Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Justice: The Only Guarentee of Peace

This a column I submitted to the PLNU newspaper. It's a column regarding the crisis in Gaza.

I am opposed to war and violence. Therefore I am vehemently opposed to the tactics employed by both parties in the recent war in Gaza. Hamas’ continuing rocket attacks on southern Israel, and similarly, Israel’s sophisticated air assault and ground invasion of Gaza are both morally bankrupt actions.

The problem with the current analysis of this conflict is that we start the analysis only a few months ago, when Hamas increased their rocket attacks on Israel. We think that sometime in the recent past, bearded Islamist fundamentalists, haters of diversity, democracy, and Judaism, decided to start attacking their closest democratic neighbor.

We need to take a few steps backward.

When the State of Israel was born in 1948, Palestinians experienced this as the Nakba, meaning, the catastrophe. Over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes in order that Israeli Jews would comprise a majority in the territory, hoping to provide a safe-haven following the genocide of Jews in the holocaust.

In 1967, Israel forcefully took control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which were previously governed by Egypt and Jordan respectively. Thus began the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

For more than 40 years, Palestinian Gazans have lived under the watchful eye of Israeli military. Palestinians constantly have to show identity cards to Israeli military, face long waits at Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks, and are forced to stay inside the Strip under poor conditions. According to the UN, 45% of Gazans are unemployed (the highest rate in the world) as 95% of factories in Gaza have closed in recent years. 70% of Gazans live on less than $1.20 per day.

Some say that Palestinian Gazans have brought this on themselves, arguing that Israel completely withdrew from the Strip in 2005, leaving it up to Palestinians to govern the territory. Others argue the Israeli occupation continues as Israel regulates every good, gallon of fuel, and drop of water that comes into the Strip by controlling all border crossings.

The situation worsened for Gazans in 2006 following the democratic election of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Despite the legitimacy of the election, harsh economic sanctions were placed on Gaza and the border crossings were completely closed when Hamas took power.

Now we arrive at the 2008-2009 Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Gaza Strip. As of now, over 1,300 Palestinians have been killed, 410 children and 104 women. 13 Israelis were killed in the fighting, 3 of which were civilians.

I condemn the killing on both sides. Those who bomb civilian populations should be prosecuted for war crimes. Nevertheless, 60 years of cruel oppression along with the current Israeli siege of Gaza, certainly provides justification for Palestinian resistance to the Israeli siege and occupation. Condemning the chosen means of resistance from our ivory towers is useless as long as Palestinians are cruelly oppressed in the open air prison known as the Gaza Strip.

Israel cannot bomb its way into peaceful coexistence with Palestinian militants, nor can the United States secure safety from Islamic jihadists by providing Israel with fighter jets and bombs to carry out their missions. But rather, the violent subjugation and oppression of the Palestinian people in Gaza will surely intensify the armed resistance in Gaza and will push Palestinians to respond through the only means that Israel has demonstrated, violence. Rockets fired into Israel are clearly a response to the cruel Israeli siege and occupation of Gaza, and the subsequent humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The time I have spent in Israel/Palestine has shown me that as long as the subjugation of the Palestinian people continues, as long as Palestinians are treated as less than human beings, Palestinians will resist, and frankly we are not in a position to choose which form of resistance they will employ. Whether we are pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, or pro-peace, we can agree on a solution to the conflict: grant Palestinians the dignity, respect, and freedom to which all human beings are entitled. The first step is a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which will provide Palestinians the ability to work, move, and live. This and only this, will provide the foundation and framework for lasting justice and peace.

2 comments:

Jessie said...

Sam, I don't know what your current email address is, but I just wanted to write a comment and tell you how amazing I think it is that you are doing this work in Gaza!

I found your blog through the Auburn article (G sent it to me - I have no idea where he saw it), and I posted about you today on my blog (hope that's alright).

I am committing to pray for you daily, and I look forward to reading about your journey here on your site!

P.S. I bought a palestinian scarf (can't remember what it's called) from a garage sale not too long ago, and have been mildly criticized for wearing it, but now I can say I am wearing it in support of the oppressed people and my friend who is there working for peace!

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