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Here's to Truth and Reconciliation in Israel-Palestine

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In comments following news articles and op-eds these days (for example, here), the denial that there even exists a Palestinian people at all grows more prevalent. Palestinians continue to be squashed underfoot with similar contempt in the Occupied Territories by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Jewish squatters -- literally, as well as figuratively.

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In 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinian men, women and children were forced to flee, at times virtually with the supper on the stove and with only the clothes on their backs.

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Nevertheless, in 2011, there remain two peoples residing in the same space. In addition, Palestinian refugees, according to international law, have the right to return to their homes irrespective of the fact that Israel continues to deny them that right.  

At least 20% of Israel's citizens are Palestinian. But this figure does not tell the whole tale. Beyond Israel proper, the ratio -- Palestinians to Jews -- is eight to one. There are approximately four million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, compared to approximately half a million illegal Jewish settlers/squatters on Palestinian land.  

It is a new phenomenon that Israel's far-right demands that Israel be recognized by the Palestinians as a Jewish state before overtures toward peace can be made. Does this not forever negate the fact that the space is Palestinian, too? The irony is that ongoing Jewish settlement among millions of Palestinians on confiscated Palestinian land guarantees that the region will culminate in one bi-national state, founded by both. Mahmoud Abbas's recent bid for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations does nothing to mitigate the reality of occupation and dispossession on the ground.

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The current interim period in time is one in which Palestinians suffer under an apartheid regime -- with Jewish-only roads, military occupation, and two separate legal systems -- a civil system for settlers, and a summary military one for Palestinians. This will be the challenge to overcome. For Israel's part, magical thinking continues to hold that the conflict should end without actually having to end the occupation, ethnic cleansing or oppression of the Palestinian people.  

Censorship, and campaigns of intimidation, make discussing the Israel-Palestine issue difficult. To illustrate, even something as seemingly innocuous as children's art can become fodder for controversy. A recent exhibit of children's art entitled, 'A child's view from Gaza' has been censored. The art depicts impressions and experiences of living through Israel's military assault during the 2008-09 "Operation Cast Lead." The exhibit, months in the planning with the Museum of Children's Art in Oakland, California, was abruptly cancelled due to pro-Israel pressure.   

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Above, from the exhibit "A Child's View From Gaza"

Elsewhere, U.K. Education Minister Michael Gove put the brakes on schools participating in a Palestinian literature festival.

Meantime, flying well under mainstream media radar, Israel has just approved plans to forcibly remove 30,000 Bedouins from their ancestral lands -- ethnic cleansing by another name. This would be the largest displacement of indigenous natives there since 1948.

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In Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinians are denied the right to adequate water. 90% of Gaza's water is unfit for human consumption. Sewage and water treatment facilities were attacked by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead. Ever since, Gaza has been unable, due to the on-going military siege, to obtain construction materials necessary to restore them. As untreated sewage from Gaza is being dumped directly into the sea, it will drift and ultimately contaminate Israeli shores. In the West Bank, even collecting rain water for personal use in cisterns is attacked by the military or by settlers and is routinely destroyed, a clear violation of human rights and international law.  

One wonders when a Jewish Nelson Mandela or a Palestinian Desmond Tutu will emerge in the region to inspire an Israel-Palestine Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as was put to such healing effect post-apartheid, in South Africa. I hope
that day comes soon.


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Diane V. McLoughlin is a writer and peace activist particularly focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict. She is also concerned about endless war, the steady erosion of civil liberties, and the corruption of mainstream media. She maintains the (more...)
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