The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex and multi-faceted. Though there are nuances and strong opinions incorporated into all stances on the conflict, it is possible to understand the issue at hand because information and knowledge are readily available.
Recently, the media spotlight has been on the violence generated by Hamas, and that has clouded many people’s ability to see the root of the issue and understand the depth of this 75-year-long conflict. In seeking to better understand this conflict, there is an important distinction that often goes unrecognized: the difference between seeking peace and seeking freedom. For Palestinians and many other oppressed peoples around the world, these two concepts do not walk hand in hand. This is because peace, from an oppressor’s perspective, can often mean silence and submission.
Over the years, negotiations, peace talks and international interventions have taken place in hopes of finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA. Yet, again and again, these efforts have failed to address the heart of the Palestinian people’s aspirations. To many, peace has come to represent a position where the Palestinian people are expected to yield to their oppressors and accept a reality that continues to restrict their autonomy.
I think the notion of “peace” is sometimes weaponized by those in power to maintain the existing condition and silence the voices of the oppressed. “Peace” has been a buzzword in the media recently in relation to this conflict, and it effectively makes those who believe in a free Palestine seem “anti-peace” or pro-Hamas. Peace, in this context, has meant Palestinians conceding to an oppressive occupation and having to live by the terms of their oppressor. It has been used to excuse the illegal settlement in the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza, suppressing any real opportunity for Palestinian sovereignty.
“Oppressors may talk about a desire for peace, but what they are often seeking is submission of the oppressed and return to a status quo that benefits them.”
But for Palestinians, the ultimate goal is not peace, as the media might define it – the goal is liberation. Liberation is freedom from restraints; it’s equality; it’s the ability to act and think and move about freely. Liberation is autonomy and an end to occupation. Liberation is the ability to make decisions for your own future, to own your own land and enjoy the rights and dignity that other people get to enjoy. In this pursuit for liberation, Palestinians have attempted various means of resistance, from peaceful protests and negotiations to armed struggle, according to Open Democracy. While many have disagreed on these methods, the overarching goal is still the same: freedom from oppression.
This understanding of liberation can be used to understand other social conflicts around the world. It reflects the experiences of oppressed groups throughout history, from activists fighting apartheid in South Africa to civil rights leaders fighting Jim Crow laws in the United States. For these individuals and communities, “peace” often meant accepting a system that was inherently unjust and oppressive. Those who protested and took a stand against this system were perceived to be “disrupting the peace” and creating trouble. Protests and activism can be uncomfortable for those who believe that things should stay the way they are or don’t fully understand the cause.
“Protests and activism can be uncomfortable for those who believe that things should stay the way they are or don’t fully understand the cause.”
Oppressors may talk about a desire for peace, but what they are often seeking is submission of the oppressed and return to a status quo that benefits them. When oppressors are able to change the narrative to a desire for peace, they can draw attention away from the root of the issue and convince the masses that they are the ones who are suffering.
In conclusion, it is crucial to recognize that for Palestinians and other oppressed peoples, the quest for liberation is a deeply rooted and essential goal. The global community needs to acknowledge the difference between peace and liberation in order to not be complicit to oppression. Only by doing so can we move closer to a world where we can experience real peace, which exists only when there is freedom and equality for every person.