A Conversation about Palestine

By Samir Bennis – New York

As I was leaving my office on Thursday evening, I passed by a demonstration in front of the Israeli Mission to the United Nations. I stopped by and exchanged views with people who sympathized with the plight of Palestinians who continue to live under an inhumane siege and violent attack by the Israeli army. I was especially pleased that the demonstrators were a diverse group that included Americans, Palestinians and others from numerous nationalities.

While a few of us discussed the current situation in Gaza, we were approached by an American Jewish woman who asked “why do you stand by the terrorists, Palestine was never the land of the Palestinians.” She added that “she does not trust the United Nations and that most member states don’t support Israel and want to harm our country.” She finally added “that is why we count on ourselves and we don’t care about what the UN says or issues.”

In a calm and diplomatic manner, I gave her some historic facts to challenge her opinion and explained that Israel was bound by the UN charter to respect international legitimacy. I also indicated that Israel is the only country in the world that breaches international law and UN resolutions so brazenly. She once again resorted to pure emotion and began shouting at us, and saying that she does not care what UN members States say. I further argued that the world public opinion grew tired with Israel’s manipulations of the truth in order to justify its attacks on civilians and that Hamas and the Palestinians have showed their good faith in trying to reach peace and achieve a two-state solution. Not to my surprise, she replied, with so much vitriol, that “Hamas and the Palestinians don’t want peace. They want to annihilate us like the Nazis. How do you want us to make peace with a terrorist organization?”

Things got worse when I told her that Israel was created in 1947 thanks to the same United Nations that she was disparaging. She became furious and said “if you want to find out why Israel has the right to be on its biblical land, you need to read the Bible.” She then abruptly departed without saying goodbye. The back and forth with the woman underscores a fundamental dilemma when discussing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

For some American Jews, and by no means all, who view all of historic Palestine as their God-given land, there is no room for a reasonable settlement to the dispute over territories, for they simply believe that this is a biblical real estate endowment for the Jewish people notwithstanding international law and UN resolutions. Her religiously-based argument convinced me that it is almost impossible to achieve peace in the Middle East because the establishment of a Palestinian state, side by side with Israel, remains wishful thinking at best.

How can it be otherwise when the balance of power is in favor of Israel and her Western supporters, chief of which is the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union? The comments by the Jewish woman at the demonstration forced me to think hard about recent statements by Susan Rice and her UK counterpart at the emergency Security Council meeting. As expected, Ambassador Rice did not show any sympathy or concern for the plight of the Palestinians. She also failed to denounce the crimes being perpetrated by Israel against an unarmed Palestinian civilian population.

While global opinion was one of outraged in response to the pictures and videos showing the damage inflicted by the Israeli army on the Palestinians, Rice started her statement by condemning Hamas for firing rockets into Israeli territory. Once again, the US provided unwavering support to Israel in the latter’s fight against “terrorism.” An almost identical statement was made by the UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN, who echoed his “country’s understanding of the steps Israel takes to defend itself,” while calling on it to take “every necessary steps to deescalate” the crisis.

This cowardly and outrageous leniency of the “international community” is based on the propaganda that the Israelis are victims of the “extremism and terrorism of Palestinians”, and that they are just “defending themselves.” Through a powerful corporate media that always sympathizes with Israel and refrains from objectively criticizing its apartheid-like policies, the worlds’ public opinion is saturated with the false narrative that Israel and the Palestinians must be treated on an equal footing.

In addition to ignoring the clear fact that Israel is colonizing a territory in violation of international law and countless UN resolutions, those influencing public opinion claim that Hamas has been inflicting a great damage on Israel. Yet beyond the skewed manner in which American and European media depict this festering conflict, reinforcing the lie that Israelis are indeed defending themselves against Palestinian “terrorists”, these claims cannot stand a disinterested scrutiny.

The escalation we are witnessing now came about after repeated raids by the Israelis and bulldozers inside the besieged Gaza Strip. These incursions caused Hamas to fire anti-tank missiles on an Israeli jeep, resulting in four injured. In spite of the truce brokered by Egypt to avoid an escalation of the confrontation, what I call the Israel Attack Forces as opposed to the Israeli Defense Forces, launched the brutal offensive against Palestinians to supposedly to exercise the right to “self-defense” and prosecute “terrorists.”

While Israel claims that Hamas is terrorizing the Jewish population, the facts on the ground prove otherwise. Since the start of the escalation between 8 and 15 November, at least 43 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli attacks, including children, women and the elderly, while more than a 400 were injured. According to the Palestinian Center of Human Rights, 71 Palestinians were killed in 2012 by Israeli attacks in Gaza and 291 were wounded. Rockets fired from Gaza, depicted as source of terror to the Jewish people, injured 19 people and claimed not a single life.

During Israel’s previous all-out war against the civilian population in Gaza between late December 2008 and early January 2009, at least 1400 Palestinians were killed and 5320 were injured, the overwhelming majority of whom were civilians. The fatalities included 446 children, 110 women and 108 elderly, while the wounded included 1855 children and 795 women. This war further caused 35,000 people to be sheltered in camps reserved for internally displaced civilians.

In spite of all the daily damage and fatalities inflicted by Israel against the Palestinian civilian population, the international community (i.e, the five permanent members of the security Council) still insist on calling on the Palestinians to resume negotiations with the Israeli occupation authorities, with the view, as they say, to reach the two-state solution. When we hear the biased statements at the UN Security Council by the American and the British Representatives, or the UN Secretary General, we conclude that Israel is the victim and the Palestinians are the aggressors. These same voices call on the Palestinians to resume direct talks with the Israelis, knowing very well that Israel continues, inter alia, the construction of illegal settlements aimed at undermining any future continuous Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

After nearly two decades after the Oslo Agreement and Israel’s lip service to establishing peace, Israel continues to pursue its settlement policies in the West Bank and its aggressions against the civilian population. The question that every sane, honest and peace-loving individual must ask is how can we ensure the success of negotiations, if any, in light of the heinous crimes committed by Israel against unarmed Palestinians.

We must also question the inability of the Security Council to compel Israel to comply with international law and the relevant UN Resolutions regarding peace in the Middle East. On what solid foundation can these negotiations be built? How can the negotiations bear fruit while Israel is still holding thousands of detainees and putting them under harsh and unfair conditions? How can we speak of building confidence between the Palestinians and Israelis when Israel continues to impose an inhumane, suffocating and illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip?

I leave it up to the readers to wonder if we can still talk about peace talks and confidence-building with the Israelis. As far as I am concerned, I am more convinced than ever that peace can’t be achieved with the current Israeli mentality and that the two-state solution is a mirage that will never materialize into reality.

– Samir Bennis is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Morocco World News. He works within the United Nations community. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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