Letter to My Palestinian and Israeli Brothers and Sisters
Like millions of others, I
have shared your pains and sufferings from a distance and over a long period of
time. I am a Muslim by birth, but I have a Jewish son and therefore emotional
ties to both sides. I am also a proud disciple of Buddha, Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi,
Buber, King, and Hosseini. Following the years of the slow Oslo peace process
and the breakout of the second Intifada of October 2000, I feel that the time
has come for you to seriously consider a new mass strategy towards peace, namely
a strategy of NON-VIOLENCE.
A PBS documentary on the
history of non-violence during the 20th century, A Force More Powerful,
makes it abundantly clear that time and time again the struggles for justice
have best succeeded through carefully planned strategies of non-violent and
active resistance. In order to take its moral and practical lessons to heart,
this excellent documentary must be viewed by all of you. We now know how in
India, the United States, the Philippines, South Africa, Poland, Czechoslovakia,
and Yugoslavia, non-violent struggles for independence, civil rights, and
freedom from the tyrannies of apartheid and dictatorial rules have succeeded.
This is not a romantic
appeal to abstract moral principles. Non-violence is both moral and practical.
It takes the highest possible moral grounds, but it also works. It requires
commitment, courage, discipline, and persistent hard work. These are qualities
that are not lacking among the Israelis and Palestinians. First of all, it takes
for two small groups of Israelis and Palestinians to come together and pledge
themselves to a joint non-violent struggle for peace and justice in the Holy
Lands. Second, the group would have to go through a period of careful training
in non-violent philosophy, strategies, and tactics. Third, the group needs to
set out its long, medium, and short-term objectives.
The short-term is easy to
define. All acts of violence on both sides must unconditionally stop before a
process of confidence-building can start. The medium term is more difficult, but
considerable progress has already been made on that front by the peace process.
An independent Palestine must be part of the plan, but an end to terrorism
against Israelis must be its quid pro quo. The long-term objectives are
the most difficult on which to agree. The Israeli and Palestinian economies have
already become so interdependent that the basis for long-term cooperation
between the two states and an eventual federation is not impossible to imagine.
Wars and violence are failures of human imagination. We must have the courage to
imagine the impossible in order to achieve what is within our grasp in the short
run. An Israel at peace with its Arab neighbors is such a dream. Exchanging
Israeli scientific and technological know-how with the enormous Arab human and
financial power presents an unmatched complementary.
Last but not least, a
non-violent active resistance for peace and justice requires leadership.
Credible leadership for non-violent struggles emerges only out of traditions of
civility and in the trenches of the struggle itself. Authentic Jews, Christians,
and Muslims are second to none in their profound commitment to peace and
justice. The greetings in both Hebrew and Arabic convey Peace (Shalom, Salam)
upon the recipients. For Christians who also consider the Holy Lands as their
sacred grounds, Jesus of Nazareth was a Prince of Peace. Pious wishes, however,
are not enough. It is in the process of the non-violent struggle itself that
Gandhis, Kings, and Mandelas are made.
Some Israelis and
Palestinians have tried violence for sometime to achieve their objectives. It
has brought them and innocent by-standers nothing but pain, suffering, misery,
I appeal to you, dear
bothers and sisters, to give peace a chance.