By Dan Lieberman
A century old conflict between the state of Israel and stateless Palestinians, many of whom have been disposed from lands that created the Israel state, has precipitated a argument: Is it preferable to have two states living side by side or have one state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River that includes Jews and Palestinians without prejudice and with equal rights for all?
The endless polemics are apparent: Those who propose a single-state do so because they sense the two-state solution is nonviable and those who propose two-states do so because they sense the one-state solution is unacceptable. The argument is doomed to irresolution because Israel has overwhelming military power, faces no countervailing power, doesn’t intend for the Palestinians to have a viable state and won’t approve a single state for all. If Israel intended to allow a viable Palestinian state, would the Israeli government proceed in the continuous construction of West Bank settlements? Would the present Israeli government demand recognition as a Jewish state and then concede to evolve into a multi-ethnic state? The endless debate concerning the shape of a Palestinian state allows Israel to comfortably proceed with its own agenda – seizing most of the West Bank, populating desirable lands with its own citizens, capturing aquifers and reducing the Palestinians to impoverishment.
Israel proceeds with a “we must have all or we will someday have nothing” program, which insinuates Israel will be destroyed unless it destroys all of its antagonists. The Palestinians react with a “if we lose, we lose everything” program, which insinuates they will be destroyed unless they stop Israel. The two antagonists have succeeded in establishing a “no win-no win situation” that will also affect the security and stability of the world and must be resolved by the world’s institutions. Starting with more salient arguments might provide an approach that turns minds to a solution. If the arguments seem to favor one side it is only because oppression and threat favor one side; the side of the oppressed and the threatened.
(1) Is Israel proceeding with an agenda that ignores destruction of the Palestinians?
(2) Is this agenda part of a larger agenda that intends to reshape the Middle East regardless of the destruction committed against Arab people?
(3) Will these policies threaten the peace and security of the entire world?
(4) If the threat is real should the world’s international institutions, including the European Union, take immediate measures and force a solution.
Engaging in these arguments stimulates a dialogue that exposes the dangerous trajectory of the situation. These arguments must be resolved before other arguments can be entertained and for a corrective solution to be learned and applied.
Is Israel proceeding with an agenda of oppression that ignores destruction of the Palestinian people? United Nations resolution 181 created an Israeli state which the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) sized at 498,000 Jews, many of whom were more recent immigrants to the region, and 407,000 indigenous Arabs. During the 1948 war, Israel captured territory, by which the new nation grew to an area that had contained 650,000 Jews and 900,000 Palestinians. After hostilities ceased, the population of the expanded Israel state, due to added Jewish immigration and Palestinian population transfer, contained 1,013,900 Jews and only 159,100 Palestinians.
Regardless of the reasons for the dispossession of the 750,000 Palestinians, illegal dictates allowed few Palestinians to return to their legally owned lands. The Ben-Gurion government succeeded in creating an almost all Jewish state from lands in which Jews had been less than 40% of the population, and in which almost all Jews had arrived or been born in Palestine in the previous twenty seven years. Jewish population is given at only 83,790 in 1922 when Arab population reached 668, 258.
After the 6-day war in 1967, all Israeli administrations constructed settlements in the West Bank. The settlements, combined with bypass roads, checkpoints, guard posts and a separation wall have completely strangled the Palestinian economy and social fabric. The post 1967 history describes the catastrophic situation.
(1) Israeli military seized the Jordan valley and hills in the West Bank.
(2) The Israeli government destroyed forests and agricultural lands to clear land for settlements. These actions desecrated a Biblical landscape, supposedly treasured by those who desired the new housing. West Bank Palestinian life received its initial confrontation and deterioration.
(3) All Israeli governments constructed settlements with permanent infrastructure for settlers regardless of hindrance to Palestinians. The settlements, which are declared illegal in UN Security Council Resolution 446 and by Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention, encroached upon the physical, social and economic well being of the Palestinians. Derogatory effects on their life angered the populace, motivated it to protective actions and impelled the more desperate to terrorist attacks
(4) Israel constructed roads in order to enable settlers to bypass Arab villages.
(5) Israeli military blockades many Palestinian village roads to prevent their interchange with Israeli only highways. These impediments hinder Palestinian exchanges and shipments of goods to markets. Palestinians who resist have been violently subdued. The subjugation prompted retaliation in form of more suicide attacks against Israeli military and civilians.
