“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
― Robert F. Kennedy
In 2013, the Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota began a dialogue series called "Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise!"
Over several dialogues we brought in speakers who helped us to explore and share with each other their faith tradition and perspectives on Abraham, the Angels, Adam and Eve, Jesus, Moses, David, and Prophet Muhammad, upon them peace and blessings. For Muslims, all prophets are spiritual brothers, with Prophet Muhammad being the last and final messenger of God in this long chain of prophets. The discussions were quite interesting and the series helped to throw a pebble, creating a tiny ripple of understanding between the faith traditions.
This Sunday, we are moving past this series to a new dialogue: Faithful Response: What does our faith say about how we respond to issues of power and oppression?
I will share my perspective with another speaker, Dr. Cameron B. R. Howard, assistant professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Dr. Howard received her Ph.D. in Religion from Emory University in 2010. Among her publications are contributions to the New Interpreter's Bible One-Volume Commentary (Abingdon Press, 2010) and the twentieth-anniversary edition of the Women's Bible Commentary (Westminster John Knox Press, 2012). Her current research focuses on postcolonial approaches to the Hebrew Bible. Howard is also a frequent contributor to WorkingPreacher.org and co-hosts a monthly podcast at EntertheBible.org.
And not all forces or voices who are weak are necessarily oppressed. I discussed this briefly in the blog on Salman al Farisi here. I will elaborate more on this issue in a coming blog.
In addition, it is true that many times, religion has been used to create problems in society, to control and oppress others.
However, there are cases in history and now, where power is not a force of good, but is abusive and people of influence - attach themselves to those in power for glory and fail to be sincere advisers. In such situations, as people of faith who believe in God, we ask ourselves:
Do you see power shaping your community?
What is our responsibility in such situations?
What do we see in the Muslim and Christian traditions that address issues of power?
What does our faith say about how we respond to issues of power and oppression?
Please add your voice to our conversation!
Join us to listen and then dialogue within small groups to go deeper and learn from each other as well.
Sunday, March 16
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Islamic Center of Minnesota
1401 Gardena Ave. NE
Fridley, MN 55432
Participants in the Muslim Christian Dialogue are invited to park on the street, in the parking lot of the Islamic Center of Minnesota or in the parking lot of Totino Grace High School directly across the street.
"It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli government, but with hope, a hope that a better future can be made for both Israelis and Palestinians, a future in which both the violence of the occupier and the resulting violent resistance of the occupied come to an end, and where one people need not rule over another, engendering suffering, humiliation, and retaliation. True peace must be anchored in justice." --Desmond Tutu
On July 31st, over 60 Minnesota mosques, interfaith groups, civil liberties organizations, and other groups concerned about peace and justice held a press conference at Masjid An Nur in Minneapolis to call for an immediate end to Israel’s airstrikes on civilians in Gaza. The groups also joined the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The global movement for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights was initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005, and is coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), established in 2007. BDS is a strategy that allows people of conscience to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice.
The speakers included Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders as well as activists from various participating organizations.
Imam Makram El Amin of Masjid An Nur, stressed on the Islamic teaching of standing up for justice and quoted the saying of Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings:
“Whosoever of you sees a wrong, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his speech; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart – and that is the weakest of faith.”
Elisabeth Geschiere, representing Break the Bonds organization, talked about the group’s opposition to the State of Minnesota investing close to 30 million in Israeli bonds. She also emphasized that Minnesota’s investment in Israel supports an apartheid system in both Israel and the Occupied Territories that causes thousands of civilian deaths, many of whom are children, and which involves the widespread abuse of human rights.
Jordan Ash, representing the Jewish Voice for Peace, gave an impassioned speech on the Jewish perspective on the current conflict. His speech is reproduced below:
“When asked to teach someone the entire Torah while standing on one foot, Rabbi Hillel said, ‘That which is hateful to you, do not do to others. This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn it.’ Supporters of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza have violated this central tenet of Judaism by disregarding Israel’s hateful actions.
Several sources have confirmed that this entire escalation was artificially created by the Israeli government which knew for weeks that the three kidnapped teenagers were dead, but maintained the lie that it hoped to find them alive, to justify the mass arrests and collective punishment of Palestinians. The Israeli government also insisted falsely that Hamas was responsible.
