Israelis, Palestinians must search for justice
by Mazin Qumsiyeh
Duke Chronicle 11 Sept 1997
The Chronicle reprinted a column from The New York Times titled "Palestinians have shown lack of commitment to peace in Israel." It is one of William Safire's classic brand of misinformation and outright lies. The article is as racist as its headline demonstrates. Any rational reading of the history of the last 100 years show three important facts.
Palestine of only 100 years ago had more than 95 percent of its population as Arab (both Christian and Muslim) who owned more than 95 percent of the land. Now, more than 65 percent of the descendants of those people are outside the country and prohibited by Israeli law from the same right of return which is reserved to any Jew, anywhere in the world, regardless of ancestry (Israeli society has hegemony over all aspects of the remaining Palestinian lives). The apartheid system imposed by Israel on the Palestinians-and one of few such systems remaining in the world-is very similar to the ghettos of Europe during the worst of the Nazi atrocities. The Gaza Strip with autonomy has had, as a result of Israeli occupation and apartheid policies, more than 40 percent Palestinian unemployment and a per capita income less than one tenth of the people in the Jewish settlements in Gaza.
A peace process can only succeed if there is justice. This includes sharing the land and water, addressing Palestinian as well as Israeli security and terrorism issues, giving Palestinians the right to self-determination (including statehood) and addressing the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians-offering compensation for the right of return to displaced refugees. This is in fact what the Israeli, Palestinian and American peace activists have always supported. For the past 50 years, the American public has been fed such misinformation by those such as Safire. One can witness the effect on Hollywood movies, where the only two groups it is still okay to vilify and stereotype are Arabs and alien invaders.
Jerusalem is not an open city now, but a segregated and isolated city reserved for control by one religious group. Muslims and Christians who are merely two miles away in the West Bank cannot even go to pray there now. Israel is demolishing Arab homes while building Jewish ones on confiscated Arab land. Hundreds of residents of Jerusalem are being expelled (the term used by Israel is revoking their residency rights). This is demonstrated in the recent unprecedented coalition of Christian leaders from all denominations in the Holy Land who asked for Jerusalem to be shared (two nations and three religions). For those interested, Edward Said's book, "The Question of Palestine" will summarize the roots of the problem.
With more than $3 to $5 billion of our tax dollars per year keeping Israel belligerent, we need to start hearing the other side and then tell the Israeli government the truth; there can never be security without true peace and the latter cannot happen without justice.
Department of Pathology