We receive too many articles on Gaza and the West Bank to fit on the letter page. Here are two opinions and a news item.
As a people with a history of exile, should we not be especially fervent in opposing deportations, collective punishment, food deprivation, the use of bullets, the swinging of clubs?
Vocal Palestinian opponents of the occupation, including mayors, many of whom were interested in negotiating with Israel, were deported as a way of rendering the Palestinian leadership ineffective. Some of them, ironically, appeared later in U.S. tours with Israeli opposition figures and could be seen on TV.
The "Peace for the Galilee" campaign, Ariel Sharon's solution to the Palestinian problem, engendered the first diaspora opposition ever to an Israeli-Arab war, much of which has persisted through New Jewish Agenda, the Peace Now support groups, the New Israel Fund and the left of religious Judaism. It remains to be seen whether these diaspora organizations, and the Jewish-Arab reconciliation groups they support in Israel, can influence future Israeli policy. The outlook for this seems poor.
Israeli governments have always assumed total diaspora support for any policy, including the occupation. The pro-Israeli opposition is weak, yet more Jews may criticize the occupation in private than publicly. Silence reinforces fear of political expression and results in a less democratic Jewish life. We must express ourselves more forcefully in public and unify the diaspora peace groups. This may be a watershed in the Israeli-Arab conflict as it becomes more internalized within post-1967 borders.
AS THE ISRAELI REPRESSION OF PALESTINIAN protests in the West Bank and Gaza strip intensifies, a senior member of the American foreign policy establishment, former U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, is advocating increase, rather than restraint, in the severity of government action. In a February 3 meeting in New York with U.S. Jewish leaders, Kissinger sounded a hawkish note. He attacked the notion of an international peace conference, since all states attending the conference would favor a return by Israel to its 1967 borders. He urged that Israel should "bar the media from entry into the territories involved in the present demonstrations, accept the criticism of the world press for such conduct, and put down the insurrection as quickly as possible - overwhelmingly, brutally, and rapidly."
These belligerent quotes were taken from the minutes of the meeting that were leaked to the press, receiving publicity in the leading English Israeli newspaper, The Jerusalem Post and The New York Tuner. They were drawn to our attention by Robert Fink, editor of Crosscurrents, and subsequently confirmed by Toronto Professor of Political Science, James Graff, who had recently returned from Israel.
In his "Letter from Gaza," Mr. Chris Williams has written a fair account of what he has seen, on the surface, but one must dig deeper for the true facts. The Arab states, with the exception of Egypt, have refused to make peace with Israel, refused to recognize Israel's right to exist, refused, even, to sit down to negotiate since Israel won its independence in 1948.
Palestinians themselves have been betrayed, not by Israel, but by their own Arab brothers, who refuse to integrate them into their societies and refuse to invest even infinitesimal parts of their oil billions to help them become productive citizens.
Since it won Judea, Samaria and Gaza while repelling aggression during the Six Day War, Israel has set up universities for Palestinians where none existed before; supplied modern health care; reduced infant mortality; provided jobs; raised the living standard; and increased life expectancy. The Arabs living under Israeli rule are better off than when they were under Arab rule, and freer than Arabs living elsewhere. No occupation is benign, but Israel's rule over Judea, Samaria, and Gaza is the closest thing to it, and nothing to be ashamed of.
The rage of Palestinians that North Americans read about, yes, even in PEACE Magazine, is misdirected. It was the Arab states, not Israel, who rejected the U.N. Partition Plan in 1947 that offered the Palestinians their own state. It was King Hussein, not Israel, who kept them in squalid camps, during the nineteen years when the West Bank was in Jordanian hands. It was Egypt, not Israel, that denied the people of Gaza citizenship; refusing to let them work in Egypt, or even visit there.
WHAT ISRAEL DID NOT DO for the Arabs was to give them a state of their own, because there already was, and is, a Palestinian state - Jordan. Most Palestinians are citizens of that state; most citizens of that state are Palestinians. But the King of Jordan does not accommodate the Palestinians. Over the years he has killed thousands of them when they expressed dissatisfaction with their poor standard of living, and expelled thousands more. I would suggest that Mr. Williams investigate the news files of twenty-five years ago. He will find accounts of Palestinian Arabs fleeing Jordan to the safety of Israel.
The critics of Israel have failed to ask the young toughs who taunt the Israeli soldiers to fire at them, "What do you want? Are you prepared to negotiate with Israel and live in peace, once agreement is reached? Or, is your real objective, as some of you have openly declared, to take over Israel? Do you want Nablus, or Nazareth? Jericho, or Jerusalem? Until negotiations are entered into, Israel, as any self-respecting democracy, must act to maintain civil order. (Signed) "A Friend to Peace."
Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1988, page 20. Some rights reserved.
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