Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hatred in Context

I had just finished speaking to a group of about a hundred people. One lady in the audience was not pleased. She spoke up for Israel and asked, “Why are the Palestinians so filled with hate?” Then she answered her own question. “Seems as though they rather die than live with Israel.  I guess, it’s just in their religion.” Even though my response did not satisfy her, I want to try again to respond to her question and her answer.

To see the Palestinian response to Israel’s occupation as a religious conflict is extremely short sighted.  To address her concern, we have to go back to 1948 when Israel moved in and simply took 78 percent of historical Palestine by force simply because they had the military power and brutal disposition to do so. Around 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes. Many were killed in cold blood and many more were sent to refugee camps to live in squalor. That was 66 years ago and they are still living in those camps. Their children have never known any life but that of occupation and oppression. I wish my questioner could for one day put herself in the shoes of those crowded into an open air prison year after year, crying out for an opportunity to live and work a normal life free of humiliation while the world’s leading politicians look the other way and the US media ignores their plight.

Arnold J. Toynbee said, “The treatment of the Palestinian Arabs in 1947 and 1948 was as morally indefensible as the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis...though not comparable in quantity to the crimes of the Nazis, it was comparable in quality.(1)

Back in 1956, David Ben-Gurion confessed:

If I was an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural, we have taken their country. Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to  them? Our God is not theirs. We came from Israel, it’s true, but that was two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? [2]

Ben Gurion went on to say that the “Palestinians may perhaps forget in one or two generations.” He may have been right, had 1948 been the end of Israel’s domination over the life and land of the Palestinian, but as it turned out, it was merely the beginning.

In 1967, Israel launched the Six Day War, which resulted in Israel’s taking control of the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. Israel publicly proclaimed it as a war of self defense and most people still blame Nasser. However, as admitted by some of Israel’s top political leaders:

Mortecai Bentov, member of the Israeli Cabinet, said in 1972, “Israel’s entire story about the dangers of extermination was ‘invented’ of whole cloth and exaggerated after the fact to justify the annexation of new Arab territories.” [3]

Menachem Begin said in 1982, “The Egyptian army concentrated on the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” [4]

Years before the Six Day War, Moshe Sharett, former Prime Minister said, “Israeli political and military leadership never believed in any insuperable Arab dangers to Israel. They sought to maneuver and force Arab states into military confrontations which the Zionist leadership were certain of winning so Israel could carry out the destabilization of Arab regimes and the planned occupation of additional territory.”[5]

In 1987, Palestinian kids rose up and started throwing stones at the occupiers in what is called the intifada. Israel retaliated. Amnesty International reported 540 Palestinians, including children, shot dead by Israeli troops. [6]  During the first 30 months, according to the Washington Post, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 159 children and had beaten thousands.[7]  Israel labeled them terrorist and adopted the policy of “punitive beating.” Examining 3,460 of the 7,107 documented cases of beatings by soldiers in the first year of the uprising, investigators of Save the Children concluded that one-third of beaten children were under ten years old, and one fifth under the age of five. Nearly a third of them suffered broken bones.[8]

Dennis Madden, Roman Catholic Priest shared with me:

If you take all the Palestinians who have been killed in the intifada, the number is roughly around 1,000. The number who have required medical attention is roughly around 106,000. The over 50,000 who have been in prison, the houses that have been demolished, the thousands of trees that have been uprooted, the deportations, you take all of the statistics together...what it averages out to is that every Palestinian family has had at least two members that have either been killed, deported, arrested or tortured.[9] 

And this was BEFORE suicide bombers.

Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun, a leading Jewish magazine in the US wrote, “Israel’s attempt to regain control by denying food to hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, by raiding homes and dragging out their occupants in the middle of the night to stand for hours in the cold, by savagely beating a civilian population and breaking its bones — these activities are deplorable in any civilized human being.” He pleaded with Israel, “Stop the beatings, stop the breaking of bones, the late night raids on people’s homes, stop using food as a weapon of war, stop pretending that you can respond to an entire people’s agony with guns and blows and power. Publicly acknowledge that the Palestinians have the same right to national self-determination that we Jews have...”[10]

Through the years, the one thing Israel has been uncompromising in defending is its  program of building settlements on Palestinian lands

Today, over 500,000 settlers occupy almost 42 percent of West Bank. It’s true, as Israel defenders remind us, Israel vacated 2000 homes in Gaza in 2005.  However, at the same time, with little press coverage, Israel built 4,600 units in West Bank. Even more distressing, to this day, Israel confiscates eighty-five percent of West Bank water for Jewish use only. The amount of water pumped for an Israeli resident of the West Bank is twelve times more than the amount allowed for a Palestinian.[11]   The average settler gets the use of 10 gallons of water per day to the Palestinians’ one and a half gallons.[12]

And so, we read in this morning’s newspaper:

Israel on Sunday laid claim to nearly 1000 acres of West Bank land in a Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem – a step that could herald significant Israeli construction in the area – defying Palestinian demands for a halt in settlement expansion and challenging world opinion.[13]

And then there is the wall, called a “Security Wall.” It would be more accurately described as an imprisonment wall, with farmers separated from their fields, children from their schools, the sick from hospitals, families from family and thousands of Palestinians being separated from their meager water supply. Of course, Israel says the wall is to keep out suicide bombers. However, more than 375,000 Palestinians are blocked in on the Israeli side of the wall and there has not been a suicide bomber since 2006..

