Encourage your local newspaper to state the obvious: Editorials must call for the basic minimum demanded by international law — an end to Israel’s military occupation

15 November 2001

SOURCE

Minneapolis Star Tribune Editorial:
The occupation / It’s time for Israel to end it (12 November 2001)

In June 1967, facing the threat of attack by three Arab neighbors, Israel launched a preemptive strike and sent tanks rolling across its borders into land that had been in Arab hands for years. Thus began Israel’s occupation of two zones known as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — and the modern chapter of friction between Israelis and the Palestinian residents of those territories.

It is time for that occupation to end. It humiliates and punishes the 3 million Palestinians who live under watch of Israeli tanks and troops. It places young Israeli soldiers in constant peril. It puts Palestinian and Israeli civilians in frequent and volatile contact, with the result that magnificent biblical cities have turned into bomb targets and shooting galleries. And, because of tight security measures in recent years, it is slowly strangling the Palestinian economy.

Under a peace framework negotiated at Oslo, Norway, in the early 1990s, Israel was to withdraw gradually from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, at each step granting new autonomy to the Palestinians and receiving new guarantees of order and security. That phased approach is not working. Life for Palestinians has grown worse, not better, leading them to believe that the Oslo process was a trick. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has not delivered the security that Israelis expected. Israel has continued to build new housing settlements in occupied land to which it has no right, doubling the Israeli population in Arab territory. The trust-building steps envisioned in Oslo have instead turned into new rounds of suspicion and recrimination.

Israel’s withdrawal can’t happen all at once; neither side is prepared for the economic or security arrangements. But the United States should insist that Israel stop expansion of the housing settlements and begin dismantling them. The first Bush administration did exactly that 10 years ago, using measured financial and political pressure, and it was the right approach. A full Israeli withdrawal to something like the 1967 borders is now under discussion among Israeli and Palestinian intellectuals, and the United States should help that happen safely and fairly.

Many Israelis insist on continuing the occupation so that their troops can hunt down terrorists and their government can hold a bargaining chip for future negotiations. But the military chokehold on Palestinian cities is an ineffective way to stop terrorism. Instead, it imposes collective punishment on innocent Palestinians while fueling new extremist rage. As for future negotiations, the ultimate goal should be a peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians, but Israel will still hold many, many cards when that time comes.

Palestinians, too, are skeptical of unilateral Israeli withdrawal. They want it to occur in the framework of negotiations over borders, refugees and other issues. But the Palestinian Authority has very little negotiating leverage at this point, and a lifting of the Israeli occupation would be a great relief for average Palestinians under almost any circumstances.

The Bush administration can’t force Israel to end the occupation. Israel is, after all, a democracy, and just this year it elected a hawkish prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who is ill-disposed to compromise with the Palestinians. But withdrawal should be the Bush administration’s message. The United States cannot continue being a party to an occupation that is illegal under international law, that brutalizes the Palestinian people and that stimulates further terrorism against Israeli civilians. Continued military occupation only spills more blood, deepens old wounds and prolongs a terrible conflict.

PROBLEMS

1. COMMON SENSE NEEDS DISSEMINATION - The Star Tribune shows basic wisdom and common sense by calling for the most obvious step to be taken in an attempt to end the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict — namely the implementation of international law that calls for Israel to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories.

The above editorial was well thought out. It begins by describing the occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank in 1967, and notes the major problems it poses to both sides. Correctly asserting that Oslo’s phased process failed because life for Palestinians has “grown worse” and continued Israeli settlement construction led most Palestinians to consider the process was a “trick”.

The Star Tribune argues that the United States should ensure Israel’s withdrawl to the 1967 borders happens “safely and fairly.” It notes that keeping hold of the territories radicalises and unnecessarily angers the Palestinian population. It correctly notes that a unilateral Israeli withdrawl would release an enormous amount of pressure from the Palestinian population.

Finally, the Star Tribune notes that although it is unlikely that Israeli government will want to compromise with the Palestinians, none the less “withdrawl should be the Bush administration’s message,” and asserts the powerful message that, “The United States cannot continue being a party to an occupation that is illegal under international law, that brutalizes the Palestinian people and that stimulates further terrorism against Israeli civilians.”

SOLUTION

Write to your local newspaper or to the main newspaper you read:

1. Citing the Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial of November 12th, “The occupation / It’s time for Israel to end it”.

2. Commending the Star Tribune for asserting the obvious, namely that Israel must withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967, thus implementing international law.

3. Noting that the international community has been calling on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories since the passing of UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967 — 34 years ago.

4. Noting also that the United States bears a huge responsibility for the continued Israeli occupation — both because of its massive military and economic aid to Israel since 1949, totalling some $133 billion dollars, and because this amount has been disbursed regardless of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

5. Asking your local newspaper to speak out — as did the Star Tribune — about this important matter of national interest, and make clear where it stands in relation to the illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip, and West Bank including Jerusalem.

6. Please write an original letter and do not simply copy & paste the information above. As always, be as BRIEF as possible, POLITE, quote accurately, and include your name, address, and telephone number (which most publications require to ensure publication or to officially register a complaint). Send a copy of any protest and particularly, of any response you receive to info@electronicIntifada.net.

This action item (#20, 15 November 2001) was prepared by Nigel Parry.