Palestine-Israel Conflict

Part 9

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

Israel has sought peace with its Arab neighbor states but has steadfastly refused to negotiate with Palestinians directly, until the last few years. Why?

"My friend, take care. When you recognize the concept of 'Palestine', you demolish your right to live in Ein Hahoresh. If this is Palestine and not the Land of Israel, then you are conquerors and not tillers of the land. You are invaders. If this is Palestine, then it belongs to a people who have lived here before you came. Only if it is the Land of Israel do you have a right to live in Ein Hahoresh and in Deganiyah B. If it is not your country, your fatherland, the country of your ancestors and of your sons, then what are you doing here? You came to another people's homeland, as they claim, you expelled them and you have taken their land." Menahem Begin, quoted in Noam Chomsky's "Peace in the Middle East?"

More from the horse's mouth

"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 came here and stole their country. Why should they accept that?" David Ben-Gurion, quoted in "The Jewish Paradox" by Nathan Goldman, former president of the World Jewish Congress.

More from the horse's mouth

"Before [the Palestinians] very eyes we are possessing the land and the villages where they, and their ancestors, have lived...We are the generation of colonizers, and without the steel helmet and the gun barrel we cannot plant a tree and build a home." Israeli leader Moshe Dayan, quoted in Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, "Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel"

More from the horse's mouth

"The phenomenon that has prevailed among us for years is that of insensitivity to acts of wrong...[Consequently,] public opinion, the army, the police's...conclusion was that Arab blood can be freely shed. And then came the amnesty for those [convicted of the massacre] at Kafr Qasim, and some conclusions could be drawn again, and I could go on like this...It must make the State appear in the eyes of the world as a savage state that does not recognize the principles of justice as they have been established and accepted by contemporary society." Israel's second prime minister, Moshe Sharett, in 1961, quoted in Livia Rokach, Israel's Sacred Terrorism."

The international consensus on Israel (a very small representative sampling)

"[In the early 1950s] Arab states regularly complained of the reprisals to the UN Security Council, which routinely rejected Israel's claims of self-defense...

"In June 1982 Israel again invaded Lebanon, and it used aerial bombardment to destroy entire camps of Palestinian Arab refugees, By these means Israel killed 20,000 persons, mostly civilians...Israel claimed self-defense for its invasion, but the lack of PLO attacks into Israel during the previous year made that claim dubious...The [UN] Security Council demanded 'that Israel withdraw all its military forces forthwith and unconditionally to the internationally recognized boundaries of Lebanon'...

"The UN Human Rights Commission, using the Geneva Convention's provision that certain violations of humanitarian law are 'grave breaches' meriting criminal punishment for perpetrators, found a number of Israel's practices during the uprising [the intifada] to constitute 'war crimes.' It included physical and psychological torture of Palestinian detainees and their subjection to improper and inhuman treatment; the imposition of collective punishment on towns, villages and camps; the administrative detention of thousands of Palestinians; the expulsion of Palestinian citizens; the confiscation of Palestinian property; and the raiding and demolition of Palestinian houses." John Quigley, "Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice."

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been detained in Israeli prisons, often without trial for many months. In 1996, the Israeli Supreme Court officially sanctioned the use of "force" in interrogating them. What does this mean?

"Israel's two main interrogation agencies in the occupied territories engage in a systematic pattern of ill-treatment and torture - according to internationally recognized definitions of the terms...The methods used in nearly all interrogations are prolonged sleep deprivation; prolonged sight deprivation using blindfolds or tight-fitting hoods; forced, prolonged maintenance of body positions that grow increasingly painful; and verbal threats and insults.

"These methods are almost always combined with some of the following abuses; confinement in tiny, closet-like spaces; exposure to temperature extremes, such as deliberately overcooled rooms, prolonged toilet and hygiene deprivation; and degrading treatment...Beatings are far more routine in IDF interrogations than in GSS interrogations. Sixteen of the nineteen detainees we interviewed [detained between 1992 and 1994] reported having been assaulted in the interrogation room. Beatings and kicks were directed at the throat, testicles, and stomach. Some were repeatedly choked; some had their heads slammed against the walls...

"Israeli interrogations consistently use methods in combination with one another, over long periods of time. Thus, a detainee in the custody of the General Security Service (GSS) may spend weeks during which, except for brief respites, he shuttles from a tiny chair to which he is painfully shackled; to a stifling, tiny cubicle in which he can barely move; to questioning sessions in which he is beaten or violently manhandled; and then back to the chair.

