Christian Rafidi

A Peace Not Far Off

April 26, 2007

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your father in heaven.” (Jesus Christ)

Israel has fought for its right to exist as a homeland for Jewish people throughout the world since it claimed itself to be a nation on May 14, 1948 . Zionist movements throughout the world claim a biblical link to the land of “milk and honey,” previously known as Palestine . While it is an undisputed fact that there existed in Palestine a Jewish population until approximately 100 AD, does this link, albeit centuries expired, provide legal justification for the state of Israel to exist on what was, for the better part of modern times, Palestine ? And, if this centuries expired link to the land does provide justification for Israel 's current existence as a Jewish nation, what is to be done with the larger population of Palestinian Arabs that had more recently resided in the land for the better part of almost two thousand years? Can the quagmire that the Palestinians and Israelis have been in for over fifty years finally be resolved?

Nominal Jewish immigration to Palestine did not even begin until the late nineteenth century, and it wasn't until nearly the mid-twentieth century that a swarm of Jewish immigrants descended upon the land of Palestine . According to the State of Israel website, “Although Jews have, over the eighteen centuries since the Roman Exile, maintained a constant presence (albeit small) in the Land of Israel, the modern concept of Zionism - which led to the formation of the State of Israel - has its roots in nineteenth century Europe.” According to Yaron Berger, a visiting scholar from Israel , it is precisely that link to Europe that justifies the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine , “ Israel is the Jewish homeland –it must always remain that way. The Jews were discriminated against in Europe for centuries. We must have a home of our own, where we are the majority, and where we can solely determine our fate. Let the Palestinians go to Jordan or Syria ! They have alternatives.” But does the plight of European Jewry trump the nationalist aspirations of the Palestinian population? American history books tell the tale of people fleeing persecution in Europe for the hopes of freedom and liberty in a new world of their own. The Quakers fled England after more than two centuries of political and social ostracism to find a place where they could determine their own faith. According to Wikipedia, “ As the movement expanded, it faced opposition and persecution. Friends [Quakers] were imprisoned and beaten in both the British Isles and the British colonies. In the Massachusetts Bay colony, Friends were banished on pain of death—some (most famously Mary Dyer) were hanged on Boston Common for returning to preach their beliefs. In England Friends were effectively banned from sitting in Parliament at Westminster from 1698-1833. The state of Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn, as a safe place for Friends to live and practice their faith.” But what effect did the troubles of the Quakers have on the native population of the land they chose to inhabit? Needless to say, the effect was genocide. The Native Americans suffered tremendously at the hands of the Europeans. Entire populations were eventually decimated, leaving for the Europeans a nation that would stretch from the east coast to the west coast. Of course, this didn't happen over the course of just fifty years, the near extermination of the Native American population took place over a few centuries –one wonders what the Palestinian population will number in one hundred years. As evident by the irreparable consequences on the Native Americans as a result of the Europeans' pursuit of a new home, native populations should not be forced to pay for the sins of other nations. And what legal rights do the inhabitants of one nation have to justify their usurping of another peoples' land? Joseph Story, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1811 – 1845, in his 1833 three volume work, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States , wrote:

The discovery of the Continent of America by Columbus in the fifteenth century awakened the attention of all the maritime States of Europe. Stimulated by the love of glory, and still more by the hope of gain and dominion, many of them early embarked in adventurous enterprises, the object of which was to found colonies, or to search for the precious metals, or to exchange the products and manufactures of the old world for whatever was most valuable and attractive in the new. England was not behind her continental neighbors in seeking her own aggrandizement, and nourishing her then infant commerce. The ambition of Henry the Seventh was roused by the communications of Columbus , and in 1495 he granted to John Cabot, an enterprising Venetian, then settled in England , to proceed on a voyage of discovery, and to subdue and take possession of any lands unoccupied by any Christian Power, in the name and for the benefit of the British Crown. In the succeeding year Cabot sailed on his voyage, and having first discovered the Islands of Newfoundland and St. Johns , he afterwards sailed along the coast of the continent from the 56 th to the 38 th degree north latitude; and claimed for his sovereign the vast region, which stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the most northern regions.

