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Solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

By Dr. Abdul Jabbar

It is our moral obligation to bring an immediate end to the death and destruction that Israeli government has been inflicting on the Palestinians in Gaza for several months. On December 27, more than 200 Palestinians were killed (mostly civilians, including women and children) and hundreds injured in Israeli attacks. On Dec. 28, Israel struck again, pushing up the death toll to 280 -- the highest one-day fatalies in decades. Israel claims, and our heavily biased mainstream media seems to acquiesce, that the attacks are in retaliation to Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. Even though the rocket attacks are to be deplored, rarely have they resulted in any Israeli loss of life. Instead of addressing the underlying causes of Palestinians' frustration and their reduction to less-than-human status by Israeli blockade of food, water, fuel, medicine, electricity, and other basic necessities of life, Israel ends up killing hundreds of Palestinians and injuring many more on a regular basis, thus escalating the cycle of violence.

During a blockade of the kind that Gaza has been subjected to for so long -- an act condemned by various Human Rights organizations and the United Nations -- one wonders what the Israeli and the U.S. governments expect the Gazans to do. They are being killed directly by Israeli bombing attacks and indirectly on a daily basis through the blockade. Many times, even the U.N. relief agencies carrying life-saving drugs have been prevented from entering Gaza. Under such dire conditions, to awaken the sleeping world, the militants fire rockets on Israel, which, logic dictates, they  should not do, but there is nothing logical about the situation. Hamas won the elections in 2006 and should have been allowed to form the Palestinian government, but Israel and the U.S. did not accept the Palestinian people's verdict. According to the shocking revelation by David Rose in his "Vanity Fair" article "The Gaza Bombshell" (April 2008) "President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza." Ever since then, owing to our negative meddling, Palestinians have been split into two rival groups -- Hamas (led by Ismail Hanieh) and Fatah (headed by Mahmoud Abbas). Now is it logical for a democratic country like the United States -- that claims to be committed to democracy in the Middle East-- to resort to such anti-democratic and destabilizing tactics? Is it logical to apply our commitment to democracy selectively by accepting the outcome of a democratic election only if the party that wins is on our side? What about the principle of self-determination -- wishes of the people who are holding elections?

Israel and the U.S. government base their boycott of Hamas on the highly questionable accusation that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Hamas provides social services, medical care, educational facilities, and similar basic needs for the Palestinians. One wing of Hamas is militant and launches attacks against Israel to resist the Israeli illegal occupation of West Bank and Gaza in violation of U.N. Resolution 242. Contrary to Israeli and U.S. government claims that Hamas is out to destroy Israel, the Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Hanieh has repeatedly said that Hamas is willing to live in peace with Israel according to the pre-war 1967 borders. Most neutral scholars and observers who want a peaceful solution to this problem believe that Israel finds one excuse or another to go on occupying Palestine. Once again the U.S. and Israeli position seem indefensible. Israel's defense has been guaranteed by the U.S. Shouldn't we be talking about the Palestinians' defense? Israel already exists and is a super power with more than 300 nuclear bombs.

Isn't it ridiculous to ask Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist as if the yes or no answer will determine the fate of Israel? Isn't it like asking the Native Americans to recognize the U.S. right to exist? Why not work toward achieving simultaneous, mutual recognition of both sides by both?

Now, about solving this explosive problem that threatens world peace and regional and U.S. security, let us look at some hard facts to determine our role in this conflict. Our responsibility and our complicity become evident with the knowledge that Israel is carrying out its illegal and brutal acts with our F-16s, Apache helicopters, and other U.S. arsenal. As the very first step, to bring Israel into compliance with international law, we should give Israel a choice:  Either withdraw to the pre-1967 border in compliance with the U.N. Resolution 242 or lose our financial and diplomatic support. There can be no justification for our continued funding of Israeli aggression to the tune of billions of dollars worth of U.S. money.  That money is direly needed here at home to alleviate the sufferings of millions of Americans who have been made homeless and left without jobs as a result of the economic crisis. 

This simple step by the U.S. government will work miracles to bring peace and undo most of the damage done by our morally, politically, and economically wrong policies in the Middle East. With the illegal invasion of Iraq and death and destruction we have inflicted on Iraqi people who only wished to be our friends, is there any doubt that our leaders have caused America to sink to the lowest possible esteem in the world and made our lives unsafe here and abroad by their indefensible, immoral, and friend-into-foe transforming policies? President Bush could still do something positive before he leaves office. President-elect Obama and his team can waste no time to start repairing the damage done by America to itself and to the world. A simple step like the one I have suggested will go a long way toward winning the hearts and minds of billions of people all across the globe and ending terrorism against the United States. Just imagine our government launching a major campaign for peace, starting with ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That could be a turning point in world history. 

True security for Israel lies in living at peace with Palestinians and the neighboring countries. The goal is achievable because, according to various polls (including some that are mentioned in Jimmy Carter's book "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid"),  over 64 percent Israelis and over 90 percent Palestinians want to live in peace with each other in two neighboring, sovereign states. The only country in the world that can help push the two parties to that goal is the United States.  And the time is NOW.

If our government fails to take this urgently needed step and continues to march on its suicidal path, it is the duty of every American to help by starting a massive grassroots, peaceful, civil disobedience movement  to liberate our country from war-crazed and oil-driven policies that have literally brought us to the brink of disaster. At the same time, we the people should accomplish what our government has failed to do in the past 40 years. Just as we forced a change of policy in our government and our businesses that were supporting apartheid South African government's racist oppression of Blacks, we should apply the same morally compelling force to boycott Israeli products and services and launch a systematic campaign of divestment to persuade all U.S. firms and investors to pull out their assets and investments from Israel. A change of this nature will be good for Israel as well because it will give the Jewish state a reason to negotiate toward a political, diplomatic, and lasting solution instead of going for a short-lived
military solution achieved at an extremely high cost. The seemingly impossible problem of ending South African oppression of Blacks was solved. There should be no doubt that we can likewise end oppression of Palestinians by Israelis. We can no longer take the easy way out by saying that we are not the politicians and that we personally aren't doing anything wrong. We ARE doing something grievously wrong by remaining silent in the face of atrocities being carried on with our money and our weaponry to pursue illegal policies that can bring nothing but disaster all around the world. We need to remember that Israeli illegal occupation of Palestine has been going on since 1967 with our government's support and has resulted in thousands of avoidable deaths, injuries, dislocations, and similar atrocities, in the process making billions of new enemies.   

Dr. Abdul Jabbar, Ph.D. is the Professor of the Middle Eastern Studies at the City College of San Francisco.