The result of this manufactured crisis has been devastating. Over 1,100 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians and including many children, and 7,000 Gazans have been injured. Fifty-three Israeli soldiers have been killed.
I am a member of the Mount Zion synagogue in St. Paul which recently completed a year of tzedek¸a year of justice. In his sermon to kick the year off, Rabbi Spilker said the pursuit of justice has been part of Judaism since Abraham’s arguing with God over innocent lives in Sodom and Gomorrah.
It is this tradition that requires us to look at the root cause of the current crisis – Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. The occupation denies the very humanity of Palestinians, while valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others.
For almost fifty years, the Israeli military has had total authority over every aspect of Palestinian life in these areas. Palestinians are subjected to daily and systematic home demolitions, checkpoints, arrests and indefinite detention. The occupation denies the very humanity of Palestinians, while valuing Jewish lives at the expense of others."
Dr. Jehad Adwan, Clinical Asst. Professor at the U of M School of Nursing, gave a first-hand account of life in Gaza. With several of his family members still in Gaza, he talked about how he feels sad, angry, and vulnerable. As the Israeli offensive unfolds deep into Gaza, he is unable to sleep and stays glued to the computer, scouring for news about his family and friends. He recounted his visit to Gaza in 2013 and highlighted the deplorable conditions that exist in Gaza due to the Israeli blockade. He expressed his distress on the death of a physician and a professor as their U.N. marked vehicle was shot up by the Israeli army. His heartrending story of the suffering in Gaza left many in the audience in tears. He appealed to the people of conscience to not remain silent at the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and to join the BDS movement to help relieve the suffering of people in Gaza.
The press release of July 31 from the organizing group in part read:
“Israel's ongoing assault on Gaza has killed more than 1500 Palestinian civilians - including 300 children - and injured 6000 civilians. It has devastated the civilian infrastructure, including the health sector, which is facing severe shortages. Israel is using the full force of its military against the captive Palestinian population, particularly in the besieged Gaza Strip. UN reports indicate that 80 percent of the people killed in Gaza have been civilians, raising serious concerns about Israel's disregard for international and humanitarian law.
In Israel, two civilians have been killed by Hamas rocket attacks, some property has been damaged and more than 50 soldiers have died since the Israeli military invaded Gaza. The loss of life or infrastructure on either side is unacceptable.”
To listen to the local speakers from various organizations see the YouTube videos below:
Below are the participating Minnesotan organizations:
Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center
Al Amal School
Al Aqsa Institute
Al Farooq Youth & Family Center
Al-Wafaa Center for Human Services
American Muslims for Palestine-MN Chapter
American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa
Blaine Community Center
Break the Bonds-Minnesota
Brooklyn Park Islamic Center
Building Blocks of Islam
Church of All Nations-Columbia Heights
Council on American-Islamic Relations, MN
Darul Arqam Center of Excellence
Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights
Faribault Islamic Center
Friends of Sabeel North America-Minnesota Chapter
Good Deeds Charity-USA
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Islamic Center of Minnesota
Islamic Civic Society of America
Islamic Community Center of Minnesota
Islamic Institute of Minnesota
Islamic Society of Woodbury- East Metro
Ja'afari Islamic Center
Jewish Voice for Peace
Masjid Al Huda
Masjid Al Taqwa
Masjid An Nur
Masjid As Salaam
MidEast Peace Now
Minnesota Coalition for Palestinian Rights
Minnesota Dawah Institute
Muslim American Society of Minnesota
Muslim Healthcare Professionals of Minnesota
Muslim Youth Leadership Award
Muslim Youth of Minnesota
National Lawyers Guild-Minnesota Chapter
North American Council of Somali Imams
Northfielders for Justice in Palestine/Israel
Northwest Islamic Community Center
Save The Kids Augsburg Chapter
Sisters Need A Place
Southeastern Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers
St. Cloud State University Muslim Student Association
Students for a Free Palestine-St. Cloud State University
Students for Justice in Palestine, University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota Muslim Student Association
Vets for Peace
Women Against Military Madness
In the coming days, we will have many educational workshops to educate the participants on BDS and how to proceed. If you wish to join us or would like to invite any of the speakers for an interview or a conversation, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“He said: ‘Here is a she-camel: she has a right of watering, and ye have a right of watering, (severally) on a day appointed.’” (Qur'an 26:155)
People assume that the absence of violence is a state of peace. I disagree. You can have very dangerous forms of oppression from spiritual, mental and emotional abuse with the absence of violence. It takes a skilled wounded or enlightened healer to hear the voice of the oppressed in the midst of a dominating abuser who has mastered the art of deception and projecting their sickness unto the victim.
