When the phrase "Middle East Peace Process" began to gain currency in the 1990s, the Western media defined the peace process as an end to the hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis. The politicians talked peace, former President Clinton read his eloquently prepared speech, self-proclaimed experts analyzed the handshake, the cameras rolled and the editors in the back room cut and spliced, and, "Voila!" The Middle East Peace Process was born. In a flash, the American media depicted a "willing" Israel sitting down with a "changed" Yasser Arafat to discuss peace.
The drama, however, wouldn't be complete without some scenes of Palestinian civilians smiling, dancing and waving their cherished flag.
It has been nearly fifteen years since the Oslo Peace Accords were signed, yet, peace has not yet materialized in the region. So what went wrong?
There is a Sanskrit proverb that says, "When understanding is demented, destruction is near." The peace process was formulated with a demented understanding of the conflict. Instead of a Palestinian state emerging, we find Israel gradually continuing its expansionist policies, using the peace process to buy time and—in the words of Israel's Deputy Minister of Defense—pursuing a "holocaust" to punish Palestinians for resisting its policies. So, let us look at this issue from the beginning of the peace process and now. What changed in the lives of Palestinians since the signing of the Oslo Accords?
Let us begin answering the question by looking at the root of the conflict. Did the institutionalized racism come to end? The heart of the conflict is not over land, but has sprung out of institutionalized racism. Rabbi Elmer Berger is the founding executive director of the American Council for Judaism, which is based in Florida and founded in 1942. ACJ does not believe that only Jews are God's chosen people, but recognizes all of God's people.
Berger explains, in an interview with Grace Halsell, that "the Zionists did not draft a constitution for their new Jewish-Zionist state. Rather, they passed 'Basic Laws' that protect and elevate those of one religion and denigrate those of other faiths."
The racist laws that Berger mentions did not end since the signing of the accords. Some examples are: Jews are allowed to appropriate (steal), settle and buy Arab land, while Arabs cannot buy Jewish land or even build on their own land.
Any Jew in the world can come and attain citizenship in Israel, while the 4 million Palestinian refugees are denied the right of return to their homeland.
Moreover, Jewish settlers who kill and massacre Palestinians receive a light punishment, if any. See this Youtube video of Jewish settlers harassing Palestinians in plain view of Israeli soldiers who do nothing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez2l4BltoKA
However, Palestinians who kill are considered by Israel to be "organized" and falsely connected to humanitarian organizations, schools and clinics to help justify the closures of these institutions. The punishment is severe, and can include the demolition of their homes, leaving their families homeless. From October 2001 to January 2005, Israeli government demolished 668 homes in the Occupied Territories as punishment. How many predominantly Jewish or Jewish-only villages were razed after Settlers attacked Palestinians? None.
There also are laws that deny Palestinians compensation if they are brutalized by Israeli soldiers. For case studies describing soldiers' brutality against Palestinians, check out the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, www.btselem.org/English/Beating_and_Abuse
Did the military checkpoints end as promised by Oslo Peace Accords? No. The military occupation of the Palestinian territories still continues; the humiliation at checkpoints continues. Again, B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, has many documented cases of Palestinians beaten at checkpoints and denied entry at times even for medical reasons.
Did the confiscation of Arab land end as promised? In the first two years after the accords were signed, Israel confiscated twice as much Palestinian land as it turned over to direct rule. More land was confiscated with the building of the apartheid wall, which snakes into Palestinian towns dissecting them from each other.
Some examples follow. In 1997, the Israeli government forcibly uprooted and evicted the 60 families from the Jahalin Bedouins, bulldozed their homes and moved them to a dump site.
In December of 2007, a community of Palestinian shepherds numbering 272 people in 37 families were forced off their land in Khirbet Qassa village by the Israeli military and are wandering the area with no place to go.
