First of all let me thank Search for Common Ground for this award. I would also like to thank my own organization, MIFTAH for providing me with the platform from which to express my views. I am truly honored to have been chosen for what I feel is my humble contribution to the world of journalism. But the fact that I was chosen proves that everyone’s voice can be heard. And for that, I am grateful.
To be honest, I was surprised that my article was chosen at all. I would bet anything that the Israeli taxi driver I talk about in my piece would be shocked as well if he knew. But as any of you who have read any of my articles will probably know, there is one overriding truth I have discovered in my years in this field — it is that we can never imagine a situation where peace can prevail until we first address the issue of justice. That is part of what I tried to convey in my article, which you have so generously honored. I realized as I wrote the article that recognition is key. Unless we as people are recognized and our aspirations and identity are honored, there can be no real peace. I think this is true for any place and peoples in conflict. It is also true, as I said, that Palestinians and Israelis know each other in ways no other people do and this may help in the long run when we are finally equal.
There is no one who does not want peace. The question is, at what price and on whose terms. As humans — in this case Palestinians and Israelis alike — we all want our children to grow up safe and happy and secure. There is no doubt my taxi driver who served in the occupied Palestinian territories in the Israeli army has a family he loves and a home he would protect with his life. For the Palestinians it is this simple recognition that we struggle to have acknowledged — that we embrace those same needs and values and are entitled to them just like all other nations in the world. Because in the end, human beings are pretty much all the same.
What places the Palestinians and Israelis at opposite ends of the playing field is the fact that we are overwhelmed by the occupied/occupier relationship that naturally puts one above the other. In that kind of reality, there can never be justice or peace. I believe there are many people who understand this and who are working towards ending this equation forever. I commend those brave voices, Palestinians, Israelis or anyone else who does not fear to speak the truth. And once that happens, I am sure we, just like all those feuding nations in other parts of the world who have found their path to independence, will find a way to live in the presence of the other.
Joharah Baker is a writer for the Media and Information Programme at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). This is the text of a speech Joharah made on receiving the Eliav-Sartawi Award for Middle Eastern journalism on Dec. 15, 2010. She won the award for her article “Familiar Enemies”