I guess I could be defined as a peace activist. Everybody seems to be calling themselves that nowadays.
I enjoy talking to the Arabs and Palestinians – meaning those who live in the Palestinian-Authority administered territory under the Oslo Agreement – in my classes, on the bus (if I happen to be sitting next to one or have a particularly friendly bus driver), in taxis, stores, shuk stalls, and restaurants. I love exploring our common ground and enjoy the experience of exploring our mutual humanity. Israel is a country where strangers talk to each other, where it’s rare to have a seatmate on an intercity bus who doesn’t become a friend by the time the ride is over. Last but not least course, there is nothing to lose by being kind.
However, I am cognizant of the fact that many aspects of peace activism are traps. Here are some to watch out for:
How do I know that many Palestinians who claim to be Peace Activists bridging the divide for a better tomorrow love to dupe you with a false sense of security? Because of all the Trojan horse comments I see from many PWs’ Palestinian friends who speak as self-proclaimed Peace Activists, and many Palestinians I myself speak to. What do I mean by Trojan horse comments? I mean comments that seem really nice and even Zionist at face value, only to sneak in a small little condition that nullifies the validity of everything they’ve said. For example, “I believe in a Jewish right to a state because of all the persecution you guys went through….” but adding the Trojan horse caveat that makes them no different from Mahmoud Abbas in their beliefs (and again deviating from the beliefs of Abbas carries huge social consequences in the PA because so-called Jewish/Israeli collaborators are punished harshly).
These caveats are not only to signal to their Palestinian comrades that they haven’t defected or betrayed their people despite writing a gushy or peaceful preface, but also to fool unsuspecting Westerners, who don’t understand the rules of the game or who aren’t culturally competent, into believing that they are on the same side. Examples of such hidden caveats are “…just not at our expense” or “…. but we should be allowed back home too.” (the latter refers to the right of return for Palestinians into Israel which would effectively end the Jewish state – and they know it.) It’s how the culturally Arab mind functions, similar to every peace agreement they have ever offered us, which read a little bit like this: We will happily give you what you want AS LONG AS you [insert something seemingly innocuous that would make it a piece of cake for the Arabs to wipe out Israel here, like Palestinian right of return into Israel, Palestinian control of borders and imports, Palestinians allowed an army / militarization, freedom of movement between Israel and a future Palestine, ending the military blockade, an airport or seaport completely controlled by the PA…etc.] Every kind of workaround you can imagine, the Palestinians have suggested. The key is that their ideas only sound good and fair, but you always have to look for the caveats, because there will be at least one.
Another notable Trojan horse caveat that is sneakier, cloaked in the guise of morality or social justice, is “…. but Israel is committing an apartheid/genocide/insert blood libel here!” These Trojan Horses are the worst because Westerners, who belong to a culture more oriented to avoid guilt than shame, tend to feel obligated to act in order to avoid the feelings of guilt they spark. Many PWs listen to these and believe them, and feel that by lending them legitimacy and moral support they will win their favor for our cause. They see this acquiescence as a small price to pay for their acknowledgment of our sovereignty, but remember, this is a real Trojan Horse!
If you read these comments carefully, you’ll realize they’re just as Anti-Israel as any other, just much sneaker about it. Sneaky, like the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which says “Yes, we will totally recognize Israel!” It seems too good to be true until one notices the major caveat of “…. but only if right of return is instated for Palestinians”.
The sad part is that these posts, which are half-flowery declarations of understanding, brotherhood, and peace and half anti-Zionist blood libel, are often “liked” by PWs, and these “likes” give the blood libel legitimacy as a Trojan Horse along with the flowery stuff. It’s so so sneaky and it’s the whole backhanded method that those with a purely western mindset can’t wrap their brains around because they don’t get it, they don’t get why they would do that. They don’t understand the mindset behind it.
Once the mindset is understood, one realizes it is not racist to warn aspiring Peace Activists to look out for those Trojan Horses, because out of these you can spark an army.