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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/11/21

The importance of peaceful coexistence

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Israel is in an enviable position. Its victorious armies effectively routed and ended the Arab military challenge in 1973. It has a flourishing economy and the undiluted financial and diplomatic support of the United States. And the disunited Palestinian resistance poses no real threat.

There was a time when Israel had its back to the wall. It faced sizable, well-equipped Arab armies. The Palestinian cause had the backing of rich Arab potentates flushed with oil revenues. And there were noisy calls for the destruction of Israel. None of those conditions exists today.

Still, Israel presses ahead with its expansionist policies. It means more settlements, greater exclusion, and permanent occupation over the Palestinians. These aggressive policies are a serious obstacle to peace and coexistence in a volatile region. More and more, Israel has slowly killed the possibility of a two-state solution. But Israelis must know that the only realistic chance for peace is an independent Palestinian state. In large part, Israel's sense of invincibility comes from military victories and technological superiority. It also has the international opinion that matters in its favor. But Israel has fallen victim to the same hubris and denial that affected previous all-conquering empires. Such empires began to believe that they were special and could do no wrong until it was too late. They wrongly decided that striving for peace was a sign of weakness.

But Israel's largely successful policy of aggressive self-defense, both home and abroad, has come at a huge moral cost. It treats the Palestinians as a defeated people. And despite Jews having a long history of suffering oppression, the present-day Israelis are quite content to oppress the Palestinians. Yes, Hamas can engage in asymmetric warfare from time to time, but when it does it is more aimed at establishing its defiance of Israel with the Gazans living in an open prison than in any notion of "defeating" Israel.

Israel considers itself invulnerable to criticism and flouts UN-resolutions law with impunity. It callously violates the human rights of Palestinians and commits extreme violence upon defenseless Palestinian civilians. Yet, few Israelis question or criticize the actions of their government. Yes, Israelis are killed and should be mourned, but Israel's war-footing creates provocations that end up in Israeli deaths, which pale in number as compared to Palestinian deaths, including high numbers of children.

During the 70-year-history of conflict between Israel and Palestine, two things stand out. One is the emergence of Israel as a regional superpower. The other is the refusal of the Palestinian people to disappear from the map despite Israel's concerted efforts. Palestinian resistance continues because beleaguered people have two choices--accept death or enslavement, or resist. And Jews should understand these choices, having had to make and live with them in history. In fact, is a supreme irony that a nation founded as a refuge from the Holocaust of European Jews should be so dismissive of the plight of the Palestinians.

In the Palestinian territories, Israel is engaging in a long European history of settler colonialism.

Many Jews, dehumanized from systematic mistreatment, went passively to their deaths in concentration camps. Others resisted their oppressors, most famously during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943. A small but determined band of lightly armed Jewish fighters held off thousands of German soldiers and police to the death. The Palestinian resistance is doing much the same. This is in response to Israel's brutal occupation and disproportionate use of force.

The vivid pictures of rock-throwing Palestinian children facing heavily armed Israeli soldiers fill television screens around the world. Those children that survive imprisonment or death later pick up the gun. Despite being painted as fanatical and violent, the Palestinians resist. They also have to contend with the largely unfavorable international narrative of their long struggle, although that is at an inflection point now.

So the unending cycle of violence continues across generations while the world remains silent. And as they each try to demonize and wear down the other. Thinking that time is on their side, neither Israeli nor Palestinian can find the elusive peace and security they sorely need. And extremists and hard-liners on both sides opportunistically take advantage of the toxic atmosphere. They jockey for short-term advantage, but they damage the longer-term prospects for peace.

The fact is that violence, domination, and colonization don't work. The way forward in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a renunciation of murder and violence. And a return to fundamental moral principles and values of equality, freedom, popular sovereignty, and tolerance.

Perhaps the logical first step towards coexistence can be the revival of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which envisioned a two-state solution. The Accords offer the chance for an end to hostilities, a just and lasting peace, and allow Israelis and Palestinians to live in freedom and safety. The other possibility of sharing land in a single binational democratic state with equal rights for Jews and Arabs is a long-shot given the region's dark and tragic history.

The onus to restart peace talks falls on Israel as the dominant force holding most of the cards. It is in a pivotal position to make the difficult decisions for peace and coexistence. The Palestinians must cooperate by ending violence. Otherwise, the future outlook for the region and its people is bleak indeed.

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Saad Hafiz is an analyst and commentator.

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