Dare We “Dictate” the Terms of Middle East Peace?

July 1, 2009

Focus_July1By Mariah Leung

Regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict, we often hear the well-worn statement: We can’t, and shouldn’t, dictate the terms of peace “we don’t live there.” I challenge this assumption.

Might Does Not Make Right

Since there is no symmetry in power or responsibility in the conflict, the Palestinians are disadvantaged for negotiation. With a massive military controlling a helpless and captive population, Israel alone has dictated all terms since 1948. Outside intervention is needed to balance power and enforce the dictates already defined by international law. The abusive protagonist in a relationship is not allowed to dictate terms to the victim under any system of law.

Since we provide weapons, generous U.S. taxpayer dollars, and diplomatic protection to Israel we have every right to influence their policies and to withhold support when they violate international and U.S. laws such as our Arms Export Control Act which prohibits non-defensive uses of our weapons and the Foreign Assistance Act which prohibits aid to countries that violate human rights.

What Does the Law Say?

“We can’t, and shouldn’topwyourmessage340, dictate the terms of peace — we don’t live there.” I challenge this assumption.

Might Does Not Make Right

Since there is no symmetry in power or responsibility in the conflict, the Palestinians are disadvantaged for negotiation. With a massive military controlling a helpless and captive population, Israel alone has dictated all terms since 1948. Outside intervention is needed to balance power and enforce the dictates already defined by international law. The abusive protagonist in a relationship is not allowed to dictate terms to the victim under any system of law.

Since we provide weapons, generous U.S. taxpayer dollars, and diplomatic protection to Israel we have every right to influence their policies and to withhold support when they violate international and U.S. laws such as our Arms Export Control Act which prohibits non-defensive uses of our weapons and the Foreign Assistance Act which prohibits aid to countries that violate human rights.

What Does the Law Say?

“We can’t, and shouldn’t, dictate the terms of peace — we don’t live there.”

Having participated in their dispossession and oppression, we have a duty to the refugee and

Having participated in their dispossession and oppression, we have a duty to the refugee and Diaspora population who might very well prefer to “live there” but have been excluded from all “peace process” negotiations. Over four million U.N.-registered refugees of historic Palestine have the individual right to return home under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, affirmed by U.N. Resolution 194 and pledged by Israel as a condition of its U.N. admission in 1949. (A second pledged condition, also still unmet, was to internationalize Jerusalem.) These refugees are Israel’s responsibility alone, not that of any other “Arab” nation.

Could the right of return be achieved with those who live there now? For centuries before realization of the Zionist project in 1948, Jews, as minority land owners of less than 7%, lived in peace with both Muslim and Christian neighbors. The feasibility of full refugee return has been assessed by many, including NGO director Eitan Bronstein of Zochrot which held a conference last year on how refugee return could be fairly and realistically implemented. Israelis and Palestinians can work together as do Zochrot (Israeli) and Badil (Palestinian) to promote the right of return and oppose “Nakba” denial and the historical “memoricide” described by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe in his book, “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.”

Two States: No Justice for Non-Jewish Israelis

“We can’t, and shouldn’t, dictate the terms of peace — we don’t live there.”

Justice should dictate. “Progressive Zionist” organizations such as Tikkun, Brit Tzedik v’Shalom, J-Street, NILI, Sabeel, Gush Shalom, Peace Now, and “dialogue groups” limited to “compassionate listening” support an Israeli-dictated “two-state solution” that would evade international law, compromise the right of return, and deny an autonomous Palestinian state free of Israeli control (seductively promoted, of course, as two “viable” or “healthy” states “side by side”).

Rarely mentioned is the relentless struggle of the 20% Palestinian Arabs within “Israel proper” – who do live there – to gain equality and transform Israel into a country for all its citizens. Absent outside help, they cannot eliminate the segregation, racism and discriminatory laws, reminiscent of our own Jim Crow, that would remain under the two-state model. To understand the conditions for non-Jewish citizens of Israel, view Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook’s Google interview and read his book, Blood and Religion, Unmasking the Jewish and Democratic State.

Israel now considers banning al-Nakba commemorations, and there is open discussion of “transfer” and required “loyalty oaths.” Kadima leader Tzipi Livni openly promotes Nakba denial when she declares that Palestinians can know peace when the word “Nakba” is removed from their lexicon. “Nakba” is the Arabic word for “catastrophe,” the defining Palestinian experience of 1948 when Zionist terrorist militias committed 33 massacres, ethnically cleansed 531 villages, forced hundreds of thousands to flee from their homes into U.N. refugee camps, and denied their right to return.

Return to Original Intent

We can’t, and shouldn’t, dictate the terms of peace — we don’t live there.”

The original terms should be met. Many initially recognized that Israel should not and was never intentionally declared to be a Jewish supremacist state.

As Jeff Gates writes in Guilt by Association,

“In the final days before deciding whether the U.S. should recognize Israel, Harry Truman ‘was preoccupied with the fear that Zionist aspirations would lead to a racial or a theocratic state.’ Those concerns led Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann to write Truman a series of letters including a seven-page, single-spaced missive reassuring him that Zionists envisioned a thoroughly secular state similar to the Americans and the British. Truman reinforced that understanding in his May 14, 1948 recognition of the provisional government not of ‘the Jewish state’ (a description he crossed out) but of the State of Israel.” (See page 178 of Gates’ book for a photocopy of the document Truman signed.)

The oft-cited Balfour Declaration also rejected a Jewish supremacist state:

“His majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” [Italics added]

Contrary to Israeli assertions, Jewish supremacy is unnecessary for security. In a 2007 Bill Moyers PBS interview, M.J. Rosenberg, Director of Policy Analysis for the Israel Policy Forum, said, “America has been the best home that the Jews have ever had in history. The Establishment Clause means something to U.S. because if religion is established here, it’s not going to be ours.”

An undivided, egalitarian country to replace colonial Zionism with a constitution that guarantees equal rights, not a Jewish majority, is what is needed.

As nonviolent resisters to oppression, we should hold Israel accountable, educating and mobilizing for the American democratic principles of freedom, justice, and equality. We should not promote the racist segregation which we ourselves have overcome. Separate will never be equal here…or there. Φ

Mariah Leung lives in Eugene and is Co-Director of the Al-Nakba Awareness Project with Jack Dresser and Chris Barghout. The project provides public exhibits, promotes public presentations, and maintains a web site (www.al-nakba-history.com) to increase American understanding of the origins and key issues in the Israel/Palestine conflict.

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