Ending the Israeli-Palestinian impasse
- Palestinians paying price for West's Holocaust guilt: Tutu
GENEVA (AFP) - Palestinians are paying the price of the West's guilt
over the Holocaust through its failure to pressure Israel to reach a
just and lasting peace, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu said Thursday. "I
think the West, quite rightly, is feeling contrite, penitent for its
awful connivance with the Holocaust," the massacre of Europe's Jews
by German Nazis in World War II, Tutu told journalists."Now when you
are contrite, when you are penitent, you are then ready to make
amends, and we call that penance. The West is penitent, the penance
is being paid by the Palestinians," said the South African archbishop
who was famed for his anti-apartheid activism.
"I just hope that ordinary citizens in the West will wake up and
say, 'we refuse to be part of this'," Tutu added after presenting a
report on the Israeli shelling of the Palestinian village of Beit
Hanoun to the UN Human Rights Council.Tutu had been mandated by the
rights council to investigate the shelling in November 2006 which
killed 19 civilians.
His report concluded that "in the absence of a well-founded
explanation from the Israeli military... the mission must conclude
that there is a possibility that the shelling of Beit Hanoun
constituted a war crime."In his address to the Council, Tutu also
charged that "the international community is failing to fulfil its
role in respect of the suffering of the people of Gaza."
"It is the silence of the international community in the face of what
is happening there which most offends. This silence begets
complicity," he said.
Following an internal investigation, Israel concluded that shelling
the civilians' homes was "a rare and grave technical error of the
artillery radar system," and announced in February that no charges
would be brought against Israeli forces involved in the incident.But
Tutu's report said that the "Israeli response of a largely secret
internal military investigation is absolutely unacceptable from both
legal and moral points of view."
Tutu also condemned rocket fire by Palestinian militants based in
Gaza against Israeli civilians and said the Islamist Hamas movement
in power in the coastal strip was responsible for ensuring it ceased.
"We long desperately for a situation in what many of us call the Holy
Land where people can live in peace and in security," Tutu told
journalists.But he stressed that "there's not the foggiest chance of
peace ever happening until the human rights of all are respected and
Ending the Israeli and Palestinian impasse
By FinalCall.com News
The son of Palestinian parents who fled the country in 1948, Ali
Abunimah is an author, journalist and co-founder of the information
resource Electronic Intifada. His is a leading academic voice on
issues affecting the Middle East and Arab-American affairs. He
recently sat down with The Final Call's Assistant Editor Ashahed M.
Muhammad to share some of his thoughts regarding the conflict in the
Occupied Territories, as well as solutions offered in his book "One
Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse."
The Final Call (FC): What was the catalyst that led to the creation
of the Electronic Intifada?
Ali Abunimah (AA): Very simply, the mainstream media in this country
does not fairly represent the viewpoints and experiences of
Palestinians, either in this country or in Palestine. It provides a
very distorted picture, so the Electronic Intifada was an attempt to
create our own media, where we were the editors. Where Palestinians
and those who support human rights for Palestinians could have a
forum to debate, discuss and to report. We do a lot of the original
reporting from the ground in Palestine, that is not subject to the
mainstream media censorship.
FC: You've discussed the growing awareness and parallels between
South Africa and apartheid, Jim Crow here in the United States and
the occupation and Zionism that exist right now in the occupied
territories. There are some subtleties there and then there are also
some very obvious parallels when viewing what is going on there on
AA: Well the parallel is one that is being noted by many people
including Palestinians, Israelis and many prominent South Africans
who really engaged heroically in the struggle against apartheid.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu is perhaps one of the most famous in the
world, but there are many. Basically, the thing that ties these
things together, there are a couple. One is the notion that a
minority of settlers and a community that has come from overseas and
settled in this country has an inherent God-given right to rule over
others because they are different in some waystheir skin is a
different color, they are a different religion, and they do not
belong to the group that has established its rule by force of arms.
