PAUL R. DUNN: Palestinian Question May Never Resolve
Time's recent cover article, "Can Israel Survive?", contends that changing demographics favor Arabs and persistent wars make Israel's viability as a Jewish state questionable.
When early Zionists negotiated with the Ottomans for Jews to resettle peacefully in Palestine, immigrating Jews were allowed to purchase land and encouraged to operate farms and businesses. But as ever larger numbers of Jews fleeing pogroms and later the Holocaust poured in, indigenous Arabs feared being overwhelmed and marginalized. Their fears were justified.
Ironically, when Europe's persecuted Jews most needed America's help, rampant anti-Semitism here denied them sanctuary. Since the Ottoman Empire fell, repeated international conferences on Palestine have concluded that indigenous Arabs would oppose the involuntary taking of their lands by non-Arabs. Almost 100 years after the geopolitical arrangements by the victors of World War I, ever-shrinking Palestinian holdings in favor of Jewish settlers keep the pot boiling.
Into this cauldron of Arab violence and Israeli response, Pre-sident Barack Obama asks former Sen. George Mitchell to perform a modern miracle -- bringing peace to the Holy Land. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has recently sought peace here and come up empty. Blair and Mitchell worked well together in carving out a peace settlement for Northern Ireland, but neither man walks on water.
The New York Times asks Israel to "lift roadblocks between Palestinian towns not needed for security" and stop "humiliating evictions in East Jerusalem of Palestinians." Unfortunately, Israel's army considers every roadblock vital to its security and destroys homes at will.
My view is Israel, by its long rejection of U.N. Resolution 242, which calls for removal of occupying forces from Palestinian and Syrian lands, will never be free from attacks upon it. U.N. resolutions should be almost sacrosanct here, because the state of Israel came into being only through U.N. recognition after termination of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine. Yet Israel allows construction of Jewish settlements on Arab land, violating U.N. resolutions and repeated U.S. entreaties.
Massive wall construction through Palestinian towns cruelly ghettoizes and disrupts normal Arab community life. Palestinians must pass through punishing checkpoints, often held up for hours. Denied access to hospitals and clinics, sick Arabs have died for want of medical attention. Ironically, the ghetto was a European invention conceived to deny Jews freedom of movement in medieval times. Nazis used it to brutally punish the Jews of Poland. Warsaw Jews bravely revolted against such punishment, yet their heirs in Israel abhor even peaceful Arab opposition to ghettoization.
President Obama, by stating he favors Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, only muddies the water because millions of Muslims and many Christians believe Jerusalem is the Holy Land's core and as such deserves to be internationally controlled.
The much-vaunted "two-state" solution is hard to rationalize geographically. The heavily populated Arab area of Gaza on the coast is totally cut off from the interior West Bank. The Israeli government restricts travel between them. It's as if Alaskans for almost 50 years were prevented by Canada from visiting their relatives in the 48 contiguous United States.
Israel has created a high-speed rail system that does not service Gaza. I'd like to see the World Bank finance construction and operation of a similar rail service from Gaza to the West Bank through a U.N.-secured corridor. This would give Palestinians free access to their traditional schools, colleges and health facilities and allow delivery of foodstuffs, medicines and other products between the two points. In the late Ottoman era, reliable rail travel was readily available to all passengers -- Jew, Arab or Christian throughout the region. This is only a small idea in a land where big ideas are needed.
Time concluded that peace is vital for Israel's future. Because America is viewed as Israel's best friend and supporter by the Muslim world, a just peace the Palestinians will support is also in America's selfish interest, particularly when we're engaged militarily in two Muslim countries.
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst and may be reached at: email@example.com.
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