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55 Years of Israeli Oppression II

By Hassan El-Najjar and Rich Maurice

June 9, 2003

 

 

Rich Maurice:

            Let me start by thanking you for posting my message on May 14th and replying to it articulately and courteously. As I stated in my original memo we need dialog to get through this ordeal. In this respect your website provides a valuable service in sharing diverse opinions and providing a forum for discussion of those ideas. I will not respond to your letter point by point as I agree with many aspects of your response. There are however areas where we do not see eye to eye and I feel they warrant discussion.

            I would like to note that you condemned terrorism as a non-Islamic. That’s all well and good but the reality is that nearly all of the world’s current terrorism can be traced back to Islamic nations. Providing lip service to the issue of terrorism is fine but I have yet to hear an Islamic leader take the lead in denouncing terrorism as a tactic that must be stopped. There is no broad based Islamic plan for bringing Islamic terrorism under control and when Bin Laden killed over 3,000 U. S. citizens on September 11th the Islamic world was so distraught they decided to use the opportunity to admonish the U. S. as getting what it deserved. You can turn a blind eye to this issue but it really serves neither the purpose of the U. S. nor that of Islam.

 

Hassan El-Najjar:

Terrorism is defined by majority of people all over the world as killing and injuring civilians in order to achieve political goals. It has been condemned by all nations in the world, including Islamic nations, without exception. It is condemned in particular by all Palestinian organizations, not just the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Actually, it has become like a ritual for the PNA to condemn terrorism after every terrorist attack resulting in the killing and injuring of civilians, whoever they maybe. All Muslim states, Arab and non-Arab, have condemned terrorism.

To your surprise, maybe, all Palestinian orgainzations, including Hamas, Jihad, and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, denounce terrorism everytime Israeli occupation forces kill and injure Palestinian civilians, which is almost a daily practice. This is what's missing in the West, particularly in the US where Israelis are most influential. There is a deafening double standard on both Western government and media levels. Whenever Muslims, including Palestinians, commit acts of terrorism (targeting, killing, and injuring civilians), they are condemned and Muslim governments and Muslim media are expected to do so. However, when Israeli occupation forces kill and injure Palestinian civilians, which is a daily practice (see the Human Price and the Israeli Daily Aggression sections), Both Western governments and media, particularly the US, are deaf, blind, and dumb. You can't have it both ways, as Americans say. This is hypocrisy, big time. It has to come to an end, engough is enough.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine is terrorism and the main source of terrorism. For 36 years now, Israelis have manoeuvered to avoid doing what they have to do, withdrawal from the Palestinian occupied territories. Only then, Palestinian resistance will stop and true negotiations will start about coexistence and cooperation. Right now, negotiations are nothing but tricks to avoid Israeli withdrawal.

In several previous editorials and articles, I have argued that the Israeli occupation of Palestine has led to dragging the US to the Middle Eastern conflict. The US military presence in the Arabian Peninsula, which has been extended to the occupation of Iraq, has been another major cause of resentment against the US among Arabs and Muslims. Israel has to withdraw from the Palestinian territories and the US has to withdraw from the Arabian Peninsula, in order for the conflict to come to an end. Until this happens, Arabs and Muslims will defend themselves against the two invading powers, which will result in pain on all sides, including terrorism. It will all starts with the Israelis acknowledging that they cannot expand on the expense of others without painful costs. Only then, their supporters may stop dragging the US to more conflicts to protect Israel and its expansionist policies in the Middle East.

 

Rich Maurice:

            To give you a sense of the impact of September 11th on the average U. S. citizen I’ll share my personal experience. On September 10th I was at work and not real busy. I was upset that I had read of a young Palestinian who was shot while returning home from a bookstore. It happens that one of my coworkers was of Jewish descent and we engaged in a rather heated debate about of the notion of Israeli actions being overly aggressive and possibly criminal. On September 11th the young Palestinian was a human being whose basic rights had been violated.

            On September 12th I watched Palestinians celebrate in the streets at the destruction caused by Bin Laden. I cared no more about the young Palestinian (anger) and convinced myself the actions taken by Israel were justified as necessary to protect itself against Palestinians. How many other American views do you suppose changed as mine did? The effect of terrorism is to dehumanize Arabs and Muslims. The Islamic world has not taken it seriously as evidenced by the attacks in Saudi Arabia last week and the failure to capture Bin Laden. The Saudis promised stepped up security prior to the attacks yet the guards at the housing areas had no weapons at the time of the attack. Bin Laden is hiding in areas that claim to be Muslim. Why hasn’t he been captured? Surely there are Muslims in the area that know his whereabouts.   

