December 22, 2007

No puppets, no peace

To the editor, The Hardwick (Vt.) Gazette:

Bruce Shields (Letters, Dec. 12) reveals the official Israeli/U.S. disdain for peace by repeating the complaint that it's the Palestinians who don't want peace. And what is the evidence for that complaint? It is the Palestinian desire for an end to Israeli occupation, for an independent state, and for some small measure of justice for the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and farms when Israel was established as an exclusively Jewish homeland -- outcomes Israel openly scorns.

Shields notes that other countries use the Palestinian refugees as pawns against Israel, but that does not erase the fact that Israel made them refugees in the first place and considers their return to be an impossibility. Their rage and frustration are not surprising, as the world -- especially Israel's sponsor, the U.S. -- has ignored their plight for 60 years.

Shields answers antisemitism and antizionism with an even more virulent antiarabism. The Israelis may want a solution to "the problem", but the Palestinians have learned that such plans do not mean freedom from Israeli control, let alone justice.

When Jordan ceded the West Bank for a future Palestinian state, Israel only expanded their occupation, rushing "settlers" in to establish outposts throughout, which require ever-expanding "security" buffers, taking more and more land -- olive trees, pastures, farm fields -- from the Palestinians. The roads to these outposts also need "protection" from the people through whose land they cut. Thus Israel has systematically divided and laid claim to much of the West Bank -- violating international law with de facto encouragement from the U.S.

As for Hamas, the Israeli government initially aided their rise to undermine Yasser Arafat -- because Arafat was becoming a credible "partner for peace". Similarly, Ariel Sharon sparked the latest intifada by an essentially military invasion of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and rode the ensuing wave of violence to power. It was an Israeli Jew who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin for making sincere moves toward peace with Syria. Arafat's associate Mahmoud Abbas long argued against the use of violence as counterproductive. Now that he is leader of the Palestinian Authority and has tried to control Hamas, Shields only emphasizes the worst aspects of another organization -- Hamas -- to dismiss an entire people.

Many Palestinians, along with their Arab neighbors, can indeed be blamed for perpetuating violence and sabotaging their own people's hopes. So can Israel.

The Jewish experience of persecution should make the Israeli government more sensitive to the abuses of power, but instead it seems the Palestinians have been made to pay for all history's violence against Jews.

In criticizing Peter Schumann for sharing his art with the besieged people of Ramallah and David Rodgers for reporting Schumann's account of his visit (which Shields did not attend), Shields relies on the same prejudiced intolerance he lays at the door of the "Arabs". It explains a lot of why peace is so elusive in that region.

human rights, Vermont