A Tale of Two Realities

The relationship between Israel and Palestine is truly a tale of two realities where, over the decades,  people on both sides had their lives prematurely taken from their loved ones. Strong leadership committed to peace and prosperity on both sides for both sides is needed to resolve this dispute as well as the United States leadership returning to the role of Honest Broker instead of its recent overt pro-Israel posture.

On one side you have the Israelis who represent the only vibrant democracy in the region. In this country, everyone, including the Arabs, has equal rights and representation in the Israelis Parliament, the Knesset.

However, the Israelis have a problem trusting their neighbors for good reason. Before it achieved nationhood, its mandate to establish a homeland in Palestine was reduced by roughly two thirds when the British, in the first land for peace deal, called the Palestinian Territories east of the Jordan River Trans Jordan (later just Jordan) and gave it to the Arabs. Not satisfied with two-thirds of the land, the Arabs in the Jewish third of Palestine wanted that too. Giving into Arab protests, the British decided to divide that parcel up in a similar way that they haphazardly partitioned India and Pakistan (whose eastern boundaries would become Bangladesh). This arrangement was doomed to cause future conflict as the future states of Israel and Palestine were born. In the war for independence, Israel, despite the odds, survived increasing its territorial holdings on lands Palestinians abandoned at the leading Arab elites request (thinking they would return after Israel was defeated) or when the Israelis ejected them.  Whatever was left was scooped up by Jordan and Egypt in the occupation nobody seems to remember in the history books. In the later Six Day War in 1967, Israel acquired the remainder of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, Gaza, and the Sinai Peninsula. Israel offered to return all the captured lands in exchange for peace and the Arab countries rejected the overture. Only later when Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979 was the Sinai returned. Gaza was also offered back to Egypt but the Egyptians did not want the headache. Jordan probably felt the same way when it did not insist on the return of the West Bank when it made its peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

So, since its birth 70 years ago, Israel has been attacked by multiple nations three times (1948, 1967, and 1973), been routinely victimized by terrorist attacks, and hit with rockets and militia fire from areas they once occupied (South Lebanon, Gaza, and the ungovernable parts of Sinai). This uncomfortable situation would make any nation insecure about its borders and embrace a leadership (even one with fascist and apartheid overtones) that promises safety by building walls along the West Bank, shoot to kill protestors throwing stones, burning tires, and Molotov Cocktails at border fences, and allow ultra-religious settlers to live in occupied areas where they violently assert themselves on the local population.

On the other side of reality, you have the Palestinians. These people have been sold a bag of goods by Arab elites for close to 100 years. They were told to rise up and then some were thrown out by the Israelis in 1948. Others were told to temporarily leave while the Arab armies threw the Jews into the sea, Instead, they were never able to return and became propaganda tools in refugee camps in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan because that suited the interests of the Arab elites and later the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (who could afford comfortable lives pleading for their cause around the world) who blamed the Israelis for their people’s misfortune. When the prospects for peace were dashed in 1999-2000, Palestinian leadership (Yasser Arafat who many say lacked the will to take the final step to peace) either could not control the terrorist elements in the territories they oversaw or actively supported it. This led to the Second Intifada and more suffering for the Palestinians. Even when Israel left Gaza, Palestinians did not embrace it as an opportunity. Instead, Hamas took it over and instead of bettering the lives of the people, used the territory to launch rockets into Israel. The Palestinian people have been used as pawns by their leaders and have been reduced to being confined on lands that they cannot even call home. They, like the Kurds and other stateless ethnic groups, have a right to the territory they can call home.

The Peace Process has been pretty much dead since 2005. Hamas controls Gaza and the people are suffering. The P.L.O. control the West Bank and while the people are better off there, it is not by a large amount. The Israelis have walled (ghettoed) off the West Bank (the fulfillment of Prime Netanyahu’s father and his Revisionist Parties dreams) and have erected a fence separating Gaza. The Israelis also control the sea traffic going into Gaza to rightfully make sure no weapons are shipped there that can be used against Israel.

