In recent years, the official Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” has been questioned and maligned by thinkers and activists from all sides of the political spectrum. Summits, negotiations, and diplomatic missions emerge and fall apart in an all-too-familiar cycle, as the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. The Occupation has grown and metastasized, making the implementation of a two-state solution increasingly difficult to imagine. Settlement growth in East Jerusalem in particular poses a significant obstacle to any future power sharing arrangement in the city, critical to any negotiated peace deal. In an increasingly violent and discriminatory context, the number of Palestinians and Israelis interacting and working together has dwindled significantly.
But that’s not the whole story. On both sides of the Green Line, our series profiles some of the newest and most creative civil society peace projects underway in Israel and Palestine. Civil society projects ranging from urban design firms and legal initiatives, to integrated education programs and activist groups are critical in building a more just future. Each episode focuses on a particular organization, leaving viewers with new ways of understanding the conflict and its potential resolutions. We hope their stories will shed light on the possibilities and perils confronting this generation of Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Notwithstanding our desire to see these civil society projects succeed, our series uses a critical approach: How do these leaders and initiatives differ from their predecessors? How can these organizations succeed where so many others have failed? Can new paradigms and grassroots initiatives put effective pressure on elected leadership? Or are their efforts simply insufficient to break the impasse?
Though we strongly believe in the important work taken on by each of the organizations we’ve profiled, we are fully aware of our project’s limited scope. There are only so many days of filming possible over the course of a single summer. Moreover, we recognize that in spite of our efforts, we did not achieve parity between Israeli and Palestinian organizations.
There are several reasons for this, some of which are our fault. As a group composed primarily of American Jews, we had easier access and more connections to Israeli/Jewish groups. Furthermore, several Palestinian groups explained to us that they would not participate due to concerns about normalization. In light of several factors including the massive growth of settlements since the beginning of the Oslo Process (1993), a number of activists feel that working with Israeli groups who don’t subscribe to BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) is akin to normalizing the occupation or the status quo. What’s the use of integrated schools, for example, if Jewish and Palestinian Israeli children are returning home to entirely different political-legal situations? What's the use of co-existence programs when the settlement process continues to deepen in the West Bank? Though we understand this perspective, we were disappointed not to be able to share their ideas with international viewers, many of whom are undoubtedly unfamiliar with their points of view. While we oppose the Occupation and recognize the untenability of the status quo, we wonder whether such strict ideological guidelines can be productive in the long term.
The peace activism of either Israeli or Palestinian civil society cannot be pictured in one series. Nonetheless, we hope to offer an important glimpse into the world of Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals working everyday towards the resolution of one of world’s most intractable conflicts. Hopefully, these initial episodes are just the beginning of a longer, more in-depth project. We’d love to go back to Palestine and Israel to work with more innovative organizations working towards a just and sustainable peace for both peoples.