In reality, peace is defined by the presence of healthy boundaries that allow everyone a path to the watering place, a path to growth, and a path to life. When these healthy boundaries do not exist – the foolish condemn the violence, the wise condemn those who transgressed the boundaries and demand the boundaries be returned to a healthy state that allows everyone a path to the watering place.
Since the creation of the state of Israel – the plan was to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their land as I had explained in this blog: Fighting for survival, not destruction of Israel. Then and Now, peace was used a means to transgress the boundaries of the native Arabs from every aspect to allow Israel to dominate and overpower the native population and gradually expel them. The Peace Process did not change any of this.
In this blog, I will introduce you to the first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion. Since the media has focused on Hamas, Hamas, Hamas, and Tunnels – I felt if we listen to the plans and aims of Israeli leaders before Hamas, we might see beyond the fear mongering and prejudice logic and hear the voice of the oppressed. In his own words from the site Palestine Remembered:
"We do not seek an agreement with the [Palestinian] Arabs in order to secure the peace. Of course we regard peace as an essential thing. It is impossible to build up the country in a state of permanent warfare. But peace for us is a mean, and not an end. The end is the fulfillment of Zionism in its maximum scope. Only for this reason do we need peace, and do we need an agreement." (Shabtai Teveth, p. 168)
"The Arabs cannot accept the existence of Israel. Those who accept it are not normal. The best solution for the [Palestinian] Arabs in Israel is to go and live in the Arab states---in the framework of a peace treaty or transfer." (Simha Flapan, p. 99)
Ben-Gurion clearly never believed in static borders, but dynamic ones as described in the Bible. He stated during a discussion with his aides:
"Before the founding of the state, on the eve of its creation, our main interests was self-defense. To a large extent, the creation of the state was an act of self-defense. . . . Many think that we're still at the same stage. But now the issue at hand is conquest, not self-defense. As for setting the borders--- it's an open-ended matter. In the Bible as well as in our history, there all kinds of definitions of the country's borders, so there's no real limit. Bo border is absolute. If it's a desert--- it could just as well be the other side. If it's sea, it could also be across the sea. The world has always been this way. Only the terms have changed. If they should find a way of reaching other stars, well then, perhaps the whole earth will no longer suffice." (1949, The First Israelis, p. 6)
Ben-Gurion told Nahum Goldman (one of the prominent Zionists leaders) before he died:
"I don't understand your optimism.," Ben-Gurion declared. "Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it's true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations' time, but for the moment there is no chance. So it's simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipes us out".
I was stunned by this pessimism, but he went on:
"I will be seventy years old soon. Well, Nahum, if you asked me whether I shall die and be buried in a Jewish state I would tell you Yes; in ten years, fifteen years, I believe there will still be a Jewish state. But ask me whether my son Amos, who will be fifty at the end of this year, has a chance of dying and being buried in a Jewish state, and I would answer: fifty-fifty."
"But how can you sleep with that prospect in mind," I broke in, "and be Prime Minister of Israel too?"
Who says I sleep? he answered simply. (The Jewish Paradox by Nahum Goldman, p. 99)
Ben-Gurion was correct about many things: Thieves do not sleep well; usually they're afraid of retribution. This is exactly how the average Israeli feels.
Throughout the decades of negotiations for peace, Israel has not defined its borders. As before Hamas, those borders continue to be dynamic and not static. As I explained before, Hamas is a resistance group that does use crude rocket fire and does not discriminate between civilians and soldiers lives, in the face of very sophisticated military weapons that Israel has deliberately used to target civilians. Read the findings of Goldstone Report.