 

Hassan El-Najjar:

First, one important issue has to be corrected. Nobody in the world is of Jewish descent, just like nobody is of Islamic, Christian, Hindu, or Bhuddist descent. Judaism is a religion, a belief system, not a genealogy. Anybody can become a Jew by conversion, but it does not create a blood relationshipt between him or her and other Jews. Descent means descending from a common ancestor. Jews do not descend from a common ancestor. The same applies to followers of other religions. This is an important issue because Israelis and their supporters have spread an erroneous idea that confuses them with descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Some Jews are, but others are not. Some Muslims and Christians (the Palestinian people) are also descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Holy Land has been promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not to Jews, or Christians, or Muslims per se. Read the Bible.

I heard about this alleged story of some Palestinians reacting to the September 11th terrorist attacks. But I read that the footage was taken earleir. What is amazing is that you have not mentioned how the vast majority of Palestinians reacted. They lit candles in front of the US Consulate in Jerusalem, all night (ask the US State Department). The following day, students in all Palestinian schools stood for five minutes in silence for the victims of September 11. I haven't heard of any school in the United States in which students stood for five minutes in silence. The Palestinian President Yassir Arafat, who is shunned by the US government to please the Israelis, has donated his blood for the victims. All this is documented and actually was reported by CNN, and feel free to check it. The most important issue here is that even if the story were true, how many people did that? Ten, twenty, thirty? How can you hold a whole nation of seven million people with the longest period of suffering in the world responsible for the behavior of a handful of people. This is like Sharon's logic in that he would not start negotiations until all Palestinians lay down their arms. So the entire Palestinian people should stay under Israeli occupation because one person decides to resist the Israeli occupation with a bomb or a bullet.

The same troubling thinking is about Bin Laden. Should all Muslims in the world suffer because Bin Laden and his organization have decided to fight against the United State? The best solution to end Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Jihad, Hizballah, or any organization is ending the US and Israeli invasions of the Muslim lands. By the continuous invasion and occupation of the Muslim land, the US and Israel are inviting and actually provoking resistance. This is the real characterization of the conflict. All these organizations appeared after the US-Israeli invasions, not before them. Thus, they are reactions to US-Israeli policies, not an expression of hate to the West, the US, and Israel.

 

Rich Maurice:

You commented that you believe the “West” excluding the U. S. is generally more responsible for what is happening now. The West is more responsible for the origin of the current problem but not for the current situation. I am happy to note that you excluded the U. S. from the “West”. The United States in fact had nothing to do with the return of the Jewish people nor Western imperialism in the Middle East. Your timeline of events however leaves out several key dates:

“The World Zionist movement is responsible for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Since its establishment in 1897, it worked on colonizing Palestine on the expense of the Palestinian people. When Israel was established in 1948, it evicted Palestinians from their homes, instead of extending citizenship to them. Then Israelis occupied the rest of Palestine in 1967.”  (El-Najjar).

1920/1921 Arab riots and murders of Jews

1929 Arab riots-Hebrom Husseini issues the call: Itback al-Yahud "Slaughter the Jews!" Jews massacred by Arab militants

1936-1938 Arab riots-instigated by Arab militants terrorist attacks against the Jews and the British

November 29, 1947 UN Decision to partition Palestine into two states

May 15, 1948 Declaration of the State of Israel and beginning of the War for Independence-Israel invaded by five Arab states

1978 Camp David and Peace Treaty with Egypt-included framework for comprehensive peace in the Middle East and proposal for Palestinian self-government.

1987 Intifada (Arab uprising)

 

Hassan El-Najjar:

I have not left out any event on purpose, I have just mentioned some of them, as examples. If you want an accurate and a comprehensive chronicle, then you will find events everyday in which Palestinians were slaughtered by Israeli Jews. For example, you left out the massacres of Dair Yassin (1948), Qibyeh, Khan Younis and Rafah (1956), and Sabra and Shatilla (1982) in which Sharon personally was implicated. You left out the invasion of Lebanon in that year, which caused tens of thousands of civilian lives and hundreds of thousands of injuries and enormous destruction in that country. You also left out the Jewish terrorist organizations: Irgun, Stern, and the Haganah, led by Begin, Shamir, and Ben Gorion and their terrorist crimes against the Palestinian people. Morever, you left Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Muslim worshippers while praying in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, where our Father Ibrahim the Patriarch is buried with his family. You left out the massacre of Al-Aqsa (2000) after Sharon defiantly entered Al-Aqsa Mosque sparking the current Uprising. You left out the Jenin massacre, supervised by Sharon, which has not been investigated until now because Israel defiantly refused to allow a UN Committee to investigate it, of course with the full protection of the Bush administration. Finally, you left out the Gaza massacre, in which Sharon ordered the dropping of a one-ton bomb on a residential building in Gaza (July 23, 2002), while knowing that women, children, and civilian men will die. The Israeli atrocities and war crimes are all well documented. They have been committed on daily basis since 1967. Finally, both uprisings have been attempts to resist the Israeli occupation.

