Palestinian activists on May 11 broke up a conference in east Jerusalem where Israelis and Palestinians met to discuss the two-state solution. The activists belong to the "anti-normalization" campaign, which aims to thwart meetings between Israelis and Palestinians.
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.
Organizers said the event was made possible by the support of the Government of the Netherlands.
The Israeli side was represented by Dr. Alon Liel, former Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ambassador to South Africa. The identity of the Palestinian representative was not announced before the discussion, apparently to avoid pressure from the "anti-normalization" activists.
Liel is an outspoken critic of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. Two years ago, he told The Times of Israel that he supports cultural boycotts of Israel, and that he himself started boycotting goods produced in the settlements to protest the lack of progress in the peace negotiations.
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.
Shortly after the discussion began, scores of Palestinian activists, many of whom are affiliated with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, stormed the conference room and chanted slogans denouncing "normalization with Israel."
The protesters also chanted slogans condemning the Palestinians who hold meetings with Israelis as traitors. In addition, they chanted, "Jerusalem is Arab!" and "Palestine is free!"
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."
That some of the activists are affiliated with Fatah did not stop them from condemning the PA leadership for maintaining security coordination with Israel in the West Bank.
Hamas, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist and is opposed to any meetings with the "Zionist entity," was quick to praise the activists who broke up the meeting in east Jerusalem.
"The foiling of the normalization conference in occupied Jerusalem is a sign of the great awareness of the Palestinian youths and the determination of our people to deal with the occupation as an enemy that should be fought against and not accepted," commented Hamas spokesman Hussam Badran. "We salute the free youths who carried out this national act."
Hamas's response shows that the activists who stormed the conference hall are actually serving the interests of the Islamist movement, which feels emboldened by such attacks. By failing to condemn the attack against Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, the PA and Fatah leadership are also promoting Hamas's agenda and ideology.
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.
Last year, another Israeli-Palestinian conference held in the same hotel was called off after anti-Israel activists stormed the hall and started shouting, forcing participants to flee.
A few weeks later, "anti-normalization" activists attacked two events in Ramallah. The first was a performance by an Indian dance troupe. The protesters accused the Indian Classical Dance Performance, Kathak, of appearing before members of the Indian community in Tel Aviv, arguing that this was a form of normalization with Israel. PA security forces used force to disperse and arrest some of the activists.
The activists were arrested because they had embarrassed the PA, which hosted the Indian dancers, not because of the "anti-normalization" campaign.
Another event targeted by the "anti-normalization" activists took place at City Inn Hotel in Ramallah, where Israelis and Palestinians met under the banner "People Make Peace." The event was organized by the organization Minds of Peace, founded in 2009 by an Israeli peace activist, Sapir Handelman. The Israeli participants were rushed to Palestinian police vehicles that drove them to the nearest Israel Defense Forces checkpoint.
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.
Palestinians need to distance themselves from those who seek to impose their will on them through intimidation and terror. Boycotting Israelis, especially those who support the Palestinians, is not a Palestinian interest. The "anti-normalization" and BDS movements are, in fact, anti-Palestinian, anti-Israel and anti-peace campaigns that only cause more damage and suffering to the people they claim they are trying to help.