Entire ideologies get built around preserving, maintaining and
justifying these differences in power. So in South Africa and in
Israel, as well as in the United States, you see a discourse that
talks about, on the one hand, civilization, and on the other hand,
barbarism. Whereas those in power, are always the ones who define
themselves as civilized and those who they exercise power over, they
define them as being barbarians who need to be controlled; to be
civilized. They say if we let them get control then all hell will
break loose. So you see a very similar ideological premise for
maintaining the privileged rule of one group.
On the other hand, you see the methods used to maintain that control
of violencestate violencewhich is often rendered invisible.
Violence is so ingrained in the system, that defines the Palestinians
living on his or her own land as being illegal, as being illegally
present; or the laws in Israel which prohibits a Palestinian who is
in Israel (there are some Palestinians in Israel) from marrying a
Palestinian and bringing that Palestinian to come and live in the
country. So those laws, Palestinian civil rights organizations
compare them to the laws that prevented Blacks and Whites from
marrying in this country. There are legal barriers to Palestinians
marrying Israeli citizens, to living in certain parts of the country
and so on. An entire system of racial and ethnic discrimination and
that is really the basis of why people have compared it.
FC: You advocate the one state solution to solve the
Israeli/Palestinian land question. What are the reasons some oppose
the one state solution? Is it motivated by the fear of the
demographic changes that could occur? I know that it is complex and
there are many different layers to the different arguments of one
state versus two states. Talk to us about the differences.
AA: In the-two state solution, the basic premise is that Palestine
should be divided between the indigenous people and the settlers.
That division is inherently unjust and unfair, because it is based on
the notion that Israel was established through the ethnic cleansing
of three-fourths (75 percent) of the Palestinian population and the
two-state solution says that we just forget about that. We establish
a Jewish state on three-fourths of Palestine and a Palestinian state
on less then a quarter of the territory. And all those Palestinians
who were expelled or want to return, they just have to disappear.
It is inherently unjust and the reason for it is that the Israelis
want to maintain their power and privilege, understandably. Many
people who have power and privilege do not want to give it up. Now in
ending this situation there is the fear factor that Israelis
say, "Well if we give up our absolute control, then what is to stop
those who we have victimized, from victimizing us?" They will often
argue that Palestinians are inherently less civilized or inherently
less well behaved and therefore they cannot be trusted. "The moment
that they get the opportunity, they will slaughter us in our beds."
These are the same arguments that were made against ending apartheid
in South Africa, "Well you may not like apartheid, but the moment it
ends those savage Africans are going to slaughter us." In other
words "It's easy for you Europeans and Americans to argue against
apartheid, but you don't live here with these people." And exactly
the same arguments are made today to defend Israel.
What I argue in my book is that I believe that all human beings are
equal and that in conditions of justice they can live together. What
does justice mean? Justice means that you have to restore the rights
and property to those who have been denied them. It does not mean
that you just end the situation. You do not just say now, okay,
everyone is equal and that is it. You have to actually make
reparations and restore those who have been denied their rights to
where they were, and their children, who have lost so many
opportunities because of the generations of injustice, have to be
given a proper chance in life and have to be made whole. That is a
process that goes beyond simply writing a constitution in which
everyone is declared equal. The equality has to have real roots in
the ground and that means you have to shift the balance of wealth and
power from those who have monopolized it, to those who have been
That, I think, is also what makes this a universal challenge, because
that is the same challenge that we still face in these United States;
where that process has barely started. Where after 100 years of
slavery and genocide against the native people, all of a sudden those
in power say "okay, everyone is equal now." That does not work. It
was just a few days ago, we passed the landmark of one percent of
this country's population in prison. Who are those one percent? You
can be sure that they are not drawn equally from all segments of the
population. So the challenge in Palestine is tied to those broader
struggles I think in that way, and we have to see it that way. The
danger is that we all see ourselves as being part of little tribes
that are struggling for our own patch and miss the universal
significance of what we are fighting for.
FC: Thank you.
(For more information visit www.electronicintifada.net)
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