"The intensive, sustained and combined use of these methods inflicts the severe mental or physical suffering that is central to internationally accepted definitions of torture. Israel's political leadership cannot claim ignorance that ill-treatment is the norm in interrogation centers. The number of victims is too large, and the abuses too systematic," 1994 Human Rights Watch report, "Torture and Ill-Treatment: Israel's Interrogation of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories."

The use of "force' - continued

"Amnesty International also observed that, when brought to trial, most Palestinian detainees arrested for 'terrorist' offenses and tortured by the Shin Bet (General Security Services) 'have been accused of offenses such as membership in unlawful associations or throwing stones. They have also included prisoners of conscience such as people arrested solely for raising a flag.' On a related point, Haaretz columnist B. Michael noted that there wasn't a single recorded case in which the Shin Bet's use of torture was prompted by a 'ticking bomb' scenario: 'In every instance of a Palestinian lodging formal complaint about torture, the Shin Bet justified its use in order to extract a confession about something that had already happened, not about something that was about to happen.'" Norman Finkelstein, "The Rise and Fall of Palestine."

The 1997 U.N. Commission Against Torture rules against Israel

"B'Tselem estimates---that the GSS annually interrogates between 1000-1500 Palestinians [as of 1998]. Some eighty-five percent of them - at least 850 persons a year - are tortured during interrogation...

"The U.N. Committee Against Torture,..reached an unequivocal conclusion:...'The methods of interrogation [used in Israeli prisons]...are in the Committee's view breaches of article 16 and also constitute torture as defined in article 1 of the Convention...As a State Party to the Convention Against Torture, Israel is precluded from raising before this Committee exceptional circumstances'...The prohibition on torture is, therefore, absolute, and no 'exceptional' circumstances may justify derogating from it." 1998 Report from B'Teslem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, "Routine Torture: Interrogation Methods of the General Security Service."

Some arguments used to justify Zionism

"There is clearly no need to justify the Zionist dream, the desire for relief from Jewish suffering...The trouble with Zionism starts when it lands, so to speak, in Palestine. What has to be justified is the injustice to the Palestinians caused by Zionism, the dispossession and victimization of a whole people. There is clearly a wrong here, a wrong which creates the need for justification...

[E.g., the inheritance claim] The aim of Zionism is the restoration of a Jewish sovereignty to its status 2,000 years ago. Zionism does not advocate an overhauling of the total world situation in the same way. It does not advocate the restoration of the Roman empire...[In addition,] Palestinians have claimed descent from the ancient inhabitants of Palestine 3,000 years ago!...

[Jewish suffering as justification] It was easy to make the Palestinians pay for 2,000 years of persecution. The Palestinians, who have felt the enormous power of this vengeance, were not the historical oppressors of the Jews. They did not put Jews into ghettos and force them to wear yellow stars. They did not plan holocausts. But they had one fault. They were weak and defenseless in the face of real military might, so they were the ideal victims for an abstract revenge....

[Anti-semitism as justification] Unlike the situation of Jews persecuted for being Jews, Israelis are at war with the Arab world because they have committed the sin of colonialism, not because of their Jewish identity...

[The law of the jungle justification.] Presenting the world as naturally unjust, and oppression as nature's way, has always been the first refuge of those who want to preserve their privileges...The need to justify Zionism, and the lack of other defenses, has made it part of the Israeli world view...In Israel, one common outcome is cynicism, for which Israelis have become famous...

[The effect on Israelis] Israelis seem to be haunted by a curse. It is the curse of the original sin against the native Arabs. How can Israel be discussed without recalling the dispossession and exclusion of non-Jews? This is the most basic fact about Israel, and no understanding of Israeli reality is possible without it. The original sin haunts and torments Israelis; it marks everything and taints everybody. Its memory poisons the blood and marks every moment of existence." Israeli author, Benjamin Beit-Hallahami, "Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel."

Zionism's 'historical right' to Palestine

"Zionism's 'historical right' to Palestine was neither historical nor a right. It was not historical inasmuch as it voided the two millennia of non-Jewish settlement in Palestine and the two millennia of Jewish settlement outside it. It was not a right, except in the Romantic 'mysticism' of 'blood and soil' and the Romantic 'cult' of 'death, heroes and graves'...

"The claim of Jewish 'homelessness is founded on a cluster of assumptions that both negates the liberal idea of citizenship and duplicates the anti-Semitic one that the state belongs to the majority ethnic nation. In a word, the Zionist case for a Jewish state is as valid as the anti-Semitic case for an ethnic state that marginalizes Jews." Professor Norman Finkelstein, "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict,"

How about the Zionist argument that Jordan already is the Palestinian state?

