[Published 11 October 2012]
Israeli novelist David Grossman is working with Algerian writer Boualem Sansal to launch a writers’ drive for world peace at the World Forum For Democracy in Strasbourg this week.
Their initiative is reportedly supported by some of the most respected names in literature including Claudio Magris, Antonio Lobo Antunes and Liao Yiwu.
The Forum brings together reformers and global leaders to identify democratic responses to the economic, social and political challenges which affect societies today.
The writers - in their quest to end conflict and bring peace to the world - have naturally included the resolution of the “Israel - Palestine conflict” within their purview.
However the views they express are indeed surprising - parroting Arab propaganda rather than relying on careful research - the indispensable tool normally used by writers of such distinction and undoubted repute.
They begin by stating :
"Israel maintains the Palestinians under occupation for more than 45 years, and this inhuman and immoral situation must stop."
All the Palestinian Arabs residing in Gaza are under the total administrative and security control of a Hamas dominated Government following Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
Our well intended authors are also apparently unaware that pursuant to arrangements mutually negotiated between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) under the 1993 Oslo Accords - 55% of the Palestinian Arabs residing in the West Bank are under the total administative and security control of the PA Government - whilst another 41% are under the total administrative control of the PA Government and joint security control of the PA and Israel.
Elections in the West Bank and Gaza were last held in 2006. Since then Hamas and the PA have been at each other’s jugulars. President Abbas’s use by date as PA president expired in 2009. Democracy is nowhere to be seen.
Suggesting Israel’s occupation is “inhuman and immoral” in the light of these facts is pure fiction
The statement continues:
Both sides are putting unrealistic conditions to resume negotiations ...
Are they serious? Israel has been offering to return to negotiations with the PA without any preconditions. It is the PA that is refusing to negotiate unless Israel stops building in the West Bank.
Grossman and Sansal continue:
"It is urgent that the international community intervenes firmly to bring the Iranian nuclear programme under control and steadily commits to the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, pushing the parties to immediately establish a true direct dialogue, leading as soon as possible to the creation of a Palestinian state next to the State of Israel, both with secure borders, on the basis of painful compromises for both parts though necessary for peace, as the abandonment of settlements or their exchange against land, the renouncement to the right of return of the 1948 refugees, the sharing of Jerusalem. This is still – but maybe not for long - a possible solution and there are men and women on both sides capable of achieving it. Let us help them do so."
Our well-meaning authors seem to be ignorant of the fact that Israel in 2001 and 2008 offered to cede its claims to more than 90% of the West Bank and agreed to a part of Jerusalem becoming the capitol of a Palestinian Arab State - but such offers were rejected. Even land swaps were broached in the latter offer.
They seem oblivious to the fact that no one in the PA or Hamas has the power to renounce any right of return of the 1948 refugees and expect to be alive the next day.
They also seem to overlook that what the Palestinian Arabs demand today could have been theirs - plus more - at any time between 1948-1967 with the single stroke of an Arab League pen - after all the Jews living there had been driven out.
Why the need for a state now when one was not demanded during those 19 years - and indeed rejected in 1937 when recommended by the Peel Commission or in 1947 when proposed by the United Nations?
Who are the men and women on both sides that are capable of doing what has not been able to be achieved for the last 19 years in trying to create a new Arab State between Jordan and Israel for the first time ever in recorded history? Naming them would have been great - even if it embarrassed those highly experienced negotiators from Israel the PA, and the Quartet - the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and America - who have tired endlessly for the last eight years to resolve the conflict but have got absolutely nowhere
Grossman and Sansal conclude:
"Writers have their part in this fight and we hereby express our determination to take it firmly and objectively. We urge all writers in the world to join us. Together, we can influence decision makers and public opinion and thereby also the course of events, ensuring that the values of peace are strengthened throughout the world. Our methods in this fight are literature, debate and vigilance. Maybe it is not much, but it is our way of maintaining our dignity in a world of violence and cynism."
They have been less than objective and their ability to influence decision makers and public opinion with their planned initiative is fanciful.
Samir El-youssef - a Palestinian writer - has succinctly summed up the Grossman/Sansal proposal:
"Rather than maintaining hope for peace, I see here nothing but a further attempt to renew the old failed approach to deal with the Arabic and Islamic world."
The old failed approach has certainly been an unmitigated disaster.
It is indeed time for a new approach in dealing with the Arabic and Islamic world in trying to resolve the 130 years old Arab - Jewish conflict.
Might I suggest negotiations between Israel, Egypt and Jordan to allocate sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem - to be held under the chairmanship of the Secretary General of the United Nations with the approval of the Quartet, the Arab League and the Organization for Islamic Co- Operation.
Writers of the world - are you prepared to sign up to such an initiative?
With your active support this proposal could become a best seller in a very short space of time. It is not fiction. It is based on history, geography, demography and international law - unlike the fairy tales that form the basis for the “two-state” solution.
Maintaining your dignity in a world of violence and cynicism will certainly be heightened by supporting this proposal.
If you hesitate to get involved - exercise your undoubted writing skills to tell me why.
But please this time round - facts not fiction