Recently, the World Affairs Council of America was very fortunate to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict around the Gaza strip via conference call with Yousef Bashir. Bashir, a lifelong peace activist, was born in the Gaza strip. He began his journey as a peacemaker after being shot in the back at 15 by an Israeli soldier, and credits his father for teaching him to forgive and find reconciliation instead of turning to anger and revenge.
Yousef began the conference call by stating that the current situation in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine is very fragile, asserting that it is very possible that another war could break out between the two. Yousef attributes this fragility in the Gaza strip to the mid-May killings of Palestinian protestors by Israeli soldiers. However, he saw the killings of the Palestinians protestors as a merely short-term consequence of the unstable relationship. Further, Yousef believes the long-term instability in Gaza was caused due by a variety of issues: the vast unemployment rate, Israeli occupation, environmental issues, and even Hamas’ governance of Gaza.
Yousef believes that Hamas is flawed in their ideology because it has been tried and tested, the only results being the suffering for its Palestinian supporters and opponents. However, Yousef also believes that Israel uses Hamas as a justification to kill Palestinians, whether or not Hamas is truly at fault.
In relation to Palestinian youth, Yousef claimed that the Israeli government has ignored their plight, especially in Gaza. He said that the Israeli government only focuses on combating terrorism, and what they receive in return is radicalized youth and, in turn, more terrorism. Yousef believes that many Palestinians, particularly the youth, have recognized that using violence such as rockets and throwing stones against Israeli soldiers will never bring true peace. That Palestinians even see their leaders as no longer effective. Yousef says that Palestinians have moved toward more peaceful protests to convey their message and pursue their goals. Although Yousef believes that more can be done to move towards peaceful protests among Palestinians, he recognized that it could take several generations to bring about the change that is needed.
Yousef also says that even Hamas has acknowledged the revolution and that violence is no longer needed to bring about peace and liberty. They are learning that peaceful resistance is more effective, and violence will only bring more violence.
When asked about how Palestinians could express their needs effectively, Yousef said there is no way, because other countries that could bring change to Gaza put their nations’ interests first.
When asked about what would be the best path to Israeli/Palestinian reconciliation, Yousef said that the best method would be for Israelis and Palestinians to meet together in person as teenagers. Seeing the other side has human, not as an enemy, will help bring true peace in the future when they grow to lead nations.
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