To find peace, Kerry must look under the rubble

The Prawer plan, which may very soon become law, aims to remove these Palestinian citizens of Israel from their villages and concentrate them in state-planned areas. Israel does not recognize the villages, even though many pre-date the state, and does not provide them with basic services such as water, electricity, or health and education. Indeed, Israeli forces have frequently demolished Bedouin homes and structures. The Bedouins completely reject the plan and state policy towards them.

But this issue is not on the negotiating table, and all parties will argue that there is no place for it in "the peace process." In other words, any discrimination, displacement or dispossession that the Palestinian citizens of Israel suffer is now considered a domestic Israeli issue. This has been the case since the Oslo so-called “Peace Process” framework was adopted in 1993, leaving those who have Israeli citizenship to face their fate without any diplomatic representation.

The peace process, which has not got the parties a step closer to peace, has not prevented Israel from making demographic changes, forcibly displacing and dispossessing Palestinians using the power of its military force and the discriminatory laws it has put in place. While the peace talks have ostensibly focused on the goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the Israeli policies of forced displacement accelerated on both sides of the Green Line (the armistice line established at the end of the 1947-1949 war between Israel and the Arab States during which Israel was created).

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Despite the fact that the Israeli policies are conducted in two different legal jurisdictions – within and across the Green Line – they are almost identical. Israel uses similar methods in both areas and targets the same goal: maximizing the area occupied by Jews and minimizing the area on which Palestinians reside. Israel’s persecution and displacement of its Palestinian civilian population as well as the civilians of the OPT is a serious violation of international human rights law; in the OPT these practices amount to grave violations of international humanitarian law.

To highlight this common threat, hundreds of Palestinians from across historic Palestine went out to the street on July 15 to protest against the Israeli plan of forced displacement and again on August 1.

Early demonstrations began in the Naqab/Negev, and moved to Gaza, the West Bank and up to the Galilee. Demonstrators all carried signs that said "Prawer will not pass." In Beersheba, Sakhnin, Jerusalem and other areas they were brutally repressed by the Israeli security forces. Meanwhile, the Palestinian authorities in Gaza and Ramallah, who are at odds on almost everything else, each acted to prevent July demonstrations from taking place. Nevertheless, they happened.

The significance of these demonstrations should be seriously addressed, especially by those, like Kerry, who are interested in making peace. They demonstrate that the Palestinian People maintains its solidarity and unity across political divisions and geographic boundaries.

More importantly, the demonstrations highlight a key shortcoming of previous peace efforts. A genuine peace process needs not only to tackle issues of borders and security or the other issues commonly referred to as “final status” issues, but it should also adopt a transitional justice framework, as has been done in other violent conflicts such as South Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste and Colombia. The first goals of such a framework would be to immediately stop the displacement of civilians and then to provide comprehensive reparations to the victims.

The protests, Palestinians will tell you, are not only against the Prawer plan, but also against what it represents: the Israeli policy of forced displacement, the root of the conflict, and the threat facing Palestinians across the country. Prawer is known by many other names in communities facing home demolitions, discrimination and other violations of human rights in East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, Lod and Ramleh, Yaffa and Akko, and the Galilee. It has been lived for decades by the refugees of the 1948 and 1967 wars who have never been allowed to return home.

A peace process that ignores the displaced and soon-to-be-displaced will only perpetuate the human rights crisis in Palestine/Israel and the region. Incorporating a model of transitional justice in Palestine/Israel is essential to establishing a just and lasting peace.

Hijazi and Nuseibah are, respectively, policy member and policy advisor of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.
 

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