In another village, Jewish teenagers on the scene removed furniture, clothes, kitchenware and toys from the homes and loaded them on to trucks. As they worked diligently alongside the many policemen who had come to secure the destruction of 30 houses in two unrecognized Bedouin villages, Bedouin teenagers stood by watching their homes being emptied. When all the belongings had been removed, the bulldozers rapidly destroyed the homes. In this case, the demolitions were carried out in order to establish two new Jewish villages.
Their establishment, though, is part of a much larger plan that includes the construction of about 30 new Jewish settlements in the Israeli Negev.
Watch this Youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nzry3j9cnJc
The construction of illegal Jewish-only settlements and Jewish-only bypass roads continues. The demolition of Arab property to make room for the Jewish-only culture in the midst of Arab towns also continues. According to B'Tselem, just in 2006-2007, in the West Bank alone, 165 houses were demolished leaving 724 people homeless, and between 2004-2007 in east Jerusalem alone 300 houses were demolished leaving 939 Palestinians homeless. How many Jewish homes were demolished? None.
Did the expulsion of Arabs end? No. The ethnic cleansing of Arabs continues. Palestinians in Jerusalem have been defined as "foreign immigrants" or "permanent residents," not as native citizens. This way, Israel is able to continue its expulsion of Arabs by taking away their citizenship if they live abroad for a number of years. I have many relatives who have had their IDs confiscated, and many who had their U.S. passports stamped in a way that denies them entry into Jerusalem on a permanent basis.
In addition, some Jewish political leaders have suggested that Israel's Arabs, who commonly refer to themselves as Palestinian citizens of Israel, should eventually live in a future Palestinian state. In November 2007, Israel's foreign minister and lead negotiator, Tzipi Livni, said before the Annapolis, Maryland peace talks that such a state would "be the national answer to the Palestinians."
The Israeli defiance to international laws still continues. On April 18, 1996, less than three years after the famous handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, Israel bombed a U.N. shelter in Qana, Lebanon, killing over 100 civilians. Israel denied that it knew about the civilians and labeled a U.N. report, which found conclusive evidence that Israel had intentionally killed the civilians in the U.N. base shelter, as "anti-Jewish."
In April of 2002, Israel entered Jenin in a military operation leading to 52 Palestinian deaths. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch charged that Israeli Defense Forces personnel in Jenin had committed war crimes. The April 2002 United Nations visiting mission on Human Rights was refused entry into Israel. A UN fact-finding mission suffered the same fate due to the following conditions set by Israel:
That the UN agrees not to prosecute Israeli soldiers for any violations of international law which might be uncovered during by the mission. And that the mission limits its scope exclusively to events in Jenin.
If Israel is telling the truth – that it did not violate international laws in Jenin, why kick out journalists before entering Jenin and refuse a fact-finding mission afterwards?
In addition, in the summer of 2006, in response to the capture of two soldiers, Israel bombarded Lebanon, killing over 1,000 people and occupying parts of its territory. Mainly civilian infrastructure was destroyed, forcing many to flee as refugees.
Did the negotiations bring an end to the indiscriminate brutality in riots and military campaigns? No. In response to riots, the Israeli reaction has made indiscriminate use of live ammunition, battle tanks, helicopter gunships and even anti-tank missiles against mainly unarmed demonstrators, leading to thousands injured and widespread deaths among Palestinian civilians.
Did the imprisonment of Arabs without charge or trial come to an end? No. There are over 10,000 prisoners, some of whom are women and children. There was a major outrage when two soldiers in combat and uniform were captured by Hezbollah last summer and Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas. What about the Palestinian prisoners?
On July 05, 2006 Arik Diamant, an IDF soldier, wrote an article on Ynetnews titled "Look who's been kidnapped!" There he states:
"Over the 40 years of occupation we have kidnapped thousands of people, exactly like Gilad Shalit was captured: threatened by a gun, beaten mercilessly, with no judge or jury, or witnesses, and without providing the family with any information about the captive. When the Palestinians do this, we call it 'terror.' When we do it, we work overtime to whitewash the atrocity."
