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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

Legacy Comments16

Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the current Israeli government is interested in a two-state solution to the crisis. If Netanyahu and the Likud party that dominate Israeli politics were truly interested in a two-state solution, they might have seized the moment when Hamas agreed to work with the Palestinian National Authority and Mahmoud Abbas. It could have been a “Nixon goes to China” moment and a breakthrough toward a 2-state solution. As I posted elsewhere, from the movie “The Gatekeepers”, which featured all 6 living former heads of Shin Bet, Avraham Shalom, the oldest, said that Israel should try to negotiate with anyone—yes, anyone, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad—to break down stereotypes and give progress a chance. “And if they answer rudely, try again.”

I don't know about anyone else posting here but for one, I am sick and tired of anti-Semitic pieces like this one. Let's get one thing straight, Hamas is a terrorist group, Hezzbolah is a terrorist group, Al Qaeda is a terrorist group and the new abomination spreading havoc in Syria is a terrorist group. The hate Jews, let's not candy coat the truth, they want to in their own words, destroy Israel. If the Palestinians and others who waste negative energy and torture and kill innocent civilians spent half of their time attempting to emulate the success of the hard work of Israeli's who took a desert and turned into beautiful gardens and a thriving economy they might be far better off. I can remember that Yassar Arafat would take peace agreements down to the last moment and then decide not to agree. We also must remember that the Palestinians are the same folks who were caught on camera hooting like coyotes and cheering in the streets while the twin towers came crashing many times must a suicide bomber play their hand or how many rockets need to be fired at Israel or how many tunnels have to be dug to convince the naïve bleeding hearts that Palestinians, Hamas and all of the other extreme factions just don't want peace. Mr. Azzi can pine on all that he wants but he is biased.

Do you realize that you've made the same kind of anti-semitic claim you accuse others of committing when they criticize the actions of the Israeli government? Do you not understand that your sweeping generalizations about Palestinians are no different from those once made in this country about blacks, Jews, Italians, Irish, and native Americans?

We all desire peace, Mr. Azzi. What you fail to mention in your opinion piece is the fact that Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. On the contrary, their stated goal in the "Charter of Hamas,” states that, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it.” Obviously, the leaders of Hamas do not want peace and it the innocent civilians, on both sides, who suffer. It's so easy to criticize from a distance and editorialize from our armchairs. I challenge you, (and those who criticize Israel's right to defend itself), to "put your money where your mouth is." Why don't you travel to Gaza and help the suffering people? Why don't you pressure Hamas to do the same? Let’s stop the mud slinging, spreading hatred and intolerance, from the comfort of our homes, because, in the end, that is exactly what Hamas wants.

Well said, nothing to add PEACE.

It’s a truism that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. It was true in S. Africa, and true also in the founding of Israel. What if Great Britain had “refused to negotiate with terrorists”? Lest we forget history: The Irgun has been viewed as a terrorist organization or organization which carried out terrorist acts.[3][4] In particular the Irgun was branded a terrorist organisation by Britain,[5] the 1946 Zionist Congress[6] and the Jewish Agency.[7] The Irgun believed that any means necessary to establish the Jewish State of Israel, including terrorism, was justifiable.[8] The Irgun was a political predecessor to Israel's right-wing Herut (or "Freedom") party, which led to today's Likud party.[9] Likud has led or been part of most Israeli governments since 1977.

Having been there myself and seen it with my own eyes, Robert Azzi's words ring true and are much appreciated. I would only add that Netanyahu's recent anti-justice, pro-war manipulations are only the latest examples of decades of the same by the State of Israel. Also, while there may be no winners in this war, the Palestinian people who inhabit the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and especially Gaza have suffered, and continue to suffer, disproportionately. I hope, too, that Rabbi Nafshi will apologize to protesters, e.g., myself.

The Palestinians have proven themselves to be incapable of governing themselves. Palestinians do not produce anything , have no industry to speak of export nothing of concern and live 100% off the charity of other nations. They take the charity from others to buy weapons . Compare them to the tiny island of Taiwan. Do you think the Palestinians are headed in the right direction?

Yes, BestPres, the tiny island of Taiwan - where a minority of mainlanders loyal to Chiang Kai Shek took over the island from the native Taiwanese and then were able to declare the Republic of China protected by the United States' apron strings. Yes, it was a significant accomplishment but less so in context (we all know how much you hate context). By your standards, agriculture doesn't produce anything. Well that is certainly true when one's farm is destroyed by an occupying army and settlers.

Hey it is the misinformed LIDV stalker again, As usual - nothing to add to the debate - must be awful to be a liberal.

If Chiang Kai Shek had not done that, there would have been millions slaughtered at the hand of Mao Tse Tung and if you ask any Taiwanese citizen today and I work with several, they are soooo happy to be independent from RED China, yes RED.....your point???

This is hiliarious! I love it when the liberals eat their young. Both Bob Azzi and Rabbi Robin are to the far-left on just about every issue. The difference? Robin is a right-wing hawk when it comes to Israel, While the Monitor's own "Johnny One-note" is . . . well . . . is NOT. So Bob remains true to his liberal heart while Robin betrays it on this one issue. But unfortunately for "Professor Palestine", Rabbi Robin is right(no pun intended) on this issue. Bob serves us up more Anti-Semitic, Anti-Zionist propaganda with phrases like, "Hamas is complicated." That's like the Germans saying "the Nazis are complicated" or the Cambodians saying "The Khmer Rouge is complicated."

From our point of view, one of the challenges is finding unbiased information on this issue. The political spin rivals our own.

I remember 9/11, the Palestinians cheered. Yeah, good times.

Do you suppose that scene was representative of all Palestinians? Just as the recent scene of Israelis cheering at the bombardment of Gaza wasn't representative of all israelis.

No..I'm sure many Palestinians celebrated off camera.

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