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Oslo Accords Hurt Palestinians, Not Israelis



"Is this the sort of people," asks Adam Levitin in The Crimson (opinion, March 8), "that any state...would want for a neighbour?" Anyone asking who would want to live next door to Blacks or Jews or Latinos would be denounced for their racism. But we can relax. Levitin was talking about Palestinians, and here normal rules of racism do not apply. Just ask Hollywood.

Levitin's piece on "Har Homa" was a curious mixture of the ill-informed, the self-contradictory, the vindictive (indeed racist), and--on one issue--the correct.

Levitin maintains that land in Jabal Abu Ghaneim (Har Homa's local, Arab name) has been allocated according to the Arab/Jewish population ratio in Jerusalem. He scoffs at notions of an attempt to "Judaize" (Levitin's term) the city. This is to ignore the fact that the current population ratio in Jerusalem is itself the result of a campaign of ethnically selective development, of which Jabal Abu Ghaneim is merely one of the latest fronts.

In the words of the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem, since 1967, "The Israeli government has adopted a policy of systematic and deliberate discrimination against the Palestinian population in Jerusalem in all matters relating to land expropriation, planning and building." It is this discrimination which explains why the majority of land expropriated has come from Arab owners. It explains why of 38,500 housing units built in East Jerusalem, not one has been for Palestinians. It explains why such a disproportion of housing built since 1967--88 percent--has been for Jews. Since 1990 less than 5 percent of houses built have been in Arab neighborhoods.

This discrimination has led to an average housing density of 1.1 persons per room for Jews, compared to 2.2 for Arabs. This gap has doubled since 1967.

This is just the attempt to "Judaize" Jerusalem that Levitin derides. Elsewhere he is eminently clear on the fact, explaining that Har Homa is the final stage of an attempt to surround the city "with a ring of primarily Jewish neighborhoods." This cutting off of Jerusalem from surrounding Palestinian areas is precisely the kind of attempt to pre-empt the status of the city that the Oslo accords were framed to avoid. The status of the city is to be decided. Israel has already made its decision.

United Nations Resolution 242 demands that Israel withdraw from the territories it annexed in 1967 in view of the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war." Despite Israel's obfuscatory claims that this does not mean all the territories, the absolute nature of the resolution is clear. International law denounces the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem. Levitin's claim that it sanctions the building in Har Homa is simply bizarre.

Underpinning Levitin's piece is the extraordinary notion that the U.S. has turned on Israel. The mild concern Clinton expressed about Jabal Abu Ghaneim was belied by the U.S. veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution censuring Israel. U.S. support is as strong as ever. There is no mention of the billions of dollars in aid (more than five billion annually since the late 1980s) that fashion Israel into a regional superpower waning either.

Arafat's regime is, indeed, as Levitin points out, a "murderous dictatorship." It is one of the tragedies of the Palestinian people that their aspirations for free self-determination are now being crushed by their erstwhile, trusted leader. However, Levitin's touting of Israeli democracy is more problematical. Israel has historically been vastly more "murderous" than the Palestinians, in terms of numbers of civilians killed. These killings continue, as the families of the 200 Palestinian civilians killed since the Oslo agreement will attest. And democracy? Vast tracts of "public" land in Israel are owned by the Jewish National Fund, whose assets exist to benefit "persons of Jewish religion, race or origin." The Jewish Agency, which has a similar mandate, controls much of the development budget: through a variety of legal ruses, state benefits to large families have been tailored largely to exclude Israel's Arab citizens. Israel is not a democracy for all of its citizens (which is not even to talk of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, ruled without representation for decades).

"The Palestinians are hungry again," complains Levitin. Indeed they are. Palestinians in the Gaza strip are hungrier now than they were before Oslo. The deliberate and systematic de-development of Gaza continues apace, resulting in a fall in living standards and income since 'peace'. Palestinians are hungry: for statehood, rights, jobs, security and, in many cases, food.

Levitin claims that Hanan Ashrawi (not, incidentally, a "close confidante" of Arafat but a public denouncer of his despotism) is "bullying" Israel, inciting violence when she says that the Har Homa project undermines "not just peace with the Palestinians but peace in the entire region." This is not a threat. It is a statement of fact--one that Israel would do well to heed.

Levitin is right about one thing. The Oslo accords must be renounced. Not because, as he suggests, they are damaging Israel. But because under the craven capitulation of Arafat they give up all Palestinian rights to control over water, to an independent economy, to sovereignty over large swathes of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, to self-determination in any meaningful sense. Because the Oslo Accords represent, in short, the historic defeat of the Palestinian people. Tanya Geha '00   Jonathon Conant G1   Aykan Erdemir G1   Asli Niyazioglu G1   Demetri Kastritsis G1   Khaled Said G1   China Mieville, Special Student   Charles Davidson, Fletcher School

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