(6) The Israeli military, citing a need to prevent additional suicide attacks, instituted checkpoints to secure use of all roads. The maneuver choked Palestinian movements and incited still more suicide attacks.
(7) The Israeli government, beginning in 2002, and despite an International Court of Justice ruling on July 9, 2004, that declares Israel’s Separation Wall to be illegal under international law and demands that it be dismantled and all victims compensated, constructs the wall. The given reason for the wall is prevention of all suicide attacks. Nevertheless, the routing departs the Green Line, expropriates Palestinian land and aquifers deep in the West Bank, separates the Palestinian population into several fenced enclaves and detours the wall so that major West Bank settlements are included in Israel. The plan incorporates the Jordan valley into Israel, enables Israeli forces to surround the West Bank cities of Jericho, Hebron, and Ramallah, and completely encloses the West Bank cities of Qalqiliya and Tulkharm, forcing inhabitants to enter or leave by only a guarded gate and at prescribed times. All of this occurs while Israel destroys the only airport in Gaza, consistently bombs Gaza factories and strangles Gaza commerce and links with the world by controlling airspace, sea lanes and passage to neighboring Sinai.
Israel must have planned the barrier long before starting construction in 2002.
It takes years, possibly decades, to propose, discuss, design, ratify, develop, gather materials, allocate resources, budget (done in secret), pour concrete and construct a barrier of this enormous size; estimated at a final length of 703 KM. The route and shape of the "Separation Barrier," its passage around Israeli settlements together with a network of roads, separates West Bank cities into enclaves. The complementary activities heighten the suspicions that the settlements, roads, checkpoints and the wall constitute a unified agenda. The agenda leads to a question: Is the barrier construction the final element for assuring the economic and social destruction of the Palestinian people?
Reports and statistics tell the story; foreign aid is maintaining Palestinian existence.
A World Bank report, West Bank and Gaza: Economic Developments and Prospects – March 2008, states:
“Real GDP in 2007 is expected to be about $3,901 million, some 14 percent lower than its peak in 1999,” and foreign assistance is maintaining the Palestinian economy: “A combination of borrowing, remittances and increased aid that flowed around the PA has propped up GDP in the past two years and has allowed both public and private consumption to remain strong.” Nevertheless, “Despite large inflows of aid, the shrinking economy has led to increasing poverty. Unemployment in WB&G stands at nearly 22 percent up from only 10 percent before the beginning of the Intifadah in 2000. The percentage of Gazans who live in Deep Poverty has been steadily increasing, rising from 21.6% in 1998 to nearly 35% in 2006. With the continued economic decline in 2007 and the implementation of even more strict closures on Gaza, the current Deep Poverty rate is certainly higher.”
Excerpts from a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
(Consolidated Appeals Process: Humanitarian Appeal 2007 for Occupied Territories, 30 Nov. 2006)
Since the beginning of 2006, political, economic and social conditions have sharply deteriorated for Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). A political impasse has taken hold, characterised by economic and military pressure by Israel including the withholding of Palestinian customs revenues, increasing divisions within the Palestinian Authority, and the diversion of direct international assistance away from key Palestinian Authority institutions.
Poverty rates stand at 65.8% and continue to rise; food insecurity has risen by 13% during 2006. Restrictions on the movement of Palestinian goods, workers, businessmen, officials and public service providers have intensified dramatically.
The Gazan population is undergoing a virtual “siege” by historical standards. Normal market mechanisms have faltered and aid dependency has risen. Palestinian goods have consistently been unable to move out of the strip, businesses have closed and have moved elsewhere. Exports are a tiny fraction of what the Agreement on Movement and Access foresaw in November last year.
The number of checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank has increased by 40% through 2006. The West Bank is being divided into increasingly small pockets, the checkpoints diverting Palestinians off the main roads that are reserved for Israelis to reach their settlements. Jerusalem, the cultural and economic heart of Palestinian life, is open only for those who hold the correct permit which excludes the vast majority of Palestinians. And the Jordan Valley is now off-limits to all but a few Palestinians living there or working in Israeli settlements. In addition, over half of the 703 km-long Barrier route has been constructed, despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which declared the route in contravention of international law.
…for most residents of the oPt, the situation at the end of 2006 was worse than in 2005 and holds little reason for hope in 2007. As explained in this document, the United Nations Country Team predicts that the current impasse will endure well into 2007.
