIP and USAid.
Simha suggested sources of funding within certain countries, such as Turkey the Arab League countries, or Arab oil states. Norway and the EC had already been covered. He brought attention to the fact that there were large populations of Palestinian and Jewish Diaspora in South America and Central America. The PIJ should pursue connections to Diaspora communities as possible sources of funding.
Hillel poses question, is funding from the Arab world possible?
Gershon responded that it is difficult to receive funding from the Arab world, especially from the Gulf States, because Arab states are reluctant to devote funds to projects that involve Israelis.
Hillel notes that we want to establish Friends of the PIJ in the States as a channel for tax-exempt donations.
Gershon says that in the mean-time, Friends of IPCRI can be used as a channel.
Galit, adjourns meeting, at 5:25 pm.
Minutes Respectfully Submitted by Ivy Shen, Intern, PIJ.