By Eugene Bird
In mid-May, President Bush will be making another tour of the battlefields of peace in the Arab-Israeli dispute and will join in the celebrations for Israel’s sixtieth year of independence. Meanwhile, in Gaza we are witnessing the destruction of the slim chance for peace and a two-state solution.
Gaza has been the issue causing wars between Israel and the Arab world twice before. The first Israeli invasion and occupation of Gaza occurred in 1956 during the Suez Crisis, but lasted only four months. Heavy international pressure forced Israel to return the territory to Egyptian administrative control in 1957. The second invasion of Gaza occurred during the Six-Day War in 1967, and Israeli military control lasted for 38 years, until 2005. The Prime Minister of Israel and George W. seem equally shortsighted. Will it happen again as we seek to implement a clumsy policy that seems at times to be led by two blind men?
This is the third time during those 60 years that the Israel/Palestine disagreement over splitting up the land west of the Jordan River has stumbled into making Gaza the centerpiece of that struggle between the two peoples. What began in Gaza in 1956/57 has now repeated itself in somewhat different ways.
In 1967, Israel went to war over the demand by Egypt that they be allowed back into Gaza under the original armistice agreements of 1948. The six-day war was a huge success for Israel, more than quadrupling its territory. Yet in Gaza, over the years of the occupation, the Israelis consistently met the stubborn resistance of the population being held in this maximum security prison and denied even charity to maintain their existence.
There are many intriguing questions one could ask about this entirely new situation, perhaps they can be summed up by the whispers coming from Israel that Gaza should be seen as an opportunity to be an independent state. Will such a Gaza, with relations with the rest of the world and international organizations become the second part of an emerging two-state solution?
Another interesting question one could ask is: where is the international pressure that originally forced Israel to withdraw in 1957? The United Nations Security Council draft resolution regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza was dropped after the United States threatened to exercise its veto. The 15 members of the council studied the draft statement and all except the United States supported it.
Domestically, there was rare showing of support of Palestinian human rights from members of Congress last week. Representative Dennis Kucinich issued a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling the Israeli blockade of Gaza illegal and detailing the humanitarian situation caused by the siege. Ten other Members of Congress signed the letter: Neil Abercrombie, John Conyers Jr., Danny Davis, Sam Farr, Raul Grijalva, Maurice Hinchey, Eddie Johnson, Betty McCollum, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and James Oberstar. Please show your support and appreciation for their actions by calling and/or writing to thank them.
-Eugene Bird is the president of the Council for the National Interest Foundation – (cnifoundaton.org)