The Israeli occupation continues to treat Palestinians as prisoners that must submit in every aspect to Israel the master. For example, almost the entire Palestinian food supply comes either from or through Israel. Electric power and fuel come from Israel. Gazans are technically allowed to import around 9,000 commodities, but under the Israeli siege less than twenty is allowed. Currently, during the siege in Gaza, Israel has denied bottled water, filtering equipment, cement, spare parts for medical equipment, and everything from computers to tissue paper. And out of thirty two renal dialysis machines in hospitals, twelve are out of order and Palestinians have no spare parts to fix them. These are not security measures, but cruelty measures to destroy the will and spirit of the Palestinian people.
Israel claims it is seeking peace. Yet, behind that PR image, Israel is engaged in Arab home demolitions, torture, imprisonment of Arabs without charge or trial, land grabbing and illegal Jewish-only settlements connected to Israel with Jewish-only bypass roads slicing Arab land into Bantustans.
Palestinians are resisting Israel not out of hatred for Jews. The resistance is because Israel was built on massacres, ruins, graves and ethnic cleansing of Arabs. It was built by terrorists and war criminals whom Israelis freely choose as prime ministers, without facing starvation and death like Palestinians did when they elected Hamas.
To the world, Israel withdrew its military forces from Gaza in the Summer of 2005. To the Palestinians, Israel still occupies Gaza but from outside, turning Gaza into an open-air prison.
We hear Israel condemning terrorism, but Palestinians see them openly revere, celebrate and reward Israeli terrorists. An example: In July 2006, Israelis including former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former members of Irgun, a Jewish terrorist group, attended a 60th anniversary celebration, organized by the Menachem Begin Centre, commemorating the bombing of the King David Hotel. How can Israel bash Hamas when Israeli leaders commemorate a terrorist act that killed 92 people?
There is no shrine honoring Osama bin Laden in Saudi Arabia, but there is a shrine honoring Baruch Goldstein, an American-born Israeli physician who committed the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Muslims kneeling in prayer and wounding another 150 in a shooting attack. This shrine is located in an illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank, where thousands come annually to honor his "martyrdom," even from America.
Despite all these years of negotiation, Israel has continued doing what it was doing. First, they blamed Arafat, and now Hamas for the eruption of violence.
The November 2007 talks in Annapolis, Maryland were centered on Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state with secure borders. We must ask: At what price does this security come?
Israel's right to exist cannot come through massacres, deadly force and the humiliation of Arabs. It cannot come through starvation of 1.5 million Gazans unless they accept submission to Israel. It cannot come through the carpet-bombing of civilians in Lebanon. Israel must earn its way for legitimacy and make amends for the history of terror and violence in the region, the numerous massacres and war crimes upon which it was built.
With every surge of violence, as usual Palestinians are contacting all ambassadors, their governments, and the United Nations begging for mercy—but besides lip service, nothing is being done to hold Israel accountable to international law. The humanitarian cry for help and protection is met with indifference. And every negotiation results in a set of "conditions" the Palestinians must fulfill which basically amounts to accepting Israel as master or else. And when Palestinians wrongly take the law into their own hands, every coward finds the self-righteousness to condemn and judge an oppressed people who have been crying for help for decades without justice or relief.
We cannot fight terrorism by turning a blind eye to those in power as they oppress and violate the weak. We cannot fight terrorism by justifying a "shoah," or holocaust against the weak for wrongly resorting to violence to protect themselves. These are actions of cowards and not statesmen who wish to sincerely bring peace to the region.
The solution remaining on the table is to follow the path the whites took in South Africa: first and foremost to destroy the institutionalized racist laws upon which Israel was built. Second, dismantle the apartheid infrastructure, and recognize Arabs as a people with rights to their land, life, liberty and dignity. Create a land where Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others are treated with the same human dignity before the law.