The Holy Land Needs a Solution Based on Truth and Reconciliation | Opinion

The Holy Land has not seen the sort of inter-communal violence that in recent days has been terrorizing its Arab and Jewish populations inside Israel proper since the establishment of Israel. In previous conflicts, lives have been lost—mostly Arab, some Jewish—in conflicts with security services. But what we're seeing today is something completely different: Jewish vigilantes indiscriminately attacking their Arab compatriots, and Arabs attacking their Jewish compatriots, with the security services either unable or unwilling to intervene. And while the current round of fighting will end, the repercussions it has wrought will sadly remain for a long time.

It's a tragic new turn of events. Somehow, during the past eight decades of Arab-Israeli wars, even with the unspeakable human tragedies they left in their wake, relations between Arabs and Jews largely remained cordial. These were never fully integrated communities, but each community lived on its own with significant mixing in professional settings, and to a lesser degree, socially.

Even when the bloodiest episodes of the conflict were raging, Arabs and Jews in both Israel proper and East Jerusalem never felt personally threatened by the other side. There were of course tragic terrorist events that afflicted both sides, but they were few and far between, particularly when compared to the other major global conflicts.

I am not attempting to belittle previous tragedies. How could I? My own family's home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem was completely burnt down in the 1967 war. An uncle of mine lost his leg fighting in 1948, and relatives lost lives and livelihoods during previous conflicts. But those were armies fighting each other. Perhaps miraculously, there was no Jewish-Arab inter-communal fighting after 1948 in Israel proper, or in East Jerusalem after 1967.

What we witnessed this week was a real shock, doubly so because it didn't follow a particularly bloody conflict. There is no immediate reason to explain it. What it does show, however, is that the inter-communal situation in Israel is not sustainable, just as the political situation in the Holy Land as a whole isn't either.

It is therefore imperative that the sad and tragic events of the past few days prompt a deep searching for a solution to the unsustainable and dangerous inter-communal situation in the whole of the Holy Land, both within Israel and between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

An Israeli police car burns after an Arab Israeli demonstration following the funeral of Mousa Hassouna in the central city of Lod near Tel Aviv, on May 11, 2021. AFP via Getty Images

The Holy Land needs an internationally-led and managed truth and reconciliation commission. The basic underlying premise that Arabs need to accept is that Jews are here to stay in the Holy Land because they have no other place to go, and Jews need to accept the fact that Arabs are likewise here to stay and they equally have a right to the Holy Land.

Both peoples need to acknowledge and embrace the fact that they both are indigenous to this land and the only alien thing here is the attempts to deprive the other side of their rights to live in freedom and security.

The unfortunate reality is that many Arabs and Jews look at the other side as an inconvenience they have to tolerate living with, rather than fellow citizens to celebrate. The grievances that have accumulated over almost a century of fighting lay latent in both nation's memories. Those grievances need to be talked about and dealt with, because if they aren't, the events of the past few days will likely be repeated. And they will be even more bloody, with consequences that are too horrendous to contemplate.

Jewish Israelis need to learn about the Nakba and the atrocities of Deir Yassin and other tragedies. Arab Israelis need to learn about why Israel's independence was a life-saving turning point for Jews and about the massacres that Jews suffered in Israel afterwards. Ordinary Arabs need to hear first hand accounts of Jewish victims of Arab actions—just like Jews need to hear first hand accounts of Arab victims.

This process should start in Israel proper; all Israelis should both celebrate Israel's independence and commemorate the Nakba. Such an effort should also extend to the West Bank and Gaza and include both Palestinians and Jewish settlers.

Importantly, there needs to be a shift in how each community sees the audience of their respective narratives. Both sides' current focus is to convey their narrative to the outside world. This needs to shift inwards.Once we put our house in order, we can then work out a political outcome. There is no point asking the outside world to impose a half-baked solution that will only delay the inevitable explosion, a glimpse of which we saw this week.

What the outside world can do is to facilitate a truth and reconciliation commission. Without looking inward, no political solution will defuse the risk of more bloodshed for generations to come.

Peace and stability in the Holy Land will only come when a solution is worked out that is based on truth and reconciliation, not on foreign-imposed arbitrary solutions. The time for this has come.

Ghanem Nuseibeh who is originally from Jerusalem and based in London, is Chairman of Muslims Against Anti Semitism

The views in this article are the writer's own.