By all accounts, Sheikh Abdullah Tamimi, who hails from an influential clan in Hebron, is an extraordinarily courageous and unique Palestinian. His bravery lies not in rescuing a child from a burning house, and his singularity lies not in donating his salary to an orphanage.
Tamimi's courage and exceptionality showed up in a different sphere when he spoke this summer at a seminar organized by Jewish residents of the settlement of Efrat, in Gush Etzion (south of Jerusalem, next to Bethlehem). The seminar was held under the title, "Relations between Jews and Arabs in Gush Etzion."
The event was attended by another courageous Palestinian, Khaled Abu Awwad, General Manager of the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum, a grassroots organization that promotes reconciliation as an alternative to hatred and revenge.
Thanks to his courageous move, Tamimi has now been "disowned" by his clan. This is one of the most humiliating forms of punishment in tribal systems: the individual loses the support and protection of the clan and is boycotted socially -- weddings and funerals become very lonely affairs. Moreover, Tamimi is being labelled as a "traitor" and a "collaborator" with Israel.
Tamimi not only took part in the seminar, he also brought along several Palestinians from the town of Yatta in the Hebron area, and fro the Jelazoun refugee camp near Ramallah.
Encounters between Jewish settlers and Palestinians are more common than most know. Thousands of Palestinians work in most of the settlements. Many others maintain close relations with settlers and do business with them on a daily basis. These Palestinians could not care less about the anti-Israel boycott movement or the "anti-normalization" groups operating in the West Bank.
For them, the need to earn their families' bread far outweighs the voices calling for boycotts and divestment. These ordinary Palestinians strive to get on with their lives without the fear of boycott activists' threats.
Tamimi and his colleagues do not believe in boycotts and divestment. They are convinced that real peace can be achieved through dialogue between Palestinians and all Israelis -- not just those who are affiliated with the left-wing. The Israeli left-wing, they contend, does not have a monopoly over peace-making.
For Tamimi, real peace begins between the people and through economic cooperation and improving the living conditions of the Palestinians. This, he explains, is more important than the talk about the establishment of a Palestinian state, which he believes, under the current circumstances, is not a realistic option.
In his speech at the seminar, Tamimi pointed out that peace and calm do not always come from "peaceniks" and leftists.
"In our work, we search for the right-wing in Israel, the hardliners in Israeli society and the settlers to sit and talk with them," he said. "There are many things that they need to know about Islam and the Quran. This dialogue should be the basis for any future solutions."
Insisting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is political, and not religious, Tamimi told his Jewish audience that many Palestinian groups that claim to represent Islam are not authentic representatives of Islam. "They are using Islam as a bridge to achieve their goals, but in reality they do not represent Islam," he stressed. Tamimi was clearly referring to Hamas and other radical Palestinian Islamist groups, although he did not mention them by name.
Tamimi disclosed that he is currently in touch with thirteen leading Islamic clerics in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to address the daily humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population and bring it to the public's attention.
"The humanitarian needs of the people are at the top of our list of priorities," he said. "We do not want bloodshed. We have needs that we are demanding with all available methods."
He contends that both Israelis and Palestinians should invest in dialogue, especially between religious leaders from both sides, to talk about shared interests. "We need to sit together and understand each other," he added. "This will help the leaders make decisions. We want both peoples to live a dignified life."
Tamimi's is not a lone voice in the desert. He represents an increasing number of Palestinians who have lost confidence in their leaders' ability to improve their living conditions and achieve peace and stability in the region.
These Palestinians support the idea of "economic peace" between the two peoples -- a notion that goes against the ideas of the advocates of "anti-normalization" and others in the West obviously acting against the true interests of the Palestinians by promoting boycott and divestment against Israel.
Ironically, while those hoping to destroy Israel are campaigning for boycotts and other economic harm to it, a growing number of Palestinians are marching in the opposite direction.
Tamimi is not just another ordinary Palestinian. Besides being an Islamic cleric, he also belongs to one of the largest Palestinian clans in Hebron. In these days of unrelenting incitement and indoctrination by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA), it is refreshing to see and hear an Islamic cleric stand up and utter words of true peace. The only Islamic clerics we have seen in recent years are those who preach hate against Israel, Jews and "infidels."
But Tamimi's bold stance has not come without a price. Shortly after the news of the seminar and Tamimi's remarks were broadcast on Israel's Channel 10 TV, a man who claimed to be the leader (mukhtar) of the Tamimi clan issued a statement strongly condemning the "corrupt" cleric for meeting with Jewish settlers.
The man, Hijazi Tamimi, wrote on Facebook that, as the leader of the Hebron clan, he did not authorize any of his family members to meet with settlers:
"As long as I am alive, I will not permit any member of my clan to meet with settlers, no matter what the circumstances. On behalf of myself and the Tamimi clan, we announce our decision to disown the above-mentioned [Abdullah Tamimi], condemn what was mentioned in the TV report and question his credibility. Anyone who wants to discuss political matters should go to the elected president of the Palestinian people, Mahmoud Abbas."
What the clan leader neglected to note was that the "elected" president is now in the 11th year of his four-year term in office. He also forgot to mention that not all Palestinians agree with the policies of Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, and consider boycotts and divestment harmful to the interests of their people. Abbas's repeated rejection of offers to return to the negotiating table, or hold a summit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without pre-conditions, was also not noted.
Other members of the clan joined the attack on Abdullah Tamimi and called for punishing him for meeting with settlers. "Who is this guy who claims to be a sheikh?" asked Qassem Tamimi. "This is Rabbi Abdullah. He is not one of us and he has no connection to our clan."
Tamimi is a rare voice of sanity among Palestinian Islamic clerics, most of whom are busy spewing hate towards Israel and Jews from mosques and media outlets.
Still, throughout the Palestinian territories, his message reflects a growing discontent with the way Palestinian leaders are handling the affairs of their people.
Today the question is, who will triumph: Palestinians and their Jewish neighbors in the West Bank who wish to live in peace, or the anti-Palestinian, anti-Israel, "anti-normalization" activists who seek to derail a true peace at any cost?
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem. Follow him on Twitter @KhaledAbuToameh
This is a lightly edited and slightly abbreviated version of the original article published by Gatestone Institute at https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/8917/palestinians-abdullah-tamimi