The attack on the Mavi Marmara and the murder of nine humanitarian aid volunteers, including an American, shocked much of the world. The 700  participants on the Mavi Marmara represented over thirty countries. They were doctors, human rights activists, professors, a U.S. diplomat, a Nobel Peace laureate, in addition to clergy and journalist from around the world.   What exposes this charge is that anyone who seeks relief for the suffering Palestinians can be automatically labeled a terrorist.  The real question is how can we so casually assign heinous motives to such distinguished volunteers?  Is a terrorist anyone who feels empathy for their beleaguered fellow human beings? After forty years of occupation, 90 percent of the people in Gaza have no clean water, and two-thirds of the population lives without adequate food, medical care, sanitation systems, electricity and fuel. About 75% of those in Gaza are unemployed and live on $2 a day.[14]

Before the flotilla; it was the 2008-09 twenty three day massacre of the population of Gaza, shut in and bombarded, which killed 1,390 people, according to B’tsalem, the 2006 bombardment of Lebanon, dropping four million cluster bombs, killing more than a thousand people, mostly civilians, the 2003 murder of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, the 1983 massacre of unarmed refugees in Sabra and Shatila,  the 1982 bombardment of Lebanon, and the 1967 Six Day War against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Uninterrupted throughout this history is the ongoing occupation with settlements, checkpoints, mass imprisonments, the stealing of land and water and the construction of an apartheid wall.  .

A United Nations report published in 2007 found:

38 percent  of the West Bank is now taken up by Israeli infrastructure – roads, settlements, military bases and so on –largely off-limits to Palestinians, Israel has methodically broken the remainder of the territories into dozens of enclaves separated from each other and the outside world  by zones that it alone controls, including at last count, 6123 checkpoints and roadblocks.[15]

Then again last month’s bombing of Gaza. Who can forget the images on the evening news of blown up homes and multistory public buildings, tons of rubble in the streets and women and children running from F-16s, Apache helicopters and warships with no place to hide? People living in Gaza, had no tanks, planes or even shelters to protect them. Over 2000 were killed, by far mostly civilians, and many children, in fact, twice as many children as combatants. Meanwhile Israel cut off electricity, bombed hospitals and schools and destroyed sewage plants. Raw sewage flowed in the streets.[16]

On several occasions, Hamas has offered peace in exchange for the privilege of living on 22 percent of their historic homeland, and every time, Israel refused, saying in essence, God wants us to have all your land. You may be allowed to live only in separate little bantustans, with little opportunity to interact with the rest of the world, and with even less opportunity to prosper or meet the most basic of human needs.

Throughout its history, Israel has shown little interest in meeting any conditions for peace with the Palestinians.  Typical of Israel’s attitude is expressed by Menachem Begin in 1977.:

The right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is eternal and indisputable and is linked to security and peace. Therefore, Judea and Samaria will not be handed over to any foreign administration. Between the sea and the Jordan River there will be only Israeli sovereignty. Relinquishing parts of the Western Land of Israel undermines our right to the country, jeopardizes the security of the Jewish population, endangers the security of the State of Israel and frustrates any prospect of peace.[17]

So who now wants to push who into the sea?  And who uses religion to justify its brutality?

The rocket resistance by Hamas, is not an effort to destroy Israel. Israel is too strong, too rich and protected by the US.  Rockets are simply asking the world to notice so there will be fewer people standing up and saying such things as, “They are just by nature filled with hate.”   My question is, what would any of us feel if we were Palestinian?

                                                                                                Thomas Are
                                                                                                September 3, 2014


[1].Na’im Ateek, Justice and Only Justice, Orbis Press, Maryknoll, New York, 1989.) p.32.
[2] This quote is documented in numerous sources. I refer to the book by Don Wagner and Walt Davis, Zionism and the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land. (Pickwick Publications, 2014)  p.21.
[3].Paul Finley, Deliberate Deceptions, Facing the Facts about the U.S., Israeli Relationship, (Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago,. 1993.) p. 36.
[4].Clifford A. Wright, Facts and Fables: The Arab-Israeli Conflict, (Kegan Paul International, New York, 1989.) p.132.
[5].Ralph Schoenman, The Hidden History of Zionism, (Veritas Press, Santa Barbara, California, 1988) p.59.
[6] Amnesty International, Israel and the Occupied Territories,  1990.
[7] Rights Group Accuses Israel of Violence Against Children in Palestinian Uprising,, Washington Post, May 17, 1990
[8] Ibid. 
[9].Private conversation with Father Dennis Madden, Tantur Institute, Jerusalem. Summer, 1981.
[10].Rosemary Radford Ruether and Marc Ellis, Beyond Occupation, (Beacon Press, Boston., 1990) p. 99-100.
[11].Ze’ev Schiff, Intifada, (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1990) p. 97.
[12] Jenifer Dixon, The Holy Land Unveiled (American Free Press, 2012) p. 23.
[13] Isabel Kershner,  Israel Takes large Swath of Land in West Bank,  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,  Sept. 1, 2014
[14]  Dixon,  p. 21.
[15] Constance Hillard, Does Israel have a Future? (Potomac Books, 2009.) p. 85
[16] Rachelle Marshall, Israel Again Wreaks Vengeance on Gaza, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September, 2014, p.8.
[17] Cited in Zionism the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land, Edited by Don Wgner and Walter Davis, (Pickwick Publications, 2014) p.38. oly Land, Edited by Don Wagner and Walter Davis, Holy