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 we should try not to fall into.
Beware of Peace Organizations That Aren’t Peaceful at All
If you really want to be a Peace Activist, I advise you stay away from self-described Peace Activist organizations.
Many NGOs have nice flowery descriptions that make them sound like water in a morally bankrupt desert. However if you look more deeply into their activities and donor lists, you will see what their true intentions are. And no, they are not about Peace, but about undermining Israeli sovereignty.
Unfortunately, these organizations, like Breaking the Silence, #IfNotNow, #B’tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights, Seeds of Peace, Achvat Amim, Zochrot, the New Israel Fund, Yesh Din, Adalah, Jewish Voice for Peace, and other groups that PWs love to support are just another form of virtue signalling to an adoring audience that will make them heroes among Palestinians. Why? Because although these groups claim to be Zionist or even supporting two states, claiming to be Zionist doth not a Zionist make. When someone claims to be a Zionist, I look at their actions as proof, not their words.
If they support actions that would end the Jewish State, and engage in frameworks like Moral Equivalence (seeing both sides as equally good or evil), Cultural Equivalence (ascribing a Western mentality to a decidedly Eastern Mindset), or Trojan Horse Arguments (the Jews deserve a state, BUT….), they are not Zionists. They only do harm.
Many such NGOs are their own kind of Trojan Horse. Often, their anti-Israel agenda is only part of their mission, while the rest is helping poor and under-represented communities in Israel and doing important social justice and humanitarian work. They frame it in such a way that if you denounce them, you are seen as a terrible person because of all the good work that they do, despite the little Trojan Horse that slips through the wall at every chance it gets.
As such, members of these organizations love to point fingers at those who call them out and PWs (Peace Warriors, or misguided self-proclaimed Peace Activists) eat up the opportunity to defend these orgs to win the favour of their Palestinian “friends”. Many of these “friends” claim to be peace activists whose only secret goal is to lure unsuspecting PWs to the other side, to add gasoline to the fire in their bellies to make change. These partnerships are often how such NGOs are founded, and the Jewish PW is slowly converted into an anti-Zionist through his friendship with the Palestinian “PW” and pressure from international donors. That being said, not all Palestinian self-proclaimed “Peace Activists” are bad, I know a select few that are great, but the good ones aren’t running NGOs whose goal it is to slander Israel and package the same anti-Israel blood libel and conspiracy theories they are raised with, in an easy-to-digest package, to be lapped up by those who share the world’s insatiable appetite for Jewish moral failings.
It is when NGOs get addicted to and therefore start catering their approach towards the millions and millions of dollars in international funds that are donated to those who highlight, exaggerate, and fabricate Jewish and Israeli “moral failings,” they lose their integrity and validity, even if they had good or even Zionist intentions to begin with.
And sadly, given that we are totally outnumbered, the only way to get global acclaim and exposure is to do just that. Such is why every successful Israeli movie after Exodus had an anti-Israel or very leftist bent.
By looking on the bright side and painting these organizations as lovers of Israel and out to provide legitimate criticism to save Israel from herself, PWs lend legitimacy to NGOs who may appear innocuous or even noble, but have a Trojan Horse goal that would wind up wiping Israel off the map if it were achieve. When questioned, they claim it’s a matter of justice, and that justice trumps sovereignty.
So if you still, after all the installments in this series, want to be a Peace Activist/PW, proceed with caution. In most cases, it’s a trap.