“You’re supposed to know how to read the map,” Ambassador Indyk said. “In the 21st century, the world will not keep tolerating the Israeli occupation. The occupation threatens Israel’s status in the world and threatens Israel as a Jewish state.”
Ambassador Martin Indyk, U.S. special envoy to the U.S. peace talks, was appointed by John Kerry with the prior approval of many of Israel’s American supporters. After the breakdown of negotiations he was identified as the anonymous source in a Yedioth Aharonoth report, which placed primary responsibility for the peace talk failure on Israel.
Opponents of peace between Palestine and Israel would do well to acknowledge that a durable peace is only possible when both sides acknowledge the sovereignty of the other — something the occupying power has yet to do.
In Israel, a democracy — at least for the 80 percent of its citizens that are Jewish — the mostly secular nation envisioned by its founders is being eroded by political forces pushing Israel ever rightward, with religious authorities gaining more power.
In the occupied territories, Israelis are governed by Israeli civil law (although they are not in Israel) while Palestinians are ruled by military law. And that is only the beginning of the differences — land seizures and illegal colonies, separate road systems, access to resources, building permits, land use, etc., are all determined by the occupying power, Israel, and the fear is that it is becoming institutionalized to the extent that it will become an apartheid state ruling over the Palestinians.
And in the occupied territories, pro-settler forces are conspiring not toward peace but toward more seizure of Arab land.
Opponents of peace initiatives which wish to empower Palestinian voices and delegitimize Israeli exploitation of Palestinians in the occupied territories are not speaking of peace — they are speaking of sustaining a political system that advantages one people, Israelis, over another people, non-Israelis, in the occupied territories.
Those are not facts in dispute. The fear is not in dispute.
While I was not surprised to hear from the usual first-responders to my writing, I was surprised how commonly mundane, uninspired and predictable their efforts were — relying on a long-ago rejected mythology of what Israel was, or what Israel aspired to be.
Today, I believe, the aspirations of its founding fathers are not to be found in West Bank colonies of settlers or represented by AIPAC, but are more likely to be found protesting the separation wall dividing Palestinians from their land on the West Bank or protesting the Gaza War at North Church in Portsmouth — in communities of peoples working across lines of faith, gender and national identities to protect the dignity and humanity of all peoples. While I was not surprised to receive responses to my column about the risk of Israel of becoming an apartheid state, I was surprised to notice that the responders had not bothered reading — or at least comprehending — what I had written. The discussion was about the risk to Israel in the future — and about the occupied territories.
The responses were not without amusement: One responder fully copied, without attribution, over 50 percent of his response from a pro-Israel Web site — and passed it along to us as his own effort.
It was also with amusement that I read: “Mingling the concept of apartheid and Israel is either slander or ignorance.” Was the letter writer suggesting that I, along with Kerry, Livni, Olmert, Barak, Bishop Tutu and J Street President Jeremy Ben Ami, was guilty of slander or ignorance when we used “apartheid” in our comments — or was it just me?
I hope not.
If today I were a young passionate supporter of peace, social justice and Israel, I would think that it is time to stop speaking in defense of Israel using the tired tropes of yesterday and think about the reality of what Israel is in danger of becoming if it pursues its current path of eschewing peace for territory, eschewing justice for power.
Israel’s strategic and security interests are real and compelling, and should be acknowledged, but not at the sacrifice of justice or of the Palestinians. It’s time, too, to acknowledge that knowledge of what is happening in the Israel-Palestine theater is no longer limited to whatever Hasbara (Israeli propaganda) the Israeli government, AIPAC and their acolytes wish to dish out.
No, sources of information are much more diverse, from B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights (btselem.org), Breaking the Silence (breakingthesilence.org.il), Israeli soldiers’ testimonies from the occupied territories and from Jewish Voice for Peace (jewishvoiceforpeace.org). It’s time to acknowledge that AIPAC and Sheldon Adelson don’t control the Palestine-Israel path to peace.
When the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations recently voted not to admit J Street to its membership it was a signal to many liberal, forward-thinking supporters of Israel — Jewish and non-Jewish — that the formal American Jewish community was more committed to supporting Israel’s right-wing hawkish government — and the occupation — than it was in reflecting the diversity and passion of supporters of Israel in America.
Each is entitled to an opinion but facts are stubborn things and if America’s interests in the Middle East are to be protected it’s by having an electorate informed by the reality of what is happening on the ground in the Levant, not in a mythology that prioritizes power over justice, land over truth.
Ambassador Martin Indyk said, “There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort’s failure, but people in Israel shouldn’t ignore the bitter truth — the primary sabotage came from the settlements. The Palestinians don’t believe that Israel really intends to let them found a state when, at the same time, it is building settlements on the territory meant for that state. We’re talking about the announcement of 14,000 housing units, no less. Only now, after talks blew up, did we learn that this is also about expropriating land on a large scale. That does not reconcile with the agreement.”
Yes, it’s time for truth telling.
When justice triumphs then peace triumphs.
Postscript: I’ve been under the weather for a bit, leading to a somewhat erratic schedule balancing medical needs, professional obligations and personal time — with my column suffering between them all. Importantly, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Exeter Hospital, its emergency room, my primary care provider and specialists have been outstanding in quality of care, attention and support — and some of them even read my column!
This column appeared originally in the Portsmouth Herald.