Whoa, Israel is our friend. We have an unbreakable bond. The 19 months of proximity talks are just starting to lead into direct peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Whymess with this Karma? No one talks about Israeli sanctions, why discuss it now? No one discusses sanctions openly and perhaps it is past time we did.
Last month, Obama met with Netanyahu to discuss US-Israeli relations. The outcome of that meeting was a public display of unity and solidarity between our nations and a commitment by Netanyahu to advance toward direct peace talks with Abbas. What is more relevant was what transpired in the weeks after that meeting. Within the next week over150 Palestinian homes in the West Bank were razed to the ground. Several attacks were carried out on Palestinians in Gaza and a number of additional Palestinian were killed or wounded. Palestinian deaths by Israel on average number about 20-30 per week and have for the last 2 years independent of the recent Gaza war (1,250 - 1,350/year). Netanyahu also insisted what has been a "partial" freeze on Israeli building in the West Bank would completely end in September. Is the US facilitating peace by its public displays of solidarity with Israel, or are we just enabling Israel's agenda? It seems the later, and our very public displays of support for Israel are producing more harm than good for peace in the region.
Let's start with a simple stumbling block to peace, a single word. Israel has never recognized the areas taken in the Six Days War as "occupied", it refers to them as "disputed". This semantic difference in what adjective is used to describe these areas might seem minor, even trivial. It is not. If the areas under Israeli control are "disputed", Israel does not believe it needs to recognize international law related to their control. It is not obligated to provide civilians living in "disputed" territories similar rights as people who live in "occupied" territories under its control. Occupied means "it belongs to the Palestinians" and Israel is there for only a limited time and has certain obligations to the civilians under its control. Disputed means "it is unclear who has what rights" until the dispute is resolved. Most Israeli settlers today accept the territories as "their land." The Palestinians and Arabs living there are just interlopers. The use of armed forces to keep the peace places most of the 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank under constant military rule. Meanwhile, the 280,000+ Jewish settlers in the region are provided the same civil and judicial rights as any other Israeli citizen.
This dichotomous state for Palestinians and Jewish settlers in the same territory automatically creates tensions, hate, fear and anger due to their unequal treatment. Mistreatment and discrimination of individuals based on their ethnicity is prevalent in the West Bank and is appropriately labeled "racism". Racism in its severest forms is associated with segregation and apartheid, visibly displayed by the West Bank and Gaza walls. Justification for such severe segregation is always the same wherever it occurs in the world: "protection". This national Israeli policy of apartheid is a highly developed, enforced and ingrained strategy that has transformed life in those territories Israel controls.
Superimposed on this discrimination is a slow, methodical taking of Palestinian land without recourse, and in direct conflict with any Palestinian rights. Palestinian land has been expropriated directly by Israel for security, to build Jewish settlements and roads to connect them or merely taken by Jewish settlers claiming the land as theirs. The more aggressive Jewish settlers have physically assaulted and removed Palestinians from their own homes in order to claim the homesas theirs. Such inappropriate human behavior is an outgrowth of a belief system that treatment of fellow humans is defined by power and not by basic human rights or equality. When the Israeli army and courts do little or nothing to severely punish such abusive behavior they reinforce the message "yes, you can."
The West Bank today is now divided by over 220 pockets of Jewish settlements and outposts. There has been about a 10 fold increase in the Jewish population there since 1967. That steady rate of increase significantly outpaces the rate of Palestinian population growth (4 fold) or the growth of the Jewish population in Israel itself (3 fold) over that same time period. This rapid growth rate is neither "normal" nor "natural". It is "facilitated". Israel also regulates building throughout most of the West Bank. Since 1967, Israel has approved more than 50,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in Palestinian East Jerusalem. During the last 35 yearspermits have not been approved for Palestinianhomes in Jerusalem. The denial of building to allow for "natural" growth among the much larger number of Palestinian people in territory Israel covets is an outgrowth of an institutionalized program of discrimination that embraces "might makes right" and "the ends justify the means". While it seems disagreement over a single word should not justify ignoring personal property rights, human rights and equality as relevant issues, in fact it has. This is merely part of the collateral damage produced by that strategy.