Key to Mideast peace is for Israel to end occupation of West Bank

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When the Israelites departed from Egypt, they journeyed across the Sinai desert to the land of Canaan, the current Palestine/Israel. There, they found a thriving agricultural society, steeped in tradition of hospitality.

The Canaanites welcomed the new arrivals as they had welcomed many other peoples before them. Years later, after the Israelites had settled in the land of the Canaanites, the Romans invaded and settled that region. The Jewish segment of the population rebelled against the Romans and were expelled. The Romans, and their successors, the Byzantines, continued their rule over the non-Jewish population for many centuries until the arrival of the Muslims to that part of the world.

Clearly, the Israelites had not reached a barren land without people, as present day Israelis like us to believe. Indeed, the Bible and other historical records mention the land of the Canaanites as an ethnic mosaic of many peoples. The Palestinians and the Middle Eastern Jews are the descendants of the people who inhabited the land of the Canaanites. However, the current Israeli population consists of European, American, Russian, and other nationalities with no roots in the Middle East, let alone Israel. Many of those immigrants are recent converts to Judaism, for example, the Russian Jewry.

When the British and the French assumed control of the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the British sought to facilitate a Jewish state in Palestine with the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It also promised the Arab states their independence from the Turks, but Arabs expressed outrage at the thought of giving away Palestinian land that was not for the British to give, and the Balfour declaration was subsequently annulled. Following the allies’ victory in the World War II, the British government was assigned responsibility to administer Palestine. Jews fleeing Europe clamored to Palestine. They were initially welcomed by the Palestinians until the newcomers began exhibiting hostile intentions toward the indigenous population — land confiscation and acts of terror designed to drive the Palestinians away.

British rulers of Palestine felt frustrated at the behavior of the new arrivals and handed the reigns of governing to the United Nations, which was then becoming increasingly influenced by the emergence of the United States as a superpower. Zionist organizations, sensing the power shift, redirected their attention from the British to the Americans. Their political skills and financial resources were mobilized to extract support of the Americans to a partition plan of Palestine.

President Harry Truman approved the partition plan and exerted pressure on smaller nations to support it. The plan called for the creation of both Jewish and Palestinian states, granting 56 percent of land to the Jewish state and 44 percent to the Palestinian state, even though the Palestinians outnumbered Jews by 2 to 1, and owned most of the land, despite the influx of Jewish immigrants. The Palestinians naturally rejected the idea and tried in vain to hold on to their properties in the face of violent and heavily armed Jewish gangs. A few Arab volunteers came to aid the Palestinians, but they lacked the training and the equipment of their opponents. By the time the dust settled, the new Jewish state expanded its territory to 77 percent of the total area.

Following the 1967 war, Israel launched a surprise attack against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and occupied the Sinai desert of Egypt, the Golan Heights of Syria, and what remained of free Palestine. In 1973, Egypt and Syria countered Israel’s surprise attack of 1967 with one of their own. The Syrian and Egyptian armies were initially successful, but Israel counter-attacked and regained control of the occupied land. Following the peace treaty with Egypt, Israel relinquished its occupation of the Sinai desert, but has remained entrenched in the Golan Heights and the West Bank and Gaza since 1967.

Numerous UN resolutions were passed to end the occupation, but Israel, supported by the United States, has evaded them all. The latest Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians calls for Israel to relinquish its control of the West Bank and Gaza and to cease illegal buildings and expansions. Neither the occupation nor the building have ceased, as the number of Jewish settlers has doubled and number of settlements has also increased. Seeing no peaceful prospects to ending Israel’s brutal occupation, the Palestinians took to the streets about 11 months ago in an uprising to regain their freedom.

The American media blame the Palestinians for the violence, ignoring the environment and conditions that lead Palestinian youth to suicidal despair. Peace in the Middle East is simple to achieve, it is as simple as ending Israel’s dehumanizing and illegal occupation.

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