Palestinian peace activists have come under fire for attending a Memorial Day Ceremony in Tel Aviv for Palestinian and Israeli victims of violence. The ceremony was attended by some 2700 people.
The event was organized last week by Combatants For Peace, a movement that (according to its website) "was started jointly by Palestinians and Israelis who have taken an active part in the cycle of violence; Israelis as soldiers and Palestinians as part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom."
Founded in 2005, Combatants For Peace states that it has three main goals:
To raise the consciousness in both publics regarding the hopes and suffering of the other side, and to create partners in dialogue.
To educate towards reconciliation and non-violent struggle in both the Israeli and Palestinian societies.
To create political pressure on both Governments to stop the cycle of violence, end the occupation and resume a constructive dialog.
Organizers have hailed the ceremony as a great success and "another positive step toward peace and reconciliation" between Israelis and Palestinians.
An Israeli and a Palestinian participant at the 2014 "Combatants For Peace" Memorial Day Ceremony in Tel Aviv. (Image source: Facebook page of Combatants For Peace)
But the Palestinian Authority [PA] leadership and many Palestinians obviously don't share this view. In fact, they see the participation of Palestinians in an event commemorating Israeli victims of violence as an act of treason.
The PA government in the West Bank -- who do not miss any opportunity to tell Westerners that they remain committed to peace and coexistence with Israel -- even went as far as disbanding the Palestinian branch of Combatants For Peace in June 2013.
PA Interior Minister Saeed Abu Ali signed the order to disband the movement after Palestinians accused it of "bias in favor of Israel" and promoting normalization with Israelis.
The protests prompted some Palestinian activists to resign and accuse the movement of "promoting the views of the occupation and lacking a clear agenda in support of the Palestinians, especially with regards to the right of return of refugees and the status of Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state."
Undoubtedly, the activists who quit did so because they were afraid of being targeted by Palestinian extremists, particularly those belonging to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] and "Anti-Normalization" movements.
Last week, a Palestinian professor at Al-Quds University who led a group of Palestinian students on an unprecedented trip to the Auschwitz death camp was expelled from a union at the university.
The union said in a letter that Professor Mohammed Dajani's membership had been suspended for "behavior that contravenes the policies and norms" of the group.
Now the Palestinian coordinator for Combatants For Peace, Yussre Slameen, is facing a smear campaign and threats for attending the ceremony in Tel Aviv together with other Palestinians, including bereaved families.
Even Slameen's having spent time in an Israeli prison for security-related offenses has not helped him escape a barrage of scathing attacks and condemnations.
Comments published in the Palestinian daily Al-Quds have accused Slameen of being a "traitor" and an "advocate of normalization with the occupation."
One reader denounced the peace activist as "trash," while another described him as being "morally and nationally corrupt."
Another reader, Samar Shyoukhi, saluted those Palestinians who refused to take part in an event honoring Israeli victims. She urged the Palestinian Authority security forces to severely punish Slameen and his friends. Others called on the PA to fire Slameen from his job at the Ministry of Social Welfare.
By disbanding the Palestinian branch of Combatants For Peace, the Palestinian Authority leadership is encouraging radicals to fight against any Palestinian who works toward peace and tolerance with Israel.
The message that the PA is sending to its people is that it has become a crime to sympathize with the grief of Israeli families over the loss of their loved ones. With such an attitude, it is hard to see how the Palestinian Authority will ever be able to convince Palestinians to make peace with Israel.
Once again, the actions and words of the Palestinian Authority leadership demonstrate that it has done anything but prepare its people for peace with Israel.