Saturday, December 18, 2010

Palestinians Must Be Free

Ignore the smoke screen thrown up by Israel and its apologists. The real reason for the lack of an enduring Mideast peace deal is the Israeli occupation. 

Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon recently penned an article for Foreign Policy that perniciously distorts the Palestinian commitment to a lasting peace, and misrepresents our sincere efforts to find a diplomatic solution to this conflict. Let me correct the record.

Ya'alon's inflammatory rhetoric is designed to disguise the simple truth that the conflict between Israel and the Arab and Muslim worlds is the result of Israel's occupation of Palestinian and Arab territory, and the subsequent denial of equality and liberty to the people of our region.
The simple and overriding truth is this: Palestinians must be free. This overriding moral prerogative remains the driving force for every aspect of Palestinian political, social, cultural, and artistic expression. It is why the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was created, and it remains the raison d'etre for every one of our efforts.
There is nothing peculiar or unique about the Palestinian drive for liberty in our own land -- the land of our fathers, grandfathers, and their grandfathers -- living side by side with a secure Israel. The basic human impulse for freedom is shared by every man, woman, and child around the globe. This is why the Palestinian struggle for freedom has become so iconic throughout the world for those concerned with justice and civil rights. From Brazil to Turkey, from Indonesia to South Africa, from Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Kingdom, Palestinians stand as an icon for the responsibility of each of us to work for the freedom of any who remain oppressed.
This is true here in the United States as well -- a nation founded on the ethos of freedom and liberty. In this respect alone, Palestinians and Americans share an often unspoken but unbreakable bond.
The technocratic language of negotiations can make even a policy wonk yawn. But this jargon of the peace process does more than bore readers -- it obfuscates the most salient facts about our drive for independence. The Palestinian goal is to be free; free to live in our own country, free to build where we want, free to travel wherever and whenever we want, free to only pay taxes to a government chosen by us and that represents us and our interests, free to not worry every day and every minute about our security and the security of our children. This week's report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel documenting Israel's detention of over 1,000 Palestinian children from East Jerusalem this year alone cannot but break the heart of any parent, and reinforces the urgency of our struggle.

Perhaps because our cause is so universal, those opposing our freedom have concentrated their efforts on misdirection -- especially in the United States, whose role remains critical in ensuring a speedy and peaceful end to the occupation. Americans are told by Israeli officials and their apologists that Israel would be happy to provide Palestinians their freedom but that Palestinians themselves have rejected "generous" offers for their own liberty.
The truth is not quite so remarkable.
At Camp David in 2000, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak made an unwritten offer that would have kept Palestinian airspace, the electromagnetic sphere, international crossing points, and water resources under Israeli control. The "Barak Offer" called for a land swap that would have traded land on a 9 to 1 ratio in favor of Israel and failed to provide an acceptable solution to the Palestinian refugee problem and Jerusalem, two fundamental issues for Palestinians. It also would have allowed Israel to keep a military presence in the future Palestinian state. The only written proposal at Camp David was submitted by the Palestinians, regarding the refugee issue; the Israelis never responded.
At Camp David, Palestinians were offered a state with no sovereignty, no capital in Jerusalem, and no just solution to the refugee problem. This is the reason that talks failed -- not because of Palestinian intransigence or rejectionism, as has become the standard narrative in mainstream American political and media discourse.

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