Gershon Baskin claims that thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have been killed since we began the peace process and we need a guide to go forward and that has not happened. Instead there has been violence. We are afraid of each other and don’t believe we can reach agreement, but we can.
Dr. Gershon Baskin, a renowned peace activist, journalist and author, spoke to a packed audience at an event at 3S Artspace, on Sunday, about his views on a possible solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
The event was presented by the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire and Kids4Peace, an organization that brings together youth from Israel/Palestine and the United States with the goal of building bridges among Muslims, Jews and Christians.
Baskin has been actively involved in the peace movement for many years and is currently a member of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum. He has written widely on the peace process and has won a number of international awards for his efforts. Baskin has been a columnist for The Jerusalem Post since 2005 and continues to travel to promote peace in the region. He was personally responsible for the successful negotiations with Hamas that led to the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, according to the event organizers.
In his talk at 3S, Baskin explored the question of whether a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis is still possible in light of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent re-election. He talked about Palestinian international diplomatic strategy and international pressures facing Israel. In addition, he will address U.S.-Israeli relations and the role of American Jewry both in U.S. and Israeli politics.
“I would like to talk to you about my 36-year journey for peace,” Baskin said. “I am Israeli. I live there and I love it. I know there are a lot of problems to be solved.”
Last week, Baskin said Israel celebrated Independence Day. By custom however, the day before, it holds a memorial day, to recognize the 28,000 Israelis killed to make Independence Day possible. He said Palestinians lost lives, too, and many of their people are displaced as refugees.
“The memorial day is controversial,” Baskin said. “Both sides come together to remember our day, and to say no more.”
The talk was sponsored by Stephen and Karin Barndollar of Portsmouth.
“My wife, Karin, and I moved to Portsmouth in 1982 after a career in international business at various locations in the Middle East,” Stephen Barndollar said. “During the nearly 15 years of living and working in Tunisia, Beirut and the United Arab Emirates, we had always been treated with warm hospitality and friendship by local Arabs in the host countries. It seems tragic to us that the political stalemate in Israel with the re-election of Mr. Netanyahu and the conservative Likud party has condemned the peace process and the framework of a two-state solution to the archives of many previously failed negotiations.
In Baskin’s view, the two-state solution, with clearly delineated borders and the freedom to move between countries is the one answer that makes sense, but he acknowledged getting there is where the details get sticky.
“This is a conflict of two movements,” Baskin said. “Both are struggling for identity and a piece of land to call our own. Both movements claim the same land and neither is willing to let the other rule.”
The two state solution has been proposed in the past. Baskin said he believes the majority of both sides want it, but said it has failed because of details.
“Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have been killed since we began the peace process,” Baskin said. “We need a guide to go forward and that has not happened. Instead there has been violence. We are afraid of each other and don’t believe we can reach agreement, but we can.”
Baskin said it can be done because the two groups know why it failed before.
“Instead of a naive peace, we can move to an intelligent peace,” Baskin said. “We need a third party to monitor the agreement for us, but first we need to sit down and face each other, and talk to each other. My advice to the U.S. is to get us in a room together and stay out. Then help us to hold our agreement together. Negotiation is our responsibility.”
Barndollar said he and his wife are grateful to the World Affairs Council of N.H., the local N.H. chapter of Kids4 Peace, and 3S Artspace for their support. Friends Forever was represented at the talk, but not as a co-presenter, he said.
Kids4Peace is an interfaith community of more than 1,800 Israeli, Palestinian and North American members (youth, families and educators) working together for a better future. Through a network of local chapters and international camps, it provides a six-year, year-round educational program for Jewish, Christian & Muslim youth. Activities focus on interfaith dialogue, community-building, leadership development, and nonviolent action.