The so-called “anti-normalization campaign” has been in existence for more than a decade.
A few weeks ago an event organized by IPCRI – Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiative – a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization I founded 27 years ago, was broken up violently by a group of Palestinian “anti-normalization” thugs. My understanding is that they came from the radical Palestinian leftist organization PFLP – the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They were residents of east Jerusalem, holding Israeli-issued ID cards, and there were even several Palestinian-Israeli citizens among them.
The so-called “anti-normalization campaign” has been in existence for more than a decade. Many of IPCRI’s and other peace organizations’ events and activists have been threatened by the campaign activists over the past years, but until recently they remained mere threats; no violence was ever used. One of the Facebook pages of the campaign states that they try to use non-violence “when possible,” indicating their willingness to use violence if necessary. This page and others have been reported to Facebook as incitement to violence and hopefully they will be shut down.
The basic claim of the campaign is that joint Israeli- Palestinian activities provide legitimacy for the State of Israel while the occupation of Palestine continues.
They believe that such activities do nothing to end the occupation and only allow Israel to claim that it is supporting peace efforts while making no real political changes on the ground. In reality, for these people the occupation of Palestine did not begin in 1967 but in 1948, and their real goal is the destruction of Israel.
You, my readers, know very well that I have never supported the occupation (of 1967). Many of you don’t think that such a thing exists. I have supported the two-state solution actively from as far back as 1975 when I was 18 years old, and believe that an independent Palestinian state must be established next to Israel, ending Israel’s occupation and control over the Palestinian people and the Palestine lands that Israel conquered back in 1967. Everything that I have done over the years since 1975 has been focused on achieving this goal. I remain totally loyal to this goal and believe that it serves the interests of the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the Palestinian people.
I have never conducted an activity that I would call “normalization.” I have always been an “anti-normalizer,” never accepting the idea that the State of Israel and the Jewish people can or should deny the Palestinian people their right to self-determination – the very same right that I claim as a Zionist. My actions have always been to educate people on both sides on the needs and opportunities to build peace between them based on the principles of self-determination for the Jewish and Palestinian people in states of their own between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. I have always worked so that contact and exposure between the two peoples opens doors to building compassion, empathy and understanding which can be translated into political actions to make change.
Today almost no contact exists between Israelis and Palestinians – as a result of the violence of the second intifada and the physical barriers that exist, separating people. The psychological barriers are no less difficult to cross and now the anti-normalization people are creating political barriers backed up with not only threats of violence, but actual violence.
Under the support of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and within the framework of the PLO, a special committee was established to bring about engagement with Israeli society. The committee is headed by the former Palestinian general Mohammed Madani. This has been a very active committee and President Abbas has praised its work and has supported contact with Israelis in public. This is the official position of the PLO, yet it has not stood up to the challenge of the anti-normalization campaign which continue to gain popular support.
The campaign makes no sense politically. The occupation will not end because Israelis and Palestinians are not meeting. I have said to campaign leaders and campaign supporters that by boycotting me or my activities they will not move their cause toward a successful end even by one centimeter. I have challenged these people to be consistent with their claimed ideology – something they refuse to do. This is because they do not support peace with Israel. They do not support the end of the occupation from the territories Israel conquered in 1967, they want to see the elimination of Israel from the River to the Sea and see in its place Palestine. They may be secularists compared to Hamas, but their political goals are the same as those of Hamas.
If they really want to end “normalization” they should give up their Israeli-issued IDs. They should encourage the tens of thousands of Palestinians who work in Israel every day to give up their jobs and be unemployed – because what could be more “normal” than working for the enemy? The 26,000 Palestinians who work in settlements should be the first ones to give up their jobs. Let’s not forget the 98 percent of their electricity that they buy from Israel – isn’t that “normalization”? The Palestinian Jerusalemites who support the campaign should burn their Israeli-issued travel documents and not leave the country until the occupation is over. And let’s not forget the Israeli shekel – spending the occupier’s money is certainly normalization.
They should not shop at the Malha Mall or set foot in Mamilla shopping mall – a place where many Palestinians are seen every day. They should stop using their cell phones, which are run by Israeli companies, and should throw out their computers and tablets, which have Israeli components in them. And if God forbid they or members of their family get sick, they should not show up at Hadassah Hospital asking the enemy to cure them.
These are a bunch of hypocrites and thugs who use violence to threaten people who don’t agree with them. They have no understanding of democracy and they are doing real damage to the Palestinian cause.
They have no understanding of how to wage a successful political campaign and it is time that the Palestinian leadership and people stand up and tell these people to cease and desist.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.