PALESTINIANS GAINING HIGHER MORAL GROUND

The Palestinians are gaining the higher moral ground. They do have the right of return if the political systems in both Europe and the U.S. are used as the measure.

In an article by H. Sacher, published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1919, under the title “A Jewish Palestine,” the author, a Jewish Historian, argued in support of the founding of a Jewish State, and envisaged a harmonious and peaceful society in which all live together well. Jewish Palestine, he insisted, “will do justice between all the nationalities within its borders. It will establish the equality of men and men, and work toward democracy, political and economic. It will be one of the pillars of the League of Nations, and by its relationship to all the scattered communities of Israel, it will forge powerful links for the brotherhood of the peoples. In the Near East and the Middle East, it will strive to replace the broken tyranny of the Turk by a harmonious cooperation between Jew, Arab, and Armenian.”

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Sacher’s vision of Israel that “will do justice between all the nationalities within its borders,” has faded away. Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza are deprived of their basic human rights, and subjected to a set of standards that is far removed from the ones administered in the Israeli settlements. The Israeli government applies Israeli law to the settlers and the settlements, practically annexing them to the State of Israel. The Separation Wall serves as an instrument for such annexation. The resulting system is a regime of legalized separation and discrimination. “This regime is based on the existence of two separate legal systems in the same territory, with the rights of individuals being determined by their nationality.” Palestinians who apply for building permits are often turned down, and when they build their houses without building permits they are demolished by the Israeli Civil Administration, even when the construction is done on private land.

The Israeli Civil Administration facilitates, on the other hand, the construction of Jewish settlements and bypass roads, even when these encircle Palestinian towns and villages, and make movement in the West Bank extremely difficult. In the last eight years, the numerous checkpoints that were constructed in the West Bank (and Gaza until the Israelis' unilateral withdrawal) have made the life of Palestinians miserable, and destroyed the already weak Palestinian economy.

The squeeze policy adopted by the Israeli government against Palestinians did not stop at denying permits for new housing, but extends to confiscation of Palestinian land. The construction of what Israel calls a Security Barrier, and what its critics refer to as the Apartheid Wall, is being used to confiscate Palestinian lands, and has often resulted in separating families, and occasionally making commuting between Palestinian localities extremely difficult, if not impossible.

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During Dec. 2003, then Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Nahum Barnea of “Yediot Aharonot,” “Israel will soon need to make a strategic recognition . . . We are nearing the point where more and more Palestinians will say: ‘We’re persuaded. We agree with [right-wing politician Avigdor] Lieberman. There isn’t room for two states between the Jordan and the sea. All we want is the right to vote.’ On the day they reach that point,” said Olmert, “we lose everything. . . . I quake to think that leading the fight against us will be liberal Jewish groups that led the fight against apartheid in South Africa.” Now serving as Israel’s prime minister, he repeated his concerns, albeit in more ambiguous language, upon his return from the Annapolis Conference by telling “Haaretz” (28 Nov. 2007) that “the State of Israel cannot endure unless a Palestinian state comes into being.”

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... In a special meeting with the UN Security Council in Geneva in September 1988, Arafat produced a document that “proved” Israel’s expansionist goals: "This document is a ‘map of Greater Israel' which is inscribed on this Israeli coin, the 10-agora piece." Describing Israel’s boundaries as they appeared on that map, Arafat stressed that they include "all of Palestine, all of Lebanon, all of Jordan, half of Syria, two-thirds of Iraq, one-third of Saudi Arabia as far as holy Medina, and half of Sinai." (Middle East Quarterly, March 1994).

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"[T]hese days it is not right but might which prevails,” noted David Ben-Gurion. “It is more important to have force than justice on one's side," he added. He went on to say that in a period of "power politics, the powers become hard of hearing, and respond only to the roar of cannons. And the Jews in the Diaspora have no cannons." (Shabtai Teveth, p. 191).

Europe has already turned the page on its nationalist politics and colonial ambitions, while the Middle East is still engulfed in destructive wars rooted in religious differences and national aspirations. Furthermore, the appeal to religion for establishing political structures has inspired other actors to privilege religious affiliation over a system of rights and law. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if not quickly resolved, threatens to galvanize the world along religious lines and transform itself into a global conflict.

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There is little debate on the reality and consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jimmy Carter pointed out in his recent book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, that the political debate about the policies of the Israeli government is much more open and lively in Israel than it is in the US. “There are constant and vehement political and media debates in Israel concerning its policies in the West Bank,” Carter claimed, “but because of powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the U.S., Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned, voices from Jerusalem dominate our media, and most American citizens are unaware of circumstances in the occupied territories.”

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The solution to the conflict must not be based on Jewish, Christian, or Muslim prophecies that would only inflame hate and mistrust among the followers of the three religious traditions. It should, rather, be based on the prophetic principles cherished by the three religious traditions. It must be based on the shared commitment to the sanctity of human life, and the universally accepted principles of equal dignity, freedom of religion, democracy, and the rule of law.

Will prophetic principles triumph over self-styled and self-fulfilled prophecies? I do not know the answer, but I do not believe it is preordained as the fundamentalists of the three religions would like us to believe. I do, rather, believe that the answer to the question hinges on the actions of the members of the three communities. I do hope that people of reason and deep faith privilege the clear principles demanded by their religions and international conventions over vague prophecies interpreted by fallible and rationally limited and emotionally charged human beings.

Dr. Louay Safi serves as the executive director of ISNA Leadership Development Center, an Indiana based organization dedicated to enhancing leadership qualities and skills. He writes and lectures on issues relating to Islam and the West, democracy, human rights, leadership, and world peace. His commentaries are available at .

Source: "ELUSIVE PEACE: 60 Years of Pain and Suffering: Will Prophetic Principles Triumph over Prophecies?" and here, by Louay Safi. Online Journal. April 28, 2008. Insight.

Dr. Safi did use the term "fundamentalists" in regards to Christianity.

The real prophecy of Christianity is not as expressed by the militant dominionists at all. It is entirely non-coercive. It is entirely peaceful on the part of Christians, by definition.

Jesus didn't come to bring peace but division and to save the world. He came to highlight the stark differences between those who are causing all the trouble (the greedy, violent, and sexually depraved) and the rest of humanity who hear his voice and know he is telling the truth.

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  • Tom Usher

    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.
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