Israeli and Palestinian civil society should not count on their deadlocked politicians to deliver peace and must join forces to mobilise grassroots support for a peaceful resolution to the violent conflict, peace activists from both sides agreed at a meeting in Brussels.
Sitting and waiting until the leadership bring (peace) to you is not enough… Politicians get their mandate from their citizens,” said Jessica Nevo, an Israeli peace activist with Women in Black, an Israeli anti-occupation NGO.
Under the auspices of Pax Christi, the peace activists came together on neutral ground to hammer out a strategy for public mobilisation in an encounter that has become increasingly rare in the last 20 months of spiralling violence.
“We can work together even if, at the moment, we don't agree on all the issues,” said Haneen Zoaby of Ittijah, a Palestinian NGO in Israel, noting that their strategy was action-oriented.
Nevertheless, there was a surprising consensus for promoting the creation of a Palestinian state on pre-1967 borders, the dismantlement of Israeli settlements and recognition of the rights of Palestinian refugees, as well as an end to suicide bombings.
The activists are under no illusions of the magnitude of the uphill task ahead of them in persuading their radicalised and cynical societies to give peace, and each other, a chance.
“Israel's departure from Lebanon was very much influenced by grassroots initiatives,” Nevo points out. The group hopes that success can be replicated once more.
This article appeared in the 27 June 2002 issue of The Bulletin.