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February 17, 2010

Israeli occupation of Palestinian land not a complex issue

Andrew Smith

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US President Barak Obama and special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, are positively perplexed. This Middle East peacemaker gig really is more challenging than they anticipated. What a complex, thorny issue they have found themselves in.

Palestine 589"Expectations were too high", "We overestimated our ability", President Obama stated in an interview with Time magazine.  Obama explains that "divisions within their societies" made "meaningful conversation...very hard".  Perhaps these "divisions" that seem irreconcilable to the point of negating meaningful dialog point to why this conflict simply won't resolve itself.  Thousands of years of fighting in this Holy Land make a thousand more seem inevitable.  Mr. Obama appears intent on making this conclusion and washing his hands of failure. 

However, there is hope for these crusaders for peace and justice; look at the Israelis, they really seem like a partner for peace through their painful concession in declaring a ten month policy of settlement “restraint”.  This truly is an "unprecedented" move worthy of highest praise from US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

If it weren't for those pesky Palestinians, always willing to throw a wrench in a well-intended push for peace by the Americans and Israelis.  Do they really want peace?  They seem intent on fracturing the olive branch so graciously extended to them by Netanyahu, the compassionate.  What on earth can the Israelis and Americans do to negotiate with a party that seems impossible to pacify?  The Palestinian demands for a complete settlement freeze in all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem surely are infeasible and ungrounded in any form of logic, are they not?

These are difficult questions and difficult times for our "principled" world leaders.  Surely, their brilliance and moral superiority will be their guiding light through these dark times. 

Maybe they will have more luck in persuading Iran to relinquish its pursuit of nuclear technology.  Those sneaky Persians, developing nuclear weapons without permission from the most-high, United States of America.  Let's just forget the fact that Israel has developed a nuclear arsenal covertly, on stolen intelligence from the Americans.  That's old news.  The Persians must obey International Law, and promptly.  Well, we should of course be honest in stating that Iran has every right to develop peaceful, civilian nuclear technology under International Law.  Is there any evidence that they are developing nuclear weapons?  Neither the Americans nor the UN have produced any, to date.  Thus, these allegations seem more like conjecture than charges worthy of pursuit on a world stage.  It is somewhat difficult to invoke International Law based on conjecture - these sorts of legal proceedings typically require solid evidence.  Surely, the Americans must have some military intelligence up their sleeves before they could possibly invoke sanctions and the threat of pre-emptive strike, potentially plunging the world deeper into conflict and suffering.  Well, I suppose if the past is any indication of the future, the invasion of Iraq has taught us otherwise.

The Israelis do seem more amenable to negotiation than those Iranians, don't they?  They have decided to "restrain" settlement on occupied land, and we can simply turn a blind eye to the fact that this policy does not apply to East Jerusalem, also occupied territory.  Wait a minute, there's that "International Law" again.  Aren't these settlements in violation of a few of those, or maybe just one or two?  Are such "Laws" not meant to be applied even-handedly to all those who walk this earth, friend or foe?

We should note that Israel's ten month policy of "settlement restraint" does not include buildings already under construction, schools, infrastructure, and a laundry list of other loopholes allowing Israel to continue building on occupied land.  We must also note that Israel made a tremendous push to start as many construction projects as possible ahead of declaring this window of "restraint".  The net result of this policy and preceding construction surge is that settlement activity will not slow for a split-second, and may even increase during this ten month period.  In reality, the Netanyahu administration's "unprecedented" move is simply another ruse to goad the Palestinians to the negotiating table while devouring their land before their eyes.  Hillary Clinton is effectively praising a nation for a perceived decrease in its rate of violation of international law!

The differences preventing the Israeli and Palestinian camps from returning to the negotiating table are quite simple:  Palestinians insist on a complete settlement freeze throughout all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, while the Israelis insist on continued expansion of their colonies built on occupied land.  These "divisions within their societies", as explained Barak Obama, are simply an insistence that Israel obey International Law, and its refusal to do so.  If we all stand for these laws, isn't the divide between the Israeli regime and us all?  Mr. Obama attempts conceal the obvious answer by issuing statements that play upon popular belief amongst the uninformed, brainwashed masses that this is a "highly complex" issue involving religious and cultural differences that simply cannot be resolved.  This is utter bullshit.

To bring a meaningful, lasting peace to the land of Palestine and Israel, we must simply apply our values and beliefs.  We must assert our laws that are apparently built upon these principles.  We must realize that these values, beliefs and laws are universal by definition, and the rights we defend are for all who walk planet Earth.  We must insist that Israel end its illegal occupation of Palestinian land and grant Palestinian refugees, in numbers exceeding four million, the right of return as is their birthright under the UN Charter.  As requested by the International Court of Justice in its advisory opinion issued on July 9th, 2004, we must insist that Israel dismantle the largest separation wall in the world, which meanders through Palestinian land, snatching their most fertile farming grounds and destroying over 250,000 olive trees to make way for its construction, annexing their largest aquifers, devastating commerce, travel, and its people.  We must demand that Israel and Egypt immediately end their collective punishment of the people of Gaza, which denies its 1.5 million inhabitants the most basic human rights, and is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

There is no debate or discussion required.  Our laws are objective, and Israel's flagrant, daily violations are for all to see.  This is not a complex issue invoking reflection on societal and cultural nuances.  Our politicians are not the enablers of peace; they are the barrier in its path.  They are the perpetrators of war crimes and violators of International Law by proxy through the billions of dollars in funding provided to Israel, enabling continued occupation and military aggression.  Their hypocrisy in invoking International Law on a nation such as Iran, with little or no proof to justify their allegations, while funding the violation of International Law through Israel, is an affront to all we stand for and is eroding the foundation on which modern society is built.

Andrew Smith is an Ontario University graduate, working professional, freelance writer, and activist.

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