The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Part 2
The Rationale for the Idea of "Jewish Return to Their Homeland"
As was stated in the first half of this article, Jews have a right to live where they wish, but, like anyone else in the world, they must follow accepted procedures to do that and buy land that is for sale. Since 1948 Israeli Jews have not done that. They have taken what they want by force and displaced native peoples. But there is plenty of blame to go around if you consider what the British did in 1917 and the U.N., the U.S. and Israel have done since 1948. And Israel’s iniquity has only gotten worse and worse, clinging to erroneous, flawed logic based on a false interpretation of prophecies.
The idea of "Jewish right of return" to Palestine been brought into question not only by archeologists, but by scriptural and theological scholars. Moreover, the logic of that idea is out of touch with the reality of how the "legal ownership" of lands has been determined for a long time in all the other countries on earth.
Granted, it is no doubt true that ancient Jewish prophets did foresee a number of Jews in ancient Palestine would flee Roman persecution and scatter throughout Europe. And some prophets did foresee a "return" of Jews to the land in and around Jerusalem. However, prophecies are open to interpretation, and should be understood with reason.
Furthermore, most of the descendants of ancient Jews stayed in the Middle East, both in Palestine and in successful communities from Egypt to Iraq and Iran. And they really did not have many problems with regard to religion until after the State of Israel was founded in 1948, when the intrusion of European and American Jews into Islamic lands increased, and Arabs and Muslims began to object to that intrusion.
Ironically, today even some hard line Jewish Zionists concede that the idea of a forced exile from the Jewish homeland is not generally accepted in serious Jewish historical discussions. But the preamble to the Israeli Declaration of Independence states: "After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom."
That is why we should learn and understand the truth and reality about Jewish beliefs, because some of them may not be based on the real truth. And, even if they were and are, it does not automatically give Jews the right to do what they have done and are still doing that causes harm and loss to native, indigenous Palestinian peoples.
We should also understand the truth about Islam, because Islam’s founder, Muhammad, said that Allah was the Arab name for Jehovah or Yahweh, the same God that Jews worship, and the same God that Christians should worship.
Furthermore, the Hebrew Torah and Tanakh (Old Testament) does not indicate that returning Jews would or should take so much land away from native indigenous people who’s ancestors have lived there for thousands of years. But, the Torah and Tanach certainly does command the Jews to not kill, and not to covet that which belongs to your neighbor. It also says that pride goes before destruction and an arrogant spirit before a fall, and it is better to be of a humble spirit than to join the proud and militant in their aggressive and offensive pursuit of the "spoils" of war.
All Jews and Christians should remember that, and so should Muslims, because they are allsupposed to honor the good advice given in the Torah and Tanach.
We should also understand that there is another reason why the plight of the Palestinians has steadily worsened over time.
How the Situation Kept Getting Worse
Since the early eighties the population of right-wing Fundamentalist Orthodox Jews in Israel has grown considerably, and some of their leaders are as rigid, exclusive, intolerant, proud and militant as some of the leaders of the Christian Right in America who are also intolerant of and offensive toward Palestinians and Muslims in general.
That has been very unfortunate because it is what has provoked terrorist activity toward Israel and the West, and it has betrayed those Jewish people in Israel who are peace-loving, good people. They are like the majority of Americans who recognize the value and necessity of a secular government and separation of church and state, and don't try to use their religion for political advantage or use the pulpit for partisan political grandstanding cloaked as "religious" righteousness and "law."
Despite that, ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have been very aggressive and persistent in trying to impose a fundamentalist version of Judaism on most of the country, including forcing women to sit at the back of buses and driving secular Jews out of some neighborhoods. But, fortunately, it has recently become apparent that growing numbers of Jews for religious freedom (and freedom from Theocracy) have been challenging the power of the ultra-Orthodox Jews.