Such is the origin of the British title to the territory composing these United States . That title was founded on the right of discovery, a right, which was held among the European nations a just and sufficient foundation, on which to rest their respective claims to the American continent. It may not be easy upon general reasoning to establish the doctrine, that priority of discovery confers any exclusive right to territory. It was probably adopted by the European nations as a convenient and flexible rule, by which to regulate their respective claims. For it was obvious, that in the mutual contests for dominion in newly discovered lands, there would soon arise violent and sanguinary struggles for exclusive possession, unless some common principle should be recognized by all maritime nations for the benefit of all. None more readily suggested itself than the one now under consideration; and as it was a principal of peace and repose, of perfect equality or benefit in proportion to the actual or supposed expenditures and hazards attendant upon such enterprises, it received a universal Acquiescence, if not a ready approbation. It became the basis of European polity, and regulated the exercise of the rights of sovereignty and settlement in all the cis-Atlantic Plantations. In respect to desert and uninhabited lands, there does not seem any important objection, which can be urged against it. But in respect to countries, then inhabited by the natives, it is not easy to perceive, how, in point of justice, or humanity, or general conformity to the law of nature, it can be successfully vindicated. As a conventional rule it might properly govern all the nations, which recognized its obligation; but it could have no authority over the aborigines of America , whether gathered into civilized communities, or scattered in hunting tribes over the wilderness. Their right, whatever it was, of occupation or use, stood upon original principles deducible form the law of nature, and could not be justly narrowed or extinguished without their own free consent.

There is no doubt, that the Indian tribes, inhabiting this continent at the time of its discovery, maintained a claim to the exclusive possession and occupancy of the territory within their respective limits, as sovereigns and absolute proprietors of the soil.

And later:

The European nations found little difficulty in reconciling themselves to the adoption of any principle, which gave ample scope to their ambition, and employed little reasoning to support it. They were content to take counsel of their interests, their prejudices, and their passions, and felt no necessity of vindicating their conduct before cabinets, which were already eager to recognize its justice and its policy. The Indians were a savage race, sunk in the depths of ignorance and heathenism.

Just as the English did not have a legitimate right to the North American continent, neither did the European Jews have a legal right to occupy Palestine . They instead relied on a loosely worded document, the Balfour Declaration, to establish their [Jewish] right to Palestine . But this document, just as the doctrine of discovery that the English used to occupy North America, discriminated heavily against the native population of Palestine , and really had no legal bearing on the people of Palestine .

To put aside the argument of the legality of the State of Israel's existence, let us examine the very document which is held so dear to the heart of Zionists throughout the world, and which is to Israel what the Declaration of Independence is to the United States: the Balfour Declaration of 1917. According to the State of Israel website, the Balfour Declaration “was put forth by the British government and which helped to lead to the State of Israel's eventual establishment.” According to Lord Balfour, “His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” Ironically, the same website later makes mention of the British government's White Paper, saying that this document which was written in 1939 was “an attempt to appease the local Arab population.” Also, by admission of the same website, it stated that the British government received its mandate to govern Palestine by the League of Nations on July 24, 1922 , “that created the British Mandate government in Palestine .” Pay attention closely: the Balfour Declaration, which is credited with granting the Zionist the right to create a Jewish homeland in [not on] the land of Palestine was written before the British government even had legal mandate of Palestine . In fact, the White Paper, which was legally written after the British mandate of Palestine was granted, [though the legality of granting any mandate to a foreign nation is in and of itself questionable] explicitly states that the British government never intended nor wished to transform Palestine into a Jewish state. According to the White Paper:

Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine . Phrases have been used such as that ` Palestine is to become as Jewish as England is English.' His Majesty's Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language or culture in Palestine . They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the (Balfour) Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded IN PALESTINE .

But this statement has not removed doubts, and His Majesty's Government therefore now declare unequivocally that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State . They would indeed regard it as contrary to their obligations to the Arabs under the Mandate, as well as to the assurances which have been given to the Arab people in the past, that the Arab population of Palestine should be made the subjects of a Jewish State against their will.

This should once and for all put an end to any arguments regarding the Balfour Declaration and its authorization of a Jewish state on the land of Palestine and allow for us to move forward with the current state of affairs in Israel . The hands of time may not be turned back, they can only move forward.

