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Bush's "Vision" of a Palestinian State

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    Assalamu alaikum Bush s Vision of a Palestinian State By Muna Hamzeh for PalestineChronicle.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 8, 2001
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      Bush's "Vision" of a Palestinian State

      By Muna Hamzeh for PalestineChronicle.com


      President Bush's recent discovery that a Palestinian state is part of his
      "vision" for peace in the Middle East brings back a sense of déjà vu. It was
      only a few years ago that the Clinton Administration tried to convince
      Americans that the Oslo Peace Accord, signed between Israel and Yasser
      Arafat in 1993, has finally brought "real" peace to the area.

      Back then, it was fascinating to live in the Palestinian Territories and
      witness the difference between what American, Israeli and even Palestinian
      leaders were saying about the new Oslo era of "peace" and between what every
      ordinary Palestinian was witnessing on the ground. It bordered on the
      hilarious to listen to presidents and prime ministers talk about the
      implementation of the agreements, while watching the continued confiscation
      of Palestinian land, house demolitions, restrictions on movement and travel,
      as well as the continued growth of Israeli settlements around every
      Palestinian town and village. For the average Palestinian, developments on
      the ground starkly contradicted the agreements reached on paper. And I am
      not talking here about Palestinian intellectuals who had read the details of
      the "peace" agreements and realized just how disastrous they were. I am
      referring to the simple and uneducated Palestinians who could not see a
      single change, no matter how minute, to make them feel that they are any
      closer to independence or that their daily hardships have subsided.

      Now, almost a decade after Oslo, President Bush is telling the world that
      "the idea of a Palestinian state has always been part of a vision, so long
      as the right of Israel to exist is respected". What "vision" is the
      president talking about? Whether Bush knows it or not, there is a legal
      basis for Palestinian statehood, and one which is long overdue. UN
      Resolution 181 (1947) gave legality to the establishment of both a Jewish
      state and an Arab state in Palestine. While only a part of the Resolution
      was implemented - the establishment of the state of Israel on most of the
      territory of historical Palestine - the other which deals with an Arab state
      has not.

      The antiquated argument that the U.S. would bless the establishment of a
      Palestinian state so long as Israel's right to exist is respected ought to
      be seriously revised. Occupying the Palestinians since 1967 has hardly
      resulted in the respect that Israel desires. The only way that Israel can
      live with security and respect is to come to terms with the fact that its
      occupation of the Palestinians must be brought to a full end. Anything short
      of giving the Palestinians their full political, national and human rights
      will mean a continuation of this conflict. The solution seems so elementary
      in its simplicity.

      Perhaps the most startling difference between the agreements signed on paper
      between Israel and the Palestinian since the Madrid talks of 1991 and today
      is the fact that Israel has never halted its confiscation of additional land
      in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

      Only last month, an Israeli military order transformed 1.4 percent of West
      Bank land into a closed military zone - a move that normally precedes an all
      out confiscation. An aerial survey conducted by the Israeli Peace Now
      movement early this month indicates that ten new Israeli settlements were
      established in the West Bank between June and September 2001. An earlier
      survey found 15 new settlements established between February and May 2001.

      While Israeli Prime Minister Sharon is blaming Arafat for the "violence" and
      going so far as to call him a Ben Laden, his government has been actively
      grabbing more Palestinian land and building more settlements. Against this
      backdrop, what sort of peace does Sharon really envision himself making with
      the increasingly weakened Palestinian leader? And how can peace be made if
      it doesn't involve territorial concessions of a land Israel occupied by
      military force in 1967? Even a Palestinian child in the West Bank can see
      Israeli bulldozers working away to uproot olive trees dating back to the
      Roman Age, destroy agricultural land and then watch as new settlement
      housing fills the landscape. How to convince that child that the Israelis
      want to make peace becomes the challenge. But how to convince that child
      that the U.S. is an "honest-broker" in the Middle East becomes an even
      greater challenge.

