So You Want To Be A Peace Activist? Part 1

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, of 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 main ones to be careful of. 

Part One: The Moral Equivalence

Have you ever seen a post after a terror attack that tried to make one side appear equal to the other? Something along the lines of “It’s horrible there is a terror attack and I mourn all those senselessly murdered but look what we are doing to provoke it! Put yourself in the shoes of Ahmed growing up under a brutal occupation….”

I know why these “peace activists” do it. I don’t think they necessarily believe in moral equivalence at all, especially if they have at least half a brain cell, but they legitimately think they are sending out an olive branch, that if we recognize the humanity and narrative of the Palestinians they will recognize ours in return.

These folks feel they are brave agents of peace, doing the work the rest of us aren’t good-hearted enough to do – by building mutual understanding between our peoples. They see this as a situation of “something’s gotta give”. As a result, many may work very hard to put themselves in their shoes in order to relate to them in a way that would make it easier for them to relate to us.

No matter what happened in 1948, you can never put a government that supports and funds terrorists who kill innocent civilians on the same moral plane as those who just want to survive and be left alone. Ever. Doing so is a gross injustice, and contrary to popular belief does not produce ends that justify these means. They just result in you being used as a pawn to bolster their narrative.

A prime example of moral equivalence is the commemoration of the Nakba. For example, “While our people were joyful, theirs were mourning the loss of their home and dream.”

Hold up. Let’s just put the fact that most of them fled a war and only a few were driven out as enemy combatants, perfectly acceptable in times of war when they pose a security threat, aside for a second.

One of the biggest mistakes Nakba-Mourning PWs, or Peace Warriors, make is taking the events of the Nakba out of their historical context and thereby creating a false moral equivalence or even justification for ideas and policies that would mean the end of the State of Israel.

  • 700,000 Arabs were uprooted in a war where they tried to throw the Jews in nascent Israel into the sea. So were millions in Pakistan and East Germany, Poland, USSR, Bangladesh, India, dozens of African countries, and of course the 950,000 Jews who were expelled from the Arab world, uprooted from WWII onwards. For some reason though everyone seems to obsess about a few hundred thousand Palestinians, as if that justifies a never-ending campaign of terror and annihilation against 6.5 million Jews.
  • It is okay to expel the enemy during a war if they are a security threat. Many have done it and nobody bats an eye.
  • Yes, it’s a shame that so many Palestinians had to leave their homes, but if they had accepted the Partition Plan of 1947 this wouldn’t have happened. So they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Countries around the world had their own “Nakba” but Israel was the only one condemned for it. Makes you wonder…

No, commemorating the Nakba doesn’t create peace and coexistence through mutual understanding. It allows PWs who do so to be used as pawns to promote the Palestinian narrative. Mourning the Nakba is not our job. We should not apologize for having fairly won a defensive war. That just makes us look weak and easy to be taken advantage of.

Often moral equivalence is simply virtue signalling. Making moral equivalences causes one to appear less biased and more compassionate and understanding. It also lends more academic credibility due to the stressed importance of showing both sides and giving them equal consideration. However, it is, albeit tempting, misleading, wrong, and morally repugnant to do so. Therefore PWs really need to be more careful not to fall into this trap.

We all know, based on their refusal of a two state solution five times, that the Palestinian leadership doesn’t care about statehood, and think all of Israel is an occupation, even if they say otherwise. So why do people go on about Jewish Communities in Oslo-delineated Jewish Area C of Judea and Samaria as the biggest impediment of peace when it’s just a giant red herring that bolsters the idea of moral equivalence (or worse, depiction of Israel as the aggressor) that is standard practice in international print media and even some national outlets? Probably, again, as PWs like to do, an attempt to meet their Palestinian comrades halfway to create a semblance of mutual understanding and make them feel more comfortable. This is indeed chopping off their finger to spite their hand.

However, what PWs don’t realize is that most of their Palestinian counterparts wouldn’t meet them halfway even if they act like they would, and those who would are often shunned from their communities. There is simply no room for alternative opinions in that society. Why, and how do I know this? I’m discussing that at length in the next installment.



Lex is a trained comedy actor who is Montreal's second-favourite export aside from poutine.

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