Archive for the ‘PALESTINE’ Category

What do we want?

In PALESTINE on October 22, 2010 at 21:25

My soul burns for a sovereign Palestinian State. No such thing has ever existed before. We have always been a territory, up for grabs by the strongest fist, whether Turks, British, Jordanians or Israelis.

Our need for independence is so strong, so deeply embedded that we are willing to sacrifice anything. Pay any price. Fight to our last drop of blood.

But do we know what we are fighting for?

We have suffered for more than half a century, only to fill Israeli prisons and Palestinian cemeteries.

What if tomorrow’s headlines announced the establishment of the independent State of Palestine, recognized by the entire global community?

What would it look like? Do we even know? Cuba maybe?

New Castro, Same Cuba, a new report from Human Rights Watch, notes that under Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, Cuba continues to harass and imprison dissidents. The criminal code punishes “dangerousness,” which punishes such crimes as handing out the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or any behavior deemed contrary to “socialist morality.” Posted by Lloyd Billingsley on Nov 25th, 2009 and filed under FrontPage.

Like Palestinians, the Cuban people fought for decades to gain independence from Spain. They succeeded in the Treaty of Paris. Since 1902, however, the independent Republic of Cuba has been ripped apart by one revolution after another. In 1959, the people cheered when Fidel Castro seized control. But all he has accomplished is to make Cuba an international pariah and a prison of more than 11 million people. Every year, for the past 20 years, the UN Human Rights Commission has received resolutions condemning Cuba’s egregious human rights record.

I do not think we want to model ourselves on Cuba, ruled like China and Vietnam by doctrines to which everything and everyone must conform.

Nor do I believe that we want a Palestinian version of North Korea or Sudan, ruled by tyrants who govern by force and fear.

What’s left? Absolute monarchy like Saudi Arabia? A theocracy like Iran?

Led by Hamas, Palestine would be an Islamic state, oppressed by religious leaders ruthlessly wielding sharia law. Led by Fatah, Palestine would be a corrupt nation like Romania, structured on bribes.

What about democracy? Democracy has proved throughout the ages to provide a firm and stable foundation. If the building topples, the foundation remains. What and how we build upon that foundation, however, is determined by our choices. While I love the freedoms and opportunities of America, I see that it has made moral, economic and political choices in recent decades that threaten its continuation as a world leader.

Sadly, because of the mistakes and excesses of many Western democracies, we refuse to consider a democratic Palestine. The word itself carries too much negative baggage.

But democracy does not mean America or Israel. It means “government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.” It means you and I decide what we want a national homeland to be and how to build it. It means excising corruption with ballots instead of bullets. It means creating a binding constitution and a just judicial system. It means human rights over personal agendas. It means active, constructive membership in the global community, instead of continuing as an unproductive, non-contributing people group trapped in a hopeless struggle for we don’t know what.

We have become like a hunter in the forest, driven nearly mad by hunger. But he has never seen a deer and does not know what one looks like. So he shoots at rocks and trees, up in the air and into the wind. Finally, he starves to death in a wood filled with game. We have isolated ourselves from all of the opportunities the world offers to us and our children. We don’t know what a Palestinian State would look like. We don’t know how to join the international community. We have let ourselves be defined by what we call our cause.

But if we don’t know our endgame, why are we willing to pay such a heavy price?

What would happen if we stopped fighting?

Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton, and Yasser Arafat at the Oslo Accords signing ceremony on 13 September 1993

Is there not one Palestinian with wisdom, love for our people and courage to sit across the table from the Israelis? Is there no hope of redeeming the Oslo offers? Do we still not see the stupidity of demanding all or nothing?

And once we became autonomous, is there no one among us with wisdom, love for our people and humility to ask thriving, successful democracies to show us how to build our own democracy? To show us how to avoid making the mistakes they’ve made?

If we stop fighting and start building, won’t the world be amazed?

Won’t the World Bank and International Monetary Fund provide us with enough resources to build a modern infrastructure and establish global commerce when they see that we have replaced our corrupt leaders with men and women of integrity, compassion and vision? Men and women who respect justice and human rights?

When they see what we can accomplish peacefully and creatively, won’t the global community demand that Israel withdraw its settlers and restore our land?

When we develop our land, won’t we be able to offer our refugees the right of return, as Israel offered it to Jews in the Diaspora?

And when we are a sovereign nation, won’t Israel be forced to empty its prisons of thousands of Palestinian sons, fathers and daughters and send them home?

