Acknowledgement is the First Key to Mid-East Peace

A disturbing Israeli habit has poked its ugly head yet again. Since its inception in Palestine almost 53 years ago, Israelis have blamed Palestinians for its illegal and/or illogical actions. Palestinian refugees are blamed for their forced exodus and are disdained. Palestinian parents are blamed when their children are killed by IDF live ammo during demonstrations. Palestinians are now being blamed for the Israeli siege of Palestinian lands, even though the US and world has condemned this form of collective punishment.

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shimon Peres, who has joined Ariel Sharon’s government, has also defended the blockade that has affected ordinary Palestinians — despite originally saying that the blockade must be re-assessed. The towns in Palestinian territories have essentially become camps. The Israelis have built anti-tank trenches around numerous towns and people are unable to travel. Emergency health situations are ignored at Israeli checkpoints. Consider the little girl whose appendix burst and died because Israeli soldiers would not allow her father to get through and take her to a hospital. It is reported that Palestinians are now living on less than $2 per day. A catastrophe is happening.

But according to the Israelis, the Palestinians are the ones to blame. After all, they launched the Intifada é the uprising against Israeli occupation. God forbid that Palestinians want to be free.

There is a saying that Palestinians are epitomizing, and which the Israeli government is unable to fathom. “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” ~ Emiliano Zapata (1879 – 1919) Many thought the Oslo Accords would lead to the sort of dignity that Palestinians have craved and deserve.

However, since 1993, illegal Israeli settlements have been built at a record pace, Palestinian homes demolished (more than 2000), Palestinian land confiscated, and the daily harassment of Palestinian laborers who crossed into Israel for their jobs has continued. Despite a ban on the use of torture by Israel’s High Court, the torture has continued as a result of loopholes in the law. Interestingly, Sharon has now suggested that torture be officially brought back on the books. Note that Israel ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 1991 and an Israeli statute prohibits the use of torture to extract confessions.

Military checkpoints remained between every major Palestinian urban center and freedom to travel was not the norm throughout the peace process.

While the Palestinian leadership effectively recognized Israel’s right to exist on 78% of what was Palestine, the Israelis have never even recognized the Palestinians’ right to self-determination — a right guaranteed to every human being under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [December, 1948].

But the Palestinians are to blame for the collapse of the peace process, according to Israelis. And Palestinians are blamed for not accepting Barak’s “generous” offer though there would no right of return for refugees, no return to 1967 borders, no workable compromise on Jerusalem, and 80% of Israeli settlements remain. All of these issues are addressed under international laws and Palestinians wanted and want what was due to them under the law.

The Israeli government has carried out all of the above. The humiliation has continued. Yet, it is Palestinian textbooks that are blamed for Palestinian resentment and rage. As if any human being needs to be taught rage at antics designed to re-instill powerlessness.

The psychology behind the antics themselves sadly appear to be instilled in many Israelis. Several days ago, the new Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi remarked only hours before being sworn in, “We must find the [Palestinians’] weak, painful spots and press them until they come to us on all fours begging for a cease-fire.”

During the recent Purim celebrations, Palestinians were subjected to watching several Israeli settler children dressed as Baruch Goldstein, the doctor who massacred 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers in 1994 while praying in a Hebron mosque. Can one imagine the repulsion and hatred that Jews would feel if Palestinian children were dressed as Nazi SS guards?

A day after these celebrations, one settler was quoted as saying the siege on the Palestinian territories was necessary to send Palestinians into submission. Submission? Do Israelis who believe as Ze’evi and this settler think that oppressing people will result in roses thrown at their feet?

The region is on the brink of an abyss and what is startling is that Israel continues to play the blame game. It is always the fault of the Palestinians. It is difficult to believe that there will ever be peace. It is not because both peoples aren’t sick of conflict and war. Rather, acknowledgement is generally the first step to reconciliation. Until Israelis are ready to look in the mirror and begin the process of acknowledgement, more bloodshed will continue.

Hasn’t there been enough?

Sherri Muzher is a Freelance writer for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and Former Executive Director of the Council for Palestinian Restitution and Repatriation.

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