PM Netanyahu: Dear Arab citizens of Israel--take part in our society in droves.
(photo credit: screenshot)
Fate has brought our two peoples together on the same land, but neither fate nor faith is responsible for what we do on this land. The Palestinian people have now been living under Israeli military occupation for nearly half a century, with no end in sight. This can’t continue and your government and army, holding 2.8 million Palestinians under the rule of the gun and preventing Palestinians refugees from exercising their UN mandated rights, can’t shirk responsibility.
Sure, your hasbara (propaganda) machine and your soft talk about being willing to meet with the Palestinian leader any place, any time without preconditions make your government sound like it is interested in peace, but this is not how peace is made.
Peace requires courage and resolve, not obfuscation and attempts to change the topic. It is the Palestinians’ fault for inciting violence, or the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel’s Jewishness or Palestinian schoolbooks that are to blame. Meanwhile your soldiers are manning hundreds of checkpoints, protecting hooligan settlers, empowering illegal settlement activities and destroying Palestinian homes in record numbers. Your government and army has besieged the entire Gaza Strip for years, without an end in sight. When will this end?
You constantly talk about the need for talks. Everyone knows that talks, even talks that are superficially without preconditions are based on agreed parameters. So what are the parameters you accept? Do you in fact agree to the two-state solution, an independent contiguous Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel on the 1967 borders? If yes, great, then can you please order your government to stop building settlements in the 1967 territories, which the International Court of Justice ruled are occupied territories. International humanitarian law makes such settlements by an occupying power illegal.
While we’re on the subject of international law, why are Palestinians imprisoned without trial or charge? This is also illegal and contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention, as is the transfer of prisoners into Israel. One Palestinian colleague, Omar Nazzal, a member of the Palestinian journalists’ syndicate, is now in jail without charge or trial. The International Press Institute and other international organizations have condemned these arrests without trial.
This week my daughter gave birth in east Jerusalem, and only relatives with permission from Ramallah and Bethlehem could visit her. My other daughter gave birth two years ago also in Jerusalem but has not been given a birth certificate because her husband is from Bethlehem. Her husband is now doing his post graduate studies in biblical archaeology and she is in Jerusalem, and was told she has to spend two years in the city to prove her connection to her birthright simply to get a birth certificate for her baby.
If we want to talk about the reality of life in Palestine, we would need volumes. Suffice to say that the human rights record of the Israeli army in the occupied territories includes summary assassinations and continuous brutal and exaggerated use of force against a civilian population.
For decades Palestinians have been searching for a way to end this situation and become free like all people around the planet. When Palestinians used force to resist occupation, they were termed terrorists, including when Israeli soldiers were attacked. When Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat made peace with Yitzhak Rabin, the Palestinians were left guarding the populated cities while settlers kept on building illegal settlements.
Since the Oslo Accords the number of settlers has tripled. When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas began earnest talks based on a US-agreed formula in which Israel would release some 100 longtime prisoners in return for the PLO refraining from practicing its right to join UN agencies, your government balked at the release of the last group of 26 prisoners. Even US Secretary of State John Kerry put the blame on Israel for the collapse of the talks, saying that when the prisoners were not released the talks “went poof.” The latest and most serious offers for peace talks, by the French, are also being rejected by your government.
Now some Palestinians and international supporters are using nonviolent tactics to force your government to respond to international and Arab peace demands to end the occupation and to solve jointly the refugee problem. Instead your government and its embassies around the world are declaring opponents to occupation and supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), including many Jews, to be anti-Semitic.
A courageous Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy, once asked the late Yitzhak Rabin what he would have done if he had been born a Palestinian. Rabin answered that he probably would have joined one of the PLO fighting groups.
I ask you the same question: what would you do today to bring about an end to the occupation, and the creation of a true independent, democratic and contiguous Palestinian state if you were a Palestinian? Would you be involved in violent resistance, as Rabin suggested? Would you call for a boycott? Or would you sit idly by and allow your country and homeland to be militarily occupied and colonized while its resources are depleted and its people besieged?
The author is an award winning Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Follow him ontwitter.com/ daoudkuttab.