An unconditional ceasefire to halt the violence on both sides must be the immediate priority. But while ceasefires are crucial, they are not enough.
By Peter Bloom and Camila Vergara
Published Nov 8, 2023 in Common Dreams
The extreme violence against civilians in Israel and Gaza has shaken the world. The horrific murder and kidnapping of Israeli civilians by Hamas, and the indiscriminate bombings of Gaza by Israel, which have killed more than 8,000 Palestinians and destroyed basic infrastructure, demand a new politics of peace and justice in the region. What is needed is a progressive vision that can unite ordinary Israelis and Palestinians around shared goals of freedom, equality, and mutual prosperity.
Within this vision, an unconditional ceasefire to halt the violence on both sides must be the immediate priority. But while ceasefires are crucial, they are not enough. The cycle of violence will simply resume unless the root causes are addressed. Many Israelis have an understandable worry that agreeing to a ceasefire without ironclad security guarantees could simply make them vulnerable to another devastating attack. Meanwhile, there is an equally legitimate Palestinian fear that calls for ceasefire and prisoner exchanges will simply perpetuate occupation, discrimination, and the subjugation of their people.
Given the polarization and suspicions accumulated over generations, this vision of solidarity will not emerge overnight; its foundations must be laid through grassroots activism and political shifts on the ground.
For decades, the conflict has been dominated by a zero-sum mentality—that one side’s gain can only come at the expense of the other. This thinking has empowered extremist leaders who exploit fear and hatred of the “other” to maintain their grip on power. It has also silenced the voices of solidarity that advocate for genuine shared progress. Attempts to shift the politics from peace to security, from freedom to fear, have perpetuated these extremist positions on both sides by elites who benefit from division and violence.
But there is an alternative. Across Israel-Palestine and abroad, a range of solidarity groups exist that bring together Israelis and Palestinians to imagine a shared future. This includes grassroots organizations like Standing Together and Combatants for Peace, which unite Jewish and Palestinian citizens in the desire for peace and nonviolent activism. Groups like Parents Circle, Women Wage Peace, and Hand in Hand foster dialogue and cooperation across divides through joint forums, schools, and advocacy campaigns. Transnational initiatives like EcoPeace Middle East, Jerusalem Peacebuilders, and Extend build bridges and skills for reconciliation among Israelis, Palestinians, and international allies. Meaningful connection also arises through simple acts of humanity, as shown by volunteering groups like Road to Recovery, an Israeli organization with over 1,200 Israeli and Palestinian volunteers who provide transportation and support for Palestinian patients, especially children, to access lifesaving medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.
The window for change remains narrow, as the recent escalations demonstrate, but the opportunity is there if we act decisively to nurture it rather than falling back into old paradigms.
These diverse organizations reflect the latent desire among both peoples to move past violence and dehumanization. By empowering everyday citizens to engage in dialogue, mutual aid, and joint struggle, they lay the societal foundations for progressive political change. Critically, this grassroots movement seeks freedom and self-determination for Palestinians alongside security for Israelis as a moral and pragmatic path to share the land and provide security and prosperity for both peoples.
This “progressive realism” challenges leaders in Israel, Palestine, and abroad who cynically use conflict to stay in power. It enables the political Left and human rights supporters to unequivocally condemn Hamas attacks while also offering a principled alternative vision of shared justice and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians. It would reframe solidarity, not as reflexive defense of any Israeli or Palestinian policy, but as support for popular movements demanding universal rights and freedoms. This strategy of solidarity does not deny the asymmetries of power, but seeks to strengthen the Palestinian cause by aligning it with progressive forces inside Israel and connecting it to broader global struggles for social justice.
For a humane future, we must support popular movements that reconnect resistance and liberation to the universal progressive values of pluralism, equality, and justice.
Given the polarization and suspicions accumulated over generations, this vision of solidarity will not emerge overnight; its foundations must be laid through grassroots activism and political shifts on the ground. External observers hoping for peace must amplify voices of solidarity, universal rights, and shared progress on both sides. There must be renewed pressure to turn this fight from one between “nations” or “religions” to a common struggle against an extremist oligarchy that feeds on division and conflict. The window for change remains narrow, as the recent escalations demonstrate, but the opportunity is there if we act decisively to nurture it rather than falling back into old paradigms.
After so many dashed hopes, cynicism is easy. But the yearning of people across Israel-Palestine to move beyond fear and live in liberty and peace cannot be denied. For a humane future, we must support popular movements that reconnect resistance and liberation to the universal progressive values of pluralism, equality, and justice. Human rights for all should be the guiding principle in the quest for peace and prosperity in the Middle East, as well as in other places in the world, where transnational oligarchies fuel social conflict and profit from war and human suffering.