Israeli has brought one thing to the Middle East and the world: death and destruction. It's time to stop blaiming the victims of Israel and have the courage to say that it is Israel and its expansionist policies that have caused all these wars and miseries in the Middle East and the Islamic world. To continue finding excuses to what the Israelis have been doing will only encourage them to continue in their aggression, which will only perpetuate the cycle of attacks and countreattacks.

 

Rich Maurice:

Then there was the Oslo peace treaty of course and we know how that turned out and what has happened since. The situation in Israel and Palestine has been defined by years of aggression. The result is two people that have little respect or trust of the other. To imply that it’s all the Jew’s and Westerner’s fault or all the Arab/Muslim’s fault is to be very selective in recalling history. It’s purpose I believe is to gain bargaining power and strategic positioning. These tactics have been used for years and only provided an escalation of violence and suffering.

 

Hassan El-Najjar:

It is Israel, which is occupying the Palestinian territories and controlling the lives of Palestinians, not the other way around. It's not a matter of whose fault it is. It is a matter of how the problem can be solved. If the occupation is the problem, then ending it is the solution.

Rich Maurice:

“What responsibility do you want Arabs and Muslims to acknowledge? Do you want them to acknowledge that European imperialism was right? Do you want the Palestinians to thank Zionist Israelis for coming from Europe and America to take their lands and control them for 36 years until today?”

By attacking and murdering Jews in Palestine, Arabs and Muslims provided fuel for Zionism. Zionism began in Russia and was imported to Palestine by a relatively small group (as I understand it) of Jewish refugees. A study of this matter finds most of the refugees returning to the land had no plans for the formation of an Israeli state by force. Additionally the estimated Arab population of Palestine in 1882 was at 250,000. Most Arab Palestinians moved into the area after the Jewish immigration began to justify restrictions on Jewish immigration (the land would not support so many people), according to the following websites:

http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~samuel/britainriots.html

http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_mandate_riots_1920-21.php

 

Hassan El-Najjar:

World Zionism was established in Basle, Switzerland, in 1897, and adopted a program to colonize Palestine and change it into a Jewish homeland. Yes, Palestinian Arabs (Muslims and Christians) were about 250,000 in the 1880s, but Jews were only about 15,000 (fifteen thousand). Palestinian Arabs have never been absent from Palestine whether before the arrival of Abraham (Canaanites and Philistines) or after. Present Palestinians are the descendants of all nations that had a history in Palestine. To claim that there was a difference because of religion is an erraneous idea, as I explained above. Palestinian Arabs (Muslims and Christians) have always been majority in Palestine. They are majority now and will be majority in the future. Right now, there are about five million Jews (of Arab and non-Arab descent) in Palestine. But there are 3.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, 1.3 million in Israel, and about 2 million Palestinian refugees outside Palestine, who will not rest until they return to Palestine.

 

Rich Maurice:

I’ve answered part this question but there is more…

“The United States had a clean record in terms of imperialism in the Middle East until the 1991 Gulf War. But the decade long sanctions, the war on Iraq against the will of the UN, and the US military presence in the Arabian Peninsula, all have contributed to resentment among Arabs and Muslims. About a million and a half Iraqis died because of these sanctions. I think that you follow the news about what's happening in Iraq right now: no security, no government, and no services.” (El-Najjar).

Here in lies a major area of contention. You recall that the United States was called to the Arabian Peninsula following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait at the request of the displaced Kuwaiti leadership and at the request of the Saudi government. We responded, we put our soldiers lives in jeopardy and we removed Iraq from Kuwait (and fixed gold plated faucets in palaces). At the end of the war you will also recall that U. S. forces were moving towards Baghdad when several powers around the world requested we withdraw. Several Arab countries were among those requesting we stop. The greatest error we made was to cave in to these requests. The result is well documented. Rather than incur a couple hundred U. S. casualties and likely civilian casualties numbering less than we incurred in the most recent Iraq war, we succumbed to pressure. The result? Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s slaughtered in Southern Iraq, death to over 600 Kuwaiti captives, hatred in Saudi Arabia for maintaining an air control center to enforce the no fly zones, distrust among the Iraqi population and yes the death of many children because of U. N. imposed sanctions. Yes Iraqis lack basic services today. It would be much easier to restore them and turn the country back over to the people of Iraq if our forces were not under daily attack by Arab and Muslim extremist groups.  Our fault? We can accept some of the blame for poor planning but most of the world had a hand in this and the Islamic/Arabic world played a key role.

