The Peace Process

I know we’re not supposed to talk about this, it’s too controversial in this country to talk about Israel or Zionism, and it’s easier to pretend that it doesn’t perpetuate the longest standing current day human rights crisis in the world.  It would, I’m sure, make many of us more comfortable if human rights activists could just stop reminding us that Israel is a modern day Apartheid state with Jim Crow laws, and we wouldn’t have to face the fact that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Israel lobby) is pushing for a constant pro-Israel agenda in our country on the backs of millions of brown Palestinian children.  (See The Israel Lobby, by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.)  But being a brown Muslim vegan woman, it just wouldn’t feel like my every day life if I didn’t take on the most uncomfortable and heinous injustices in the world.  I’ve lived in Palestine so I have a special duty to never forget.

 

I don’t even get hopeful, excited or even mildly interested now whenever a new “peace” process starts, because I know the game and the story.  We need only look back to see our history repeating itself to understand that these peace talks are never meant to create peace.  They are meant to keep the cycle of violence going until it can reach its ethnically cleansed conclusion.

 

So a bit of history: Zionism is the idea that Jewish people are the racially superior chosen people who deserve the exclusive right to all of historic Palestine.  Now I must be clear that not all Jewish people think this, and many including Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, the Neturei Karta and countless others are outspoken critics of this racism and won’t allow it to happen in their name.  Modern day Zionism’s father Theodor Hertzl had the vision back in the late 1800’s that Jewish people needed a homeland that was ethnically and racially Jewish.  The World Zionist Organization (WZO) founded in the late 1800’s set their eyes on historic Palestine (at that time occupied by the British) as one day being exclusively a Jewish homeland free of its Palestinian inhabitants.  This vision included “from the river to the sea”, meaning from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which includes all of historic Palestine (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip).  This vision was made reality in 1948 when the British mandate ended, the UN along with the British betrayed the Palestinians out of a promise to their homeland and partitioned Palestine into two states (one exclusively Jewish, one Palestinian), and Zionist forces captured even more than the already unilaterally unjust UN partition plan and murdered and pillaged over 400 Palestinian villages, driving out those who were able to survive the onslaught into neighboring nations Lebanon and Jordan or to the east and west of historic Palestine (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) where many still reside in refugee camps to this day.  The current day occupation was finalized in 1967 when Israel fully seized control over the remaining Palestinian lands the West Bank and Gaza.  (For an excellent account of the history Noam Chomsky’s The Fateful Triangle, chapter 4).

The Zionist vision of claiming all of historic Palestine (which includes current day West Bank and Gaza which have been touted as the future Palestinian state) still remains in effect.  Israel has never had and will never have any intention of relinquishing any of this land to Palestinians for the creation of a future state since claiming all of the land has always been the mission, hence the ongoing 60 plus year occupation.  This is also why Israel has never officially declared its national borders since their land grab is unfinished.  In order to enforce this slow land grab, Israel has in violation of the 4th Geneva Conventions heavily carved up the West Bank with illegal settlements with the intention of annexing the land.  The Israeli settlements slowly claim this settled land, deliberately located on top of the largest water aquifers in the West Bank (Ariel settlement for example), in order to take the land and the majority of the water for Israel.  It is also no coincidence that the Apartheid Wall (which has been ruled unlawful by the International Court of Justice for where it confiscates Palestinian land off of the 1949 armistice line or “green” line) snaking through the West Bank deliberately encircles the settlements on the Israeli side of the Wall, again particularly Ariel, in order to steal the water and land from the Palestinians.  The fact that a temporary freeze on these illegal settlements is somehow a bargaining chip or bonus point for Israel just demonstrates how far we have fallen in understanding what is really happening on the ground in Palestine.

 