Many good Israelis are as much against the militant Israeli hardliners as they are against the militant Palestinian hardliners. They are sick and tired of war, even though most of them are too young to remember how it all started. Some of them may not even be aware that the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is simply a continuation of what began a very long time ago.
A notable Israeli who is sick and tired of war is Mordechai Vanunu. He is a former Israeli nuclear technician who in 1986 revealed details of Israel's nuclear weapons program. For that he was drugged and kidnaped in England by Israeli intelligence operatives, taken to Israel and convicted in a trial held behind closed doors. He spent 18 years in prison, including more than 11 years in solitary confinement, during which he says he suffered "cruel and barbaric treatment." Even after he was finally released from his first prison stretch, Israelis put many restrictions on his speech and movement, and he has been put back in prison twice more recently for violating the absurdly strict terms of his parole. But, while the Government of Israel hates and persecutes him, peace activists the world over regard him as a hero for taking a stand against nuclear weapons proliferation, and Vanunu has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize many times.
The world should be made aware of such aspects of Israeli offenses and Israeli "iniquity." For example, Israel adopted the practice of authorizing "targeted assassinations" and covert death squads a long time ago. It started following the 1972 Olympics in Munich – where those 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian guerillas who’s original intent was to bring attention to the plight of the Palestinians.
At that time Israel decided to not even try to have the perpetrators and conspirators arrested and tried in courts. The Israeli government instead launched a systematic covert campaign of assassinations of those they judged as guilty for the Munich murders, and they managed to exact revenge no matter where the targets were in the world. Then they continued the practice of targeted assassinations, killing a broad range of Palestinians judged to be enemies of Israel. This has been kept secret from the general public until fairly recently, and while some Israelis feel the practice was and is justified, it ought to horrify everyone who values true justice and the rule of law. No government in the world should authorize assassinations (and that includes the U.S.).
Unfortunately, it is still practiced by some governments, and the Israelis. In fact, the current conflict is continually escalated by retaliatory violence and killing. It's become difficult to keep track of the order, but Palestinian attacks or suicide bombings are always followed by Israeli attacks, invasions and incursions, and even by targeted assassinations and killing of Palestinians, many of which are done covertly.
The Israelis under the leadership of Ariel Sharon and then Ehud Olmert and Benyamin Netanyahu have consistently and continually used a heavier hand (or iron fist), wielding disproportionate use of deadly force, thus pouring more fuel on the flames of conflict and ensured an increase in the cycle of retaliatory violence by widening the area of violence and destruction. The effect has been only to strengthen the resolve of Palestinian extremists like the leaders of Hizbollah and Hamas, and weaken and even negate the influence of Palestinian moderates.
In 2000 George W. Bush gave Israel a clear signal approving more aggressive action. So, in September 2000, Israeli Ariel Sharon blatantly insulted Palestinians and provoked them, and that resulted in the Second Muslim Intifada (which means retaliatory war against oppressive persecution and military occupation). Some of the most major and blatant consequences of that renewed round of violence have been covered by the American news media, but certainly not enough. And, since Americans have not been very informed, they should know more about it, and more about some notable prior examples of Israeli offenses and atrocities.
Back in 1953 an Israeli military unit led by Ariel Sharon was responsible for the mass slaughter of Palestinian refugee inhabitants of Qibya, a village in the then-Jordanian West Bank. In the war in 1967 Israel took even more land by force, and following that there was a particularly brutal enforcement of the Israeli occupation in Gaza, led by Sharon. In 1982, emboldened by the Reagan Administration and the American Christian Right, Sharon led an illegal military invasion and intrusion into Lebanon and was responsible for the massacre of many Palestinians, particularly in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon. These were war crimes that were ignored and allowed by the rest of the world.
Palestinian suffering due to the abuse of Israeli military power then increased over the years, and it markedly increased due to Sharon's actions before and after he became Prime Minister of Israel. Then he was responsible for many more targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders, and the bulldozing of thousands of Palestinian homes, orchards, and other property.