At this time, there really are no strong leaders on either side who can promote peace. The current leaders really are either not interested or weak. The people suffering helps keep Hamas in power and Abbas of the P.L.O. is relatively weak and unappealing to the younger populace. The current alt right Israelis leadership, having an Iron Dome, a superior military and intelligence network, see no reason to alter the landscape now, especially since their political survival depends on the support of zealot settlers in the Occupied Territories. The Israelis opposition lack the power right now to effect changes in policy. Today, they even put up with Anti-Semitic American Evangelical Pastors leading the welcoming ceremonies for the opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem. This foolhardy move by the Trump Administration, with Jared and Ivanka celebrating with the Netanyahu’s while Israelis soldiers were shooting at protestors with burning tires and Molotov Cocktails, cost us trust among the Palestinians as no one, especially after our violating, with Netanyahu’s encouragement, the Iran Nuclear Deal, views us as an honest broker.

The sad part is peace is possible that can create better lives and stability for both parties. The ingredients are there. All that is stopping it is intransigence with Palestinians wanting the right of return (not happening and the only ones who remotely deserve monetary compensation are the families of the ones the Israelis threw out in 1948) and Israelis wanting their settlements to stay in the West Bank  (when the time comes, they need to find new homes in the Negev or some other part of Israel like the former settlers in the Sinai and Gaza). Everything else (the status of Jerusalem, final boundaries, and access to holy sites should be easy to resolve: most of these were very close to solutions in 2000). All that is needed is strong leadership on both sides with a commitment to peace and the United States back as an Honest Broker who will champion the interests of both sides. Then we could all embrace the reality of peace.


15 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Realities”

    Jon Schwarz
    May 16 2018, 9:25 a.m.

    ONE OF THE key targets of the “Great March of Return” protests in Gaza, which began six weeks ago and culminated Tuesday, is Israel’s brutal, decade-long blockade of the small territory, which is about the size of Detroit. The siege has caused Gaza’s economy to shrink by one-half, and the United Nations has warned that it will soon render Gaza literally “uninhabitable.”

    …Israel itself claimed that a far less stringent embargo by Egypt in 1967 was a legitimate casus belli for Israel to attack Egypt (which led to Israel seizing control of Gaza and eventually imposing the embargo on it).

    Israel opened fire first during the Six-Day War on June 5, 1967, with an air and land attack on Egypt. But, Israel declared, Egypt had actually started the war several weeks before, when it blockaded the Straits of Tiran, which prevented Israel from shipping goods through the Red Sea.

    But if it were legal for Israel to bomb and invade Egypt in 1967 and then occupy Palestinian land for decades, it logically follows that Palestinians in Gaza have had the right to attack and occupy Israel ever since the Israeli blockade began in 2007. Fair’s fair. This absolutely doesn’t mean that Palestinians should do that, even if they somehow could, which they can’t. But the silent hypocrisy surrounding the issue is bleakly funny — Israel can fire missiles, drop bombs, and seize land when subjected to a blockade, but Palestinians are monsters when they throw rocks and burn tires in response to a much more suffocating siege.

    Israel’s 1967 legal stance can be found in a speech at the U.N. by the country’s then-Foreign Minister Abba Eban. Here’s the key paragraph:

    The blockade is by definition an act of war, imposed and enforced through armed violence. Never in history have blockade and peace existed side by side. From May 24 onward, the questions who started the war or who fired the first shot became momentously irrelevant. There is no difference in civil law between murdering a man by slow strangulation or killing him by a shot in the head. From the moment at which the blockade was imposed, active hostilities had commenced and Israel owed Egypt nothing of her Charter rights. If a foreign power sought to close Odessa or Copenhagen or Marseilles or New York harbor by the use of force, what would happen? Would there be a discussion about who had fired the first shot? Would anyone ask whether aggression had begun?
    Israel initially struck Egypt in 1967, after troop mobilizations and ferocious rhetoric on both sides, plus Egypt’s blockade of the Straits of Tiran. But in reality, the Straits of Tiran issue had had little impact on Israel. Only 5 percent of its trade passed through the straits, and Israel remained free to ship whatever it wanted, including goods that usually passed through the Red Sea, through its ports on the Mediterranean. Moreover, the embargo appears to have been enforced quite lackadaisically.