The farce of Israel’s “peace” offers is evidenced through the numerous peace talks and Israel’s offers for a “two state solution” consisting of chopped up pieces of land.  The Israeli offers of a state would be as is, the West Bank carved up by settlements where Palestinian villages would not be connected, making up a “swiss-cheese” like state, and the Gaza Strip would be as is, this open air prison physically amputated from the West Bank.  Oh and you can forget about Jerusalem.  Any two state solution offers from the Palestinians proposing a state in the West Bank and Gaza based on pre-1967 borders without the illegal settlements cutting up the land (and supported by numerous UN resolutions) in whole are roundly rejected by Israel.  And Palestinians are always left to blame for rejecting the Israeli proposal of a “peace” offer, that also includes banning the future state of Palestine from ever having an army, being able to trade openly with their neighbors, and with Israel reserving the right to control their airspace and national borders.  In other words, still an occupation.  Not to mention these redundant peace processes constantly revolve around a dead solution.  The two state solution is not even an offer of a real contiguous, autonomous nation, and is reminiscent of the South African model of an occupying power negotiating an ethnically pure state on the lands already stolen from an indigenous population while offering the original inhabitants a separate but not so equal state on the worst parts of the land left.  These negotiations do not dare mention the one democratic, secular state solution where one’s rights are not based on one’s race or religion but rather on the fact that they are humans with inalienable rights to democracy and self determination.  One person, one vote.  If we have learned anything from U.S. and South African Apartheid history, it is that separate is never equal.  (For a detailed explanation of the one state solution, see Ali Abunimah’s book One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli- Palestinian Impasse.)

Yet Israel knows that by offering these crumbs to the Palestinian leadership, it will be rejected as any people would reject this offer, Israel will be allowed to claim that they offered “peace” while not offering to dismantle illegal settlements, stop the deliberate shooting of children, strangulation of water and access to farm land (read: access to food and the only source of employment left for Palestinians), the air strikes, the siege on Gaza, and provide medical care as is the legal requirement of an occupying body, and Israel will somehow still come out the victor.  All the peace negotiations have ever been about is placating the international community and the Palestinians while Israel continues its land grab, genocide and ethnic cleansing until one day Israel will fulfill the WZO vision of claiming all of historic Palestine free of Palestinians.  It’s simply stalling, a delay tactic, a diversion from what is really happening.  Israel and Israeli companies are also making vast sums of money with this perpetual occupation and genocide and the requisite weapons and security technology.  (See Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, chapter 20).  So it’s a win win for them.  And the cycle continues.

 

The important conclusion to take away from all of this is to understand that all the misery Israel inflicts on Palestinians is deliberate, not just out of racism but out of the intent to make life so miserable for Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and occupied Gaza Strip that the Palestinians will be driven out of the their homes and the land will be free for Israel’s taking.

I do live in hope that one day these so called peace negotiations will actually talk about peace, about Israel ending its brutal 6 decade long occupation of Palestine, 6 decade long Apartheid regime, and allow the refugees living in camps for up to 62 years to come home, as mandated by the UN and international law.  (See for example UN resolution 194).  If for no one else, I hold this hope alive for so many of the Palestinian children I met while living in the West Bank who dreamt of being able to at least travel to the neighboring village to see their families, to visit Jerusalem and pray at Al-Aqsa, to be free of Walls and checkpoints, to not lose another friend to Israeli sniper fire.  And to simply have an innocent childhood.  That is, for those who are left alive to have that hope.


– Bina Ahmad is an attorney, human rights and animal rights social justice activist.  She is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants and an Ahmadi Muslim, a heavily persecuted sect in Islam.  She has worked on social justice issues her entire life, and worked with organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the New York branch of the ACLU, Al-Haq (the oldest Palestinian Human Rights NGO based in Ramallah, West Bank), and PETA.  She strives to make the connection between human and animal oppression, and hopes you will join her in the struggle
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5 Comments

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  1. hey Bina,

    wow. i would love to talk to you about this, since as an Israeli, i find this article very one- sided, biased, and offensive. I am afraid that this kind of ‘blamings of the other side’ is exactly what keeps perpetuating the conflict! its not about who is right and who is wrong. both sides are ‘wrong’, and have been doing bad things (VERY BAD THINGS. suicide bombers? murdering women and children in cold blood by blowing them up, to pieces, intentionally, in a cafe or a bus or a market ? i dont want to remind you..).
    I dare to say that I have lived in that part of the world longer than you, or any one of your readers here, so i kinda know what i am talking about. more research is needed before such strong ‘racial’ accusations are made. (btw, the Israeli state does not prefer the ‘Jewish race’. both Jews and Arabs are equal citizens, Arabic is an official language of Israel, and so on – i dare you to find a similar case in any other ‘Apartheid state’).

    in any case, i think, and know, that the ONLY way to peace (which at least most Israelis want), is to stop blaming the other side, and take personal responsibility, and be willing to be the one who DOES NOT react back, but actually stops the vicious cycle of violence, and be an ‘adult’. violent articles don’t help much in this regard.

    thanks,

    Aylam

  2. Hi Aylam,

    Instead of seeming one sided on this we wanted to make sure you had a space to voice your opinion. You are right that a rigid stance of both parties will only further conflict.