To be fair, it should be noted that prior to that, back in June 1967, just a few hours after the Israeli military captured Jerusalem's Temple Mount, then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan visited the site and noticed that his troops had hung an Israeli flag on the top of the Al-Aqsa Muslim Shrine. Dayan told the soldiers to remove it, because he felt that it was a blatantly provocative act. Unfortunately, Ariel Sharon's highly publicized and very provocative act of visiting the Al-Aqsa compound in September 2000 was also blatantly provocative, and it was the final step in a process that ultimately negated Dayan's strategic legacy of trying to normalize the occupation by concealing Israel's presence. Even though Dayan had once said, "Don't rule them, let them lead their own lives," Sharon wanted to dominate and rule with an iron fist, and crush any resistance. Sharon not only provoked the second Muslim Intifada against Israel, he ended the peace efforts made by all the peacemakers of the world. And since then the Israeli government has defiantly displayed their flag anywhere possible, as if thumbing their nose at Palestinians. And their tactics of enforcing the occupation got meaner, more destructive, and more deadly.
For example, back during the first two decades following the 1967 War, an estimated 650 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But, during the six-year period between 2001 and 2007, Israel killed more than 650 Palestinians per year. Moreover, during the first three years of the Second Intifada, Israel destroyed more than ten percent of Gaza's agricultural land and uprooted over 226,000 Palestinian trees.
Most Americans don't know it, but, as of October 2004 (according to a report presented before the U.N. Security Council) the number of Palestinians killed by Israelis since the beginning of the Second Intifada in September 2000 to 2006 was 3,839, including nearly a thousand children, and an estimated 36,433 Palestinians had been injured. During the same time, only 979 Israelis were killed, and 6,297 were wounded. In those four years not only did Palestinians suffer four times as many deaths as Israelis, thousands of Palestinian homes had been destroyed or damaged beyond repair in the Gaza Strip. More than 120,000 parcels of Palestinian land had been confiscated for colonial Israeli expansion, "settlement" activities, occupation activities, and the construction of Sharon's imposing Segregation Wall, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinian trees were uprooted in various Israeli military activities.
All this happened while America and the rest of the world simply watched and did nothing.
Another report by the BBC stated that between September 2000 and January 2005, just in the covert, extrajudicial executions or targeted assassinations, there were 181 Palestinians killed by Israelis, and in the course of those assassinations 288 more Palestinians, including at least 29 children under age 18, were killed "inadvertently." And in the Summer of 2006 the violence and offenses increased again. Another invasion of Lebanon and the destruction of much of its infrastructure caused even more outrage, and the offenses have continued ever since.
Adding more fuel to fire have been right-wing American "Christian" Zionists, most of whom are leaders of the Christian Right. One of them has claimed: "Israel was re-born by an act of God and Israel lives! The Jews have suffered great persecution and survived slavery and the [Nazi] Final Solution! God Jehovah will bury Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran! The flag of Israel will fly over the undivided Jerusalem and be the praise of all the earth! It's 1938 again and the new Hitler is Ahmadinejad! Radical Islamicists are threatening to develop nuclear weapons in order to destroy Israel and then the USA! But we are indivisible and we are both here forever!"
Right-wing warmongers in the U.S. Congress have even encouraging both the Israeli and American military to drop bombs on Iran, because Iran supports anti-Israeli activism. And that of course encourages proud and militant Israeli hardliners.
In America we don’t hear of most of the deaths that have been caused by this insanity, because the American commercial news media ignores most of it. But the whole world became aware of one of the horrible consequence of the insanity in December 2008, when we saw Hamas forces in Gaza killing a few Israelis with mortar and rocket attacks, and then Israel retaliating absurdly and disproportionately with massive fire power, killing hundreds of innocent people in Gaza and causing terror and horrendous destruction.
Then the Israeli government invaded Gaza and prevented journalists from showing and telling the world what was happening, because they have indulged in the same war crimes they did when they previously invaded Lebanon, not only causing horribly unnecessary and disproportionate death and destruction.