    In fact, Eban’s heartfelt denunciation of blockades seems far more applicable to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

    In 2006, the Bush administration pressed the Palestinian National Authority to hold elections, but was surprised when Hamas won a majority of seats on the Palestinian Legislative Council. Rather than accept the results of the election, the Bush administration tried to organize a coup by Fatah, America’s clients, to overthrow the Hamas-led government. This backfired spectacularly, leading Hamas to seize control of Gaza, with Fatah holding power in the West Bank.

    During this period, Israel mercilessly tightened its control of Gaza’s borders, at times going so far as to prohibit the import of such goods as nutmeg, fishing rods, and A4 paper. More significantly, restrictions on building materials and fuel made it extremely difficult for Gazans to rebuild after several brutal bombing campaigns by Israel.

    Of course, politics and war have always involved the most glaring double standards imaginable.


  2. MAY 15, 2018
    International Criticism of Israel Mounts as Gaza Death Toll Rises

    JERUSALEM—Israel’s high-tech military is coming under scathing international criticism for its use of live fire that killed scores of Palestinian protesters across a border — even if the protesting Gazans were burning tires, launching fiery kites into Israeli farms and in some cases trying to rip apart a border fence.

    The Israeli army has staunchly defended its actions. It points to the violent history of Gaza’s Hamas rulers, says there have been bombing and shooting attacks against its forces and fears a mass border breach. It also says that in the open terrain of the Gaza border, with troops easily exposed, its military options are limited.

    But with the death toll rising, and hundreds of unarmed people among the casualties, the criticism is mounting.

    Here is a closer look at the debate over Israel’s use of live fire:


    The border protests are aimed largely at breaking a decade-old blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt against Hamas. The blockade, which Israel says is needed to keep Hamas from arming, has decimated Gaza’s economy.

    Since the Hamas-led protests began on March 30, more than 110 Palestinians have been killed and more than 2,500 wounded by live fire, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

    On Monday alone, 59 people were killed and over 1,200 wounded — making it by far the bloodiest day of cross-border violence since a 2014 war between Hamas and Israel.

    The vast majority of the casualties have been unarmed protesters, according to Palestinian officials.


    Monday’s bloodshed triggered widespread criticism from around the world, with many countries, including European allies like Germany and Belgium, accusing Israel of using disproportionate force and calling for independent investigations.

    The U.N. Security Council held a special session that began with a moment of silence for the Palestinians who were killed. In Geneva, the U.N. human rights office said Israel has repeatedly violated international norms by using deadly live fire to repel protesters.

    Office spokesman Rupert Colville said rules under international law “have been ignored again and again” and that lethal force should only be a “last resort.”

    “It seems anyone is liable to be shot dead or injured: women, children, press personnel, first responders, bystanders,” he said.

    In Israel, six human rights groups have asked the Supreme Court to declare as unlawful any regulations that allow soldiers to open fire at unarmed civilians.

    Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah, one of those groups, said soldiers are supposed to use lethal force only if their lives are in immediate danger. He said the large number of people shot far from the border or struck in their upper bodies has raised additional questions about military policies.

    “They are shooting in an arbitrary way for two reasons, to punish and to deter,” he said.