      It appears that Bush's remarks in support of Palestinian statehood has
      brought on significant division within the American-Jewish community. A
      letter signed by at least prominent 50 American Jewish figures was presented
      to the White House October 5, in support of the administration's war on
      terrorism and policy efforts in the Middle East. It follows criticism of the
      administration's plan by pro-Israel lobby groups. The idea of a Palestinian
      state is so frightening to the pro-Israel lobby? If genuine Palestinian
      statehood is achieved in all the territory occupied by Israel in 1967, there
      would be a chance for real peace. The results would mean political stability
      and economic stability in the region. Why would the pro-Israel lobby be so
      terrified of such a notion? Should ever-lasting peace be reached, there is a
      considerable possibility that stability may, 20 or 30 years down the road,
      naturally end in a bi-national state where Jews and Arabs would live
      side-by-side. If this were to happen, the entire concept of a Zionist state
      for a Jewish people would no longer be viable. Perhaps this is what
      frightens the pro-Israel lobby.

      The Palestinians, meanwhile, view Bush's remarks as nothing more than a
      political maneuver to give the Arab states the pretext they need to join
      America's war on Ben Laden and the Taliban, and perhaps even justify an
      attack on Iraq and Islamic training camps in Arab countries such as Sudan,
      Yemen and Lebanon. Several Arab regimes have made it clear that their
      support of the war on terrorism is conditional to an American promise of a
      resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and an end to the sanctions
      on Iraq. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for 34 years and
      the sanctions on Iraq for nearly a decade, yet the Arab states have hardly
      brought any pressure on the U.S. to change its policy. For a year now, the
      Arab and Muslim worlds have been watching, along with everyone else, the
      Palestinians getting killed and wounded, their homes shelled and demolished,
      and their land confiscated, while only paying lip-service to their plight.
      The Palestinians are all too aware that of this. Since the start of the
      current uprising in late September 2000, they've watched Arab leaders make
      empty statements on television, claiming support of the Palestinian
      uprising. On the ground, and for the average Palestinian who is bearing the
      brunt of Israeli air and land raids, there have been no visible signs of
      this support. The fact that 22 Arab states, with the oil wealth of some and
      the economic clout of others, cannot bring any reasonable pressure to bear
      on the U.S. to rethink its policy towards Israel's occupation of the
      Palestinians reveals the extent of their weakness.

      More importantly, what is the use of getting the Bush Administration to
      "promise" a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The situation in
      the Palestinian Territories requires something far more courageous than
      promises. It requires a hard, long look at a continually failing American
      foreign policy that is neither giving Israel the security it insists on
      having, nor the Palestinians the statehood they have long aspired for. It is
      time for the U.S. to become an honest peace broker in the Middle East. And
      it ought to do so in order to preserve its own interests in the region.
      Otherwise, the outcome for American interests in the Middle East looks very
      bleak. All over the Palestinian Territories, children collect the remains of
      Israeli tank shells. They point out to journalists the inscriptions in
      English: 'Made in Mesa, Arizona'. They mention that the Israeli Apache
      gunships, F-16 and F-15 fighter jets shelling their homes are also made in
      America. Tell these children that the U.S. is an honest peace broker and
      they laugh in your face. Ask them if they hate Americans and they tell you
      it is America's policy they hate. But for how long will this last?

      One of the best parts of the American Constitution is: " We hold these
      truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are
      endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these
      are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

      This is the American spirit that should be exported overseas and should
      guide our foreign policy-makers. So long as we don't regard all mankind as
      equal and with unalienable rights equal to ours, we will continue to allow
      our tax money to pay for weapons that are exported to kill innocent
      civilians, when our hard-earned dollars could be better spent on Medicare,
      education and the medical research in this country.

      (Muna Hamzeh, a Palestinian-American writer, recently returned to the US
      after living in the Palestinian Territories for ten years. She is the author
      of 'Refugees in our Own Land: Chronicles from a Palestinian Refugee Camp in
      Bethlehem' (Pluto Press, September 2001).

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