 

Hassan El-Najjar:

The 1991 Gulf War itself was an overreaction and excessiveness (see my book). It should not have happened. Iraq wanted to withdraw without a fight if allowed. George Bush Sr. replied, "No face saving."

The 1991 Gulf War resulted in forcing Iraq out of Kuwait. The biggest US mistake was staying in the Arabian Peninsula, not marching to Baghdad as you said. This is how Al-Qaeda emerged.

Sanctions were brutal. They led to the death of about 1.5 million Iraqis, about half a million of whom were children.

The highest estimate of victims of the 1991 US-invoked Irqi uprising was 30,000,  not hundreds of thousands, as you mentioned.

 

Rich Maurice:

 “Despite all of this, I believe that the conflict can be resolved peacefully by correcting the US foreign policy to be fair and friendly to Arabs and Muslims. Israel should be forced to withdraw from the occupied Arab territories, leaving Palestinians alone. The US military presence in Arabia should end. And economic cooperation and trade between the US and the Middle East should replace hostility (El-Najjar).

 “How can this be achieved? Let's discuss that. But for now, education is the least we can do for that noble cause.”

How is peace possible? We all need to make better choices in the future. The latest initiative for peace in Palestine and Israel is underway. I already see the traditional positioning of the powers to gain advantage and leverage. It didn’t work in 1920, 1930 or any year since then. For peace to be achieved in this region will require a new approach. We must stop looking for political advantage and start looking for working solutions. I see the plan this way:

Palestinian Statehood-All parties agree

Borders-agreement can be reached

Occupied territories-Will be returned

Palestinian refugees right to return-a major problem

End to terrorist attacks-when it’s convenient

End to Israeli incursions-when it’s convenient

The issue that will most likely derail this process is Palestinian right to return. While I sympathize with the refugees, I can’t imagine 2 to 7 million (numbers I’ve heard, not researched) Palestinian refugees returning to Israel and everything working out for the good of all concerned. If the 7 million figure is accurate, Palestinians will outnumber Jews (4 to 5 million) in Israel. If they held voting rights, they would effectively end Israeli statehood and we would be back to 1920 again. If they were given less political status than Jews that would open a whole new Pandora’s box. I do not suppose that I have a solution but I think the entire process stands a better chance for success if we look for a working solution rather than leverage from the start. We might consider for example:

Turning all occupied lands, buildings and businesses over to the refugees as recognition for their suffering and compensation for property taken.

Monetary settlements for each refugee.

Redrawing the current Israel-Palestine map to provide Israeli lands to the refugees (smaller Israel, larger Palestine).

Formation of a two state country which allows both Jews and Palestinians some autonomy while providing a joint purpose in eliminating outside meddling.

We need to be creative but more importantly we need to be open-minded. It’s in all our best interests. We need something else too. We absolutely must have an end to terrorism attacks by Muslim or Arabs in the United States and aimed at U. S. citizens abroad. Nothing will bring a lack of concern for Palestinian and Israeli interests more quickly than another attack. The Islamic/Arab world will have to manage that one. We cannot prevent it without your help or without resorting to catastrophic means.

I believe education is and always will be the quest to comprehend both sides of an argument as to make the best decisions. The best educated among us are not those who form opinions and search for data to back them up, they are those who question their assumptions by studying the opposing ideas.

It’s unfortunate that in the U. S. school system, our children have little exposure to Middle Eastern history and particularly little education on the period from 1850 to 1967. We are left primarily searching for answers on our own. To further complicate the situation I fear the majority of us are limited to the exposure we receive on prime time television, which usually amounts to a screaming Jewish spokesperson attempting to drown out a screaming Palestinian spokesperson in turn attempting to drown him out. If we search for answers on-line we get more information than can possibly be consumed or it’s extremely biased toward one side or the other. It’s not surprising that many of us just give up.

It is also unfortunate that in your analysis of the situation you always leave out the Palestinian attacks on Jews in 1920/1921, 1929 and 1936-1938, the massive migrations of Arabs to Palestine in the same period Jews migrated and the attacks on Israel by neighboring countries. I have read through several pieces you have written on the subject and you are consistent in ignoring these well documented facts. Why? In my mind they simply illustrate the parallels between Arabs and Jews, which could possibly provide a basis for common cause. 