Israel's ongoing assault on Gaza has killed more than 1000 Palestinian civilians - including 250 children - and injured 7000 civilians. It has devastated the civilian infrastructure, including the health sector, which is facing severe shortages. Israel is using the full force of its military against the captive Palestinian population, particularly in the besieged Gaza Strip. UN reports indicate that 80 percent of the people killed in Gaza have been civilians, raising serious concerns about Israel's disregard for international and humanitarian law.
In Israel, two civilians have been killed by Hamas rocket attacks, some property has been damaged and more than 50 soldiers have died since the Israeli military invaded Gaza. The loss of life or infrastructure on either side is unacceptable.
Many voices across the spectrum and across the world are raising their voices against the Israeli grave violations of international law in Gaza. These voices have researched, investigated and verified the story from the beginning to now. Here are a few voices in this blog. I will keep mentioning more in future blogs.
Israel's military technology is marketed as "field-tested" and exported across the world. Military trade and joint military-related research relations with Israel embolden Israeli impunity in committing grave violations of international law and facilitate the entrenchment of Israel's system of occupation, colonisation and systematic denial of Palestinian rights. We call on the UN and governments across the world to take immediate steps to implement a comprehensive and legally binding military embargo on Israel, similar to that imposed on South Africa during apartheid.
Besides the sophisticated heavy military artillery, Israel has responded by saturating the media and pubic square with psychological warfare - by attacking calls for investigations, silencing voices and hurling a hurricane of false accusations. In an article in the Nation, Five Israeli Talking Points on Gaza—Debunked, Noura Erakat, a human rights attorney and activist responded to the following points:
(1) Israel is exercising its right to self-defense.
(2) Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005.
(3) This Israeli operation, among others, was caused by rocket fire from Gaza.
(4) Israel avoids civilian casualties, but Hamas aims to kill civilians.
(5) Hamas hides its weapons in homes, mosques and schools and uses human shields.
Israel's propaganda machine, however, insists that these Palestinians wanted to die ("culture of martyrdom"), staged their own death ("telegenically dead") or were the tragic victims of Hamas's use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes ("human shielding"). In all instances, the military power is blaming the victims for their own deaths, accusing them of devaluing life and attributing this disregard to cultural bankruptcy. In effect, Israel—along with uncritical mainstream media that unquestionably accept this discourse—dehumanizes Palestinians, deprives them even of their victimhood and legitimizes egregious human rights and legal violations.
Read her article above to hear her arguments.
Freedom for Palestine: #GazaNames Project
Jewish Voices for Peace and Institute for Middle Eastern Understanding made a short video to introduce the faces and names of some of the victims of this massacre. It is important for us to stop and read the names and look at the faces of those killed to help us overcome the dehumanization of Palestinians' campaign.
Protests broke out all over the world in solidarity with the people of Gaza.
On 7/26/2014 - at a rally in San Francisco's Justin Herman Plaza, Max Blumenthal, an award-winning journalist and author of the bestselling book Republican Gomorrah, and Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel spoke against the Gaza slaughter.
I encourage you to follow the names of these voices on Facebook and Twitter to keep abreast of the current situation as it unfolds. The voices of the oppressed are not always present and prevalent. They must be dug out from the darkness of propaganda and psychological warfare and made conscious. And we must condemn and stop the transgressions of boundaries which allow one party a right to the watering place and denies the other that same right.
"...Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?
...Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?"
-- Bob Dylan, Blowin In The Wind
Voices of Fear and Ignorance
Many in the media and congress have become sponges to the pro-Israeli propaganda. Their reporting not only lacks critical thinking but is pure hype. Their reporting shares the reasoning of Gaston in the movie, Beauty and the Beast. It is a world where we act based on our fears and ignorance - dump critical thinking.
On November 2012 - while bombs were hitting Gaza, and over 160 people died – many of whom were children, the US House of Representatives in one minute gave its “vigorous support” and “unwavering commitment” to Israel. Both, the U.S. Senate and House passed by unanimous consent resolutions defending Israel's bombing of the Gaza Strip. These resolutions expressed no regret or mourning at the Palestinian loss of lives.
