Monday, June 11, 2012

Framing the Issues with Hanan Ashrawi

Dear Friend,

We often turn to Ms Ashrawi, educated in the US, to frame the issues clearly and compellingly.

Also, I am now in possession of a pre-publication copy of the KAIROS USA Manifesto. It is 16 pages (including the preamble and introduction) and builds on the KAIROS PALESTINE document we unpacked at the Adult Church School Class, April 15, 22, and 29. It listens carefully to the request of Palestinian Christians for help in gaining justice for Palestinians and security for Israelis.

Should you wish a complete copy, drop me a request at my email address:

1967 has been bad for Palestinians and Israelis alike

Hanan Ashrawi
The Hill (Opinion)
June 8, 2012 - 12:00am

Forty-five years ago this week, catastrophe befell the Palestinian people for the second time in as many decades, when Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip during the 1967 War. Nearly half a century later, the catastrophe continues, as millions of Palestinians still live under Israeli military rule, denied the most basic civil and political rights, while their land is relentlessly colonized with illegal, Jewish-only settlements that are destroying their hopes for the future.

For 45 years, Palestinians have endured the humiliations and brutalities of occupation, the theft of their land, water, and other natural resources, the wholesale destruction of their homes, farmland and pastures, and the imprisonment and mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. And, increasingly, they’ve been terrorized by armed, fanatical settlers who enjoy virtual impunity from Israeli authorities that have turned a blind eye, tacitly encouraging their violence and provocations.

At the same time, Palestinians have watched as the United States has supported Israel almost unconditionally, even when Israeli actions are in direct contravention not only of international law, but also of official U.S. policies going back decades. And they have seen U.S. politicians send ever-more economic and military aid to Israel, aid that is instrumental in facilitating and sustaining Israel’s domination over their lives.

Recently, Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh called on Israel to annex the occupied territories and grant “limited voting power” to Palestinians living there. Congressman Walsh urged those Palestinians who don’t wish to accept permanent second or third class status in a Greater Israel to leave their homes and land and go live in Jordan. In other words, Palestinians would have a choice between subjugation or ethnic cleansing.

In fact, Israel is already implementing Congressman Walsh’s plan, but without granting Palestinians any voting rights or incurring the political headaches that would accompany formal annexation. Instead, Israel is de facto annexing all of East Jerusalem and large parts of the West Bank through the construction of settlements, attendant infrastructure like roads and military bases, and the West Bank wall. In total, Israel’s settlement enterprise covers approximately 42 percent of the West Bank, making it off limits to Palestinians. In the fertile Jordan Valley, once the breadbasket of Palestine, 80 percent of the land is designated for Israeli agricultural settlements, military use, and “nature reserves.”

Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, recently floated an idea to withdraw settlers from some areas of the West Bank and unilaterally impose borders on a Palestinian state, while retaining overall control of the territory. Like Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement” plan for Gaza, it won’t work. What Palestinians want is to exercise their right to self-determination, not a reconfiguration of the occupation.

The paradox of 1967 is that, while it was a catastrophe for Palestinians, it was also disastrous for Israelis. For with Israel’s victory came the settlement enterprise, which 45 years later has all but destroyed any chance of an independent Palestinian state being created alongside Israel. If the two-state solution cannot be realized because of facts on the ground created by Israel, then Palestinians will have no choice but to demand equal rights within Israel, and the creation of a single, non-sectarian, democratic state.

Yet, any Israeli government that attempts to remove even a fraction of the settlements risks a severe backlash from Jewish extremists and others who oppose any withdrawal from the occupied territories. If Israel doesn’t remove settlements and restore the land to its rightful Palestinian owners so as to facilitate the creation of a genuinely sovereign and “viable” Palestinian state, and it continues to rule over millions of Palestinians without granting them the right to vote, Israel will be an apartheid state. Ehud Barak said exactly that in 2010. After almost a half century of an occupation and settlement enterprise that shows no sign of ending – quite the opposite, settlements become more entrenched by the day – many would argue there already is an apartheid regime in place in the territories under Israeli control between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Tragically, many Israelis and their supporters seem to believe that the status quo can be sustained indefinitely. They fail to see that Palestinians aren’t going anywhere and that they won’t be denied their rights. Israelis must make a choice: End their occupation and colonial project in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, or risk facing a completely different political paradigm in the near future. With settlement growth escalating rapidly in recent years, that day may come sooner than anyone thinks.

Ashrawi is a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee and founder of MIFTAH – the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy.

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