Both sides can destroy, neither can make things happen

December 29, 2011
Sarah Benton

For background on this piece see:
No talking! Israel-Palestine meetings blocked by drive against ‘normalisation’

For more information on Yalla peace, see second item

Yalla Peace: The abnormality of ‘normalization’

By Ray Hanania

Normalization may not be “normal” in the Middle East or in regard to Palestinians and Israelis relations.

There is nothing normal about “normalization.” It sounds like a good word, but to many Arabs, not all of them political extremists, “normalization” is a very bad word. Normalization means to Arabs what anti-Semitism means to Jews. It’s a word with very negative connotations. Yes, it is that bad. But why?

As you might imagine, I have been accused of “normalization” a lot. I talk to Jews. And visit Israel, and Palestine, as if there was nothing wrong. I did stand-up comedy with Israelis (not just Jews) and that angered a lot of extremists who still attack me every chance they get to this day.

I understand their attacks. I recognize they are incapable of achieving anything on behalf of the “Palestine cause” and that in attacking me, they are assuaging their guilt and failure. Israeli critics are the same. They can’t save Israel, either. Both sides are failures, in truth.

They can stop things but they can’t make things happen. They can destroy things but they can’t build anything. That’s one reason why Israelis have never achieved their dream state, and why Palestinians have never established their own state.

Recently, a group of normal Palestinians and Jews decided to come together at a conference to explore the idea of “Confederation.” Basically, the idea is to create two states, each with their own sovereign governments, and at a higher level, a confederation government shared by Israelis and Palestinians. (I wrote about their efforts a few weeks back).

The meetings were to take place at the Ambassador Hotel in east Jerusalem and in Beit Jala but Palestinian activists – extremists, really – protested, made threats and blocked the conferences.

Al Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh, who I admire, was to have been a speaker. He canceled. Palestinian fanatics have never forgiven him for suggesting that Palestinians compromise on the issue of the “Right of Return,” something I also support.

The principles of the unprincipled criticism of “normalization” are simple: Those who oppose “normalization” fear that if Israelis and Palestinians start treating each other with respect, the conflict will disappear without ever achieving a resolution.

BUT THE fanatics don’t want the same conclusion that the moderates (who are attacked for “normalization”) are seeking. Fanatics want the other side destroyed. Israeli fanatics hope that Palestinian aspirations for statehood will one day disappear. Palestinian fanatics hope that Israel will eventually be destroyed and the Jewish state will be replaced by an Islamic state.

The moderates believe compromise can’t work without an attitude adjustment. Compromise can’t be achieved unless the two sides compromising accept each other as equals.

That’s the real power of “normalization.” Because it really works both ways. When Palestinians “normalize” with Israelis, it also means Israelis are “normalizing” with Palestinians.

When people normalize with each other, instead of demonizing each other, compromise becomes easier to achieve. And that’s why the fanatics want to stop normalization. They don’t want compromise. They want conflict because conflict maintains their chances of achieving their real goal, to destroy the other side.

Many Israelis still do not recognize Palestinians as a people and turn to racist hatred toclaim they never existed. It’s no different than what Palestinian extremists are doing.

Just because I am willing to treat Israelis like human beings does not mean that I support Israel’s extremist government policies. And it doesn’t mean that I will stop criticizing Israeli policies and actions.

I don’t mind normalizing with Israelis, even though I wish more Israelis would speak out against the growing extremism in Israel.

I oppose the expansion of Israeli settlements. It contributes to the conflict and encourages violence; and violence is happening on both sides with Palestinians firing rockets are Israelis and Israelis firing missiles at Palestinians. Civilians are killed on both sides of the fence, and all of those deaths are an unmitigated tragedy.

Normalization doesn’t change the facts, either. And the facts are clear to anyone who wants to see them. More Palestinians are being killed in this conflict than Israelis, so who is responsible for the violent nature of our relationship?

Normalization does not stop me from criticizing Israeli practices including the immoral policy that severely restricts Palestinian Christians and Muslims from entering Jerusalem. Most of my own relatives are banned from entering the so-called “open city.”

But normalization means that I accept a different way of addressing these grievances. I reject violence of all kinds, by Palestinians and Israelis alike. I reject the calls for one state by Palestinian fanatics and by the Israeli fanatics, too.

Normalization is what makes me believe there are many Israelis who support genuine and fair peace, too. It encourages me to try and convince the rest of Israeli society to take their heads out of the sand and see the real threat that a future of continued conflict holds for us all.

Normalization may not be “normal” in the Middle East or in regard to Palestinians and Israelis relations. But it is the first step towards ending this conflict through compromise and creating a Palestine State while insuring Israel’s continued existence.

Normalization may not be popular, but it is the only answer to the growing fanaticism that is gripping both peoples, Palestinians and Israelis alike.