I would like to see a week long TV special (where the most Americans can be reached) on the Middle East that does not involve the normal shouting matches and gets to the core issues. I would like to see included:

History from the Ottoman Empire forward

British perspective on how history unfolded including key dates

Jewish perspective on how history unfolded including key dates

Arab/Palestinian/Muslim perspective on how history unfolded including key dates

Proposals for resolution

One huge joint prayer for the answers

Do you know anyone at NBC or CBS? It may be a good idea for you to create a section of your website which provides these perspectives. The audience will not be as broad but it may provide a catalyst for a discussion on a broader level.

 

Hassan El-Najjar:

I was so moved when I read your last section, I was about to cry. I felt your honesty and sincerity to end this senseless conflict. How can we do that? We see that there is an agreement on the two-state solution. Why don't the Israelis withdraw, so the whole process would start?

What's wrong with Jews, Christians, and Muslims living together, just like we do in America and other countries? Why must Israel have to be Jewish while it is not in reality? What's wrong with building settlements for Palestinian refugees wherever it is suitable in historical Palestine? I understand that separation (two states) is necessary now but what about the future of the relationship between the two tiny states? The final-status issues will not be hard to be resolved after the establishment of the Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza, not before.

So far, the record shows that Sharon and his Likude Party want to stay in the Palestinian territories, supported by the Washington's Likudnicks, known as the neo-conservatives, who not only support the Israeli occupation but also want to invade more Muslim lands, this time Iran. I hope that they will prove me wrong by the US withdrawal from Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula and the Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories.

Your suggestion to have a week-long educational program about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in NBC or CBS is wonderful if it happens, in order to reach for more Americans, Jews and Christians alike. But how, I don't know anybody there. Actually, the pro-Israel bias in the US media was the main reason I started Al-Jazeerah.info.

But whether at aljazeerah.info or anywhere else, I'll continue in this path hoping to find people like you, so we can proceed together to bring sanity back to humanity, to tell the truth, to say that war is not the solution. Peace to you Rich Maurice.

 

A reply after publication:

 

Dr. Hassan El-Najjar,

 

   In reading through your response I was somewhat disappointed. It's not that I feel your heart is in the wrong place. I have lived my whole life in the United States with the exception of five years in Asia. I spent my young days in a small town where on Memorial day we attended parades to honor the men that kept our country free. I know how seriously we take the protection of our nation and it's people. It's not that we as a people look for war, on the contrary we search for friends but we don't play games with defense. I see in peoples eyes how they felt about September 11th and I know what they learned when they started asking why? They found a separatist movement in the Philippines, burning of Christians in Sudan, anarchy in Algeria, repression in Iran, torture in Iraq and hatred in Saudi Arabia. While I understand these are minorities, they create an image of the Muslim world that is very ugly and people do feel threatened by it. This is why the majority support our current foreign policy without question. They see it as defending what we love. As long as this image is present in peoples minds then they will continue to support military actions almost without question. What other choice do they have? Gamble with our nations future? Leave nothing to our children when we were left so much?

 

    This mentality can be changed. It's not that we need to stop defending our country. It's simply a matter of us being able to work this out. In order for that to happen, I believe all parties must acknowledge the role they played in getting us to this point. That includes Muslims who currently have an irrational level of hatred toward Americans and do to little to end terrorism (defined as random targeting of innocent civilians). I also believe that Israel needs to step forward and be accountable for the actions it has taken and acknowledge the illegitimacy of it's state.

 

    The U. S. unfortunately learned what our forefathers warned before we became a country. Stay out of foreign affairs. We created a power imbalance in the Holy Lands and it resulted in a great deal of suffering.

 

    We do agree completely on one thing. It does not seem strange to me that you, my father and I, all share a vision of what should have happened. A state should have been formed that was neither Jewish nor Muslim and safeguarded all it's citizens regardless of religion. A religious state is in my mind evil by definition. For a state be religious it must discriminate. It's my belief that the roadmap is yet another effort which will continue to split man when we should be joining together. I can't help but believe it short changes the process of finding the real solution and will only postpone violence.
 
In reference to:
 
"I was so moved when I read your last section, I was about to cry."
 
I cried when I wrote it. It hurts me to see all this needless suffering. Palestinians gunned down, in many cases for no apparent reason, Israelis blown up on buses and restaurants, Americans attacked at their office. These are the effects of policies based in selfishness and greed. The roadmap is nothing but a continuation of these policies and will therefore likely lead to more of the same. I hope I'm wrong. I would like to see us get it right once. 
 
 
 
Richard Maurice

 

 

 

 

 
Earth, a planet hungry for peace

 

The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers (Ran Cohen, pmc, 5/24/03).

 

The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers in the West Bank (Ran Cohen, pmc, 5/24/03).

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