    • Death Toll in Gaza Rises to 61, After Israeli Military Massacres Protesters
      HEADLINE MAY 15, 2018

      The Israeli military killed at least 61 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded 2,700 more for protesting Monday’s opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and the Israeli occupation. Among the victims shot dead by an Israeli sniper was 30-year-old Fadi Abu Salmi, who used a wheelchair and had both his legs amputated. Another victim was 8-month-old Laila al-Ghandour, who died early this morning after inhaling tear gas fired by the Israeli military, including being dropped by drones. Palestinian leaders are accusing the Israeli military of carrying out war crimes during Monday’s crackdown. This is Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.

      Saeb Erekat: “We witnessed today the killing and slaughtering of dozens of our people in the Gaza Strip at the hands of the Israeli army, an act that’s tantamount to a war crime, which we condemn with the strongest possible terms, and urge the international community to move to provide international protection for our people. At the same time, we witnessed the movement of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, which is an act that’s tantamount to putting the cornerstone of a new settlement outpost in the occupied Palestinian land. Moving the embassy, now we have a new settlement outpost called ‘American Embassy.’”

      Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza have launched a general strike today to protest the killings. This is Bethlehem resident Maher Kanawati.

      Maher Kanawati: “Today is a total strike here in Bethlehem for the 70 years Nakba in Palestine. Also, we have a strike today due to the fact that yesterday in Gaza over 52 martyrs and over 2,400 injured in a peaceful demonstration against the move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem.”

      Today’s general strike comes on the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or the Day of Catastrophe, when more than 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee or were expelled from their homes.


    • In Opening Its Embassy in Jerusalem, the US Has Slammed the Door on the Peace Process
      By Mustafa Barghouti MAY 14, 2018
      When he announced the move last November, President Trump broke with the international community and 70 years of official United States policy, which was to hold off recognizing the sovereignty of any country over any part of Jerusalem prior to a peace agreement. In effect, he gave Israel a green light to continue deepening its control over occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem and accelerate its efforts to drive Palestinian Jerusalemites from their homes so that Jewish illegal settlers can live in their place.

      Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will worsen the plight of Palestinians in the city and beyond. More Palestinian families will be evicted from their homes, more Palestinian Jerusalemites will have their residency rights revoked, illegal Jewish-only settlements will continue to expand on Palestinian land, and the majority of Palestinians will continue to be denied entry to Jerusalem, which plays such a central role in Palestinian culture, history, and identity.

      Moving the embassy to Jerusalem won’t make it easier to achieve peace, as Trump has ludicrously asserted. But hopefully it will force a moment of clarification and acknowledgment that the Oslo Accords and the two-state solution are dead, killed by relentless Israeli settlement construction and other unilateral actions designed to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories—especially in and around East Jerusalem.

      Together, Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have bulldozed what remains of the US-sponsored negotiation process that began more than a quarter of a century ago with the signing of the Oslo Accords. It is time for the world to recognize that Israel’s more than 50-year military rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories is not temporary. It is an apartheid regime in which there are two separate and unequal systems of law and governance based on religion.

      To replace this discriminatory regime, we need a new paradigm based on full national and civil equality for all who live in this land—a paradigm in which Israelis and Palestinians can live together in freedom, with justice for all and without any form of discrimination.

      To achieve this, the Palestine Liberation Organization should adopt a new strategy in order to change the balance of power on the ground and help people remain steadfast in the face of Israel’s attempts to remove them. It should strengthen support for the grassroots popular nonviolent resistance that has been taking place on a regular basis in the occupied territories for more than 16 years, and which was used so effectively during the First Intifada. And it should throw its full weight behind the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

      Crucially, we must also heal the debilitating political rift between Fatah and Hamas, which has been so devastating to the Palestinian national struggle over the past decade and more. I have been personally involved in reconciliation efforts and believe they can succeed if there is a will. We will never gain our freedom as long as we are divided.

      Seventy years after the mass expulsion of Palestinians during Israel’s establishment, Palestinians continue to resist Israel’s attempts to dispossess them and to deny our right to return to lands we were driven from. Witness the tremendous enthusiasm for the Gaza Return March over the past month, with thousands upon thousands of participants braving deadly Israeli sniper fire to peacefully demand their rights.

