"When understanding is demented, destruction is near." -- Sanskrit proverb
I was preparing an article to respond to the current violence in Gaza when I realized that recent history is repeating itself. Thus, I looked at previous articles and decided to simply update an article I wrote in 2012 about that year’s Israeli attack on Gaza. It seems to me that “peace”--to some--means a hope that the Palestinians will just disappear and stop seeking their rights protected under international law. Meanwhile, Palestinians are fighting for their survival, not for the destruction of Israel.
The process of peacemaking is a process that begins first with establishing healthy boundaries that protect both sides from each other, and then restoration and reconciliation takes place to heal wounds and promote forgiveness and healing.
It is a process that humanizes the oppressed in the eyes of the oppressors, who often live in a bubble and have no empathy for those other than their “own.” It also teaches the oppressed the meaning and value of grace.
Peacemaking embedded in forgiveness is not a process that compels the victims to deny their reality, identity, and their needs. Peacemaking with forgiveness is a process that requires validation, acknowledgement of the abuse, and nurtures the victim to let go as a choice. For peace to begin to take root between Israelis and Palestinians, the facts and narrative of the Other, the price paid by Palestinians must be told.
Let me respond to the questions floating in cyberspace.
Israel’s Right to Exist?
Which Israel and on which boundaries? In order to answer this question, it is important to understand how Israel was created.
Before the creation of Israel, many Zionists’ plan was to ethnically cleanse the land of its Arab natives. In 1895, Theodore Herzl, Zionism’s founder, wrote in his diary:
“We must expropriate gently the private property on the state assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying employment in our country...the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly.”
When Israel was created, immediately following the passage of the Partition Plan in November 1947, the Jewish forces, Haganah, and the terrorists groups (Stern Gang and Irgun) launched their infamous "Plan D," aimed at capturing as much territory as possible inside the proposed Palestinian state. In the book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe writes:
" ... on 10 March 1948 ... veteran Zionist leaders together with young military Jewish officers, put the final touches to a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine."
Fast forward to 1967, the West Bank and Gaza Strip were occupied by Israel. What does occupation mean to Palestinians?
See: Occupation 101
The Occupation opened more doors for a continued “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians. This was done mainly with the theft of Arab land, Arab-only home demolitions to build Jewish-only settlements, and connect them to Israel proper (pre-1967 borders) with Jewish-only bypass roads. All of this is done in a culture which recognizes Jews with rights, while Arabs with no rights before the law. Israel has no constitution that allows Arabs to challenge the system to fight for their rights. Rather, it has basic laws that elevate Jews above non-Jews. Hence, settlers are armed and protected by soldiers and Arabs are left unprotected.
Israel's right to exist cannot come through massacres, deadly force, and the humiliation of Arab residents. It cannot come through starving 1.7 million Gazans unless they accept submission to Israel. It cannot come through carpet-bombings of civilians in Gaza and Lebanon. It cannot come through the expulsion of Arabs from their land, Arab-only home demolition, and construction of illegal Jewish-only settlements. It cannot come through violating International Law. It cannot come through allowing Israel the right to act without any sense of boundaries or accountability to any rule of law. Israel must earn its way to legitimacy and make amends for the history of terror and violence in the region as well as the numerous massacres and war crimes upon which it was built.
Jews and Arabs were fighting for centuries?
"The indigenous Jews of Palestine also reacted negatively to Zionism. They did not see the need for a Jewish state in Palestine and did not want to exacerbate relations with the Arabs.”
John Quigley, “Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice.”
“Before the 20th century, most Jews in Palestine belonged to old Yishuv, or community, that had settled more for religious than for political reasons. There was little if any conflict between them and the Arab population. Tensions began after the first Zionist settlers arrived in the 1880’s...when [they] purchased land from absentee Arab owners, leading to dispossession of the peasants who had cultivated it.”
Don Peretz, “The Arab-Israeli Dispute.”
[During the Middle Ages,] North Africa and the Arab Middle East became places of refuge and a haven for the persecuted Jews of Spain and elsewhere...In the Holy Land...they lived together in [relative] harmony, a harmony only disrupted when the Zionists began to claim that Palestine was the ‘rightful’ possession of the ‘Jewish people’ to the exclusion of its Moslem and Christian inhabitants.”
Sami Hadawi, “Bitter Harvest.”
Peace Process or Piece Process?
