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What Americans can do to help bring peace to the Middle East

(A Palestinian View)

The Palestinians find themselves locked into a bloody conflict with Israel that has cost nearly a thousand people their lives in one year, mostly civilians, mostly Palestinians. (684 Palestinian deaths including 57 assassinations. 29% under 18. 86% civilian.).

Depressingly, the violence is creating a new generation of desperate Palestinians as fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters are killed and as homes, police stations, hotels and other institutions are destroyed by Israel’s disproportionate and excessive use of military force.

When reporting about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the media are frequently using ready-made, even misleading, formulas that often reflect the line of Israel’s superior PR machine. Israel’s assassination of activists becomes “targeted killings”. Israeli tanks going on the rampage in Bethlehem becomes a “reaction to Palestinian violence”. Even the term “cease fire” gives the impression that two armies are at war here.

But this is not a conflict of equals. While the Israeli army occupies Ramallah and several other Palestinian cities, there is no Palestinian army occupying Tel Aviv. In fact there is no Palestinian army, period.

So what is it, in these desperate times, Americans can do to help promote peace?

Palestinians look up to America as the embodiment of a people’s self determination of their own destiny, freedom and independence. It is these values the Palestinians strive for. They hope for the support of Americans and other free nations of this world.

 Understand the root causes and support solving them

If we look beyond the daily media coverage, the cause for the conflict remains Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land by military force, illegal Israeli settlements and the plight of Palestinian refugees.

President Bush’s declaration of his support for an independent Palestinian State is a welcome step in the right direction. Americans can help peace by loudly and clearly calling for ending the occupation, supporting an independent, viable Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the implementation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

The US has strongly led efforts for the implementation of UN resolutions and other manifestations of international legitimacy in Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Afghanistan. It can and should assume the same role in this conflict too.

This conflict is about people, not just a piece of land. It’s about the disenfranchised and besieged Palestinians living under the constant threat of collective punishments, military roadblocks, curfews and house demolitions. There can be no peace if the concerns, fears and problems of the people involved are not addressed.

Support immediate international intervention to break the cycle of violence

The cycle of violence can be stopped by immediate measures to disengage the Israeli army from Palestinian territories and monitoring a cease-fire.

The G7 (including the US) has agreed to the principle of international monitors to be sent to the area (American led if needed). America has the power to push for the actual implementation of such measure, which, regrettably, is opposed by Israel’s current government.

The violence of the past year has pushed Palestinians and Israelis into extremist positions. Opinion polls show a majority of Israelis starting to support expelling Palestinians out of their land (read: ethnic cleansing). On the Palestinian side there is a lot of popular support for violence against Israelis too.

Stopping the killing of people on both sides is a noble and necessary cause. It’s not something that can wait or be left to the parties of the conflict. Waiting simply means more death and destruction.

Support the Israeli peace movement

One of major reasons of the current deadlock is that a year ago, in Camp David, former PM Barak was not politically able to cut a historic deal with Palestinians. Negotiating under the pressure of an encroaching parliamentary coup by Israel’s right wing parties, his so-called “generous offer” to the Palestinians failed to match the Palestinian minimum expectations (especially regarding the repatriation of Palestinian refugees and the issue of Jerusalem).

While the Palestinians have made a historical, painful compromise, in recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over most of historical Palestine including West Jerusalem, Israeli society does not seem to be ready for accepting Palestinian rights.

Supporting Israeli grassroots peace initiatives that aim at spreading a culture of peace and co-existence and educate Israelis about Palestinian rights is an extremely important contribution Americans can make.

 Support an impartial, independent American stance

Americans are the first to understand that there is no halfway state between freedom and slavery and that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Palestinians have endured, for over three decades now, the injustice of the longest military occupation in the world.

One of the greatest recent missteps of America’s Middle East policy was its acceptance of Sharon’s criteria of “100% calm” before starting the implementation of Senator Mitchell’s Report, effectively granting any extremist with a rifle control over the peace process. This is an example of how an independent American stance, one that would have insisted on a swift implementation of Mitchell’s recommendations, could have helped push the peace process forward.

Ahmad Humeid

Amman, Jordan

November 6, 2001

American Policy in the Middle East - An Israeli View


Copyright 2001, by MidEastWeb for Coexistence

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