An Arab Peace Movement

Palestinian peace advocates should do two things. First, they should organize. Second, they should protest suicide bombings in addition to the Israeli occupation.

A model for Arabs to follow is Peace Now, an organization founded by Israeli reserve officers in 1978. With branches in the U.S., Canada and Europe, it is the foremost Jewish peace organization. It organized massive protests throughout the 1980s and 1990s that influenced Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Even Israel’s Labor party under former prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak eventually adopted many of its views. In response to the current conflict, Peace Now advocates a withdrawal from the occupied territories, a two-state solution and an end to violence.

There is no Arab or Muslim equivalent to Peace Now. Mohamed Mosaad, an Egyptian psychiatrist, sociologist and peace activist made this exact argument in his March 31 column entitled “Arab Peace Now” that appeared in the newsletter of Peace, an Internet dialogue group.

In the article, Mosaad blames Arabs for not actively pursuing peace as Israeli leftists do. He points to Peace Now and other Israeli activists who donate blood to Palestinian victims in the refuge camps and laments the fact that Arabs do not engage in similar operations for Israeli victims of terror.

“What is missing, certainly, is an Arab peace movement that should come into being, right here and right now,” Mosaad writes. “An Arab-Israeli peace coalition is needed to pressure both the negotiating politicians and the lurking Israeli settlers and Palestinian militias, and it is essential to back an upcoming peace agreement.”


Such voices do exist in the Arab world, but their words either fall on deaf ears, are muted by biased media or are drowned out in a sea of anger and bombings.

Consider Ahmed El-Gaili ’98, a student at Harvard Law School, who wrote a recent article, “Towards Moral Resistance,” for the Jordan Times. In the article, Gaili advocates the nonviolent protest methods employed so successfully by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. “Some Palestinians have tried to show the moral supremacy of their cause by responding in-kind to Israeli terror and targeting civilians inside Israel’s borders,” Gaili writes. “Such attacks must be condemned on political, moral, religious and utilitarian grounds.”

In an April 14 Newsday op-ed entitled “Where are All the Moderates?” Egyptian conflict resolution specialist Mohammed Abu-Nimer echoed Gaili’s sentiments.

“A Palestinian principled campaign of nonviolence will leave the Israeli government and military powerless,” Abu-Nimer writes. “A massive Palestinian nonviolent and popular campaign to resist the military in the occupied territories will leave no room for the accusation that Palestinians support terrorism. It will also draw the entire community in actively resisting the new Israeli military presence and settlement.”

Some non-violent anti-occupation Arab organizations do exist, including Addameer, LAW (a Palestinian human rights organization) and the Arab Association for Human Rights. But compared to Peace Now, these groups are tiny.

More importantly, Peace Now does not exist to oppose Hamas; it opposes the Israeli occupation. There is no broad-based Arab equivalent.

Arab progressives cannot act as the non-violent protest wings of Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Arabs for peace must engage these militant groups, enemies as real as the Israeli occupying force. Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not advocate a two-state solution. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade pretends to do so while targeting innocent Israelis. Palestinians must recognize these groups as obstacles to peace.

Palestinians must also recognize the obstacle their government poses for peace, just as the Israeli left finds faults in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s policies. After all, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade are a branch of Fatah, Arafat’s own political movement. Palestinians need less manipulation and more participation. They must oppose a government that supports terror.

Furthermore, suicide bombers must not be regarded as courageous opponents of the occupation when Mosaad, Gaili and Abu-Nimer are the real heroes in the struggle for peace in Israel. As isolated Arab voices crying for resistance to Palestinian terror, they demonstrate real courage. But sadly, these true heroes remain largely unmentioned in mainstream media.

Many on the Israeli left are crying out for a Palestinian partner for peace, for an organization to rally behind voices like Mosaad’s. Israel’s heart has hardened as the bombings have increased. Only a mass Arab condemnation of the bombings would move Israelis to support renewed negotiations and concessions.

What would happen if several thousand Arabs protested against Hamas in the same way that thousands of Israelis recently protested against the occupation, even amid a wave of suicide bombings?

Such a protest is unlikely to occur because there is no popular Arab peace movement to organize it. Peace comes through compromise, admission of guilt and self-criticism. Arab progressives need an organization like Peace Now. No such organization exists, and Arab voices of peace are reduced to whispers.

David A. Weinfeld ’05, a Crimson editor, is a Near Eastern languages and civilizations concentrator in Grays Hall.


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