GUEST OPINION: Local group offers different view of Israel
Published: Friday, August 27, 2010 at 6:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 27, 2010 at 6:09 p.m.
George F. Will's extremely one-sided response to the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict (“Netanyahu's warning shouldn't be ignored,” Aug. 15) deserves a response. Not once does Will mention any reasons why this 62-year old conflict has never been resolved or why Israel is seen by so many as an occupying force that must be resisted.
Without going into the long history of this struggle let's just start with a couple of recent events. At dawn on Aug. 10, the Bedouins of Al-Arakib in the Negev Desert awoke to the third assault on their village by Israeli forces in two weeks. Max Blumenthal, an American journalist who was staying with the villagers, describes it, “A phalanx of 100 riot cops was already there, bristling with assault weapons and centurion shields. Flanked by bulldozers, they quickly ringed the activists and journalists, who numbered about two dozen, and began forcibly pushing them away from the site of the demolitions.”
Israel is attempting to force these semi-nomadic people — who are Israeli citizens — from their homes and relocate them in Indian reservation-style “development communities.” Bedouin graves in Al-Arakib, dating from the late 1800s, indicate that their presence in the area predates the formation of Israel.
Three months before this demolition, on May 31, people around the world awoke to news of a different type of Israeli attack. This one was a deadly bombardment of a flotilla of boats bound from Cyprus, bringing humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade. During the assault Israeli soldiers killed nine activists.
That's when several of us decided it was time to get together to work for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the Israeli government's violence towards the indigenous Palestinian people in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and Israel. So we formed a group, the North Coast Coalition for Palestine Support. As our first official action, eight of us — Muslims, Christians, Jews, business people, artists and professionals — visited our congresswoman, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, to explain our concerns and ask for her support.
We want the Israeli government to stop building “settlements” within the Palestinian territories. We also demand that they put an end to air and land strikes against Palestinian civilians, stop imprisoning Palestinian citizens without legitimate reasons, cease the destruction of Palestinian homes, orchards and fields and put an end to the confiscation of Palestinian lands and water.
And we want them to tear down the wall — the Israeli version of the Berlin wall — which has separated Palestinians from their neighbors, their jobs, their farms and their water supplies. And the Israelis are doing all this with our tax dollars. The United States sends some $3 billion in aid to Israel every year, approximately one-fifth of our annual foreign aid budget, an estimated $1.6 trillion since 1973.
This unquestioning support of Israel has taken a toll on America's international reputation, because most of the world understands that the bloody and illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories is against international law. The United Nations has passed dozens of resolutions condemning Israeli actions against the Palestinian people.
Many people also believe Israel is violating the Fourth Geneva Convention by establishing settlements in the Palestinian territories, and the International Court of Justice has said that the wall Israel has built around the West Bank, and parts of East Jerusalem violates international law.
Under these circumstances, it is in the best interests of the United States, as well as the people of Palestine and Israel, for our country to use its influence to bring about a just and equitable settlement between the people of the Holy Land, creating a country where both can live in peace and justice together.
Those interested in becoming part of the solution are invited to join us at our first general meeting on Saturday, Sept. 4, at 1 p.m. at the Sonoma County Peace and Justice Center, 467 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa.
Therese Mughannam-Walrath is a Palestinian-American and Santa Rosa resident. Her family fled Palestine in the 1948 war. Lois Pearlman is a writer and a resident of Guerneville.
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