Today, a Palestinian mother is honored if her husband or son is arrested and tortured or dies a martyr. Don’t our daughters, wives and mothers deserve better? Don’t our children deserve opportunities to become all they can—not terrorists and martyrs and victims of oppression, but men and women recognized by the world for their accomplishments in science, education, art, philosophy and industry?

Aren’t we tired of being a cause in the Middle East instead of an example?

Palestinian creativity has been channeled into digging tunnels, forming terrorist cells and planning attacks. We don’t have creative ideas because we are prisoners of a single destructive thought. What if we broke out of that suicidal mindset, stopped fighting for we don’t know what and unleashed our creativity?

Generation after generation dreams the same dream: drive out the Israelis, kill the Israelis, destroy Israel. We cannot see beyond our borders because we are blinded by our pain and hatred.

I am not saying that we can or should excuse the bloodshed, atrocities, assassinations, imprisonments and torture, theft and loss. I am saying that we need to move beyond it. We need to rise above it like a plane climbing through a deadly thunderstorm into the clear, open sky.

When will we stop dreaming the impossible dream and start dreaming of limitless possibilities? When will we stop targeting settlers, buses, schools and pizza parlors and target constructive goals as a nation, communities and families?

We can lift our hands in victory over a land charred by fire and soaked in Palestinian blood, or we can have jobs and industry, income and prosperity, health and education, freedom to travel anywhere in the world, whenever we want.

We can have leaders imposed on us or elected—and, if necessary, replaced—by us. We can have a Palestinian State that oppresses its people as the Israelis have during the occupation or a country with no limits on what we can achieve, how much we can accomplish or how big of a footprint we leave behind.

When will we begin fighting with our brains instead of our bombs? With reason instead of retaliation?

Even a two-year-old child can destroy. Only men and women of wisdom, vision and courage can build a nation.

Will Palestinian Statehood Bring Peace?

In PALESTINE on April 27, 2010 at 04:02

This is a big question and not an easy one to answer.

I long for an independent state as much as any Palestinian. But a two-state solution is like the quest for the Holy Grail, the golden fleece or King Solomon’s mines. It is highly unlikely, if not impossible.

To understand this, a brief history review might be helpful:

  • The 1993 Oslo Accords offered Palestinians self-government. They established the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the governing body, under the leadership of PLO chief Yassir Arafat and represented primarily by Fatah, its largest faction. In addition, Israel agreed to a phased withdrawal of its settlements from the West Bank and Gaza.
  • The United States and other foreign governments financed, trained, armed and equipped the PA, whose mandate was to secure and maintain peace in the territories. Arafat accomplished this by systematically imprisoning, torturing, and/or killing nearly every member of Hamas. The rest went underground. And by the end of 1996, Hamas was all but dead.
  • But peace negotiations broke down, and Israel and the PA were at each other’s throats. So Arafat resurrected Hamas to spearhead the Second, or Al-Aqsa, Intifada. He was the Puppet Master, fighting Israel safely from backstage. He got others to light the fuse, then accused them of blocking the road to Middle East peace. It seemed like a win-win plan.
  • It wasn’t. Hamas was in its element on the Palestinian streets, and it had a score to settle with the PA. In those days, Hamas was still a small organization—a handful of underground cells, executing suicide attacks and launching missiles. But that would change radically.
  • In January 2006, when the time came to elect members to the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hamas decided to run. It won—74 seats to Fatah’s 45—and expected to rule. But how? Hamas was on the list of terrorist organizations throughout the world. And those nations refused to recognize its political legitimacy.
  • Historically, Hamas had always refused to negotiate with Israel or compromise with the international community. Its single-item agenda was the obliteration of Israel. Not surprisingly, the PA refused to let Hamas run the government. The inevitable clash of ideologies came the following summer in a bloody two-day coup.
  • When the dust settled, Hamas was in total control of Gaza. That’s because the PA, a more visible target than the ghostlike Hamas, had become weakened, its infrastructure nearly destroyed, by its clashes with Israel during the second intifada. Hamas took advantage of the collapse of peace negotiations to secretly smuggle in huge caches of weapons through tunnels from Egypt and build an army bigger, better armed, more highly motivated and better organized than the PA. The PA didn’t see it coming. Neither did Israel, even though I had warned the Shin Bet a year earlier that Hamas was planning a coup. Based on information gleaned from my father and his conversations with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, I had prepared a report. The Shin Bet took it seriously and passed it up the political chain of command all the way to Prime Minister Olmert’s office—where it was summarily ignored.

