Ziad Asali
Israel Policy Forum (Blog)
February 11, 2009 - 1:00am

I am delighted to be among the early contributors to the first blog postings on this new part of the Israel Policy Forum (IPF) website. The close relationship that my colleagues and I at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) have built with IPF is fundamental to what we, at ATFP, are working towards. One of the most important, and challenging, parts of our mission is the goal of building a broad-based alliance that brings together all those willing to work to establish a viable, vibrant and independent Palestine that lives alongside Israel in a peaceful Middle East with open borders and normal relations.

Arabs and Jews have no monopoly over concern for peace in the Middle East, and our alliance needs to include our fellow Americans and others of every description. It would be disingenuous, however, not to acknowledge that Jewish and Arab Americans have a special link to Israel and Palestine, a more acute interest in what happens there, a more developed understanding of the effect on our own American national interest, and a more passionate concern for these societies. That is why it is essential that Arab and Jewish Americans who are committed to peace form the heart of a political alliance in favor of a two-state solution.

The Israelis and Palestinians both need an end of conflict agreement. The Israelis will not be able to achieve peace, security and regional acceptance without an agreement with the Palestinians; the Palestinians will not be able to achieve independence and statehood without an agreement with the Israelis. This common interest and mutual dependence on a negotiated agreement ought to make it a simple matter for Arab and Jewish Americans to come together to work with our own government, as well as our friends in the region, to do their utmost to secure a peace deal.

But, of course, we know it is not so simple. Doing so requires shedding knee-jerk ethnic, tribal and religious solidarity and deeply ingrained suspicions in favor of a rational evaluation of what makes sense politically.

The growing relationship between IPF and ATFP should be both a model of a new relationship and an alliance between like-minded people in both the Jewish and Arab American communities. Among other things, it can prove that Arab friends of Palestine and Jewish friends of Israel can work together, and that, in fact, not only coexistence but cooperation, close alliance and indeed friendship is desirable and achievable.

This is a historical moment of hope in our country, with a majority of Americans rallying around a young President whose very election is a statement against deep-seated stereotypes, divisions, exclusion and cynicism. Millions of Americans looked beyond ethnic prejudices in the recent elections, preferring hope, and their own interests, to old doubts and fears. We who believe so deeply in peace in the Middle East must take advantage of this moment of promise and opportunity, and lend our collective voice and power to the new Administration as it tackles the formidable difficulties posed by peacemaking between the Palestinians and Israel.

As I have said in the past, I believe that those of us who are committed to peace based on an end to the occupation and two states living side by side in security have more in common than our ethnic brethren and coreligionists who prefer confrontation over compromise. It is time for those of us, who wish to bring the conflict to a permanent end, to recognize that the divisions stand in the way now are not those between Palestinians and Israelis, or Arabs and Jews, but between those on each side who want a negotiated peace based on compromise, and those who do not.

We can no more afford to be ignorant of the past than to dwell in it. The future of our children and grandchildren that we can shape is more important than the glory or the suffering of our forefathers that we cannot alter. Our dignity, as individuals and as groups, can only be maintained if we uphold the dignity of others. People who claim a monopoly on victimization acknowledge no possibility that they themselves can be victimizers. Let those among us who are driven by fear, greed and vengeance be checked and pushed back by those of us who understand the real meaning of a necessary but painful compromise. Let us chose to do the right thing, not because we are so virtuous, but because we are serious about finding solutions, and therefore are serious about peace.

These concepts will mean little if they are not utilized to generate political influence, and a plan to use it.

I am confident that this blog will serve as a forum to bring together those of us, Jewish, Arab and others, who are dedicated to bringing peace to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. I look forward to doing everything possible to help expand our increasingly close and invaluable relationship with our friends and allies at the Israel Policy Forum.

Ziad J. Asali, MD

President, American Task Force on Palestine


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017