In response to the resolution, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) disputed statements that the U.S. House of Representative unanimously endorsed Israel's “right to act in self-defense” in Gaza. According Rep Kucinich, the bill was introduced at 12:04 pm. The resolution was “agreed without objection” by 12:05 pm. “There was no notice, no committee hearing, no discussion and no debate. In such a fashion, we achieve unanimity on great matters related to the Middle East,” said Rep. Kucinich.
In this current tragedy, the senate voted in the same fashion, 100 to 0 to support Israel's right to self defense.
Like Gaston, many blame the entire conflict on Hamas and Hamas is now the feared beast that we need to kill and destroy. No one knows the conditions that spawned Hamas, what their conditions to stop fighting are or why they are fighting. Destroying Hamas is a fruitless exercise — as long as the conditions that spawned them exist — Arabs will form new groups and re-emerge with a new resistance strategy to fight Israeli aggression and occupation.
Voices of Prejudice
Others engaged in logic embedded with prejudice using the "Us vs Them" argument, promoting Palestinians as subhuman who are violent like in the below clip from the movie 12 Angry Men.
As Fonda says in the clip, personal prejudice always obscures the truth. I don't really know what the truth is. Hence, we begin by investigating and verifying. Throughout its existence, Israel's psychology has been to avoid UN, avoid investigations and avoid the camera and rush to the public square using fear and prejudice to win the crowd over. As the Arab proverb says, he hit me and cried and raced ahead of me and hyped the crowd.
As I explained in the previous blog, this is not an Us vs. Them story.
It is an I vs We story.
The I group want security and life for Israel, and the We group believe every life is sacred, every life is precious and demand equal rights with the same human dignity before the law.
The I vs We Story
In times of conflict, tragedies and crises we face chaos of doubt, uncertainty, and fear that test our values. In the move 12 Angry Men, at the following segment: 29:40-37:40 - is a great conversation to help us reflect.
We can learn to face these doubts, uncertainties, fears and challenges and call ourselves to uphold our values and rule of law in dealing with the other or we can treat these values as hobbies. The aftermath is not healthy for society as we have seen in past tragedies and wars.
I wrote the previous two blogs on the current situation in the Middle East. The previous one, Fighting for survival, not destruction of Israel, has many references to research and learn more on the situation.
I hope to begin a series titled, Voices for Palestine. The series will introduce an Israeli leader to the public as well as introduce a voice standing up defending the human rights of Palestinians, whom have been dehumanized in the public square.
Arguing for security and life for me, myself and I, meet meet Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister.
In 2001, by his own confession, he was found guilty of beating a 12-year old boy.
SEE: Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's Shame by Neve Gordon
"Lieberman is an ex-member of Meir Kahane's party, Kach, which was outlawed due to its blatantly racist platform. Moreover, his views towards Arabs do not appear to have changed over the years. In 2003, when reacting to a commitment made by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to give amnesty to approximately 350 Palestinian prisoners, Lieberman declared that, as minister of transport, he would be more than happy to provide buses to take the prisoners to the sea and drown them there."
Why has our government sat down with Lieberman who lives illegally in the occupied territories while calling for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israel proper? What is there to negotiate with such an individual - the timetable for the ethnic cleansing?
Every oppressed person desires a witness to hear, see and validate what they are experiencing. Because the oppressors regardless who they are, have learned the skill of not just physically controlling and abusing the victim, but also overpowering them mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. At times the oppression is so deep that the victim can only rage - as he or she is not aware of how to vocalize or put in words the oppression that he or she is experiencing. Oppression has a layer of brainwashing that needs to be understood.
Psychotherapist Elyce M. Benham, M.S., says: "The techniques of brainwashing are simple: isolate the victim, expose them to inconsistent messages, mix with sleep deprivation, add some form of abuse, get the person to doubt what they know and feel, keep them on their toes, wear them down, and stir well."
For years, Palestinians have asked for international observers to come and witness the suffering they are going through. But the Israeli government has successfully isolated the Palestinians from the rest of the world. Journalists and politicians were routinely invited to Israel and exposed mainly to the Israeli narrative.
What was omitted was the Palestinian suffering.
Arguing that security and life is a right for all, meet Dr Hatem Bazian, a senior lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Please watch the video as he discusses the current situation and context.
"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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