Of course, Hamas's indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians were also war crimes, but they do not excuse Israel's far worse war crimes. Testimony by Israel’s own soldiers confirmed what people in the Gaza Strip had charged, that Israel's assault on Gaza perpetrated terrible violations of international law.
The evidence reveals that Israel violates international law and its duty to protect the civilian population of the Gaza Strip by: (1) imposing forceful military occupation; (2) using military firepower against a people it is legally bound to protect; (3) imposing collective punishment in the form of a blockade (in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention) which imposed harmful restrictions on trade and movement and forced families into poverty, children into malnutrition, and denied patients access to medical treatment; (4) deliberately attacking civilian targets, destroying or damaging thousands of houses, mosques, hospitals, factories, schools, a key sewage plant, institutions like the parliament, the main ministries, the central prison and police stations; (5) killing civilians without military justification (according to the United Nations, of 1,434 Palestinians killed in the Gaza invasion, 960 were civilians, including 121 women and 288 children); (6) deliberately employing extremely disproportionate military force; and (7) illegal use of weapons, including illegal white phosphorus. Israeli political and military personnel who planned, ordered or executed these offenses and violations of international law should face criminal prosecution, because if and when we allow any nation to violate it with impunity, respect for international law is diminished, and cruel, arrogant nations are strengthened and enabled.
Prominent Israeli journalists were then arrested by Israeli authorities upon re-entering Israel from Gaza. The Israeli government forbid journalists to enter Gaza, because they don’t want Israelis to learn the truth. Rather, the Israeli government and military want to suppress knowledge and publicity of their own indefensible actions, to prevent Israelis from knowing the facts about the impact of the Israeli army’s brutality and cruelty in Gaza, or in the settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Israeli government and military go to great lengths to control what Israelis see and hear, and this has been going on for decades. Many reporters have said that the Israelis have succeeded to the extent that the word Palestinian is nearly synonymous with the word terrorist, and any dissent or resistance to Israeli military occupation and expansionism is labeled as irrational, unprovoked, inhuman terrorism.
Some say the Israeli goal is to spin the message so that the oppressed are seen as oppressors, culprits are seen as victims, illegal military action and occupation is seen as cultural liberation, aggressive expansion and colonization is seen as righteous reclamation, genocide is seen as self-defense, apartheid is seen as security, and ethnic cleansing is seen as peace-keeping. Of course, some people would dismiss that as a biased, cynical view, but, if we consider the historic facts and the full story, we can see there is some validity to it.
On June 16, 2009, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a good servant of God, visited Gaza and said that he was almost brought to tears by what he saw. He said that he felt some responsibility because the American International School, one of many destroyed by the Israelis, had been"deliberately destroyed by bombs from F-16s made in my country." Not only that, he added that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being treated "more like animals than human beings."
We agree with the late great Martin Luther King Jr., who said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness, in a descending spiral of destruction."
Granted, there is nothing wrong with there being a State of Israel. But the offenses, intrusions, expansionism, and occupation must stop. The growing number of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and elsewhere should be relinquished and simply given to the Palestinian Authority to house needy Palestinians. That would only be fair, and right. After all, the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have been described as "having no legal validity" by the United Nations Security Council in resolutions 446, 452, 465 and 471, made under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter.
The problem is that even though the International Court of Justice has interpreted that all U.N. Security Council resolutions are legally binding, neither the resolutions or the court has any enforcement mechanisms, so Israel has simply ignored the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and world opinion.
The U.S. is largely responsible for enabling Israel, particularly during the Reagan and Bush Administrations. But the U.S. has created a greedy, arrogant bully in the State of Israel with all the financial and military support of the Israeli government since 1948, pouring in billions of dollars a year so Israel could create and maintain superior military power and abuse it horribly in a myriad of ways. That has been and still is the problem, and it’s only grown worse, to the point where now the Israeli government is thumbing its nose at the whole world, doing whatever it pleases. And it will be a problem until the people of the world finally say, "Enough!"
