Middle East Madness
by David Glick
The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,
The historic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians now
is being driven by extremists on both sides who reject any political
solution and care not at all about the innocent civilians being
slaughtered by the other. Ariel Sharon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad
all are terrorists whose absolutist goals preclude any political
solution. Sharon and the right-wing hawks in the Israeli government
want to control as much Palestinian land as possible, rid it of
Palestinians, and settle it with Jews. Hamas and Islamic Jihad
seek an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine. Neither side
can prevail in its madness.
An objective view of this seemingly insoluble conflict reveals
one indisputable fact: retaliation inevitably breeds retaliation
and creates an endless cycle of violence which has brought neither
security for Israel nor an end to the brutal occupation under
which Palestinians have been living for 35 years.
Israel's lack of security is inextricably linked to Palestinians'
lack of freedom and sovereignty. Until this fundamental reality
is addressed, the violence, hatred, mistrust and suffering of
both peoples can only escalate, making any solution to this volatile
conflict impossible to attain.
The U.S. claim to be an honest broker is deceitful. The $5
billion Washington gives Israel each year-the major portion of
our entire foreign aid budget-is used to perpetuate the Israeli
occupation of Palestinian land. That money goes to purchase American
F-16 fighter jets and attack helicopters which Israel is using
against a civilian population resisting the occupation of its
The rage and despair of the Palestinian people is easily understood
once one considers the human rights abuses they endure, such as
the daily humiliations at Israeli checkpoints and collective punishment
in the form of house demolitions, destruction of orchards, and
closures of entire cities and towns. Other human rights violations
include the confiscation of property, mass arrests and detention
without trial, the assassination of Palestinian leaders, and the
destruction of the infrastructure of Palestinian society during
the recent invasions of the Israeli military. Add to this the
widespread poverty and unemployment and the prevalence of malnutrition
in half the number of Palestinian children, and one gets a sense
of what living under occupation really means.
The US. Arms Export Control Act stipulates that American-exported
weapons can be used only for self-defense. Both Israel and our
own government are thus in violation of American law.
Under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which
Israel is a signatory, Israeli settlements are illegal because
the Convention forbids an occupying power from settling its own
population in territories captured in war. Furthermore, U.N. Security
Council Resolution 242 mandates that Israel return the territories
it occupied in the 1967 war.
During the seven years of negotiations following the 1993
signing of the Oslo peace accords, Israel doubled the number of
settlers in the occupied territories. Clearly Israel entered the
negotiations in bad faith, never intending the creation of a Palestinian
In 1988 the Palestine Liberation Organization recognized Israel's
right to exist and agreed to an end to the conflict contingent
upon Israel allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state
on the remaining 22 percent of historic Palestine that Israel
had captured in the 1967 war.
Israelis point to the fact that when the U.N. General Assembly
voted to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state in
1947, the Jews accepted the partition and the Arabs did not. While
true, this omits an important reality. In 1919 Jews comprised
only 10 percent of the population. At the time of the partition,
Jews, who had been immigrating to Palestine during the previous
several decades in large numbers, still comprised only one-third
of the population and owned only 7 percent of the land. Nonetheless
they were given 57 percent of Palestine for their state, including
the fertile coastal region.
Not only was the partition proposal unfair on its face, it
actually violated the principle of self-determination articulated
in Article One of the U.N. charter. The Palestinians could not
understand why they should give up their historic homeland to
pay for Europe's anti-Semitism and the horrible crimes committed
against Jews prior to and during the Holocaust. Understanding
this grievance is fundamental to understanding the tangled roots
of the conflict.
Finally, it is important to dispel the frequently repeated
myth that Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Barak made a generous offer that the Palestinians
stubbornly rejected. At most Israel offered the Palestinians a
mere 80 percent of the remaining 22 percent of their land. Israel
planned to retain control of the borders of the Palestinian mini-state,
its water, and the huge settlement blocks and connecting by-pass
roads that divide the territory into non-contiguous areas. Israel
also insisted on retaining control of East Jerusalem, with its
expanded boundaries, that Israel illegally annexed and that takes
up a large chunk of the West Bank.
There are many Jews like myself who condemn Israel's continuing
occupation and its deplorable treatment of its own Palestinian
citizens, which is rooted in the institutionalized racism of its
Basic Law. We refuse to be silenced by the cynical charge that
we are self-hating Jews. There is a strong tradition of social
justice in Judaism out of which we act, and the occupation disgraces
that tradition. Furthermore, the manipulative use of the Holocaust
to disingenuously transform Israel's aggression into acts of self-defense
desecrates the memory of those who perished in the ghastly inferno
of that Nazi hell.
Israel and its most ardent Jewish supporters self-righteously
decry any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. This is a blatant
attempt to quash legitimate criticism and democratic dissent.
Anti-Semitism indeed exists, and it is a vile and murderous disease.
But it is these attempts at squelching legitimate criticism, together
with Israel's aggression against the Palestinian people that are,
in fact, helping to fan the flames of anti-Semitism.
Acts of Terror
The suicide bombings against Israeli civilians are rooted
in the despair of 35 years of occupation and a sense of abandonment
by the world, an abandonment which Jews should certainly understand,
given their experience of the Holocaust. Nonetheless these suicide
bombings are reprehensible acts which dishonor the Palestinian
resistance movement. However, they are no more acts of terrorism
than Israel's use of tanks, F-16s and helicopter gunships against
a civilian population resisting a brutal and illegal occupation.
Palestinians are entitled to freedom and independence in a
viable state of their own with East Jerusalem as its capital.
For the sake of peace, Israel must withdraw to its pre-1967 borders,
evacuate the settlements, and agree to an equitable resolution
of the refugee problem. Let no more children die because of the
stubborn blindness of their elders to the minimum requirements
David Glick is a psychotherapist in Fairfax, CA and a member
of Jewish Voice for Peace, the Social Justice Center of Marin
and the Marin Peace and Justice Coalition.