It’s been about two weeks and mainstream news services are still buzzing about “direct peace talks” brokered by the United States as if something substantial or worthwhile is bound to happen. Unfortunately, all I’m seeing is Netanyahu and Abbas prodding each other with large sticks while trying to advance very different political agendas. But humanity comes before politics, and this is why these direct talks are pointless.
I’m not a pessimist, but I’m not naïve either. If the negotiations result in a 12-month ceasefire or some other written agreement, that’s excellent. But a few politically-charged words on paper won’t change the reality of the situation, which is that 4.5 million Palestinians are forcefully isolated from the outside world. These negotiations won’t deal with the actual occupation of Palestine or the Apartheid Wall effectively imprisoning the entire West Bank population. They won’t discuss the egregious human rights violations against Palestinians in al-Arakib or Bil’in nor will the talks even mention the hundreds of children detained and abused behind Israeli prison bars. None of that is on the agenda, and frankly, I couldn’t care less if Netanyahu and Abbas agree to let an extra 1,000 lbs. of medicine through the Gaza Strip border because at the end of the day, Palestine is still under occupation.
There is speculation that these talks are meant to lay the groundwork for a future Palestinian state. Here’s a little information about me: I want to find Palestine in the drop-down menu when I’m filling out an application asking where my parents are from. I want to be recognized and represented by everyone in the world, not just a few refugee teams affiliated with the United Nations. I want my flag to hang in international airports. So in this sense, I can’t wait for the day Palestine is recognized as independent. But this is only the first step. This is about the extent to which the Palestinian diaspora will benefit. The term “occupation of Palestine” would be revised to “occupation of independent Palestine”.
So what should be the focus of the talks? Once again, humanity comes before politics. A change of attitude is the most important thing.
A change of attitude will help maintain a viable peace. It’ll allow Arabs and non-Arabs to accept one another as human beings capable of contributing to the same society. It’ll promote equality and security, and nobody would feel threatened if a Palestinian were to ride an Israeli transit train.
A change of attitude will finally put international law into consideration. If Netanyahu and Abbas throw away their agendas and read, together, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or some other basic document, they’ll both come to realize that it’s illegal to build settlements in occupied territories, prohibit basic necessities (food, water, electricity, etc.) from reaching certain groups of people, and persecute individuals based on their private beliefs.
A change of attitude will uncover the world’s eyes. The public will recognize the stark similarities between Apartheid South Africa or 1950’s America and the current state of things in Palestine. International corporations will back out of manufacturing the technology used to maim unarmed civilians. Even the most irreligious people will condemn the barriers that bar worshipers from reaching the churches, synagogues, and mosques in Jerusalem.
A change of attitude this great might come across as idealistic, but aiming for anything lower endangers the lives of millions of people. All the small requests or preconditions brought to the direct talks won’t change anything. After all, what’s one less settlement going to do? What’re two more hours of electricity going to do? What’re five fewer air strikes going to?
The direct talks are pointless. I’ve got your solution right here: change your attitude and end the occupation. Until this happens, Netanyahu and Abbas can keep their words to themselves.