“Breaking down barriers of anger and prejudice, facilitating friendships, and inspiring action to promote peace.”
Sound promising, doesn’t it? The leaders of Creativity for Peace, an NGO with the stated goal of “preparing young Israeli and Palestinian women to pave the way for peace in their communities and across borders with compassion, courage and an understanding of the story of the other” tried to follow through on their mission statement last month with a conference in East Jerusalem.
It didn’t go ahead – it was reportedly cancelled after “anti-normalization” demonstrators contacted the hotel to protest the co-operative activities taking place.
The anti-normalization campaign is a movement wholly counter-productive to the end-goal of peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians (and the wider Arab and Muslim world). It is designed to shut down any collaboration between individuals, NGOs or progressive peace organisations. AIJAC has written more on anti-normalization here.
The anti-normalization campaigns both pre-dates and serves as an inspiration for the international Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, with recent anti-normalization efforts coming amid a resounding rejection of boycotts by US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who earlier this week stated that fighting BDS should be a “top priority across party lines.” Clinton went on to say; “This is not the path to peace. We need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people… We need to make countering BDS a priority.”
Jerusalem Post columnist, left-wing activist and co-chairman of the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives (IPCRI) Gershon Baskin recently commented on the anti-normalization campaign which he notes has been in existence “for more than a decade,” following an IPCRI event being violently broken up by “anti-normalization thugs.”
“Today almost no contact exists between Israelis and Palestinians – as a result of the violence of the second intifada and the physical barriers that exist, separating people. The psychological barriers are no less difficult to cross and now the anti-normalization people are creating political barriers backed up with not only threats of violence, but actual violence.”
“Under the support of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and within the framework of the PLO, a special committee was established to bring about engagement with Israeli society. The committee is headed by the former Palestinian general Mohammed Madani. This has been a very active committee and President Abbas has praised its work and has supported contact with Israelis in public. This is the official position of the PLO, yet it has not stood up to the challenge of the anti-normalization campaign which continue to gain popular support.”
“I have said to campaign leaders and campaign supporters that by boycotting me or my activities they will not move their cause toward a successful end even by one centimeter. I have challenged these people to be consistent with their claimed ideology – something they refuse to do. This is because they do not support peace with Israel. They do not support the end of the occupation from the territories Israel conquered in 1967, they want to see the elimination of Israel from the River to the Sea and see in its place Palestine.”
Khaled Abu Toameh provided a detailed account of the particular incident on May 11 when anti-normalization protesters disrupted a conference in east Jerusalem aimed at discussing the two-state solution.
“The conference at the Ambassador Hotel was organized by the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), a non-governmental organization (NGO) think tank based in Jerusalem. It has been working towards a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“Entitled, “Is The Two-State Solution Still Relevant?,” the conference was supposed to include a discussion on the issue from the perspectives of the Palestinian side and the Israeli Left.”
“The identity of the Palestinian representative was not announced before the discussion, apparently to avoid pressure from the ‘anti-normalization’ activists.”
“But all this did not stop the “anti-normalization” activists from disrupting his speech and forcing him to abandon the podium at the Ambassador Hotel.”
“One of the protesters announced that he and his friends came to express their opposition to ‘normalization meetings’ between Israelis and Palestinians. Another protester explained: “This is not the first time that such meetings take place in Jerusalem and the West Bank. This phenomenon has to stop.”
“This was not the first time that ‘anti-normalization’ activists targeted Israelis and Palestinians who try to get together to talk peace. In recent years, the activists disrupted and broke up a number of meetings in east Jerusalem and the West Bank on the pretext that they were designed to promote normalization with Israel.”
In May, Palestinian participants in a “Jerusalem Hug” march, hailing from Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus and Tulkarem were confronted by anti-normalisation protestors, resulting in minor scuffles. Seth J Frantzman noted the revealing response to the “normalization” campaign by the protestors, going on to discuss some prominent examples of anti-normalization actions.
“Arab media reported that youths were trying to ‘prevent the establishment of effective normalization near Damascus Gate and the Aqsa mosque.'”
“The attack on the peace event is the latest in a string of actions taken against coexistence and peace groups.”
“The crusade against normalization has as its central theory that Israel uses moderate and peace-minded Palestinians to create a veneer of normalcy. When Jerusalem Fatah leader Ahmad al-Ghoul spoke with Ma’an news about why he opposed the Jerusalem Hug event, he claimed that the organization had ‘deceived Palestinians into joining it by luring them [with] permits to enter Jerusalem.’ He argued that coexistence or peace organizations like this “equate the victim and the executioner and show the world a picture of Palestinians and Israelis living in peace and love.”
“The main thrust of anti-normalization activists is devoted to pressuring Palestinians not to cooperate with Israeli Jews. Professor Mohammed Dajani fell afoul of this in March 2014 when he took students from Al-Quds University to visit Auschwitz. He told an interviewer at Moment Magazine what happened next: “Students marched to my office holding placards that said ‘depart you normalizer’ and handed my secretary a letter warning me not to come back to the university.”
“The Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is very clear: normalization is “the participation in any project, initiative or activity in Palestine or internationally that aims to bring together Palestinians and Israelis without placing as its goals resistance and exposure of the Israeli occupation and oppression against the Palestinian people.” PACBI argues that any work involving dialogue or reconciliation is unacceptable because it is not in the framework of struggle against Israel’s actions.”
The anti-normalization campaign shares its ideological roots with the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. Protestors in both movements have been known to intimidate, harass and/or abuse Israelis, Palestinians and others to promote the shared goal of non-cooperation and non-association between Israeli and Palestinian society. As noted by Abu Toameh:
“The Palestinian ‘anti-normalization’ campaign is part of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that is especially active in the US, Canada, Australia, Britain, South Africa and other Western countries. Its first objective is to intimidate and threaten Palestinians and Israelis who seek peace and who believe in the two-state solution. Its second objective is to delegitimize and isolate Israel in the international community. In this regard, both groups have much in common with Hamas and other terror groups that are working to destroy any chance of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Activists who share the reasonable goal of establishing a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state must take opportunities to raise awareness of, and undermine the destructive actions of, anti-normalization protestors.