Friday, October 9, 2015

Palestinians Demand huge Concessions - Survival, Rights & Non-destroyed Infrastructure

The rocket attacks from Gaza must stop. That is a fact of law (they indiscriminately target, mostly missing of course). It is also a moral and political fact. Human beings have a right to a life free of such attacks. The deployment of projectiles can make places uninhabitable, and kill many.

It is true that Palestinians have a right to resist occupation - and then, follow the laws of war. Within reason - if a law states they must leave their cities and homes and go to the countryside as an open target for Israel - no people can be expected to lay down and die, or accept occupation and a strangling blockade.

Guerilla warfare is urban warfare - and legitimate cases of human shielding, i.e. deliberately firing from facilities like UN Hospitals and Schools - have had next to no occurrence. While many cases, including photo evidence prove Israeli human shielding of captured Palestinians, there is next to no documented evidence of Hamas doing human shielding - and this is during the very wars in which that excuse was used by Israel to kill many Palestinians.

This wholesale destruction is leads to barriers to peace. The Palestinians do not get to ascend the skies and make the option of leveling Israeli neighborhoods. The primary barrier to peace is the deployment of projectiles against Palestinians, and all of the institutional and physical destruction that reduces their ability to develop peacefully, kills them, and engenders hostility among the survivors.

Any cost to resolve grievances, and the responsibility to stop the destruction leading to those grievances, is vastly owed by Israel. But that cost is actually cheap for the Israelis, because it is mostly paid by returning some Palestinian sovereignty that Israel didn't have the right to take in the first place.

There is human life lost, and we must hold those liable not to do it anymore.

That is a basic, reasonable principle. And its application means an end to Israel's vastly enumerated polices of occupation and destruction.

I propose that we stop both sides from committing crimes against the other, and respectively require that they cease making casualties and destroying things in the opposing territory. We should stop each of the the humanitarian crises existing there, and allow a state to flourish legitimately in each, etc., etc.

Where death, especially on racist terms, is the consequence of their policies, all of these administrations - Israel, PA and Hamas - must obviously change. In each case, it does threaten their legitimacy - which is more destabilizing where the economy is a basket case. External sanctions/actions may be reasonable - but the key, of course, if you care about human rights, is to address the most destructive institutional racism first, and insure that all populations have a space to exist, protected from the destruction wrought based on identity/territory.

Neither side has the right to make life hell, and destroy life for the other on an indiscriminate basis. That is collective punishment, targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. Those are all illegal acts. They make peace with such an actor increasingly hard. By some absurd stretch, the parties *broken away from Hamas' chain of command* can be said to do some of that to Israel.

But by and large, it is Israel committing these acts. Israel is literally destroying Gaza and stealing more of the West Bank daily. Israel has dozens of laws (on top of court rulings) that enshrine different standards for Palestinians. That is on top of their military and occupation strategies, many of which are also illegal. But most importantly, the choices Israel makes dictate these things:
-The grievances, and how extremely they have damaged either party
-The possibility for peace, inverted to the extent of grievances and their effect
Documented Theft

Unwanted Peace

Israel is making peace impossible. It is by and large Israel which must change - its policies, the crimes, etc.. All these metrics point to the fact that Israel is doing everything in its power to prolong the conflict: it is engendering bad faith, more destroyed lives, ruining the Palestinian economy so they cannot be independent, denying statehood bids while - toppling, illegally, the democratically elected government of Palestinian Territories. There is no stronger way they could send the message: "we don't want peace, we want a non-stable state actor on our border that cannot possibly represent a partner for peace, because we have made sure that the elected representatives are dead, imprisoned, dethroned.

But they have it in their own words. Today, NPR had a favorable review of Dennis Ross' new book "Doomed to Succeed" (the topic: his work on just this issue for the last 3 administrations). In this segment, Siegel agrees with Ross: "[during each peace process], the Israelis waffle, can't quite describe what it is that they really want." Ross says Israelis are afraid that, should they explicitly state what they want in negotiations, Palestinians will use that to ask for concessions that erode just what the Israelis would ask for.

However, Palestinians have provided unprecedented concessions. They have agreed to let Israel keep most of their illegal settlements in the West Bank. They do not ask for compensation for their incredibly destroyed economy (by blockade which limits basic needs, withholding electricity which kills and sickens, and by the consequences of materiel invested in destroying Palestinians and their buildings indiscriminately). And Hamas, now has repeatedly agreed to form a coalition with the PA, granting the PA most power, and recognizing Israel. Even though Israel will not even declare borders, they are granted recognition by the very state they have been seizing land from (an element of them "not telling people what they want" remember). What an unprecented set of demands to put at the door of the population who overwhelming bear the death, subjugation and thievery in the conflict. The refugees are likely to ultimately concede their legal Right of Return - a massive concession that provides Israel with a territory that does not have to consult, or allow in many of the natives to that state.

What must the Palestinians stop? There are "rockets" (which do some damage, and should not be used indiscriminately - lets be fair) but they do not destroy the Israeli government. There is not a delegitimized, non-state actor in Israel as a consequence of the Palestinians' actions (it is the other way around). The Israeli economy is not a basket case (the Palestinian economy is dire - bad in the West Bank, and at humanitarian-crisis levels in Gaza).