When the phrase "Middle East Peace Process" began to gain currency in the 1990s, the Western media defined the peace process as an end to the hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis. After more than two decades of negotiating peace, the Israeli government continues to confiscate Arab land, build Jewish-only settlements, and demolish Arab-only homes in violation of international law. As mentioned in the article below, Israeli policies did not change, rather the peace process was used as a cover while Israel continued with its ethnic cleansing campaign.
In the 2012 Israeli attack on Gaza, Juan Cole, a political analyst, wrote the following:
“Israeli hawks represent themselves as engaged in a ‘peace process’ with the Palestinians in which Hamas refuses to join. In fact, Israel has refused to cease colonizing and stealing Palestinian land long enough to engage in fruitful negotiations with them. Tel Aviv routinely announces new, unilateral house-building on the Palestinian West Bank. There is no peace process. It is an Israeli and American sham. Talking about a peace process is giving cover to Israeli nationalists who are determined to grab everything the Palestinians have and reduce them to penniless refugees (again).”
Israel unilaterally withdrew completely from Gaza?
Some will argue that Israel left Gaza. However, Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford argued here:
The real purpose behind the move was to redraw unilaterally the borders of Greater Israel by incorporating the main settlement blocs on the West Bank to the state of Israel. Withdrawal from Gaza was thus not a prelude to a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority but a prelude to further Zionist expansion on the West Bank. It was a unilateral Israeli move undertaken in what was seen, mistakenly in my view, as an Israeli national interest. Anchored in a fundamental rejection of the Palestinian national identity, the withdrawal from Gaza was part of a long-term effort to deny the Palestinian people any independent political existence on their land.
Israel's settlers were withdrawn but Israeli soldiers continued to control all access to the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air. Gaza was converted overnight into an open-air prison. From this point on, the Israeli air force enjoyed unrestricted freedom to drop bombs, to make sonic booms by flying low and breaking the sound barrier, and to terrorise the hapless inhabitants of this prison.
There was ar eport by the IDF to determine what the minimum caloric intake for Gazans should be in order to determine how many trucks of humanitarian aid can be allowed into Gaza without the population facing starvation.
What if we were under attack?
Juan Cole, answered this best in his blog, Stop Saying ‘If X fired Rockets at U.S.’: It’s Racist, & Assumes We’re Colonial:
I’m old enough to remember the race riots in American cities of the late 1960s and early 1970s. I can remember a prominent pro-Israel columnist for the Washington Post, way back then, explicitly comparing Palestinians protesting their occupation by Israel to African-Americans protesting their economic marginalization. The writer’s hope was that white Americans would identify with Israelis and come to see Palestinians as “Black.” Or, let’s face it, as the N-word.
Someone recently sent to my blog such a screed, saying, what if rockets from Quebec were slamming into Maine?
The comparison is not only repulsive because the author hopes that Americans are Anglo-Saxons who don’t like French Canadians (or French anything). Notice no one says “What if the white people of Windsor, Ontario, were sending rockets across the Detroit River onto Detroit?” That would get the race dynamics that the analogy is aiming at all wrong.
As mentioned in the last blog, Mourning and a call for justice, when Palestinian children or civilians are killed, Israel blames Palestinians for their death. In every massacre or attack, Israel responds to the death of civilians by accusing Palestinians of using them as human shields. Commenting on the 2012 attack on Gaza, Stephen Zunes, a political analyst, posted this on his Facebook:
“Following the 2008-2009 war in Gaza, detailed on-the-ground investigations by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UNHRC and others took place that were quite critical of Hamas and accused them (and Israeli forces) of a number of war crimes. Yet they were unable to find a single case of Hamas using ‘human shields.’ (See pp. 75-78). And I'm seen no evidence that Hamas is doing that now, either. Yet members of Congress and others are still insisting that civilians being killed by Israeli bombardments are because Hamas is using ‘human shields’."
Retaliation or indiscriminate killing?
With every surge of Palestinian violence, Israel has struck with an evident lack of mercy. In the past, we heard “put the fear of death into the Arabs,” “mow them down,” and Israeli Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Vilnai, threatening Palestinians with a “shoah,” which means a holocaust.
As mentioned earlier, Israeli defiance of international laws still continues. On April 18, 1996, less than three years after the famous handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, Israel bombed a U.N. shelter in Qana, Lebanon, killing over 100 civilians. Israel denied that it knew about the civilians and labeled a U.N. report, which found conclusive evidence that Israel had intentionally killed the civilians in the U.N. base shelter, as "anti-Jewish."
