A new public Middle East peace initiative is set to launch in London this weekend with the support of high profile celebrities.
Actor Alexei Sayle and film director Ken Loach have put their names to the initiative named “Convivencia” that will bring together people of all faiths and none to help bring about a just peace in the Middle East.
Yusuf Islam, formerly singer Cat Stevens, is also backing the initiative, as is renowned Arab novelist and cultural commentator Ahdaf Soueif, author Tariq Ali and Clare Short, former UK Secretary of State for International Development.
The initiative cuts across faiths and nationality and aims to substitute the current militarised ‘solutions’ based on racist oppression, brute force, denial of rights and colonial dispossession with an approach predicated on shared values and commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Rejecting the idea that the three religions are perpetually destined for conflict it draws inspiration from the periods of mutual co-existence in medieval Spain and the Ottoman Empire where for the most part the communities lived harmoniously side by side.
The intention follows the original Palestine Liberation Organisation programme, towards building a shared political community through a process of decolonisation, beginning with Palestine. This requires an end to Zionism, apartheid and occupation, and building a just and democratic civic society in the whole of Palestine.
The Convivencia initiative extends to people of all faiths and none who are committed to these values. Instead of dividing people, this approach unites them in a search for a just peace based on equality for all in Palestine/Israel. It hopes to draw on the concept of justice that is central to all three monotheistic faiths aiming to create a political system that combines equality, justice and universal human rights in order to deliver peace, democracy and the rule of law.
Convivencia is an academic term first proposed by Spanish philologist Americo Castro to describe the period of Spanish history from the Muslim conquest of southern Spain in the eighth century to their expulsion alongside Jews from 1492. The period is regarded as a Golden Age in which the three faiths lived peacefully cheek by jowl, creating a climate of intellectual and artistic prowess unequalled in the world.
The same was true of the Ottoman period from the 14th-20th century in which Palestine provided a safe place for people of all three faiths to live in relative harmony and flourish. They shared a common Arab culture and lived in the same neighbourhoods until the advent of political Zionism. Convivencia rejects political Zionism which it sees as an exclusivist Jewish settler-colonial project from its inception, intending to expel the Palestinian indigenous population
Convivencia also rejects the prevailing ‘Inter-faith’ dialogue that is driven by a Zionist agenda, silencing any discussion of Palestinian rights. This ‘coexistence’ is dishonest and undermines the core values of the three faiths. In addition, Israeli-Palestinian normalisation projects, sponsored by Western governments, legitimise Apartheid. All these practices collude with racism and must be opposed through a genuine anti-racist agenda, namely: a just co-existence based on decolonisation.
In addition to IHRC, other supporters of Convivencia include ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions), the Christian Palestinian movement “Kairos Palestine”, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Prof. Ilan Pappe of Exeter University. The full list of supporters can be seen here https://jewishnetworkforpalestine.uk/styled-2/styled-10/
Convivencia is due to be launched on 8 May at the P21 Gallery (21 Chalton St, London NW1 1JD) in London at 2pm.