HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

January 7, 2008
From Our Readers

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Re: Harvard Square Observer of December 31, 2007

Ernest Cassara's visit to the West Bank has left him like the blind man who feels an elephant's leg and proclaims that the animal is shaped like a tree, Cassara continues to portray the Palestinians as wholly innocent victims of Israeli hegemony.  Never mind their participation in wars of annihilation against Israel ('48, '67, '73), the sending of suicide bombers to murder innocent Israelis (the record was 60 in 2002 resulting in 426 Israeli casualties), the almost daily bombardment of southern Israel by Qassam rockets (1,080 last year), or the continued refusal of Hamas to recognize Israel's status as a state.

Is the Israeli occupation of the West Bank repressive?  Yes.  And whether the road blocks and the presence of Israeli soldiers is a practical way to at least hinder terrorist acts, or whether they take advantage of terrorist acts as an excuse to perpetuate the occupation, eliminating terrorist acts is clearly a pre-condition to ending the occupation.  The peace proposal published by Gush Shalom, the most radical of several Israeli peace groups and the only one mentioned by Cassara, includes that as a condition.

Has Israel made mistakes?  Certainly.  A big one was not establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza after the 1967 war.  Neither Jordan nor Egypt, which had occupied the West Bank and Gaza respectively, thought to establish such a state. (In fact, there has never been an independent Palestinian nation.) Israel doing so would have been an act of generosity.  It would have precluded the occupation and therefore the vexing settlements, but Israel feared another attack by the surrounding Arab nations that had already attacked it twice, so it saw the West Bank and Gaza as a safety margin.  Now the settlements are as much an impediment to peace as are terrorist attacks.

The settlements were begun by Sharon as defensive outposts, but were quickly seized on and greatly expanded by religious fundamentalists who hope to make them the basis for absorbing all the land west of the Jordan.  In this, they share an ambition with Palestinian extremists who also want to unite all the land west of the Jordan, except of course as Palestine rather than as Israel.

Everyone knows what peace between Israel and the Palestinians will look like: there will be an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and this state will recognize Israel.  But peace will not come merely as a result of each side, or its partisans, blaming the other; peace will come when each side also acknowledges its own responsibility and resigns itself to a future of freedom and security for all the people of the area.

Jerome Richard
Contentious Reader


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