Unfortunately, President Obama has bowed to the Zionist lobby and he has broken his word about supporting a Palestinian state. So all Americans should realize that unconditional support for Israel from America has enabled Israel’s iniquity, and it has encouraged Israel’s leadership to be blatantly arrogant and defiant in the face of world opinion.
Obama should say this: We will support Israel’s right to defend itself appropriately. However, the U.S. should not support any more inappropriate and disproportionate retaliation from Israel against the Palestinians, nor will we excuse any more illegal settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem, or any more military incursions or bombardments of Palestinian territories. They are unacceptable and inexcusable, as were their previous incursions and bombardments of Lebanon. The support and financial aid from U.S. Government to Israel will be curtailed unless Israel abides by International Law.
Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen. Granted, Obama has criticize Israel's continued settlement of Palestinian areas and Israel’s refusal to hold meaningful peace talks. But he has failed to cite all of Israel’s offenses or act with firm action or resolve. Consequently, Israel concluded it could continue doing as it wished.
Consequently, Israel attacked a flotilla of ships where they killed some of the people trying to deliver humanitarian medical supplies to Gaza. Israel claimed "self-defense" and said it was the "enforcement of a blockade." But, Israel illegally attacked a ship in International waters, rather than having the cargo inspected as it was unloaded in Gaza. The Israeli attack on ships in international waters was, according to treaty, an attack on a NATO state, and in September 2010 the U.N. issued a report concluding that the Israeli military actions "cannot be justified or condoned on security or any others grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law."
Unfortunately, Israel has gotten away with it many times. Israel even committed an act of war on the U.S. in 1967. The USS Liberty, which was also in international waters and flying the flag of the U.S.A., was attacked by the Israeli air force and navy. The attack lasted an hour and a half, and it killed 34 Americans and wounded 173. And, as then Undersecretary of State, George Ball said of the attack: "If America's leaders did not have the courage to punish Israel for the blatant murder of American citizens it seemed clear that their American friends would let them get away with almost anything." And that is still the case.
President Obama probably refuses to say so because he fears the clout of the Israeli-American lobbies whose sole mission is to further the cause of Zionism and keep the financial and military assistance flowing from the U.S. to Israel.
Granted, Obama was right when he said that Israel should return to its 1967 borders to make amends and establish peace. Unfortunately, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that a return to those borders was "impossible" because the region had seen "demographic changes," and the 1967 borders would be "indefensible." And Obama caved in. But, what is indefensible is Israel’s stubborn refusal to be reasonable and fair.
American lobby groups blindly supporting Israel make things worse by enabling Israel. One of the latest is called "Z Street," which means "The Road to Zion." It was founded to counter and fightmore moderate Jewish organizations, like Americans for Peace Now, and J Street, a moderate Jewish American advocacy group. Z Street founders accuse J Street of "treason" because J Streetwas founded to promote diplomacy, peace and security.
There are many other right-wing extremist Zionist groups, including the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA); the pro-Israeli front group Stand With Us; the American Israel Education Foundation; and The Israel Project (TIP). However; the vast majority of pro-Israel Lobbyist groups and Political Action Committees (PACs) have misleading or non-descriptive names. And apparently there are a large network of other PACs, most of them originally established in the early 1980s in their home cities by members of AIPAC’s board of directors.
That is somewhat curious, since a significantly large number of Jewish people in the West and even in Israel are not Zionists, but in fact oppose Zionism. Many Zionists are not even Jewish, and many are secularists. Many are members of what I call the U.S. Religious Military Industrial Complex — leaders of the Christian Right, businessmen, oil company executives, bankers, financiers, and speculators. It leads one to wonder if Zionism is about more than just a "Jewish Homeland."