A small percentage of Israelis experience a skyborne threat, which has a psychological toll, a property damage toll, a human life toll, and yes, a grievance which impacts the peace process. But that does not cause damage at even a modicum of the rate from the repeated leveling of housing, hospitals, schools, mosques (73 during Protective Edge) and of course the other destructive policies which Israel illegally implements upon a people it has no right to control.

Apply the Law, Including Palestinian Concessions

That is actually the point. To make a safe area that each population can thrive in. We shouldn't have a hard task in front of us, though. There is no mythical, unknown formula to provide for self-determination and co-existence on a basic level. It means to follow the principle: neither side has the actual power to create a humanitarian crisis next door. Where this is most egregiously incorrect - fix it. Follow international law.

It's fair to say that both sides must improve on international law. Moving forward, both sides will need to change. That is true for all negotiations that are productive. In the context of this  conflict, it is almost exclusively Israeli action that chooses:
-what will be the conditions of peace (continue creating "facts on the ground" with settlements)
-when peace can actually start.

I say the second point for this reason: the actions committed against Palestinians not only delegitimize the Palestinian State, (creating the false "no partner for peace" narrative), they also increase grievances and create more hardliners in Palestine. Would you be a hardliner if your entire neighborhood was leveled? Most people I know claim violent intent at far less instigation. Abuse on such an extreme level is incomprehensible in how ugly a response can get. That is why racism is so common in such conflict zones.

Like in Iran during the Nuclear negotiations, hardliners are those elements of civil society that want no compromises. In Palestine, they will specifically reject the kind of compromises that the PA has realized it will need to give to placate Israel.

The rate of Israeli peoples being punished, killed and abused by Palestinians is absurdly low compared to the opposite metric - these barriers to peace must be stopped. Make the Israelis stop abusing an occupied people and thereby erecting barriers to peace. Make them stop stealing land, oil, water, and burning olive groves, leveling Palestinian heritage sites, homes, and institutions of all sorts.

Right to Live, Thrive

Palestinians need vast concessions from Israel. I say this truthfully. They are vast because they are the entire lives of the Palestinians. Palestinians demand that they are allowed to live and thrive. They want self-determination - at least what Israel and their state will allow them. These are vast

Those concessions can be provided to the Palestinians with comparably negligible cost to Israel. That is mostly in their stopping stealing. It would be offset with saved Israeli money, but the occupation is cost-negative for Israel. They profit from the occupation. That metric must change. And it further proves just how little Israel wants to stop their occupation. Which - like much of what Israel does to the Palestinians - is illegal. It is not needed for defense. It is a far stronger argument that Palestine should occupy and stop Israeli incursions and crimes against Palestine - that is what the numbers say.

It is not a lot to ask for, and it is that which any population demands of an occupier: let me live. I am allowed to live and thrive and be free. That is huge to the Palestinians - and it costs barely a bit. That bit is something the Israelis don't have a right to anyways: the sovereignty of the Palestinian Territories. The world is better served, more secure, and safer if Palestine is allowed a stable state and economy, safe from bombings and theft now customary under, and from, the occupation.

Prospects for Peace

Ross agreed with Siegel when he said that the Israelis are never willing to state just what they want.
"ROSS: Right. And there are conversations with Henry Kissinger and Abba Eban in 1971 that is almost exactly the same as the conversation the Hillary Clinton had with Bibi Netanyahu in 2011. The reality is that the Israelis are always afraid that if they give us a bottom line, when we go to the other side, it won't be good enough. And then we'll come back to them, and we'll say, sorry, not good enough. And so they hesitate about going down a slippery slope."
The Palestinians have exactly this problem - the difference is that their dire situation demands that they make concessions by giving away their rights - the right of return, and the lands, water, buildings etc. that Israel already has taken illegally. The Palestinians have offered to let Israel keep what it has illegally taken. Other losses, the loss of life and economy, can never quite be repaid, and will not see monetary compensation either.

That is what is reasonable. We should at least stop the destruction. Allow for legitimate representaion in order to negotiate with each population. That means Hamas at the table too - the current context has a detente between the PA (nominally Fatah) and Hamas, with recognition being offered. That is what Israel keeps saying they want - words. The real sticklers for peace? "The constitution of Hamas" and not "Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State." Well, Israel has not only not recognized the Palestinian representatives when they were elected, they destroyed the government.

Lets's set this standard: you can ask for your negotiating partner to stop taking something from you - i.e. they are destroying a state or an economy - those are legitimate grievances, quantifiable, and barriers to peace. There is no grievance when your complaint is just that the other doesn't "recognize" your state. Israel consults, and is bound by no Palestinian when it sets the laws of its established - legal land. Those are mostly the territories occupied before 1967 - but be clear, they will get to take more. Palestinians have agreed to that. Israelis need not make any such concessions - they are not under occupation from Palestine.

The mere fact of Israeli might does not allow for such disproportionate, indiscriminate and collective destruction. That is illegal regardless of purported prompt or goals for Israel.

Any policy which seeks to stop these crimes builds a path to peace. That is basic arithmetic.

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Further Reading: works from Norman Finkelstein, Noura Erakat, Noam Chomsky, National Public Radio (Morning Edition, All Things Considered, On Point), al Jazeera English and Haaretz are all quite instrumental to understanding the conflict. AJE reporting on Palestine Papers, and Amnesty Int'l / Human Rights Watch / B'Tselem provide good documentation of negotiations & abuses and barriers to peace , respectively.

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