KOHRMAN: These days the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma is an example of “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” We have witnessed some reasonably important events within the last few years, including Israel’s withdrawal of its settlements in Gaza and Israel’s war with Hezbollah. But little of major consequence has transpired since the refusal of the Palestinians to accept the generous peace terms brokered by Bill Clinton in 2000.Our disgust towards the Bush Administration ought not to blind us to the fact that the Administration’s outlook on this issue is correct. No peace will emerge, no Palestinian state will be founded, until the Palestinians truly recognize and accept Israel, renounce violence, abandon the “right” of return, and accept all previous agreements. There is no sign whatsoever that the Palestinians will do this. The ball has been in their court since the mid 1970s, in fact, and no major change has transpired. At least Hamas is honest about its intentions; Arafat and Fatah always prevaricated. But there is nothing for Israel to do but defend itself against Palestinian terrorism.
Quakers ought to ponder how much they are acting on their testimonies by supporting a people so devoted to terrorism as a means of achieving their objectives.
SCHIEL: A few points from an alternate point of view concerning Allan Kohrman’s remarks about the Israel-Palestine struggles:
1. To what extent is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians racist? If racism is defined as power over another people on the basis of supposed racial identity—universalizing the characterization of an entire people on the basis of that assumed racial identify (Arabs as terrorists, uncivilized, prone to violence, unwilling to negotiate or honor agreements)—then, since Israelis often label Palestinians as Arabs and polls frequently reveal a high proportion of Israeli’s hatred and fear of all Arabs, I believe the conflict is heavily laced with racism. Perhaps on both sides, unfortunately.
Southern Hebron Hills, March 2006
2. Israel’s withdrawal of its settlements from Gaza leaves Israel in full control of life in Gaza. Israel controls the air space (Israel ruined Gaza’s airport), access to the sea (current policy restricts Gazan fishers to just meters off shore, shrunk from the previous 10 km), raids the Strip with impunity, killing scores of civilians while trying to subdue Palestinian resistance. Admittedly, various Palestinian factions fire crude Qassam rockets into Israel, occasionally injuring and killing Israeli civilians—add this to the growing war crime list—but rocket-born suffering is small (yet important) compared to the suffering invoked by Israeli retaliation. Israeli security forces and civilians have killed over 4,000 Palestinians in the current intifada (uprising), since September 2000, while Palestinians have killed approximately 1,000 Israelis, a ratio of 4 to 1. (B’Tselem, the Israeli Center for Human Rights Information in the Occupied Territories)
3. The war in Lebanon, also complicated by both sides committing war crimes by targeting civilians, is the latest example of failed Israeli policy. Israel, unable to control the media in Lebanon, has suffered greatly on the index of world opinion.
4. “Generous peace terms” offered by Clinton? Those terms, if accepted by Arafat would have virtually ended the liberation struggle and slammed the door on Palestinian survival.
5. Is the Bush administration policy toward the conflict correct? Is it helping or hindering a settlement, does it aid the cessation of conflict or perpetuate it? By giving largely unqualified support to Israel the US encourages Israel to follow military solutions, missing opportunities for negotiated resolution and the end of suffering. After Iraq, Israel receives the largest share of US foreign aid, between $3 and $6 billion annually, including grants, loan guarantees and special requests. In 1995 this amounted to some $10,000 per Israeli.
Shifa hospital, Gaza, May 2006
6. And most crucially, why demand that “until the Palestinians truly recognize and accept Israel, renounce violence, abandon the ‘right’ of return, and accept all previous agreements” without making a similar demand on Israel?
7. Who are the terrorists? If terrorism is defined as attacks, often on non-combatants, designed to gain and maintain power, haven’t the Israelis, in forming the nation, committed terrorism? Some examples: the operations of the Stern Gang and the Irgun, blowing up the King David Hotel, killing hundreds of civilians in 1947, assassinating the UN official mediating a settlement, Count Folke Bernadotte from Sweden. And currently: abducting lawfully elected Hamas officials and attacking a building in a densely populated Gazan neighborhood, killing not only the “targets,” but the family and neighbors of the “target.” Doesn’t this qualify as terrorism?
8. If Israel has the right to defend itself, why not extend that right—granted by international law and UN resolutions—to the Palestinians? I oppose targeting civilians, by any party, no matter how strong their right to defense might be, and although I also oppose the use of any violence, the principle of fairness and balance should grant to all parties in the conflict rights enjoyed by any one party, especially when sanctioned by international law and common practice.
9. Quakers do need to ponder our testimonies, especially those related to justice, and ask, where is the justice in current US policy toward Palestine/Israel? What would a correct policy be, as advocated by Quakers?
Untreated sewage, Rafah, Gaza Strip, May 2006
Reprinted from The Freedom & Justice Crier of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers), available on line.
Comments solicited for possible publication in the Crier: Skip Schiel
QUAKERS AND JEWS
by Allan Kohrman
Allan Kohrman’s pamphlet, “Quakers & Jews,” is primarily focused on Friends response to the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He asserts that Friends organizations, including the AFSC and FUM, are uneven and unfair in their support of Palestine over and against Israel. Allan contends that longstanding systemic and even conscious anti-Semitism underlies the policy stances of these organizations. As we work to assist peoples suffering from the effects of war and injustice, Allan reminds us that the heart of Friends witness is to listen for and respond to “that of God” in all people, on all sides.