      Despite Israel’s best efforts, we aren’t going anywhere, and we will never accept being slaves under its oppressive military rule. We will continue working for our freedom until we achieve it. In the meantime, I look forward to the day when I can once again travel freely with my daughter to the city where I was born, and which is so close to my heart and to the hearts of all Palestinians.


    • Liza, you and I could of course correct many misstatements in this post, but I think your commentary is more appropriate in response. When we see the “both sides are to blame” rhetoric in the immediate aftermath of horrific loss of Palestine life, what does it say? Even if you assume there is merit to the “both sides” argument, consider the insensitivity of invoking it when Palestinians are suffering grievously. When those three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped then killed in 2014 (by assailants acting entirely on their own), you did not see the “both sides” arguments made. Rather, you saw expressions of outrage and disparagement of Palestinians writ large, with some, one who now is Israel’s Minister of Justice, calling for outright genocide. And you saw collective punishment of the Palestinian people. So it seems that the timing of when the “both sides” people speak out suggests which side they truly are on.

    • MAY 13, 2018
      Killing Gaza

      “Killing Gaza” will be released Tuesday, to coincide with what Palestinians call Nakba Day—“nakba” means catastrophe in Arabic—commemorating the 70th anniversary of the forced removal of some 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 by the Haganah, Jewish paramilitary forces, from their homes in modern-day Israel. The release of the documentary also coincides with the Trump administration’s opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

      Because of Nakba Day and the anger over the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem, this week is expected to be one of the bloodiest of the seven-week-long protest that Palestinians call the “Great Return March.” “Killing Gaza” illustrates why Palestinians, with little left to lose, are rising up by the thousands and risking their lives to return to their ancestral homes—70 percent of those in Gaza are refugees or the descendants of refugees—and be treated like human beings.

      Cohen and Blumenthal, who is the author of the book “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel,” one of the best accounts of modern Israel, began filming the documentary Aug. 15, 2014. Palestinian militias, armed with little more than light weapons, had just faced Israeli tanks, artillery, fighter jets, infantry units and missiles in a 51-day Israeli assault that left 2,314 Palestinians dead and 17,125 injured. Some 500,000 Palestinians were displaced and about 100,000 homes were destroyed or damaged. The 2014 assault, perhaps better described as a massacre, was one of eight massacres that Israel has carried out since 2004 against the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, over half of whom are children. Israel, which refers to these periodic military assaults as “mowing the lawn,” seeks to make existence in Gaza so difficult that mere survival consumes most of the average Palestinian’s time, resources and energy.


    • From 2015, see the map at the link…

      Fact Check: MSNBC’s Palestinian loss of land map
      US Politics Institute for Middle East Understanding on October 22, 2015

      Does the map accurately show the loss of Palestinian land since 1946?

      Yes. The map accurately depicts the land that has been forcibly taken from Palestinians since 1946, two years before Israel was established and the accompanying expulsion of between 750,000 and a million Palestinians to make way for a Jewish state.

      During and immediately following the state’s creation in 1948, Israel expropriated approximately 4,244,776 acres of Palestinian land. In the process, more than 400 Palestinian cities and towns were systematically destroyed by Israeli forces or repopulated with Jews. Most Palestinian population centers, including homes, businesses, houses of worship, and vibrant urban centers, were demolished to prevent the return of their owners, now refugees outside of Israel’s pre-1967 borders or internally displaced within them. (See here for interactive map of Palestinian population centers destroyed during Israel’s creation.)

      Israel’s systematic dispossession of Palestinians is ongoing today, both in the occupied territories and inside Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 borders, where Palestinian citizens of the state and those living under occupation continue to be pushed out of their homes and off their lands – including entire towns – to make way for Jewish citizens and settlers. Today, there are approximately 650,000 Jewish settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Israel’s settlement enterprise covers approximately 42% of the West Bank.


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