"It is often alleged that there was, in fact, an earlier 'territorial compromise', namely in 1922, when Transjordan was excised from the promised 'national home for the Jewish people,'...a decision that is difficult to criticize in light of the fact that 'the number of Jews living there permanently in 1921 has reliably been estimated at two, or according to some authorities, three persons.'" Noam Chomsky, "The Fateful Triangle."

Why doesn't Israel, "the only democracy in the Middle East," have a constitution?

"The abstention from formulating a constitution was no accident. The massive expropriation of lands and other properties from those Arabs who fled the country as a result of the War of Independence and of those who remained but were declared absent, as well as the confiscation of large tracts of land from Arab villages who did not flee, and the laws passed to legalize those acts - all this would have necessarily been declared unconstitutional, null and void, by the Supreme Court, being expressly discriminatory against one part of the citizenry, whereas a democratic constitution obliges the state to treat all of its citizens equally." Israeli author, Boas Evron, "Jewish State or Israeli Nation?"

"The only democracy in the Middle East?" - continued

"The 1989 Israel High Court decision that any political party advocating full equality between Arab and Jew can be barred from fielding candidates in an election...[means] that the Israeli state is the state of the Jews...not their [the Arabs'] state." Professor Norman Finkelstein, "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict."

First justice, then peace

"The United States has been a terrible 'sponsor' of the peace process. It has succumbed to Israeli pressure on everything, abandoning the principle of land for peace (no U.N. Resolution says anything about returning a tiny percentage, as opposed to all of the land Israel seized in 1967), pushing the lifeless Palestinian leadership into deeper and deeper holes to suit Netanyahu's preposterous demands.

"The fact is that Palestinians are dramatically worse off than they were before the Oslo process began. Their annual income is less than half of what it was in 1992; they are unable to travel from place to place; more of their land has been taken than ever before; more settlements exist; and Jerusalem is practically lost...

"Every house demolishment, every expropriated dunum, every arrest and torture, every barricade, every closure, every gesture of arrogance and intended humiliation simply revives the past and reenacts Israel's offenses against the Palestinian spirit, land, body politic. To speak about peace in such a context is to try to reconcile the irreconcilable...

"The first challenge, then, is to extract acknowledgement from Israel for what it did to us...But then, I believe, we must also hold out the possibility of some form of coexistence in which a new and better life, free of ethnocentrism and religious intolerance, could be available...If we present our claims about the past as ushering in a form of mutuality and coexistence in the future, a long-term positive echo on the Israeli and Western side will reverberate." Edward Said in "The Progressive", March 1998

Israeli professor calls for a new Zionism for an open society

"It was our nationalism...which drew the country into an occupation and settlement of the West Bank...None of the leaders of the Labor movement believed that the Palestinians deserved the same right [as Jews] because none of them believed in universal rights. Pretending, like [Arthur] Hertzberg and others do, that the Occupation and the colonial situation created in the last thirty years was merely the product of the Arab refusal to recognize Israel, is no more than looking for an alibi and falsifying history...

"The time has come to say that if the settlements in Judea and Samaria or in the very heart of Hebron are the natural, logical and legitimate continuation of the original intention of Zionism, then we need another Zionism. If a 'Jewish State' that does not recognize the absolute equality of all human beings is considered to be closer to the spirit of the founding fathers than a new liberal Zionism, then it is time to say good-bye to the ghosts of the founders, and to start forging for ourselves an identity detached from the mystical ramifications of our religion and the irrational side of our history." Israeli professor of political science, Ze'ev Sternhell, in "Tikkun", May/June 1998.

The answer? A sovereign Palestinian state.

"The final destination of a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement has begun to emerge from the political haze. Such a settlement must...give the Palestinian people a sovereign, uncontested, independent state of their own. This is a matter of justice and practicality. If a truly lasting and stable peace is the goal, there is no other option...The mere trappings of statehood will not suffice. The state has to be real and workable. The following are its essential conditions.

Territorial integrity and contiguity...Any further dissection of Palestinian territory would make it politically and economically impossible to maintain a state...There can be no civilian pockets under Israeli rule on Palestinian land...

A sovereign capital in Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is Palestine's historical, spiritual and commercial heart. To exclude it from a Palestinian state is unthinkable...

Justice and fairness for refugees...As a matter of principle, the Palestinians right to return or be compensated for their lost homes and land is nonnegotiable...Israel must acknowledge the suffering and hardship Palestinian refugees have faced as a result of their eviction from their homeland, and must assist in their rehabilitation and reabsorption." A.S. Khalidi, Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, February 11, 1997.

Part 10





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