Alternative Palestinian Agenda

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Facing up to the facts…
By Christa Bruhn

May 29, 2001

Israel announced that it plans to build over 700 new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. It has been Israel's policy since gaining control of the West Bank and Gaza through the Six Day War of 1967 to establish a Jewish presence there on religious and strategic grounds and most recently due to 'natural growth'. Regardless of the reasons, the goal has consistently been to create 'facts' of a Jewish presence in these areas in order to make it difficult to 'surrender' these territories to the Palestinians for a Palestinian state.

Halting of Israeli settlement construction is one of the recommendations of the Mitchell report released recently in order to encourage a cease-fire and renewed dialog between Palestinians and Israelis in light of the most recent outbreak of violence that began last September in Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, new housing or settlement construction, though provocative, is not the underlying issue in the conflict even though it has been given central importance by both the commission report and as outlined in the recent New York Times op-ed by Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbu.

The Jewish presence in the West Bank and Gaza together with the Palestinian population living in Israel as 'Israeli Arabs' points to a reality that goes beyond the settlements, namely that the land of historic Palestine is now the home of both Israelis and Palestinians. Israelis are largely responsible for creating that fact through the political Zionist movement beginning at the end of the nineteenth century, the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948, and the ongoing confiscation of land to create a Jewish presence throughout 'Eretz Israel.'

But now it's time to face up to the facts and recognize that not only will the Palestinians not simply go away by being absorbed into the Arab World or be content with a Swiss cheese state with cantons of 'autonomy.' Just as the Israelis want to have voice, dignity, and security, so must the human and national rights of the Palestinians be recognized.

One only needs to travel to the area to determine that both of these national groups exist throughout the entire land, which not only makes it nearly impossible to divide, but points to a very different solution than anyone seems to have the courage to discuss. The land must be shared, not divided.

With all due respect to cultural, social, and religious differences among Palestinians and Israelis alike, it is not realistic to work toward a 'solution' that reinforces antagonism between the two sides by putting the needs and rights of one group over another. Just as it was obvious to Rosa Parks that she should have the same right to sit on the bus as whites, the Israelis need to realize that denying half of the population equal rights and voice will only further provoke protest.

The implications for such mutual recognition are great, but the facts that point to that reality simply must be faced. The Palestinians have had to give up their reality of historic Palestine. So must the Israelis understand that there is no such thing as a purely Jewish state in a land inhabited almost equally by Israelis and Palestinians. Such a land can only be shared or further bloodshed will be inevitable. Once the Israelis face up to the facts, a meaningful dialog about how to recognize the national and human rights of both societies can begin.

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