THIS WORLD of OURS – April 2010


By Bob Harwood

The Israeli Palestinian Conflict


The Israeli Palestinian Conflict. While in Israel 35 years ago I encountered gunfire on Temple Mount, roadblocks on an excursion into the West Bank, bleak refugee camps in the desert, camps now occupied by third generation Arabs. Endless procrastination in resolving this conflict was a primary cause of 9/11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and nuclear saber rattling in Iran. It continues to fuel terrorism and risks a clash of civilizations in a world where Muslims now outnumber Jews 100:1. Beyond reviewing the history and events as current as still breaking news I offer two more radical proposals.

History: Our collective guilt in failing to prevent the Holocaust in which half of the world’s Jews perished still inhibits objective discussion lest any critique of Israel be deemed “Anti Semitic.” It is the most sensitive topic on which I write. We cannot rewrite history but how most fairlyand realisticallymight this conflict be resolved?

The key elements of a resolution are clear: mutual recognition of two secure and viable states with borders close to those of 1967, limited incorporation of certain Israeli settlements into Israel on condition of acceptable land swaps elsewhere for Palestine, Jerusalem, sacred to both, as a shared capital and a limited right of return to Israel for Arabs expelled in 1948. It will require UN involvement to curb Fundamentalists on all sides and guarantee with an international force if need be the ongoing security of both nations.

Polls in both Israel and Gaza confirm the preferred choice of both peoples is the two-state solution.The 22-day war little more than a year ago with its disproportionate 100:1 Palestinian casualties, many of them children, led to global condemnation, a new low in Israeli PR abroad and the Goldstone report calling for investigation of war crimes. Far greater than the disproportionate Collateral Damage of war periods is Israel’s unending economic strangulation and impoverishment of Palestinians.

What must be done in the immediate future and what are the systemic issues to be addressed beyond that? Provocative preemptive acts must cease. Israel must no longer designate as heritage sites places holy to both faiths. Just as U.S. Vice President Biden arrived to reinitiate Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, Israel flaunted plans to construct 1600 Orthodox Jewish housing units in disputed East Jerusalem. This rightly evoked Palestinian outrage and unanimous condemnation by the UN, USA, EU and Russia. Fundamentalist extremists in whatever country aggravate this dangerous conflict. We must support the moderates who seek a just resolution. Hamas terrorist acts fuel the ultra orthodox extremists in Netanyahu’s coalition government. Israel’s threat of a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear capability fosters the determination of Iran’s Ahmadinjehad and Ayatollah Khamenei to pursue Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Continuing mass protests by more moderate Iranians who oppose the regime have not yet prevailed.

Proposal #1 – As curbing nuclear proliferation and general nuclear disarmament are two major international objectives let me begin there. I urge you to set aside preconceptions to be perfectly objective. Israel is the only country in the region known to have weapons of mass destruction. To give new impetus to resolving all these issues I propose specific, legitimized international intervention to (a) disarm Israel’s mass destruction capability (financed by the USA) and (b) stop Iran going down this path by removing the major concern that each uses as its justifying rationale.

Proposal #2 – Achieving such a radical goal would call for major reform of the United Nations. During my university years in the 1940’s I was privileged to be the Canadian representative on the executive of the Pacific Northwest College Congress on World Affairs at Reed College, Oregon. Our focus at that time was on the newly emerging United Nations. With the looming Cold War we reluctantly accepted the undemocratic but pragmatic necessity of extending a veto power to just five nations, four of whom represent less than 9% of the world’s people!

The archaic obsolescence of that Veto power was demonstrated at the recent Copenhagen climate conference where new voices from developing and third world countries were finally being respectfully heard.

Since 1972 the overwhelming use of the Veto in the UN Security Council has been by the USA to veto any motion to advance resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if it contained any vestige of criticism of its Israeli ally. In our fragile interdependent world that can no longer be tolerated.

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