Dear Editor:

Re: Israelis and Palestinians: Architects of their Own Destruction

As a Peace Magazine subscriber for over 30 years, a retired professional in conflict analysis with a law background, once again I find myself reading Professor Alon Ben-Meir attempting to normalize Israel’s settler-colonial project in Israel-Palestine. His hasbara ought to have no place in Peace Magazine. The very title of his article is a giveaway. He sounds “fair”, as if both sides share responsibility for the ongoing morass. When the brutal 72 year theft of Palestinian land by Israel is framed as a matter of joint responsibility, Zionist ideology behind that framing is hidden. The false paradigm suggests that Palestinians have equal responsibility for their own oppression and resources to end it, if only they had the will.

Ben-Meir’s first line is telling: “As Israel celebrated the 72nd anniversary of its independence, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to simmer”. Nowhere does he mention that this vaunted cause for celebration was a result of a bogus UN process that completely excluded the indigenous Palestinians. Nor does he tell us that before Israel declared itself “independent”, Zionist militias instigated the “Nakba”, a process of ethnic cleansing that continues today. Using the word “conflict” makes it sound like a disagreement resolvable through principled negotiation between parties of equal bargaining power. Highly misleading. Saying that it continues to “simmer” is appalling, showing callous disregard for Palestinian lives.

Consider Gaza: 2 million locked inside, enduring a particularly cruel blockade for 15 years now, borders sealed, forced “on a diet”, infrastructure destroyed by 3 major Israeli onslaughts, no potable water, drowning in their sewage. Palestinian citizens of Israel live under the Nation-State Law, which officially declares Jewish supremacy in Israel; they face systemic discrimination under more than 50 laws. West Bank Palestinians are controlled by Israel, yet have no vote, no freedom to travel, no safety in their own homes, severely restricted access to their own water, ruled by military law, checkpoints, illegal settlements, the obscene Wall everywhere, no ability to keep their children safe from arbitrary arrest and detention. The reality of their suffering is daily and ongoing. Does “simmer” really describe it? And then there’s the Palestinian diaspora, with no ability to return or be recompensed, despite clear entitlement under international law. Yet Israel allows every Jewish person worldwide automatic citizenship upon application.

For Israelis, never-ending occupation is inconvenient, perhaps creating a “simmering” unease. Certainly, Israelis have no real security. There will be no peace without justice for Palestinians.

The author laments the Palestinians “tired old demands”, arguing they must abandon them. Pardon me? Abandon their wish for equality in their own country? Abandon their legal right to reparations for the theft of lands and businesses, for which not a cent has been paid? Abandon their demand for freedom of mobility? For justice under the law rather than subjection to military rule (97% conviction rate)? For an end to apartheid? Palestinians themselves are indeed tired. But they practice “sumud” – steadfastness; they won’t be capitulating anytime soon.

Ben-Meir correctly notes Israeli indoctrination through fear-mongering. (Ironically, it is the Palestinians seen in archival photographs being driven into the sea in 1948.) He also reminds us that Israel funded Hamas to try to weaken the PLO; that Hamas was legitimately, democratically elected in 2006; that Sharon’s motives for exiting Gaza were shockingly duplicitous. In typical settler-colonial fashion, fomenting internal division amongst the colonized, Sharon wanted “to deepen the PA-Hamas rift and rid Israel of the responsibility… “(p.24).

He then blames Palestinians for 4 failures to reach a peace agreement, beginning with their rejection of the UN Partition Plan. What right-minded people would agree to be deprived of 55% of their own territory? It is well-documented that Ben Gurion agreed to the Partition Plan, privately intending it to be a “beginning” (letter to his son, 5 October, 1937) of an Israeli push for more territory. Other “repeated missed opportunities” ignore the false equivalence at the negotiating table, with the biased US posing as an “honest broker”. Nor do we hear about the over 660,000 Jewish Israeli settlers in occupied Palestinian Territory, for whom Israel demanded a land swap. Many commentators have pointed out that these purported land swaps would relegate the West Bank to a series of Bantustans, surrounded by illegal settlements. Should Palestinians be blamed for refusing such demands? As Israeli writer Jonathan Ofir says: “For Israel, ‘peace’ has always meant avoiding Palestinian statehood and marginalizing Palestinians” (Mondoweiss, 18 August, 2020).

Of course Israel “should not annex any more Palestinian land”. In truth, Israel has accomplished de facto annexation of most of the West Bank. De jure annexation would change little except require Israel to either become a democracy for all its people, or publicly accede to its de facto existence as an apartheid state.

Ben-Meir laments the “terrible cost that Israel must bear to maintain security”. This is grossly misleading as to who is paying the price for the relentless Israeli occupation. He decries “Hamas’s continuing threats that unsettle many Israelis.” I wonder how unsettled Gazans are after the intentional maiming of over 15,000 and killing of hundreds by IDF sniper teams – unarmed paramedics, ambulance drivers, women and youth, journalists – during their weekly non-violent “Great March of Return” protests these last two years? The disparity in suffering is monumental; Ben-Meir’s even-handed writing is disingenuous.

One of Ben-Meir’s key omissions is his failure to acknowledge that it is not Israel that is so vehemently opposed by Palestinians; it is Israel as a Jewish supremacist State. Why in this post-colonial era would the indigenous people of a democracy consent to permanent status as 2nd class citizens? Palestinians want equality, justice and freedom. Israeli Zionists want as much land as possible with as few Palestinians as possible, for a Jewish supremacy state. Sadly, Israel already IS “a pariah state that lives by the gun” (p.25). The writing’s on the Wall, as it were, because, as Palestinians say: “Our existence is our resistance”. That will continue.

Sally Campbell