Policies that have impoverished the Palestinians could not have been unintentional. It is impossible that Israeli governments remained unaware that their efforts in the West Bank and Gaza would impoverish the Palestinian people. It is inexcusable that once noting the obvious results of these efforts that a government would not amend its direction in order to prevent a total breakdown of a people’s life. It is inconceivable that a government would defy world institution laws and the appeal for a change in course in order to remedy the disastrous consequences inflicted upon the Palestinians. It is obvious that Israel’s polices have prepared the complete destruction of the Palestinian people.
Is this agenda part of a larger agenda that intends to reshape the Middle East regardless of the destruction committed against Arab people? The last sixty years have witnessed several wars in which Israel has expanded from the original partition plan to control of all Mandatory Palestine. The Golan has been seized from Syria and its territory cleared of almost all Syrian inhabitants and their previous villages. Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt during wars in 1956 and 1967 and was forced to relinquish its occupation. In several wars, Israel occupied Lebanon until the Litani River and was responsible for mass displacement of Lebanese civilians, almost 1 million in the 2006 war. The Christian Science Monitor reports that: “In the June 6-to-Aug. 25 period (1982) of fighting following the Israeli invasion, another 17,825 people were killed and 30,103 wounded in Lebanon, according to the best available sources. These figures do not include those killed in Israel’s overrunning of west Beirut in mid-September nor in the massacres in the city’s Palestinian camps a few days later. Nor is the continuing toll from internecine warfare in Tripoli, the Shouf region, and the Bekaa Valley taken into account.”
Concurrent with the horrors inflicted by several wars, the political aspirations of Arab nations have been subdued. All pan-Arabic and nationalist movements, emphasized by Egypt’s Gamal Nasser, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Muammar al-Gaddafi, Syria’s Hafez al-Assad, and others, have been suppressed. Sudan and Syria, two Arab nations that openly counter Israel’s policies, are stressed, the former with continuous civil war and threat of dismemberment; the latter with open military attacks that tend to weaken and destabilize the regime. Lebanon remains in a state of near anarchy, mainly due to western pressure to limit Hezbollah power, despite doubts of the present power sharing arrangement.
Iraq, that exhibited the greatest potential to become a Middle East power, has been almost completely destroyed and is in danger of being dismantled. Israel participation in this venture is obvious from its incessant promotion for toppling the Saddam Hussein regime, its closeness to the Neocons, who are accused of preparing the U.S. attack against Iraq, and reports of Israel’s training of Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.
The latest interference in Middle East nations has Israel’s Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz threat to consider “all options to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons.” Israel’s urgings to the U.S. to take the necessary measures to prevent a nuclear equipped Iran, or it will perform the task, is a tactic for initiating regime change in Iran.
What do the years since Israel’s inception show? Clearly, the Middle East is being arranged in accord with western interests regardless of the turmoil, damage and loss of life to Middle East peoples.
Will these policies threaten the peace and security of the entire world? The policies have already resulted in damage to the world community. The terrorism in western nations is more directly related to western support of oligarchic Arab regimes and Israel’s oppressive actions.
Radical Islam terrorism confronts the western nations. Nevertheless, anger of Middle East Muslims to western policies, which is slowly spilling over to worldwide Muslim protest, pose a greater threat. A catastrophe that portends the destruction of an indigenous Arab people foments possible worldwide upheavals, assassinations and terrorism as responses from those who feel they have been victimized. The Middle East nations lack military power, but have economic clout to severely disturb western interests. Oil delivery is a potential weapon. The worldwide investment from petroleum income can be directed to unsettle financial institutions. The growing population and wealth of Middle East nations can be used to prejudice markets. A never ending Israel drive that increases antagonism is producing a fear that a nuclear catastrophe can occur from the clash with Israel’s attempt to secure a dominant position in the Middle East.
Should the world’s international institutions, including the European Union, take immediate measures and forcibly prevent Israel from accomplishing its purpose?
Middle East leaders don’t agree on many issues, but one issue in which they seem to concur is that a just solution of the Israel/Palestinian conflict precedes resolution to other Middle East political problems. Fifty nine percent of the European Community (EU) in a 2003 EU poll selected Israel as the major threat to world peace. Shouldn’t the EU listen to its citizens and respond to their pleadings?