The writer is an award winning columnist and radio talk show host. He can be reached at

Yalla Salam/Yalla Peace
Manifesto for the Yalla* peace initiative



Join the movement to bring peace to Israel and Palestine

Let’s replace the rhetoric of peace with substantive discussion that creatively engages the public and genuinely seeks answers to the challenges we face.


We can revive the peace process with fairness and mutual respect. But we have to fight as hard to bring peace as the fanatics are doing to stop it.

We don’t need violence. We need determination and an unwavering commitment to doing the right thing for Israelis and Palestinians.

I’ll keep doing my best writing columns that define the moderate Arab voice, speaking out on the issue of hypocrisy and demanding fairness for both sides, and encouraging others to overcome their apathy, their fears and their hopelessness to fight for peace.


We want your support

Here’s the YALLA PEACE overall campaign platform. This is an overview and details will be forthcoming to help understand the overriding concept.

That strategy is simple. Rather than work out all of the details, Palestinians and Israelis must focus on the bigger picture and define a vision of a final peace they both embrace.

Then, Israelis and Palestinians would work backwards to resolve outstanding issues. Individual issues are interrelated and it is not possible to resolve the details individually without knowing where we are headed together and how they relate to other details that may or may not be resolved.

These are the Principles of the Yalla Peace Political Party. If you agree that we must change how we have been doing things, please join us. Remember, despite the continued tragedies and suffering, peace will end them. We cannot stop the violence against each other until we can achieve a peace that will eliminate the majority of violence and put a stop to tragedies.

I support two-states, one Israel and one Palestine. As far as I am concerned, I can recognize Israel’s “Jewish” character and Israelis should recognize Palestine’s “non-Jewish” character.

I oppose violence of any kind from and by anyone. I reject Hamas’ participation in any Palestinian government without first agreeing to surrender all arms and to accept two-states as a “final” peace agreement. But I also reject allowing Israeli settlers to carry any weapons and believe Israelis must impose the same restrictions on them.

I can support some settlements remaining [in Israeli control] – given the reality of 42 years of time passing — in a dunum-for-dunum land exchange. If Ariel is 500 dunums with a lifeline from Israel, then Israel gives Palestine 500 dunums in exchange.

Jerusalem should be a shared city and Palestinians should have an official presence in East Jerusalem. The Old City should be shared by both permitting open access to the city to all with a joint Palestinian-Israeli police presence. [Currently Israel maintains a sharing of the Temple Mount or Haram al-Ash Sharif and that relationship can be worked out better under the direction of two governments in peace.]

Palestinian refugees would give up their demand to return to pre-1948 homes and lands lost during the conflict with Israel. Instead, some could apply for family reunification through Israel and the remainder would be compensated through a fund created and maintained by the United States, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations.

I also think Israelis should find it in their hearts to show compassion and offer their apologies to Palestinians for the conflict. [See below a provision for both sides to apologize to each other — it’s not just one-sided]

I support creation of a similar fund to compensate those Jews from Arab lands who lost their homes and lands, too, when they fled.

I think the Wall should be torn down, or relocated to the new borders. I have no problem separating the two nations for a short duration to help rebuild confidence between our two people.

All political parties, Palestinian and Israelis, should eliminate languages denying each other’s existence, and all maps should be reprinted so that Israeli maps finally show Palestine and Palestinian maps finally show Israel.

A subway system should be built linking the West Bank portion of the Palestine state to the Gaza Strip portion of the Palestine State. Palestine should be permitted to build a seaport access to strengthen its’ industry, and an airport to permit flights and too and from the Arab and Israeli world.

I would urge the Arab World to renew their offer to normalize relations with Israel if Israel agrees to support the creation of a Palestinian State.

And I would ask both countries to establish embassies in each other’s country to address other problems.

While non-Jewish Palestinians would continue to live in Israel as citizens, Jews who wish to live in settlements surrendered by Israel could become Palestinian citizens [or possibly retain their Israeli citizenship in terms of voting rights while living under Palestinian laws] and they should be recognized and treated equally.

If Jews want to live in Hebron, they should be allowed to live in Hebron and should be protected, just as non-Jews. In fact, for every Jewish individual seeking to live in Palestine, a Palestinian should be permitted to live in Israel. In fact, major Palestinian populations in Israel could be annexed into Palestine (like settlements).

Another concept is to have non-Jews living in Israel continue to live there but only vote in Palestinian elections, while Jews living in Palestine would only vote in Israeli elections. A special citizenship protection committee could be created to explore how to protect the rights of minorities in each state.

Israel and Palestine should create joint-governing and security agencies working with the United States to monitor the peace, and establish an agency to pursue criminal acts of violence.

Both Israel and Palestine apologize to each other and recognize the hardships and pain they each have caused to each other in this conflict.
(* Yalla = let’s go, come on)

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