    However, not all Israelis are as reasonable. Some believe that it is there right to expand and impose themselves on historic Palestine, the violence that follows, no matter how awful is almost always reactionary.

    Just before the first Gulf war the Iraqi prime minister was quoted as saying “when the talking stops the fighting starts” the rest was history. There is something very powerful about dialogue, and I would like to invite everyone to try and have the most polite discourse possible around this issue.

    Aylam, I would like to say I disagree with you, but I appreciate your voice, thanks for posting.

    Best,
    Andy

  3. Hi Andy,

    thanks for the kind note, and for being open to dialogue! i totally agree with you, and would like to keep the polite dialogue going.

    i also agree that there are extremists among the Israeli public, who have their belief that the historic piece of land we now call Israel/Palestine, used to belong to the Kingdom of David and the Jewish people etc etc. but at the same token, there are extremists among the Palestinian public, who want all Israelis thrown into the sea, and who educate their young children on murdering Israelis. so yes, the “violence that follows, no matter how awful is almost always reactionary” – on both sides. when we let extremists incite our emotions and dictate our reactions – violence happens, and dialogue stops.

    basically, what i am saying is that every conflict has 2 sides, who have their (in their opinion) legitimate claims and opinions and beliefs, and any chance for a solution (and i do strive for a peaceful solution, instead of saying ‘peace talks will never work’) MUST consider and take into account these claims and opinions and beliefs. presenting just one side, and in a way that totally delegitimizes the other side, doesn’t help at all in this effort.

    so what i suggest, instead of keeping to wallow in “who did what to who, who was there first, who is worse, and they are the bad ones here” is to look to the future with a proactive approach of: ok, enough damage has been done. enough people have died. how can we stop the cycle of blaming and reacting on BOTH sides, see a positive possibility for these 2 peoples to live side by side, as our mutual goal, and keep on talking about it, no matter what?

    Thanks,

    Aylam

  4. Hi Aylam, thank you for voicing your opinion on this. Andy is right, we want to create a dialogue and I appreciate you starting one.

    But yes, I too disagree with you. I completely disagree that “both sides are wrong” in this conflict. That’s not saying that I agree with everything Palestinians have done, but it is to say there is an occupier, and an occupied, a colonizer and a colonized. In the same way I wouldn’t argue that “both sides are wrong” when it comes to the Native American genocide in this country even given violent resistance on the part of Native Americans, or the South African violent struggle to shake off Apartheid, I won’t say that both sides are wrong here. Of course I do not agree with suicide bombings (which are not state sanctioned but separate rogue groups or individuals) just as I do not agree with Israeli state sanctioned terrorism in their bombing of refugee camps, deliberately starving the residents of Gaza, or using F-16 fighter jets to combat children throwing stones.

    Furthermore, I maintain Israel is an Apartheid state given that for example the Palestinian Israeli citizens are as we speak being pushed out of their homes by Israeli settlers such as in the Silwan district of Jerusalem simply because they are Palestinian, or are given deliberately subpar educational opportunities and receive disproportionate funds from the government for social services, do not benefit from the Law of Return and the Citizenship Law that only apply to Jews, just to name a few (please see Adalah.org for more information on the struggle for Palestinian civil rights within Israel).

    I also find it interesting that you want to simply look to the future and not look at how the immediate recent past is what is hindering a peaceful future from ever coming into existence. And let’s say we forget the past and look at the present to move forward, this genocide and discrimination is happening today, they are not a thing of the past. So yes, let’s talk about having a future, and that future will not happen if Israel continues on its violent path.

    I’d also like to point out that yes, I am sure you have lived in Israel longer than I lived in the West Bank, but did you ever visit the West Bank or Gaza? And not in a military service capacity? Many of the readers here have spent as much time as you have in Israel/Palestine, and many of them haven’t simply because they are Palestinian and were either kicked out or not allowed to enter.

    But as I already stated in my article, I DO hope that these peace talks will one day talk about peace, but they do not right now for the reasons I already wrote in my original article.

  5. Peace and real mutual respect based on common humanity will occur when religions like Judaism and Islam are filed properly in the dustbin of mythology and not a minute sooner.