What do nations and world authorities recommend when it has been indicated that crimes against humanity, uninterrupted killing and destruction of a community have been documented. United Nations Resolutions, institutional reports and International Court of Justice decisions have agreed that Israel has committed grievous crimes against the Palestinian people. Shouldn’t the world’s institutions act as they have always proposed to act against severe transgressions on human rights and possible genocide – sanctions, trade embargos, nullification of treaties, denial of economic and social assistance, end of diplomatic relations, support for the oppressed, and war crime tribunals – harsh language for harsh oppression.
The initial injustice was the dispossession by the newly formed Israel state of Palestinian land, bank accounts, businesses and other assets. UN Resolution 181 clearly stated: No expropriation of land owned by an Arab in the Jewish State (by a Jew in the Arab State) shall be allowed except for public purposes. In all cases of expropriation full compensation as fixed by the Supreme Court shall be paid previous to dispossession.
The constant attempt by Israel authorities to depart from the original UN resolution and create a Jewish state from immigration while ignoring the rights of its Arab citizens aggravates the injustices. Although the UN Resolution characterized the two states as Jewish and Arab, the thrust had a Jewish state initially composed of a Jewish majority and an Arab state initially composed of an Arab majority, and “Persons over the age of eighteen years may opt, within one year from the date of recognition of independence of the State in which they reside, for citizenship of the other State.”
Israel administrations have demonstrated an arrogance and lack of gratitude for the world community’s creation of the Israel state. The UN partitioned the land so that the Jews, who composed only 1/3 of the area’s population, and most of whom had arrived in the area in the previous 20 years, received 56% of Mandatory Palestine. This included the Negev, which housed few Jews, and which the Zionist claimed they needed for expansion, but have used for principally military purposes. Samioh K. Farsoun in his classic book: Palestine and Palestinians, P.88, estimated that Jewish and Zionist organizations owned about 24% of the arable land and 7% of the total land.
Most Jews lived in the cities of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. If the UN proclaimed a Jewish only state and population transfers occurred, the Jews would have had less than ½ of their allotted territory. The Zionists never contemplated transfer of Jews to a Jewish only state – just the opposite – they succeeded in the transfer of Palestinians out of the Jewish state, the incorporation of most of the planned Arab state into the Jewish state and the transfer of almost all Arabs out of their own planned state.
U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognized the distinction between a state designated as Jewish and a Jewish state when he recognized the new state. The U.S. president changed several words in the original document.
Nations and international institutions behave more responsibly and act more effectively when they receive an impetus from their citizens. Chauvinism and cultural preference impede many who consider themselves progressive and champions of human rights from recognizing the perilous situation and responding to its tragic appearance. Human rights is not a selective mechanism where wrongs can only occur outside one’s camp. Permitting an oppression to its ultimate conclusion qualifies as permitting any crime, any injustice, any transgression on human life.
The solution starts with each individual recognizing the horrific consequences of the present trajectory of the crisis and being aware of the elements governing it.
Unproven narratives that are contradicted by history and archaeology are not factors in decisions. Biblical claims, even if true, are not relevant in the 21st century. Nevertheless, history and archaeology contend the biblical narratives of the formation and reach of the Hebrews in the Middle East and that Jews are definitely one common people, all of whom trace their heritage directly from biblical Hebrews.
Solutions to the crisis have always been biased towards consideration of effects on Israel and ignored the catastrophic effects on the Palestinians. The media constantly declares that Hamas will not recognize Israel, which is their right, but does not note that Israel has never recognized Hamas and has always tried to destroy the elected Palestinian leadership.
Stateless and displaced Palestinians cannot continue languishing in refugee camps in Lebanon as non-citizens and in Syria as limited citizens. Isn’t the right of return for dispossessed persons a legitimate right that is protected by UN General Assembly Resolution 194?
Religious extremists cannot have a role in resolution of the crisis. The Religious Right and Jewish extremists who quote prophecy to validate their positions cannot objectively seek a solution; they can only impede a solution.
Justice must prevail and injustices corrected. Isn’t that a given in the civilized world?
The solution evolves from the world governments and its citizens understanding the choices and forcing a decision. The international community has the choice of forcing Israel to return to the nation that the United Nations declaration intended or allowing an eventual destruction of the Palestinian people and worldwide disturbances. The former choice resolves the conflict. The latter choice provokes it forever.
-Dan Lieberman is the editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com; contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.