In May 2014, Daniel Bar-Tal, Professor for Social Psychology at the University of Tel Aviv, circulated an open letter, which is documented in the present edition of conflict & communication online. In this letter, Bar-Tal, considered one of the internationally leading political psychologists, formulated an urgent appeal to end the Israeli Occupartheid policy, which not only continues Israeli injustice to the Palestinians, but also threatens to destroy Israel from within.
Since then, everything has gotten even worse: a two-state solution for Israel/Palestine can only bring about peace, if a peace treaty that guarantees both states’ right to exist is supported by Hamas as well. The reconciliation between Hamas and the PLO and the establishment of a unity government in the Palestinian territories in spring 2014 could have been understood by Netanyahu as a chance to move toward this goal. Instead he reacted by breaking off peace negotiations.
The kidnapping and murder of three Talmud students by Hamas members, the brutal act of revenge, in which a Palestinian youth was burned alive, the Gaza war, which cost the lives of 2200 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and 70 Israelis, a wave of spontaneous and improvised attacks in Jerusalem in fall 2014 were the stations of the renewed outbreak of violence, from which Israeli author Yali Sobol draws the lesson that terror cannot be ended by military means: “The best way to eliminate this threat would be a political agreement that quells the hatred on both sides – an historical compromise that removes or at least reduces the incentives for such acts. Unfortunately, it seems that currently many Israelis – including a large share of the political elite – consider this viewpoint to be naïve in the best case and treasonous in the worst” (in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Dec. 1, 2014).
As well in Switzerland, Germany and the rest of Europe, voices calling for a change in Israeli policy are all too quickly accused of anti-Semitism. A reproach that one should not take lightly, particularly since there really are more than a few anti-Semites, whose (apparent) partisanship for the Palestinian people in the end merely serves them as means to expose “the true face of the Jews.” However, there is no reason for a general suspicion against criticism of Israeli policy: The overwhelming majority of those who criticize Israeli policy do this because they wish to champion human rights, equally oppose both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and condemn not only the injustice done to the Palestinian people, but every sort of violence – be it Israeli military actions or Palestinian terror attacks.
“If there is any issue at all on which Israelis and Palestinians are agreed these days, then this: It will get even worse,” writes Sobol (ibid.), and the spread of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Europe seems to prove him right. The attack on the satirical journal Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris in January, as well as on a cultural center and a synagogue in Copenhagen in February 2015, have given rise to fears that the conflict is not only spreading to Europe, but is also gaining a new dimension, and thereby driving an increasing number of Palestinians into the arms of forces so radical and obsessed by hatred against Jews that in comparison Hamas appears almost moderate. If Netanyahu keeps his electoral promise that under him there will be no agreement with the Palestinians, he will perhaps be passing up the last chance for a political solution of the conflict.
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