Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An open letter to Israel

This is coming out later than I intended because it took rather longer than I expected to gather all the links. Most of them are to previous posts of mine, which I did because a number of those posts themselves had more than one relevant link and time just didn't permit taking that extra step of looking at all of those to see which ones were relevant and still live.

The news from Gaza continues bad, the fighting - or, since it's said that calling thing by their right names is the beginning of wisdom, the aerial assault against a mostly defenseless populace - goes on into a fifth day as Israel continues to attack the people of Gaza in its "war to the bitter end" against Hamas, one it is refusing to allow the international press in to witness for itself.

My own response to this is the following, what you, if you wish, can consider to be an open letter to the state of Israel:

Israel, I write to you as someone who has never, not once, questioned your right to exist. Someone who for nearly 40 years now has advocated the "two-state" solution of mutual recognition between Israel and an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Someone who, that is, would like to address you as a friend - but cannot. Cannot because you have made it impossible for me to be anything other than a dedicated foe of the course you have set, a course of war, of bigotry, of colonialism, of oppression. You have demonstrated for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear that you do not want peace except the cold, deadly "peace" of domination and control.

The fact is, you have for years done everything you could to avoid a settlement that would involve surrendering your military and economic control of Palestinian lands.

You have sought to undermine any possibility of moderation among more radical Palestinians by undertaking provocative actions when any signs of such moderation emerge and then have used the very success of that strategy to delay or freeze talks.

You have sought to undermine every sign of moderation or accommodation even among elected Palestinian officials, labeling whatever they have done as not enough to satisfy your demands. That's been clear for over 15 years: In September 1993, Yassir Arafat, writing as head of the PLO, sent a letter to then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin saying, specifically and in so many words, that the PLO "recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security." Such recognition, you had insisted for years on end, was the one thing you required to advance to a settlement. But when it came, you said it wasn't enough. Later, you actively set out to undermine the authority of the Palestinian Authority. You demanded elections among the Palestinians but when Hamas did well in them and got a role in the government, you labeled it a "terrorist" government, said it made negotiations impossible, and openly set out to overthrow it.

You have repeatedly set conditions on negotiations that you knew were all but impossible to meet, including demanding a complete end to all attacks and the "dismantling" of radical groups - a goal that for all your efforts and all your might you yourself have not come close to accomplishing despite more than 40 years of trying. Indeed, those conditions were ones you believed could not be met, demanded not to secure negotiations but to avoid them. And when Palestinian security forces did try to contain attacks on Israel, you denied them the tools to do it while still demanding they succeed as a precondition to any advance toward a settlement.

When negotiations did occur, you made supposedly "generous" but thoroughly deceitful offers that you knew in advance would not, could not, be accepted and then used that refusal as a basis to falsely claim there was no "partner for peace." You promised as part of negotiations you would halt settlements on the West Bank. You lied.

Your "unilateral withdrawal" from Gaza was not a withdrawal at all in any meaningful sense of the word, it was the creation of a gulag, one surrounded by Israeli military forces, one whose every exit and entrance and whose airspace and ports are controlled by the IDF. Presented as some grand gesture for peace, it was no such thing: Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called it "a mortal blow" that would "bring to an end" Palestinian dreams of nationhood. Its purpose was to "freeze Palestinian statehood indefinitely," to, in one of those grand lies at which Israel has become adept, deny your obligations under international law and "dispel the claims regarding Israel's responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip," while simultaneously tightening your grip on the West Bank.

You have engaged in illegal and immoral assassination. You have killed peaceful protesters with apparent impunity. You have used Palestinians as human shields, illegal under international law.

You have persistently dehumanized Palestinians including engaging in routine degradation and humiliation at border crossings. You have illegally destroyed Palestinian homes and illegally expropriated Palestinian lands. You have immorally institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians in the West Bank to the point where even the roads have become an expression of apartheid.

You have engaged in illegal and immoral collective punishment including actively trying to blockade and starve the people of Gaza into submission, leaving them drastically short of food and supplies, with stocks of vital items now "either very low or nonexistent," according to the UN. Even fuel and spare parts to maintain basic public services are mostly unavailable, leaving 60% of the population with running water only once every five to seven days. And this week, you illegally rammed a boat in international waters that was attempting to deliver food and medicine despite your illegal and inhumane blockade.

You have thumbed your nose at the International Court of Justice when it condemned your illegal "separation fence." You claimed that what happened on the West Bank was an "internal Israeli matter," a perhaps unintentional but still clear declaration of your intentions for the region.

You have labeled any press criticism as "anti-Semitic" even though that coverage has been so one-sided that media accounts describe it as a period of "calm" when no Israelis are dying - even though Palestinians continue to be killed.

Oh, and yes, the deaths, let's talk about the deaths. During the period from the beginning of October 2000 through the end of November 2008, you killed more than four times as many Palestinians as Palestinians killed Israelis, and all the while you insisted that every Israeli death, even of a soldier, even as the result of an attack on what would clearly be a military target, was the result of an act of "terrorism" while every Palestinian death, even if it was clearly an unarmed civilian, was the result of "necessary self-defense." In the most recent fighting, nearly 100 times as many Palestinians have been killed as Israelis: pushing 400 versus 4. Nearly 2000 more have been wounded. Some individual Palestinian families have had more killed than all of Israeli society. You killed nearly 20 times as many Palestinians in the first three days of the attack as Israelis had been killed by Hamas rockets in the preceding eight years.

And through all of it, across the years, you have demanded that the Palestinians promise to permanently, completely, stop all attacks on Israel and Israelis and formally recognize Israel as a precondition to even seriously discussing a settlement - even though you know, you must know, how could you not know, that doing so would strip Palestinians of the one thing they have to offer in negotiations, that is, a guarantee of security. Even when you got your recognition, it made no difference to you. Your demand, that is, is that Palestinians cease being an opposition, cease being a party to negotiations, and instead approach you as supplicants, begging for scraps from your table. Your desire, that is, your desire in all of this across all these years, is, in the words of former Israeli Defense Force chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, "to sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians that they are a defeated people." To dominate. To control. To be free to oppress.

After all that, after all of that, you have the effrontery, the arrogance, the hubris, the chutzpah, the utter appalling gall, to present yourself as if you were the victim? That is both unbelievable and quite literally unforgivable.

I have said it before, I have said it for 40 years, I firmly believe, that two states, Israel and Palestine, living in mutual recognition, is the best available course, the one that offers the best hope of doing justice and promising security to both peoples. It is beyond tragic that that is precisely the course you are determined to avoid.

You perhaps have noticed how many times I have used the words "illegal" and "immoral." That was out of necessity as so much of what you have done these past few decades - and continue to do now - fits both descriptions. I can only hope that at some point you decide, or discover the need, to return to the ranks of civilized nations. In the meantime, I can only regret your having become enraptured by blood and power and urge my own nation to refuse to continue to support it.

Your once and I hope future friend,

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