Over fifty years after the creation of the State of Israel, the world faces a nation that openly discriminates against, and segregates an entire segment of its population, the Palestinians. Just as the United States in its early years claimed to be a country that espoused freedom and justice for all, but in fact enslaved and later segregated an entire portion of its population, so too does Israel claim to be the only democratic nation in the Middle East, and yet within its bosom there grows a separation barrier, dividing Arab from Jew, just as the Berlin wall divided East and West Germany. Andrew Jenson writes in the Washington Square News, “In the West Bank, Israel has built two systems of checkpoints on its roads: One system for Jewish settlers to drive between their illegal colonies, and another system where Palestinians wait for hours at checkpoints.” Two systems, separate but equal –or are they? Do democratic virtues exist in the Israeli system of governance? Jenson later says, “These checkpoints turn brief jaunts into interminable odysseys at the mercy of unaccountable 19-year-olds with guns. Palestinian babies are born and Palestinian dialysis patients die as their families await soldiers' permission to drive to the hospital.” And yet, many Jewish Israelis see things differently. When asked if he felt the separation wall was establishing in Israel a form of apartheid, Yaron Berger responds, “That is ridiculous. We are only protecting ourselves from terrorism. I despise the comparison of Israel to South Africa . Apartheid was state sponsored racism, based solely on skin color. Israel does not discriminate in this manner. We are only defending our nation from aggression.” The so called defense of Israel is costing many innocent civilian far more than they can afford to pay, in both economic and humanitarian aspects.

People cannot thrive when their very livelihood is uprooted and destroyed, and when they are pushed further away from the means of production. The Palestine Monitor reports:

The path that the wall is taking through the West Bank is resulting in massive land confiscation, de facto annexation, and destruction of cultivated lands. So far the completed section has appropriated 107 square kilometers of Palestinian land constituting 1.9% of the West Bank . If the entire wall is completed it is projected that more than 43% of the West Bank will be taken by Israel and will be located outside the wall which will serve to enclose the remaining 57% in Ghettos. So far the fence construction has already uprooted an estimated 102,320 Palestinian olive and citrus trees, demolished 75 acres of greenhouses and 23 miles of irrigation pipes.

Confining an entire population to ghettos, cut off from the world around them, will only serve to broaden the gap between Palestinians and Jews. The effects on the Palestinian population of this ever-widening gap are obvious and well documented: significantly lower life expectancy, extreme poverty, intense desperation that leads to suicide missions, and an economic chasm that may never be bridged.

Can the current state of Israel continue to exist unchanged, without righting the wrongs it's committed against its Arab population? As it is obviously too late to turn back time and undo any of the numerous grievances that have been committed, I propose that the only appropriate solution to the quagmire that Israel finds itself in is to create a government that is equally representative of both Arabs and Jews, regardless of which side of the barrier they live in. The entire area should be united as a whole, tearing down the separation wall, and bridging the gap between the impoverished and desperate regions of Gaza and the West Bank with the thriving parts of Israel . Religion should either be completely removed from this new government, or all three major religions of the region should have equal representation in the affairs of the state.

Currently, it seems that only the Jewish voice is heard in Israel, and only the Muslim voice is heard in the occupied territories; but what about the third voice of the region, that of the Palestinian Christians? Bassam Khoury, a former resident of Jaffa [Tel Aviv], and a Palestinian Christian, feels that his segment of the population is largely ignored. When asked if the Christian voice is heard, Khoury responds, “Absolutely not. But then again, we do not express ourselves either. We are sort of in the middle of the situation –neither the Jews nor the Muslims care much about our interests. That is why many of us just tend to our own lives; we take care of our families, and for the most part avoid these topics.” The historic ties between the Christian church and the land of Israel/Palestine are irrefutable, and on this basis more must be done to preserve the Christian identity of the region. Jesus Christ was born, lived, preached, crucified, and raised from the dead all within the boundaries of that tiny piece of earth. Therefore it is not only the land of the followers of Abraham, Moses and Mohammed, but also the land of the followers of Jesus. Christians throughout the world should enjoy the unimpeded opportunity to witness for themselves the very places where the ministry of their God took place. Christian Palestinians should be able to peacefully travel from their home in Israel to Bethlehem without the threat of Israeli or Arab gunfire. The unity that once existed between Christians and Muslims, before the arrival of the Israelis, should be restored. Mr. Khoury says, “I said before, they [Muslims or Jews] don't listen to us [Christians]. They all just want everything for themselves. It was not like this before. Ask your father, ask if he remembers when we used to celebrate the Eid with the neighbors and they would eat mamool with us on our holiday [a traditional Easter pastry made to symbolize the sponge of bitter wine that Jesus was given to drink from]. Now there is too much division. Nobody trusts anybody. It is so bad now.” Emil Rafidi, who was born in Ramallah, Palestine , recounts many of the same memories of unity amongst Christians and Muslims that Mr. Khoury remembers, “When I was growing up I lived in a neighborhood that had Muslim and Christians in it. We didn't care or even notice the difference. Religion wasn't the center of our lives back then like it's become now. The West, because of its long history of discrimination and misunderstanding of the region, has forced religion to become politicized, and now you see the divisions that have come from that.”

