Take the Palestinian cause for freedom and justice to the international courts and pressure Israel to respect human rights.
ONE year ago, America seriously jeopardized its Middle East peacemaker role during the brutal Israeli assault upon the Palestinians of Gaza. As an American living and serving in the West Bank, I had an unwanted front row seat to this horrific event.
Utilizing munitions from a secret U.S. supply depot in Israel, American grenades and mortars were used to resupply the Israeli army spent from their assault on Gaza, one of the most densely populated civilian zones in the world. More than 2,000 Palestinians died, many women and children gathered together in a futile attempt to avoid the attacks.
Though a longtime supporter of Israel who believes deeply in the idea of a Jewish homeland, I viewed with alarm the missiles fired by Hamas militants arcing across the night sky on their way toward Tel Aviv. I knew the Israeli response would be overwhelming and largely disregarding of Palestinian lives. This despite the minimal risk posed by the low-tech and mostly ineffective Hamas rockets against Israeli defenses.
The disproportional Israeli response, condemned by the U.S. and most of the world, has shaken our support of Israel. As the director of a U.S.-sponsored rule of law program in the West Bank, I wondered how much credibility my country had lost as it simultaneously pursued a policy promoting a state of Palestine while providing direct military support to the Israeli assault on Gaza.
After two years of living in occupied Palestine, here is some of what I learned.
Israel actively undermines any hope for peace in the region by building settlements throughout Palestinian lands they claim only by religious right backed by military force. Hundreds of thousands of heavily armed Israelis now occupy these fortified mini-cities in every corner of Palestine; many recent immigrants are taught that their Arab neighbors are all terrorists bent on their murder. Today, it is nearly impossible to look up from any Arab village without seeing Israeli settlements glaring vaingloriously upon them, reminders of the occupation and the extremist Israeli policy to permanently occupy the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the lands seized since 1967. I know, as do most Palestinians and Israelis, that peace talks alone will not unravel the settlements and no peace is possible until settlement building ends and the settlers are sent home to a secure Israel.
Palestinians must give up the right of return if this means they expect to be restored to the olive groves and homes of their grandparents taken in the bloody birth of Israel. They should disavow the Oslo Accords, signed in the early 1990s as temporary measures before the establishment of a Palestinian state, but used by the Israelis to maintain the West Bank military occupation. Practicing the tenets of nonviolence, Palestinians should refuse to carry identification cards required for passage at military checkpoints and reject onerous Israeli banking and tax revenue misdistribution. Take the Palestinian cause for freedom and justice to the international courts and pressure Israel to respect human rights. A two-state solution is not feasible without ending the occupation, and Palestinians should no longer assist Israel in maintaining it.
Congress must practice tough love of Israel until it abandons the settlements and returns to 1967 borders.”
Congress must practice tough love of Israel until it abandons the settlements and returns to 1967 borders. Failure should result in annual reductions to the $3 billion in annual U.S. foreign aid and military support by American taxpayers. The Palestinian diaspora of highly successful businesses and professionals should support and encourage political and nonviolent change in the West Bank and Gaza. Jerusalem should be administered as an international, multi-faith city open to the followers of all religions. Palestinian statehood, with all its privileges and responsibilities, must be promoted over the slavery of occupation.
Israeli society will never end its oppression of Palestinians while claiming the occupation is necessary for its security. The U.S. should make it clear that the security of Israel is nonnegotiable, but refuse to participate in peace talks serving as cover for the building of more Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands.
People, not governments, may hold the key to change: boycotting Israeli products, ending investments in Israeli businesses and supporting economic sanctions until Israeli policy changes. The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement may be the only way that Israel and the U.S. Congress will face the truth: Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians is presumptively about the continuing seizure of Palestinian lands and not about Israel’s security.
We can start by telling the truth about Israel, our friends who are in danger of becoming the world’s next apartheid South Africa — or something even worse.