Arab Revolts And The Israel Palestine Problem

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[Speaking Truth To Power]

Thursday, President Barack Obama delivered his “Moment of Opportunity” speech articulating his vision for peace in the Arab and Muslim world.

But can this speech lead to policy changes that will positively affect the monumental social upheavals and revolts occurring in places like Yemen, Syria and Bahrain? And can it diffuse the volatile situation that exists between Palestinians and Israelis?

Indeed, this year’s 63 commemoration of Nakba Day, last Sunday, was stained with blood and violence when Israeli soldiers opened fire on Palestinians protesting along Israel’s border. At least 13 Palestinians were killed in the border village of Maroun Al-Ras, and at points along the Golan Heights border in this latest clash.

Nakba is an Arabic word meaning catastrophe. Nakba Day commemorates the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians during the 1948 founding of the State of Israel, on lands Palestinians had lived on for centuries. Unfortunately, President Obama’s speech ignored this historic reality and Sunday’s killings.

In an op-ed, published in The New York Times, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stated “Indeed, it was the descendants of these expelled Palestinians who were shot and wounded by Israeli forces on Sunday as they tried to symbolically exercise their right to return to their families’ homes.” He also warned “We cannot wait indefinitely while Israel continues to send more settlers to the occupied West Bank and denies Palestinians access to most of our lands.”

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) member Saeb Erekat, a former chief negotiator, declared, “Israel insisted today on its policy that it only deals with the Palestinian cause by gunfire and bullets.” Erekat decried “the barbarian Israeli policy practiced against Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and inside Israel as well as on the Syrian and Lebanese borders.” Yet he also said “The Palestinian cause has to be supported by peaceful movements inside and outside Palestine in order to achieve the goals of this cause.”

Israelis are fearful that Palestinians are emboldened by events mushrooming across the region. “A fear barrier was crossed,” said Israeli military analyst Yoav Limor. “If before, such options were discussed in the local Palestinian context, then tomorrow it could happen with the Palestinian Diaspora in the neighboring Arab countries.”

Unfortunately, Israel has used the tool of fear through violence to deny justice to Palestinians for too long. No politician, including President Obama, dares say this for fear of being punished by the Jewish lobby. Currently, Palestinians are uniting and moving forward with plans for statehood in September—without Israel’s blessing. The State of Israel says this unity is bothersome to its “security” and in President Obama’s speech he talked about “standing up for Israel’s security.”

Yet, the insecurity Israel feels is, largely, attributable to its atrocious actions against Palestinians. Ever since the 1967 War, Israelis have repeatedly engaged in seizing and occupying Palestinian lands. Since that time, the State of Israel has violated well over 100 U.N. Resolutions. Moreover, for years, Israel’s military has killed countless Palestinian civilians.

Which leads to this question: why hasn’t Washington, or the West, found it prudent to unleash NATO forces upon Israel in the past, as it’s now doing in Libya? We’ve told NATO is bombing Libya to supposedly, protect innocent civilians, a truly absurd notion. What about Palestinian civilians that have been killed by Israel—in great disproportion, such as in the Fall of 2008 with arms marked made in America?

During the 2008-09 Gaza War nearly 2,000 Palestinians were killed in three weeks. Where was NATO then? It just tells you the kind of world of double standards and hypocrisy that we live in.

Wednesday, the Obama Administration finally enacted sanctions against Syria’s president. America gives Israel around $3 billion in aid annually. Why hasn’t America ever sanctioned Israel—by cutting that aid—when Israel misbehaves? These examples of Washington’s dirty, duplicitous, double-standards are clear to Arabs and Muslims and others around the world.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just been hosted by the Obama White House. Will there ever be more than hollow rhetoric?  Will there be real justice for Palestinians, especially when the Netanyahu government is still busy pursuing building more settlements in violation of U.N. Resolutions?

Is Washington too morally compromised to act as a neutral partner in this war of attrition? During his address, President Obama said “Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism.” How can America broker peace when its politicians make pronouncements praising only Israel?

Anytime anyone legitimately criticizes Israeli policy towards Palestinians, they are immediately accused of anti-Semitism in an attempt to silence them. Even leading Jewish scholars like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein have been attacked. Finkelstein was, in fact, denied tenure at DePaul University after a smear campaign was launched by opponents, including noted Harvard professor, Alan Dershowitz, for his critique of Israel.

We’re constantly lectured about "Israel’s right to exist." Don’t the Palestinians’ have "a right to exist" too? Aren’t they attending more funerals to bury their dead children? Aren’t their lands being occupied by illegal Israeli settlers?

With the tide of revolts sweeping across the Arab World, Israel’s ironfisted rule against Palestinians can't be sustained. Time is fast approaching, where Israel—and America—must make the choice to negotiate in good faith with Palestinians. Otherwise, the bloodletting in the region may just get worse.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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