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April 06, 2002
Peace in Palestine/Israel

By Robert L, Green


The current emphasis on "making peace between Israel and the Palestinians" falsely implies symmetry between the two peoples. Telling the Palestinians to make peace is like telling a battered woman to get along with her abuser, to stop resisting, even as the assault continues. In fact, Palestinians have the right to resist occupation, a concept enshrined in international law and U.N. resolutions. However, not all forms of resistance, such as attacks on civilians, are legitimate. These attacks are illegal and immoral whether committed by Israelis or Palestinians.

How, then, to resolve the situation? First, Israel must withdraw from Palestinian towns and refugee camps. Israel must end the torture of Palestinians, house demolitions, assassinations, confiscation of occupied lands, and ethnic cleansing, all of which are flagrant violations of international law. Second, there is a vital role for the international community:(1) establishment of an international peacekeeping team to separate the Israeli army and the Palestinian population; (2) suspension of U.S. and Jewish-American financial support for Israel until it adheres to U.N. resolutions and international law.

Recently, the U.S. sponsored a U.N. resolution supporting the creation of a Palestinian state. Despite long-overdue U.S. support of this concept, how can an independent Palestinian state be established alongside Israel, given the current situation? Israel has spent billions of dollars building fortified settlements, Jewish-only roads, and army bases throughout the West Bank and Gaza, severely fragmenting Palestinian lands. Moreover, Israel has never declared its borders nor ratified its constitution. These facts alone make a two-state option unrealistic. How can a Palestinian state be viable under these conditions?

The better choice for both peoples is to recognize that they are already living in one country, which runs from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, from Lebanon to Egypt. However, this country grants different levels of political rights to its residents. The 3.2 million Palestinians in the occupied territories are living under military occupation and have no rights. The 1.2 million Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin, who constitute 20 per cent of the Israeli population, are marginalized because of their ethnicity, subjected to confiscation of property and denied full access to social benefits. Meanwhile, the 5 million Jewish Israelis enjoy full political and civil rights. It may be true that at the current moment, a one-state solution is impossible, and a separate, geographically contiguous Palestinian state will have to be formed.

I truly believe, however, that for real peace, not just an armed cease-fire, the two people will eventually have to join as one nation. An objection commonly raised is that allowing democracy to flourish for everyone would destroy the Jewish state. Democracy would change Israel from an apartheid state to a pluralistic one. Only racists see that as destruction; others see it as the necessary and proper movement past the colonial stage. A workable, just solution is one state in which each person has one vote.

We cannot resolve the problem of peace for Israelis and Palestinians unless we believe that there is no room for racism and apartheid in today's world. Even at the local level, we have to renounce the Zionist dream, which has become a nightmare for both Palestinians and Israelis, and admit there is no justice in a country rigged to create dominance for one ethnic/religious/linguistic group over all others. Many who still support the Zionist concept of a state set aside exclusively for the benefit of Jews raise the terrible specter of the history of anti-Jewish bigotry. These advocates generally cite the utterances of marginal, fringe figures from one group or another of extremists. Most such speakers and writers fail to mention the blatantly racist and genocidal fulmination currently extant at the highest levels of the Israeli government and among their pro-Israeli American supporters.

For example,On March 11, in the Jerusalem Post Allan Dershowitz, Professor of Law at Harvard University wrote that the Israeli army should destroy entire Palestinian villages in response to Palestinian attacks against Israel. Earlier in March, the Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure , Avigdor Liberman, who resigned his post because the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli army was insufficient for him, called on the army to bomb Palestinian "markets, banks and malls." Israeli officials have called Palestinians "lice" "a cancer" and "beasts," without any censure or retraction by their fellow officials. An opinion poll conducted in mid March by the Jaffe Center for strategic studies at Tel Aviv University, found that 46 per cent of Jews in Israel support the mass deportation of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The fact that nearly half the Israeli public supports the violent expulsion of an entire people is frightening. Still, Israel's supporters continue to claim that anti-Jewish bigotry, not Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory is the true source of the growing worldwide condemnation.

Democracy is challenging and imperfect: it demands that citizens work hard to form coalitions, tolerate compromise, and protect the interests of the weak. In this atmosphere, alliances form, allowing trust and friendship to develop over time, offering the only hope of a just and enduring peace upon which Israelis and Palestinians will build their common future.

The author, Bob Green, is an American Jewish peace activist who hails from the great state of Vermont. contact at bebo@compuserve.com

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