The current doctrine of retaliation in the region reads something like the Old Testament scripture in the book of Leviticus, “Anyone who injures another person must be dealt with according to the injury inflicted—a fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Whatever anyone does to injure another person must be paid back in kind.” It would be beneficial to all parties involved if the existing culture of retaliation was replaced by the Christian idea of forgiveness, as stated in the Holy Bible:

You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Religious beliefs aside, this doctrine of forgiveness would halt the endless cycle of bombings and retaliations that have plagued both sides for over fifty years.

I also propose that in keeping with the new Arab and Jewish identity, and to preserve the unique religious significance of the region, the entire land of Israel/Palestine, including the West Bank and Gaza, should be renamed Jerusalem, a name that both cultures, and all three major religions, recognize as valid. The significance of Jerusalem as a religious epicenter has long been considered important to the stability of the area, and applying this concept to the greater land of Israel/Palestine would further democratize and equalize the state of affairs of the country. According to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, section 8, “in view of its association with three world religions, the Jerusalem area, including the present municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns, the most eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most southern, Bethlehem; the most western, Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most northern, Shu'fat, should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control…” It is quite apparent that Jerusalem and its suburbs are special and meaningful to Christians, Muslims, and Jews throughout the world, and to grant this precious region to just one group will immediately enrage the others. And while I do not advocate UN control over the region, I do feel that the uniqueness of the city of Jerusalem that the UN was attempting to highlight remains relevant and can be applied to the whole land of Israel/Palestine , and could be used to create a more egalitarian society for all members of the society. The very name Jerusalem has historic resonance that resides in the hearts of Jews and Arabs alike. Abolishing the names Israel and Palestine would help to appease both sides, and would strike a balance that both Arabs and Jews could accept. In this way, none would be losers, and none would be victors.

Of all the perspectives given, it is that of those who were directly affected by the creation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948 , whose weight should matter most. Emil Rafidi was born in Ramallah, Palestine in 1932, and he lived there until his family's forced expulsion by the Jewish Haganah terrorist organization in February of 1948. Mr. Rafidi recounts his experience:

It was a cool day. I was only 16 at the time, my mother was taking care of me and my two younger siblings, age 10 and 8, all by herself. Our life had become quite difficult after my father's sudden death from pneumonia the year before, and the war raging around us only compounded the problem my family faced. We heard many rumors about forced expulsion, but it wasn't until it happened to us that we really understood what it meant.

We lived in a modest stone house. My father had made a respectable living for us as the owner of a local butcher shop. My parents owned the house, which was probably rare at the time, so we felt comfortable and secure there. That security was shattered for us with the arrival of the Zionists. There had always been a very small Jewish population in Palestine , though none lived in our town of Ramallah . But, they lived there in peace with their Arab neighbors for as far back as I could remember. They mostly kept to themselves –of course the language barrier probably contributed greatly to this. There weren't any conflicts with them [the Jewish population] until they began buying up property from Lebanese landlords and then refusing to sell or rent to Palestinians. We now know why they did this, but back then it just seemed like a separatist way of life. Anyhow, tensions were now high, and Arab land was lost to the Zionist movement on an almost daily basis.

I'll never forget the morning they made us leave my Father's house. The Haganah came very early in the morning, at about 5:00 or 6:00 am . They began firing rounds into the air to awaken everybody. Once we got up and looked outside we knew what was about to happen. The Jews began shouting in Arabic, “Yulla, iklaou burha,” which means, “hurry up, get outside.” This really surprised us, we didn't know they could speak Arabic. We were very scared, my mother and sister began weeping immediately. We didn't have any time to gather much of anything –we just threw on our clothes and threw some food in a bag. All the neighbors were standing outside, lined up in-front of their homes. Some were still in their pajamas. The Haganah forced us into the backs of several trucks, and then drove us to the far edge of what's now the West Bank . They just dumped us there. We were very lucky, though. Somehow we managed to escape the violence that some of our neighboring villages encountered. We later heard that the Zionists looted our homes, and then bulldozed them, eternally preventing us from having any tangible claims to the land.

