Moving forward

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It's not who you are, it's what you do...

Moving toward peace
Saffiya Shillo
Published February 28, 2006 Chicago -- Thank you for "Sanctions and the peace process; Don't blame only the Palestinians" (Commentary, Feb. 24), by Saree Makdisi. It is the only practical piece I have ever seen on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. It addresses both sides by showing where each stands and what needs to be acknowledged, recognized and acted upon to really move forward for peace.
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune,1,2100399.story
Sanctions and the peace process
Don't blame only the Palestinians
By Saree Makdisi, professor of English and comparative literature atUCLA
Published February 24, 2006
Last weekend Israel and the U.S. took the first steps towardimposing sanctions on the Palestinians following Hamas' recentelectoral victory. As Israel tightened the flow of money--beginning with tax funds thatit collects on behalf of the Palestinians, who don't control theirown territory, much less their own water, airspace or borders--it continued to insist that it will not negotiate with a Hamas-dominated Palestinian leadership.

The imposition of sanctions will certainly hurt the Palestinian population; but the suspension of negotiations between Israel andthe Palestinians is almost completely irrelevant, because there'shardly anything left to negotiate anyway. Long before the Palestinian elections--by about a year ago, in fact--Israel had effectively annexed the Jordan Valley, an area comprisingabout a third of the West Bank. And for almost two years now, Israelhas repeatedly announced its intention to annex much of the rest ofthe territory, as well as all of East Jerusalem, a positionreiterated by the interim Israeli prime minister only a few days ago.

In fact, Israel's unilateralism predates the Hamas victory bydecades, not just years. Israel first expressed its intention to permanently retain controlof most of the West Bank and all of Jerusalem in a plan formulatedshortly after its conquest of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalemin 1967 by former Foreign Minister Yigal Allon. A single glance atthe map of the Allon plan shows that what Israel is talking abouttoday is more or less what it was talking about almost 40 years ago. Other than in terms of window dressing, hardly anything has made much of a difference in Israel's execution of its ambitions.

What is needed now is not further peace-process negotiations but, finally, a genuine, peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. If it is to be just and lasting, such a resolution must involve not merely an end to the horrifying and morally unacceptable Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, and not just a halt to Israel'sequally unacceptable--albeit much more devastating--provocations and escalations, but also something much more substantial.

For what all the hullabaloo following the Hamas electoral victory has covered up is the essential fact that it is not the Palestinians who are occupying Israeli land, bulldozing Israeli homes, uprooting Israeli olive groves, rounding up Israeli teenagers, imposing curfews on Israeli cities, assassinating Israeli activists, building barriers on Israeli land, demanding Israelis' papers every time they step outside their houses, stifling the Israeli economy, expropriating Israeli property, and illegally settling Israeli territory. It's the other way around. The simple fact of the matter is that Israel continues to occupy Palestinian territory, in violation of international law, inviolation of the principles of the UN Charter, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and in violation of the most basic codes ofdecent human behavior. The most effective way to address this reality is not to threaten sanctions against the victims of this illegal military occupation (who, after all, never chose to be thus occupied), but instead to impose such sanctions--immediately--on the perpetrators themselves.

Until the Israelis learn, the hard way, that the occupation that they have chosen to impose on another people for four decades is not worth the cost to themselves, hardly anything else matters.
Copyright 2006 Chicago Tribune