Middle East Madness

by David Glick

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2002


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 land.

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 state.

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 of justice.


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.

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