Everything was lost that day. My mother had gold jewelry that had been passed down for generations in that house. All of our memories and security were destroyed in one quick blow. They didn't have to do this. We're human beings too. We weren't the Nazis, why should we pay for what they did to the Jews in Europe ? Why should those European Jews take our homes, and our property, and our memories from us as compensation for the crimes of Hitler? My life was never the same again. I can never visit my childhood memories. I can never see my father's grave –I don't even know if it's still there. It probably isn't, the Zionist tried very hard to erase us from the landscape. But as you can see, they didn't really succeed. The Palestinians will always be part of that land, they will never live in peace there until there is justice for our people.

These are the words of my father. His chilling recount will probably always haunt me. His experience will always be a part of my consciousness. I can't help but be disgusted with the lack of awareness of my father's plight, and the plight of most of our people. Most Americans are well aware of the atrocities of the holocaust, but most know very little of what happened to the Palestinians as a result of World War II. Ramallah was lucky that it was the Haganah that took their homes, rather than the Irgun who would have not only taken their homes, but their lives as well. Ramallah's residents lost memories, homes, and items of monetary value. They were much more fortunate than the Palestinians of Deir Yessin.

On April 9, 1948 , just a little over one month before Israeli independence , the Irgun, or Stern Gang, as they were known by the British, entered the peaceful village of Deir Yessin ., a website devoted to the memory of the victims of the massacre on that grim day in April 1948 says the following:

Early in the morning of April 9, 1948 , commandos of the Irgun (headed by Menachem Begin) and the Stern Gang attacked Deir Yassin, a village with about 750 Palestinian residents. The village lay outside of the area to be assigned by the United Nations to the Jewish State; it had a peaceful reputation. But it was located on high ground in the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem . Deir Yassin was slated for occupation under Plan Dalet and the mainstream Jewish defense force, the Haganah, authorized the irregular terrorist forces of the Irgun and the Stern Gang to perform the takeover.

In all over 100 men, women, and children were systematically murdered. Fifty-three orphaned children were literally dumped along the wall of the Old City , where they were found by Miss Hind Husseini and brought behind the American Colony Hotel to her home, which was to become the Dar El-Tifl El-Arabi orphanage.

Part of the struggle for self-determination by Palestinians has been to tell the truth about Palestinians as victims of Zionism. For too long their history has been denied, and this denial has only served to further oppress and deliberately dehumanize Palestinians in Israel , inside the occupied territories, and outside in their diasporas.

Some progress has been made. Westerners now realize that Palestinians, as a people, do exist. And they have come to acknowledge that during the creation of the state of Israel , thousands of Palestinians were killed and over 700,000 were driven or frightened from their homes and lands on which they had lived for centuries.

What can be done, over fifty years later, to bring justice to those Palestinians that were collateral damage in the Zionist quest to carve a home out of occupied land? Should Palestinians be permitted to return to their ancestral homes, should the Israeli government pay reparations, or should they [the Palestinians] simply forget what was taken from them? According to a recent New York Times article:

For nearly 60 years Nimr Abu Ghneim has waited, angrily but patiently, for the day he would return to the home he left in 1948.

A resident of a sprawling Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, Mr. Abu Ghneim, like most Arabs, says there can be no peace with Israel until he and 700,000 other Palestinians are permitted back to the homes they left in the 1948 fighting that led to Israel 's creation.

But with the Arab League expected to focus later this week on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, there is another, albeit quieter, approach being voiced, especially by younger and wealthier Palestinians: it may be neither possible nor desirable to go back.

“Every time people talk peace, you hear discussion of this subject,” said Hanin Abu Rub, 33, a Web content manager at a Jordanian Internet startup, Shoofeetv, who has been active in Palestinian politics. “But now it is a major part of the discussions we have. When people think, ‘Is it possible for us to go back?' deep inside they now know they are not going back.”

Even having such a debate — rethinking a sacred principle — was once impossible. Now the discussion is centering on how to define the right of return in a new way. Some have come to see the issue as two separate demands: the acceptance, by Israel , that its creation caused the displacement and plight of the Palestinians; and the ability to move back to the lands they or their families left.

The desires and wishes of a people don't always reconcile with the reality of life. But, something must be done to ease the burden that the State of Israel has unfairly placed on the people of Palestine .

