My Turn: ‘Peace isn’t something simply to be desired. It follows from justice’
In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict there are competing narratives.
One land, two peoples, each with just claims. Each must choose whether to idolize their own narrative at the exclusion of the other or to acknowledge the other’s legitimacy and seek a path for justice and peace.
Rabbi Robin Nafshi’s column (Monitor Forum, July 23), sadly, reflected an idolatry of Israel rather than love of Israel. Her words delegitimized Palestinian aspirations and denied them dignity, justice and any right of resistance.
Personally, what I found most upsetting was her intolerance of a gathering of Americans exercising their constitutional rights to assembly and free speech – and the dehumanizing of the protesters by equating their concerns with anti-Semitism.
I believe Nafshi owes Concord’s protesters an apology.
In this conflict, with so many who argue to justify war, let’s honor those in the public square who agitate for peace.
In this conflict, where civilian populations are each offered for sacrifice by manipulative leaders, any implied equivalency between the combatants doesn’t exist: On one side is one of the world’s most powerful militaries with a sophisticated armory facing-off against a technologically starved opponent with the most primitive arsenal.
On one side is resistance to occupation, on the other determination to crush resistance. Support of resistance is not support for terrorism, whether of random rocket attacks on civilian populations, kidnappings and murder, or collectively rained down upon civilian populations in Sderot, Gaza, Sana’a or Waziristan.
Now, let’s be clear about Palestine: East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are a single legal entity. Netanyahu’s attempt to divide and conquer the Palestinians, recently inspired by his rejection of Palestinian attempts to form a government of national unity that could negotiate with one voice – a government where Hamas, in the minority, had no cabinet positions and was committed to supporting the Palestinian Authority’s decisions on negotiations and a two-state solution – will fail.
Let’s also understand that there are Israeli government members who will never recognize a sovereign Palestinian state, including those who agitate for a one-state Greater Israel. Last week Netanyahu used the conflict with Hamas, which he instigated, to then say that no Palestinian state could exist west of the Jordan River.
As he prosecutes his war Netanyahu should recall the prophetic words of Vladimir Jabotinsky: “Every indigenous people will resist alien settlers. . . . That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of ‘Palestine’ into the ‘Land of Israel.’ ”
Israel wants to extinguish that solitary spark while Palestinians struggle to keep it aflame in what remains of Palestine – in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
To deny that Israel is occupying Palestinian land is to deny the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations for independence and sovereignty. One may differ over the history that brought us to this day, but every international institution, every nation including the United States is in agreement: Israel has no sovereign rights in these territories.
Nafshi quotes neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer to suggest that Palestinians abused Israel’s gift of Gaza. The truth is more complicated, less favorable to Israel.
Opposed to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan for unilateral disengagement, former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, wrote: “This is bad for Israelis. It is devastating for Palestinians. And within the context of the global fight against terrorism, Sharon’s behavior can hardly be said to be helpful.”
Of the thousands of greenhouses in Gaza, Israeli owners demolished half before leaving and the rest were looted by Palestinian mobs. Further, Israel retained control over Gaza’s vital lifelines including borders, air rights, fishing rights, power, and ability to import and export.
Hamas is complicated
Hamas was once empowered by Israel as a counter to secular Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. Later, Hamas came to power through elections imposed upon Palestinians by President George W. Bush and was then defunded by Israel and the United States as a penalty for winning, and Hamas ended up inheriting an impoverished Gaza by default.
Terror, tunnels and rockets followed – poor Gaza never had a chance.
After the 2012 Gaza War, Hamas promised it would try to suppress any further rocket fire from Gaza by rejectionist groups like Islamic Jihad and others – which Hamas has tried to do, as many in Israel’s military and intelligence services acknowledge.
In return, Israel promised, and failed, to ease the conditions for Palestinians living in Gaza. Today, Hamas wants enforcement of those terms included in any mutual cease-fire agreement – which is why they’ve rejected previous cease-fire offers.
Gaza’s not a stand-apart war. To read Nafshi you would never know that three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed on the West Bank. That immediately Netanyahu blamed Hamas despite having no evidence of their complicity. That Israel used the kidnappings as pretext to re-arrest hundreds of Hamas supporters without any evidence of their involvement in any crime. That Netanyahu’s calls for vengeance raised tensions throughout Israel and Palestine. That a Jerusalem teenager was abducted and killed. That Israel then killed a Hamas operative, and then Hamas started launching its own rockets.
While most Palestinians don’t support Hamas’s tactics, nearly all support Palestinian resistance – and solidarity. The Palestinian despair that has grown over decades of oppression now serves Hamas – Palestinians have nothing left to lose – and Israel’s brutal Gaza offensive has breathed new life into the spark.
That Nafshi denies Palestine is occupied territory – that the Palestinians have no legitimate, uncontested rights to their own property – explains why she was not horrified when Israelis destroyed the Tent of Nations Nassar farm.
What does Nafshi call a land divided by a separation wall (built in part on appropriated Palestinian territory) where administrative detention, curfews, land seizures, checkpoints, demolitions, destruction of olive groves and fruit trees, public humiliations, “price tag” attacks and shootings by colonists and targeted assassinations, are commonplace; where students are separated from their schools, farmers from their fields and the sick from hospitals; where the indigenous population is subject to military authority while the colonists are subject to Israel’s civil rule, even though they don’t live in Israel?
What does Nafshi say to Avraham Burg, once president of Israel’s Knesset, who wrote: “We are indifferent to the fate of Palestinian children, hungry and humiliated; so why are we surprised when they blow us up in our restaurants? Even if we killed 1,000 terrorists a day it would change nothing.”
Nafshi’s column doesn’t challenge the status quo, the barriers, stereotypes and hatreds that roil Palestine and Israel – her opinions exacerbate existing tensions and do little to further peace.
Peace isn’t something simply to be desired. It follows from justice. Without justice there can be no peace. Without truth there can be no justice, and today’s truth is that Netanyahu cynically manipulated the kidnapping crisis to try to derail Palestinian reconciliation and abort the two-state solution.
He plunged everyone into war – a war with no winners, no justice, no peace.
(Robert Azzi is a writer and photographer living in Exeter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)