Justice for the Palestinians
The Arab-Israeli conflict is approached by Washington and the American media in terms of the terror and counter-terror used by both sides. But little concern is given to underlying causes and ways to reconcile conflicting rights. As Israel's denial of the rights of the Palestinian people is the basic cause of the conflict, a durable Arab-Israeli peace is possible only by recognition of their rights.
Over one million Palestinians are in exile while Israel recruits American and other Jews to settle in their homes. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." The Declaration is invoked on behalf of Russian Jews--ignored in the case of Palestinian Christians and Moslems.
Still another one million Palestinians live in territories occupied by Israel in 1967. Daily violations of their human rights include torture, expulsion, exile, blowing up of homes, land expropriation, labor exploitation and collective punishment. Both the Israel League for Human and Civil Rights and the Union of Liberal Students in England have documented Israeli oppression in the occupied territories.
The third group of Palestinians are 400,000 Israeli citizens who suffer systematic discrimination.
For example, in Israel most useable land belongs to a Zionist organization, the Jewish National Fund, which receives tax-exempt American dollars raised by the United Jewish Appeal. The Jewish National Fund buys land from the Israeli government and legally denies to non-Jews the right of buying a home or opening a business on its land. If Jews were the victims of such a system, we would rightly consider such a government racist and anti-Semitic. Although the principles of justice are the same in Jerusalem as in Boston, and Hille warned Jews "do not do unto others what would be hateful to yourself," many American Jews support such discrimination.
A second example are the Defense Regulations of 1945. Israel has two systems of law, ordinary civil law and the Defense Regulations. The latter were called "worse than Nazi laws" by a leading Jewish lawyer in Palestine in 1946. That lawyer, Yakov Shapira, is now Minister of Justice of the State of Israel and administers exactly the same laws. The difference is that the laws are enforced against non-Jews.
An Israeli Palestinian can receive in the mail an order limiting his movement, exiling or imprisoning him. He has no recourse apart from appealing to the Chief of Staff; there is no civilian authority or judge. He cannot even find out what he is supposed to have done wrong. This system of laws is racist in that it is applied to non-Jews and is used as a form of harassment; if an Israeli Jew or Arab is suspected of spying, he is tried in civilian courts.
A Jewish State which tolerates Palestinians at best and drives them into the desert at worst, a state which denies Palestinians national self-determination or even their existence and human qualities will never and should never be accepted by Arabs. Golda Meir said at Brandeis on March 6 that in Palestine there was a meeting "of an unwanted people with an unwanted land." Other Israelis demand that security for Israeli Jews requires the realization of rather than the denial of justice for Palestinians. The question for Americans is not whether one is "pro" or "anti" Israel, but whether one supports Israeli doves or Israeli hawks. Israeli and American Jews have to answer a simple question: Does a Palestinian born in Haifa have the right to live in Haifa at least as much as a Jew born in Moscow? Until that right is granted, there will be violence. And those of us who applaud resistances in 1776, in Nazi-occupied Europe, in Algeria and Vietnam, are in no position to reject Palestinian resistance--unless we support a non-violent alternative for the Palestinians, namely, effective pressure on Israel by America.
Edmund R. Hanauer is executive director of the Search for Justice and Equality in Palestine of Waverley, Mass.