Even the Jewish Anti-Defamation League has become radicalized by the right-wing rhetoric. It now belies its mission, which is supposed to be "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all." It claims to be "the premier civil rights/human relations agency," and it claims to fight "all forms of bigotry." But, in fact, over the last 50 years it has become more and more bigoted, and it ignores the civil rights of Arabs. It goes along with the idea of Jewish Israeli supremacy over Arabs, and it condones Israel’s abuse of military power, military occupation, and enforced apartheid.
Some might find all that merely ironic, but it’s not. What’s ironic is that the American "Christian" Right blindly supports the Israeli government too, in spite of Israel’s record of religious bigotry even against Christians who happen to be Arabs or Palestinians.
Since 1948 the population of Christians in the Mid-East has been shrinking, and many Arab Christians there are persecuted. For instance, there is a Palestinian Christian organization called Sabeel, founded by a refugee dislocated in 1948 by Israelis. Still, Sabeel promotes a theology of liberation based on justice, peace, non-violence and reconciliation with all people, regardless of their religion or nationality. But Sabeel is persecuted by the Israeli government’s "defense" forces because most of Sabeel’s members are Palestinian Christians and not Christians from America or Europe.
Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh, a retired physician and a Christian, has said: "When the [Israeli] occupation is ended there will be peace. If the world boycotted Israel for six months they would comply with the UN Resolutions, which is all we want! There is state terrorism and Israel must be forced to recognize our right to exist." ... "Israel is a state built on religious beliefs. The US and EU and all the free world are against theocracies. But Israel has the right to do anything! The world needs to wake up!" ... "If there is no peace in the Holy Land there can be no peace anywhere."
We all need to realize that the Palestinians and Arab Christians deserve to have their grievances redressed, and the U.N. needs to step in to stop the madness and violence, and establish justice. The people of the world need to ensure that Israel makes amends and provides adequate compensation to the Palestinians who have had so much taken away from them.
Unfortunately, the U.S. is still part of the problem. Passed in May 2012, U.S. House Bill 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, calls for the United States to significantly increase provision of sophisticated weaponry to Israel to “help Israel preserve its qualitative military edge” in the region. It provides $1 Billion for Israel to upgrade its missile defenses, and that’s in addition to the $3 Billion Israel already receives per year along with numerous defense co-production programs that it benefits from.
When Things Will Change
When the Israelis and the Palestinians and other Muslims and Arabs know that the people of the world through the United Nations will act to stop both sides from waging offensive war, things will change.
Things will change especially when the Palestinians know that the U.N. will stop both the overt and covert Israeli aggression and violence, establish a Palestinian State of ample size, establishland reform and property rights for Palestinians, establish social justice, and bring Israeli war criminals to justice, it will greatly reduce the conflict. It will reduce support for Hamas and Hizbollah, and the so-called "Jihadist" hatemongers and warmongers who have committed indiscriminate mass murder will lose followers.
As soon as the United Nations becomes actively involved, with trained troops and the best intelligence operatives from all participating nations, they will gradually become better able to identify, deal with, and bring the Israeli war criminals and the criminal terrorist guerilla leaders and their die-hard followers to justice.
As the wisest military leaders have been saying for many decades, you cannot defeat or get rid of guerilla fighters who have the support of the people. Bombing does not work. Conventional warfare does not work, because while you can destroy buildings and kill a lot of people, you cannot destroy the will of a people who crave equal rights, freedom and justice. Any peoples who are unfairly treated, displaced and oppressed, especially by occupying military forces, will always support guerilla fighters who are on their side.
Therefore, we, the rest of the people in the world, must be on their side and against the abuse of power by the government of Israel – even as we are against terrorists who commit indiscriminate mass murder. We must assert that two wrongs do not make a right, and we must stop the wrong.
The only way to resolve the conflict and deal with the problem will be with reconciliation, compromise, administration of justice, and making amends. Otherwise, the proud, militant hardline leaders on both sides will keep fighting to the death, and taking a whole lot of innocent people with them.