40 years of occupation
40 year of occupation and 60 years of wars: enough
6/2/07 by MBQ
Those who planned the 1967 "six day war" (Al-Naksa in Arabic) 40 years ago and we the people who lived there could not foresee its ramifications on lives of Israelis and Palestinians let alone Americans and Iraqis today. I was a 10-year old kid growing up in the Shepherd's field at the time the occupation began and my memories of the initial onslaught are vivid. After I immigrated to the US in 1979, I still go almost every year and still maintain residency there. I saw it get worse and worse every year from 1967 (and I dread my trip this summer). What can be said after 40 years of illegal occupation, after over 250,000 Israeli Jewish colonial settlers in the West Bank, after over 18,000 of our homes demolished, after causing massive economic dislocation (unemployment is at twice what it was for Americans during the Great depression), after over 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners now in Israeli jails, after over 10,000 fellow Palestinian civilians killed? What can be said after the remaining Palestinians are squeezed into shrinking ghettos after much of their best lands was confiscated? Should we focus on the price the occupiers also paid (especially since the introduction of the phenomenon of suicide bombings 10 years ago). Should we focus on the price the world has paid including the unfolding tragedy in Iraq (and now the Israel lobby is pushing for a war on Iran)? How about the over $1 trillion that Israel cost the US in these 40 years?
It was called a six day "war" because the Israeli aerial blitzkrieg so devastated the armies of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt in the first few hours that the remainder of the time was basically what it took infantry to occupy the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, and the Golan Heights. Most analysts believe that this war was critical in cementing the Israel-US "strategic" relationship to a point of mutual dependency. But the survivors of the USS Liberty (A US Navy ship attacked by Israel in International waters on June 8, 1967) and all objective historians convincingly showed that: 1) Israel's attack on the USS Liberty was deliberate, and 2) that the Israeli lobby was already strong before the war and thus managed to stifle an inquiry (for details see http://www.ussliberty.org/ ). President Carter suggested that there are individuals seeking to silence debate on these issues. He was ruthlessly attacked thus proving his point. Similarly, a research paper on the Israel lobby by renowned scholars Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) and Walt (from Harvard) was attacked in a way that proves its salient points. Thanks to the Internet, it is becoming more difficult to silence the truth. So even if this article is not published in a US mainstream newspaper, it will be read by tens of thousands anyway. So let us look openly at the legacy of 1967.
First let us dispense with the mythology about how that war started or its goals. For example Israeli General Matityahu Peled admitted: "The thesis that the danger of genocide was hanging over us in June 1967 and that Israel was fighting for its physical existence is only bluff, which was born and developed after the war...To pretend that the Egyptian forces massed on our frontiers were in a position to threaten the existence of Israel constitutes an insult not only to the intelligence of anyone capable of analyzing this sort of situation, but above all an insult to the Zahal Israeli army" (Ha'aretz, 19 March 1972). The largest evidence for Israel's intentions is the commencement of immediate Israeli settlement of the occupied areas. Israel also annexed 10% of the West Bank (expanded "greater Jerusalem") and all the Golan Heights. Israel hoped that through economic pressures, land and natural resource confiscations, and physical violence that they would annex the rest when the native population is reduced especially on the richest land areas. That is why Israeli colonies/settlements (which violate International law) sit atop the Western and Eastern water aquifers in and encircle Jerusalem (all in the West Bank). It is also why Israel still holds the Golan heights (for its water). The charade of colonial need for security (from those irrational and violent natives) has been always the mantra to use for further colonization and expansion whether used by European settlers in the Americas or the Apartheid regime in South Africa or Israel. For making all of this possible, the US lost so much credibility around the world. Votes at the UN General assembly now routinely see 160 countries voting one way while Israel and the US vote anther. Attacks on civilians by US supplied F-16s, Apache gunship helicopters, and cluster bombs are seen in other parts of the world as state terrorism and not as Israeli self-defense. Europeans polled by a large majority identified the US and Israel as the two most dangerous countries in the world. Indeed this is the legacy of the lobby that ensured the "special relationship" that would continue to drag us in America to wars in an endless cycle now packaged as "war on terrorism".
The solutions are not too difficult to see. Segregation in America in the South and in Apartheid South Africa was the etiology of the disease so why do some still consider it a solution. The history of this issue and its resolution based on International law is well recognized around the world but buried in America thanks to hijacking our institutions by those with racist ideologies. This hijacking is to the detriment of all involved (Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis). At the core of this is that Palestinian refugees and displaced people must be allowed to return to their homes and lands according to their rights supported by International law (530 villages and towns were completely depopulated, see http://palestineremembered.com). For a real road map to peace, all we need is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to implement all relevant UN resolutions starting with UNGA 194 of 1949. Many churches, unions, and student groups heeded the Palestinian civil society call that focuses on non-violent actions including boycotts, divestments, and sanctions similar to what was applied on South Africa. Most recently this included the large Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and University and College Union in England (representing 120,000 academics in higher education). The racist attacks on this growing movement proved its effectiveness.
America in the past and Israel more recently both shared visions of “manifest destiny” to conquer untamed "wilderness" of which the natives were the main obstacles. Vilifying the natives was thus a common feature in America then and in Israel today. (Of course, the percentage of Native Americans who remained alive is very small compared to the percentage of Native Palestinians and the latter issue is dragging us to a World War.) It is time to seek real reconciliation both in America and Israel. On June 10, thousands will be in DC for a rally and march demanding an end to the occupation (see http://endtheoccupation.org). We collectively work for peace so that the 60-year anniversary of the beginning of the Palestinian dispossession (November 1947) will be a new turning point for real peace based on justice and equality.