The Wheels of Justice and the truth
The Wheels of Justice and the truth about Palestine
Kansas Daily 10/24/04
By Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD*
Arrah Nielson (column 10/18/04) attacked the Wheels of Justice bus tour visit to Kansas . He claimed that “the Palestinian’s (sic) main objective is the annihilation of Israel, not statehood.” This generalization is then followed by even more ludicrous generalizations such as “Israel serves as a shining example to be emulated.” The facts are, to say the least, inconvenient to the mythology.
Nearly six of the 9 million Palestinians are refugees or displaced people denied their inalienable right to return to their homes and lands simply for being Christian and Muslim. 520 towns and villages were wiped off the map and their residents expelled between 1947-1949. Half of the refugees in this period were created before May 1948 when neighboring Arab armies tried to intervene.
As for those remaining, Amnesty International reported: “In Israel for example, several laws are explicitly discriminatory. These can be traced back to Israel’s foundation in 1948 which, driven primarily by the racist genocide suffered by Jews in Europe during the Second World War, was based on the notion of a Jewish state for Jewish people. Some of Israel’s laws reflect this principle and as a result discriminate against non-Jews, particularly Palestinians who had lived on the lands for generations. “ As I explained in my talk Israel is the only country in the world that recognizes members of a particular religion regardless of where they live as “nationals” with citizenship offered automatically to any of them (including converts) who wish to come live on land that belongs to native Palestinians. Meanwhile Palestinian refugees (Christians and Muslims) are denied the right to return simply for not being Jewish.
And it gets much worse in the occupied West Bank and Gaza where Israel transplanted 400,000 colonists on confiscated Palestinian lands. These Palestinians, unlike the ones Amnesty was referring to, are not even nominal citizens. Beit Sahour (my own hometown, primarily Christian) and Bethlehem and other remaining towns and villages lost much of their lands and now exist in shrinking prisons/ghettos being surrounded by walls, fences and ditches. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) recognized that barriers built on Palestinian lands separate natives from their farms, work, hospitals and schools. The ICJ and the international community at large recognize what is happening for what it is: land theft, apartheid, and racism.
Violence, like in all such colonial situations kills far more natives than invaders/settlers. This is evident in the history of European colonization of the Americas, South Africa under apartheid, Algeria under French rule and so on. We need to talk about the root causes of the disease (colonialism) rather than focusing on a small sliver of its many symptoms. Other symptoms include 670 Palestinian children murdered in the past four years and thousands of homes demolished. Not one human rights organization has accepted the usual Israeli excuses and repeated denial of culpability for the intentional killing of Palestinian civilians. Mr. Nielsen and the slick PR campaign evident in teh US (but not to the rest of the world) make excuses for these deaths while the US sends over $5 billion of our taxes to Israel (40% of all foreign aid). Amnesty International called on the US to halt shipment of weaponry and equipment used, according to all Human Rights organizations that looked into this, to carry out the large-scale violations of International and Humanitarian law and in many cases amounting to war crimes.
The occupation in Iraq and Palestine are linked by many factors: 1) both are supported by the same neo-conservative “Israel-first” elitists (e.g. Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and others in the US government), 2) these folks have written extensively (and years before 9/11) on how an invasion of Iraq brings US and Israeli “interests” closer, 3) joint training and mutual advise including on methods of attack on civilian areas and “interrogation” of prisoners.
We live in an Orwellian world where for occupying Kuwait and violating a handful of UN resolutions, Iraq civilian infrastructure was obliterated and the country subjected to a 14-year regime of sanctions and siege that (according to UN reports) caused the death of 5000 Iraqi children every month. And finally, a war that violates the UN charter to cause a regime change that benefits US corporate and special interests. Yet, for violating 65 UN resolutions (shielded from 35 others by US veto power), Israel receives massive US governmental largesse.
We will continue to speak-out and urge everyone to get the facts for themselves and not rely on the mis-education provided by Fox, CNN and other corporate media outlets or by soundbites reminiscent of what used to be said about other natives: “if the red Indians just stop the savagery, everything will be OK”, “if the ANC (African National Congress which fough Apartheid) renounces terror and burning people alive they can have a state In Natal”. With the US and Israeli governments standing virtually alone in opposition to peace with justice while continuing to wage war and oppression with our taxes, we deserve to hear the truth. My articulated vision for peace based on justice is a transformation of Israel to a state for its citizens and using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a guiding principle. Such a transformation, which occurred peacefully in South Africa, does not mean "annihilation of Israel". In fact, the reverse is true as everyone recognizes that the direction of the past few decades (based on a racist ideology of injustice, hate and "separation") would only lead to more violence and bloodshed. If apartheid was the problem in South Africa, it surely cannot be a solution in Israel/Palestine.
Because of space limitations, I am unable to respond to the other generalizations made by Mr. Nielsen but I will repeat my open challenge for public dialogues/debate. I would be happy to revisit your hospitable campus for such an event.
* The author is an associate professor at Yale and author of "Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle" (http://qumsiyeh.org). He was recently in Kansas with others on the wheels of justice tour (justicewheels.org)
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