Gershon Baskin



Gershon Baskin. Photo: Otmar Steinbicker

This column is usually directed at the pro-Israel, Jewish audience. I have been spending a lot of time lately with young, smart, ambitious and thoughtful Palestinians from all over the West Bank. We have had a lot of deep and challenging discussions. I would like to direct this column toward them.

Recently I was asked: “If you were Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], what would you do?” This is what I told them: The first thing I would do is call for new national elections. Abbas is serving the 12th year of a four-year term and he lacks public and political legitimacy. Personally I like Abbas a lot, have a lot of respect for him and genuinely believe he is a man of peace. But all of that is irrelevant. The Palestinian people must be given a chance to make a decision regarding who they want to lead and represent them. The internal Palestinian divisions can no longer serve as an excuse for not allowing the people to elect their leaders and return Palestine to the path of building a democratic society. If Hamas does not allow the elections to take place in Gaza, then hold them only in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

There are no doubt lots of risks involved in new Palestinian elections. Nonetheless, elections must be held. There should be an election law that would enable a democratic process to exist and to prevent this from being the last time elections are held. The election law should state clearly and explicitly that participation is based on adhering to several guiding democratic principles; parties which support the use of violence would not be allowed to participate.

Parties that do not support the principle of equality for all Palestinians regardless of religion or gender would not be allowed to participate. Parties which seek to disband and eliminate the principles of democracy would not be allowed to participate. A national elections commission must be established with strong independent commissioners who are not operatives of any of the parties or any of the current leaders or candidates.

The Palestinians must review and rewrite their textbooks and remove all of those elements which deny the existence of Israel, contain antisemitic content, teach and foster a culture of hate and encourage martyrdom and death instead of encouraging young people to live a productive and constructive life for themselves, their family and their nation. They do not have to rewrite history. Israel has been their enemy and history is history. The Nakba did take place and Palestinians have suffered and continue to suffer greatly.

But if they continue to teach that the occupation began in 1948 and that the Jews are invaders, conquerors and foreign elements that never had any connection to this land, we will never have a fair chance at reaching peace. The denial of Israel’s existence in Palestinian textbooks and the implicit message that Israel should not exist is a distortion of fact and reality and teaches Palestinian young people to oppose any deal that supports a two-state solution and any peace with the State of Israel. This is a disservice to Palestinians themselves.

Yes, there are reforms and revisions which are necessary to make in Israeli textbooks as well, but this is not a legitimate excuse to continue to use textbooks in Palestine which not only teach hate but send a very clear message to Israelis that Palestinians are not honest and genuine when they say that they are a partner for peace.

Likewise, I think that the Palestinian leadership must remove from the table the whole issue of recognition of the Jewish identity of the State of Israel. Palestinians lose nothing by stating that when negotiations are complete and Israel and Palestine reach agreements on all of the issues including borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees and mutual security, and when there are guarantees for the equal rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, there will be no reason not to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People. Palestine should be equally recognized as the nation-state of the Palestinian People. Stating this would remove one more significant reason most Israeli believe Palestinians do not want peace. And yes, Israel should also recognize Palestinians’ rights to statehood. But one side should not have to wait for the other to take the first step and do the right thing.

Lastly, I believe that the Palestinian leadership must seek real engagement with Israeli society, including with businesses that are interested in investing in Palestine, with people interested in working together to build peaceful relations, in cultural exchanges, in encouraging Palestinians to learn Hebrew and Israelis to learn Arabic. The BDS and “anti-normalization” strategy lacks coherence, has no stated political goal of supporting Israeli-Palestinian peace and is counterproductive to enlisting the most important audience for supporting Palestinian rights (the Israeli people).

I don’t believe in normalizing with occupation and a big part of me has always hoped that the Palestinians would have the solidarity and willingness to endure the suffering that would come from a strategic decision in favor of total non-violent non-cooperation with the occupation. But that solidarity is not present and in any case would be very costly in Palestinian lives, as well as bringing about the arrest and incarceration of tens of thousands of Palestinians (in fact that would be one of the goals of this strategy). In the absence of the preparedness of Palestinian society to take that step and the lack of leadership to guide the people on that road, I believe that Palestinians need to do a U-turn and seek to engage with as many Israelis as possible.

I know that these ideas are not popular among Palestinians. But since you asked me what I truly believe, this is what I have to tell you. Your freedom from Israeli occupation is my freedom as an Israeli from occupying you. I need to be free from this occupation just as you need to be free from it. Your security is my security and your prosperity and good life is my prosperity and good life. No walls or fences will ever enable our two people to live without regard for the other. Those walls must come down, but that will only happen through engagement and real peace between Israel and Palestine and not from Palestine in place of Israel.

Gershon Baskin ist Autor des Aachener Friedensmagazins Seine Beiträge finden Sie hier

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Beiträge von Gershon Baskin


The Zionist Left – Israel’s only hope

To be a free people

The Day after Independence Day

Prisoners, strikes and rights

The inevitability of peace

From Washington to Jerusalem

Eight pieces of advice to Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt

Becoming a real, effective democracy requires a real, effective opposition

Only two states – nothing else

The fatal Israeli-Gaza mistake (2)

The fatal Israeli-Gaza mistakes

The wisdom to limit our rights

Where to, Israel?

Get out of our lives already!

The authority of the Authority


The state of denial

Settlements, annexation and the death of Zionism

It’s not just the economy

Encountering peace?

Building a shared society

Excuse me for asking

Secret back channels


The Left is right

A moment of opportunity

The worst negotiations, the best negotiations

Palestinian suffering makes no sense for Israel

Creating a compelling vision for peace

It is also in our hands

There is no partner


The partnership challenge

A new intifada?

After Abbas

A bad agreement is better than no agreement

Israel’s strategic choices regarding Gaza


Jerusalem of peace, Jerusalem of war

The Gaza challenge

Is Hamas prepared to end this war with a long-term ceasefire?

Some thoughts this morning

Regional forum for security and stability – Gaza first

After a long phone conversation with a Hamas leader in Gaza

Don’t destroy Gaza, build it!

Framework document for the establishment of permanent peace (part 3 of 3)

Framework document for the establishment of permanent peace (part 2 of 3)

Framework document for the establishment of permanent peace


My Conversation With Hamas

Keine Fortsetzung des Unilateralismus!

Diesen Weg müssen wir einschlagen!


Eine Ein-Staat-Realität ist nicht durchführbar

Mord an der Chance für Ruhe

Das Ende des Raketenbeschusses aus Gaza

Es gibt einen Ausweg

Atomwaffen raus aus dem Arsenal

Was Abbas Israel sagen sollte

Ist mein zionistischer Traum gestorben?