Two weeks ago, an article in The Daily (“Why we must learn to hug the Jewish state,” Commentary, October 7, page 10) discussed how the Israeli government and Israeli society have been struggling for “peaceful and normal existence” since the founding of the state. It retells the history of 1948, when the State of Israel was founded, and it claims that the Arab states immediately saw Israel “as a demon in their midst” and “desired to eradicate it from the world map.” The article also mentions the recent peace talk attempts at Camp David and in Oslo.
The author states that Israel was optimistic and ready for peace, and that it was the inflexibility of the Palestinians that prevented a peaceful resolution. The article encourages readers to feel sympathy for the Jewish state (and to give it a hug) because its many genuine attempts at peace were thwarted by the Arab states and the Palestinians. This was a very difficult article for me to read, and I found myself confused and angry over the lack of historical context in the author’s arguments.
To address the first point, the founding of Israel was not a joyous occasion for everyone. In fact, while Zionists and Israelis worldwide celebrate this day with flags, songs, and cheer, Palestinians call this day Al-Nakba, or “the Catastrophe.” Believe it or not, when a new state is created in an already-inhabited land, there is a great deal of violence, expulsion, misery, and death involved. During Al-Nakba, an estimated 500 Palestinian towns were destroyed. Within this context, we begin to understand why “peace and a normal existence” for the occupiers and colonizers was not so easy to come by, and why surrounding states would have viewed this action as unjust.
The other main point of the article dealt with failed peace talks and why Palestine was largely responsible. However, not once has Israel come to the negotiating table with Palestinians’ most important demands: end to settlement construction, right of return, and end to occupation. The right of return for all Palestinian refugees was a promise made over 60 years ago at the United Nations in Resolution 194 and Israel has yet to comply. Without Israel meeting these three basic demands, it is hard to believe that their ‘peace talks’ have any genuine concern for peace – rather, they seem like a show to demonstrate Palestinian ‘unreasonableness.’
Without Israel meeting [Palestine’s] basic demands, it is hard to believe that their ‘peace talks’ have any genuine concern for peace.
The article tries to argue that Israel has been alienated from the international community due to efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and international disgust at Israel’s apartheid system. While I find it exciting that more and more nations are turning a critical eye to the state of Israel, this is not entirely accurate. Israel has powerful friends in high places. The U.S. unequivocally supports the nation on a political level by voting against every resolution that the United Nations has tried to pass criticizing Israel’s violation of both human rights and international law. These include General Assembly Resolution 3379, which determined that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination,” and many resolutions urging Israel to stop violence against Palestinians and in Lebanon. The U.S. has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel through some of its most egregious violations of international laws, and it also supports Israel militarily and economically – since its establishment, the U.S. has supplied Israel with $233.7 billion in aid (when adjusted for inflation).
The U.S.’s overly generous and long-lasting ‘hug’ to Israel has enabled Israel to continue its illegal military occupation of Palestine, maintain an oppressive racist apartheid system within Israel – as well as in the Occupied Territories and Gaza – against its Palestinian citizens, and continue its project of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population.
This unwavering support has allowed Israel to continue making faux peace attempts and continually coming to the negotiating table (with the U.S. as the peace broker) without meeting the most important aforementioned demands of the Palestinians.
Since the latest round of peace talks has begun, the Israeli Defense Forces have murdered three Palestinians in the West Bank and the government has approved plans for thousands more settlements to be constructed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Therefore these ‘peace talks’ hardly represent any real effort by the Israeli government. They are merely a show for the international community to create a facade depicting Israel’s ‘willingness’ to negotiate and Palestinians’ ‘stubbornness’ to work toward peace.
If there is to be any meaningful change toward peace, we must stop thinking of Israel as a country struggling to make peace and in need of a hug from the international community. Instead, it should be viewed as a belligerent that has forestalled any hope of meaningful peace with its continued efforts to annex more land and inflict greater pain on the Palestinian people.
Zoe Pepper-Cunningham is a U3 History and African Studies student. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.