Time for even-handed leadership in Middle East
During the last 80 years, the European Zionist movement has, quite simply, pushed the Palestinian people off their land and carved out the Jewish state of Israel. Agreed, compensation to displaced Palestinians was never paid. Israelis see the 4,000-year-old history of the Old Testament as justification for taking this land. America has unconditionally supported Zionism out of a deep sympathy for the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. With massive U.S. military and economic aid, Israel has defeated every military assault from its Arab neighbors and expanded the size of Israel. In recent years, the United States has directly helped to pay for the ongoing immigration of over a million Russian Jews to Israel as part of the Zionist policy.
Israel has also, with U.S. financial backing, moved more than 250,000 new settlers onto Palestinian land occupied since the 1967 war. They have built controlled access roads to these settlements, disrupting the authority and economy of the Palestinian people.
The once well-off and sophisticated Palestinians are now a poor, second-class, refugee citizenry in what was not too long ago their prosperous homeland. The anger and hopelessness of the Palestinian people has been burning for a long time, and Arafat no longer has control over that anger. Over the years, Iran and other radical Islamic groups have increased their influence, offering a violent alternative to Arafat’s failed attempts at negotiations.
The current uprising started in September 2000, and right-wing hard-liner Sharon was elected to suppress the Palestinians with Israel’s modern military. We now have a war pitting the high-tech Israeli war machine against impoverished suicidal Palestinian martyrs. Sharon and the right have always feared and despised the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords and are now getting rid of them. In 18 months, thousands have died, most of them Palestinians. These two sides will never come to peace by themselves.
After the last Egyptian/Israeli war, President Carter instigated and facilitated the 1978 Camp David Accords. In a nutshell, Carter offered each side a billion dollars a year forever, if both agreed not to go to war. Both sides realized that there really was a Santa Claus, and there hasn’t been a war since. Currently, we are sending Egypt $2 billion per year and Israel $6 billion per year. Since 1948, we have given Israel over $100 billion dollars, which works out to $20,000 per person to a First World country (it pays to have a good lobby). Today, hundreds of thousands of Israelis hold dual U.S./Israeli citizenship. Voting or serving in the military of a foreign country is supposed to revoke your U.S. citizenship – totally ignored in the case of Israel.
I am having more and more trouble understanding how our one-sided policy in this struggle is in America’s interests.
The argument is always made that Israel is the only Western-style democracy in the area and should be wholeheartedly supported. I find little in common between the United States and Israel. Israel is fundamentally a religious state, whereas we insist on strict separation of church and state. We practice religious tolerance; non-Jews in Israel can expect to be second-class citizens. While most religions in the United States welcome converts, in Israel, the orthodox Jews (who control the courts) still believe in the old racist notion that you’re automatically part of the “chosen race” if your mother is Jewish. While defending our energy interests and trying to contain Saddam Hussein during Dessert Storm, Israel was a liability, not an asset. We have also arrested several high-level Israeli spies in our military intelligence establishments.
Israel is lost without America, and it’s time for America to insist on some changes. Here is the only way to peace in the region:
1. Israel must recede to its 1967 borders and remove the “settlements.”
2. An international peacekeeping force must be brought in to separate the two peoples. Experts put this number at 50,000.
3. Israel’s borders should be guaranteed and a Palestinian state created. Arab states and the international community must recognize both states and their right to exist.
4. Massive international aid must be extended to the new Palestinian state. Loans for housing and infrastructure must be provided for the displaced Palestinians. The United States, Europe and the moderate Arab states must use their influence to encourage a democratic, moderate and secular Palestinian state.
5. The peacekeeping force must be held in place at least one generation (20 years) to allow the anger and revenge to die out. The majority of the costs of peacekeeping must be borne by Israel and the wealthier Arab states – it’s their neighborhood.
Our goal should be to make the world safer for Americans. This plan would do that. Will George Bush do what is right and put forth an evenhanded and practical solution, or will he follow the campaign contributions down the costly and destructive path of endless violence and danger for Americans everywhere?
Michael Schwalm, a Penn Valley resident, writes a monthly column.
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