An independent Palestinian state is not a viable solution to peace in Israel or in the Middle East if for no other reason than that the Palestinian people are irreconcilably divided.

The Palestinians who live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are under PA control. To make certain that Hamas does not get control of the West Bank, the PA and Israel are now working together to crush the movement there—arresting and imprisoning Hamas members, raiding their strongholds and confiscating their weapons.

Palestinians living in Gaza, on the other hand, are controlled by Hamas, which is doing to Fatah in Gaza what the PA is doing to Hamas in the West Bank.

Further complicating the politics and logistics of the West Bank are more than 200 Israeli settlements and outposts and the half million armed Israelis who occupy these posh fortresses. In 2005, Israel evicted 10,000 settlers from Gaza, nearly triggering a civil war. Israel certainly does not want to face a problem fifty times greater in the West Bank. Quite to the contrary, it seems determined to build 900 new housing units for Israelis in Palestinian East Jerusalem. In addition, right after Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas began to launch missile strikes. Gaza is a little 139-square-mile piece of southern real estate bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt and Israel’s Negev Desert. How much more damage could be done to Israeli cities from the West Bank, an area about the size of Delaware, within easy range of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other congested population centers!

These two Palestinian territories today are as unalike as East and West Germany during the Cold War, without the advantage of having once been an independent state. They have hostile governments (Hamas has not forgotten that the PA once imprisoned and tortured its members). Opposing armies with personal grudges to settle. Irreconcilable belief systems (Islam vs. secular). Divergent agendas (compromise vs. conquest).

So let’s say that Israel tomorrow decides to give the Palestinians their own state. Which state will it be? The state of Gaza or the West Bank?  Who should Israel, America and the international community negotiate with? The corrupt PA government or the fanatical Hamas government? If with the PA, what about the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza? If with Hamas, what about the 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank? And what would happen to Israeli security with open borders and the strong likelihood that Hamas would use the situation to bring in more weapons and missiles?

There can be no real, lasting solution until there is a real and lasting peace. And that will never happen as long as Islam is part of the equation.

To Hamas, Islamic Jihad and more than 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, the land called Israel today is an Islamic waqf, “an inalienable religious endowment.” It is a trust. Its owner is Allah himself. It cannot be bargained away or be allowed to be conquered by infidels. A waqf is nonnegotiable. And compromise is not part of the Muslim lexicon.

Declaring an independent Palestinian State may bring a temporary truce, but there can never be peace as long as there is Islam.

A diplomatic solution like statehood is too broad a brushstroke to bring peace. So are military and economic solutions. Because the problem is not political, cultural, or economic. And it’s not a logistical problem. Israel’s wall will not protect it from Palestinian suicide bombers any more than China’s wall protected it from the Mongols.

Let’s go even further. Let’s say that a miracle happens and the PA and Hamas become unified, and other insurmountable obstacles are surmounted. Will this bring peace to the Middle East?

Not as far as 1.6 billion Muslims are concerned. Not only is the land of Israel itself an Islamic trust, but it is also home to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third most holy site after Mecca and Medina, as well as many other holy sites, including the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron where tradition holds that Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekeh, Jacob and Leah and Joseph are buried. The global Muslim community will never rest until it regains control over these sites.

The so-called “Palestinian Problem” is first of all a theological problem but ultimately an individual problem.

It is a theological problem because the god of the Qur’an demands nothing short of an Islamic world and the death or subjugation of every infidel (non-Muslim). It is a theological problem because the god of the Qur’an claims sole ownership of Israel and considers its Jewish inhabitants to be “pigs” and “monkeys.”

The biggest obstacle to the peace process was when Palestinians allowed their cause to be Islamized. And until Islam is removed from the equation, the problem will remain an unassailable Gordian Knot. Non-Muslim Palestinians need to stop fighting Israel and put their efforts into an aggressive campaign to expose the lies of Islam, thereby neutralizing the Islamic factions.

It is also an individual problem—not only in the Middle East but throughout the world—because every Palestinian, every Jew, every atheist, every Christian must decide for himself whether he will love and forgive or hate and avenge. The former will result in peace and life; the latter can result only in violence and death.

I realize that this too is not an easy solution. Just look in the Bible or a history book to see what love and forgiveness cost Jesus Christ. Anyone can hate and kill. But love and forgiveness are the stuff of heroes.

Of what value is a violent, vengeful, arrogant Palestine or a violent, vengeful, arrogant Israel? If one ultimately conquers the other, the net result is a graveyard.

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