In April of 2002, Israel entered Jenin in a military operation leading to 52 Palestinian deaths. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch charged that Israeli Defense Forces personnel in Jenin had committed war crimes. The April 2002 United Nations visiting mission on Human Rights was refused entry into Israel. A UN fact-finding mission suffered the same fate due to the following conditions set by Israel:
That the UN agrees not to prosecute Israeli soldiers for any violations of international law that might be uncovered during by the mission. And that the mission limits its scope exclusively to events in Jenin.
In the 2008-2009 attack on Gaza, the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report found Israel applied the “Dahiya doctrine.” The report said on page 23:
"The tactics used by Israeli military armed forces in the Gaza offensive are consistent with previous practices, most recently during the Lebanon war in 2006. A concept known as the Dahiya doctrine emerged then, involving the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations."
In 2012, Israeli transport minister, Israel Katz, recommended forcing the Gazan population into Egypt and cutting off their water and electricity.
Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at MIT, responded to this classic argument best:
“You can’t defend yourself when you are militarily occupying someone else’s land. Call it what you like, it is not self-defense.”
We must agree that security is a right for all, and not just for the exclusive set of people with nuclear arms. A state simply seeking security does not deny the right of another state or people to security. That is, unless it is not security that Israel seeks, but security from accountability for waging war crimes and ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their homeland.
"If the Palestinians go to the UN General Assembly with a new unilateral initiative, they must know they will be subject to severe measures by Israel and the United States," the station quoted Lieberman as saying on October 24.
Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?
In an interview with Norm Finkelstein, a political analyst and author of many books on the situation, I asked him the following question:
Wazwaz: Quite a few people assume that peacemaking means that you speak and act like Barney the purple dinosaur and they quote Gandhi and Martin Luther King selectively. In fact, both men were considered terrorists in their lifetime. MLK was very vehement against the war in Vietnam and very critical of American foreign policy. You recently explained that Gandhi also did not see nonviolence as allowing yourself to be raped and doing nothing. Can you explain nonviolence and respond to the call for the Palestinian Gandhi?
Finkelstein: Gandhi's opinions on nonviolence are complex and not always consistent. But it should be clear that Gandhi ranked courage and bravery as high as nonviolence, and he repeatedly said that if you don't have the courage and bravery to resist the oppressor nonviolently then you should use violence. He repeatedly denounced those who used nonviolence as a cover for their fear and cowardice.
Hatred of Jews or Israeli Apartheid?
It's true that some Arabs have expressed unjust anti-Semitic feelings. Similar sentiments were expressed by Jews toward Arabs. However, this conflict is not about hatred of Jews or hatred of Arabs, but an illegal military occupation that is against international law. The anti-Jewish and anti-Arab feelings are byproducts of the conflict, not the root cause of it.
This conflict is not a Jew vs. Arab conflict. It is not Judaism vs. Islam conflict. Israel remains in violation of abundant UN resolutions. There are quite a few Jews, some quoted in this blog, who came out and spoke against the Occupation. Some saw the striking similarity between what they suffered in the holocaust and what they are seeing in the lives of Palestinians.
Hajo Meyer is the author of The End of Judaism: An Ethical Tradition Betrayed. In this Huffington Post article, he writes of the similarities between his experiences in Germany and what he saw of the suffering of Palestinians. Here are his words:
“I am pained by the parallels I observe between my experiences in Germany prior to 1939 and those suffered by Palestinians today. I cannot help but hear echoes of the Nazi mythos of ‘blood and soil’ in the rhetoric of settler fundamentalism which claims a sacred right to all the lands of biblical Judea and Samaria. The various forms of collective punishment visited upon the Palestinian people — coerced ghettoization behind a ‘security wall’; the bulldozing of homes and destruction of fields; the bombing of schools, mosques, and government buildings; an economic blockade that deprives people of the water, food, medicine, education and the basic necessities for dignified survival — force me to recall the deprivations and humiliations that I experienced in my youth. This century-long process of oppression means unimaginable suffering for Palestinians.”
Until we recognize the Palestinians as a people with rights protected under international law, the conflict will continue and the map of Palestine will continue to shrink. Calling for restraint while financing an illegal military occupation against international law and protecting the occupier from accountability for violations of international law will not produce peace or security for anyone, but violence and insecurity for all.
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