While many Palestinians rightfully want back what was taken from them in the war of 1948, and subsequent wars, many Jews are now concerned how any action such as this would threaten their current living situations and, if you will, the Jewishness of the State of Israel. According to Emil Rafidi, a Palestinian who was forced to flee his home during the 1948 war, “I can't have back what I lost to the Israelis –it's gone. They destroyed it and built settlements where my family's home was. What I want is equal right to the land, and compensation for the losses of my family.” I don't advocate a complete right of return for the millions of Palestinians that lost their homes, I do believe that open immigration policies [for Arabs] and reparations would serve to partially right the wrongs that occurred in the past, and to equalize the current economic disparities that exist in Israel. This thought has also received the support of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, section 11, which states that, “ Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible…” Undoubtedly many will argue that reparations aren't due, and in fact will reference the lack of reparation payments to African-American ancestors of slaves. According to William Thomas, Director of Programs for The Atlas Society, “ in general, there is no justice in blaming a group for the sufferings of another group when the first group does not by and large involve anyone with any direct tie to the wrongs, and where the second group is many generations removed from the sufferings. Groups as such do not have rights, and children are not to blame for the sins of their fathers. Only individuals have rights, and there are no obligations, in the Objectivist view, that do not follow from the actions and choices of the individual. This is not to defend slavery, which was a horrific violation of human rights, or to exonerate the U.S. government in all its dealings with Native Americans Indians.” Though the objectivist view point opposes reparations to African Americans or any other group of people that is generations removed from the those who were the object of discriminatory action, the Palestinian case is unique in that many of the Palestinians that were forcibly and illegally removed from their homes are still alive today, and their descendants continue to suffer under the yolk of this illegal occupation.

Many Israeli's will oppose my proposal, claiming it will strip Israel of its Jewish identity, and that the current culture, heavily westernized, would clash greatly with the culture of their Arab neighbors. To this I say, Tel Aviv is no more liberal than Beirut , Orthodox Jews are no less conservative than Muslims. Also, it must be noted that Palestine was never an Islamic state, so any concern of over Islamicization of Israel doesn't hold historical ground. Surely the United States will object, claiming that Israel is the only democratic state in the region, and giving any of its governance over to its Arab population would jeopardize its democratic values –just how democratic is the current state of Israel? Can a democracy exist under the weight of a segregated society? Is equality intimate with segregation? Does justice prevail on both sides of the separation wall that is carving through the homes and livelihood of the Palestinians? Surely those concepts were proven wrong in the United States , Germany , and South Africa . According to Jane Duncan, Executive Director of the Freedom of Expression Institute, “The Israeli nation is therefore not constituted by all those who live in that particular geographic area, or who have historic claim to the land in spite of the fact that they may have been rendered stateless. Israel , not being a state of its citizens but a Jewish state, is thus an exclusive, not an inclusive, form of nationalism, and therein lies the problem. In Israel , this has translated into policies that have denied many people the right to coexist and enjoy equal rights on the basis that they fall outside the definition of who should constitute the nation.” Surely these characteristics do not conform to the American ideals of “liberty and justice for all.” The modern state of Israel has more in common with segregation era United States than it does with other free countries throughout the world. Duncan goes on to say, “While I am alive to the complexity of the debate about equating Zionism with apartheid, both share the common characteristic of having constructed a system of inclusion and exclusion, rights and privileges, based on ethnic exclusivity, and institutionalized this system through the state.”

It is only through equality and justice that the future viability of the region can be insured for both Jews and Arabs. The horrible events of September the 11 th have placed the issues plaguing the Middle East in the forefront of American consciousness. And while our government's foreign policy has not changed for the better, it is my hope that the actual people of the region, Jew and Arab alike, will open their eyes to the possibility of peace. The struggle to bridge the rift that years of war and terror have created will not be easy, but if a lasting and equitable peace is accomplished, the concessions will have been worth it. I do not believe that the governments of Israel , the United States , or the Palestinian Authority will have the foresight or the desire necessary to bring about a peace that's long overdue. The responsibility lies instead in the hands of the everyday residents of the region. They must begin to see the humanity of their neighbors. They must recognize that Jews and Arabs have more in common than not. Perhaps the following passage from the book of Romans in the Holy Bible could serve as both a warning and a rally cry of hope for the region, “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.” While my views may outrage the most ardent Zionists and Arab nationalists, I believe that if looked at for what I am truly proposing both parties would receive the outcome they desire: peace.


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