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There Is A Better Way For Israel (And Palestine)
(Written by Tommy Ates.  Posted May 2, 2002)

There is a sharp, but increasing uneven debate between progressives and American Jews about the situation in the Mideast and the eventual fate of Israeli-Palestine conflict. Ironically, the cause of this 'redefinition' for the plight of Israelis has been brought by the Palestinian suicide bombings. Yes, folks, it may be hard to accept, but Arab misery has become Western enlightenment.

The renewed anti-Semitism simmering in the Middle East and Europe only increases the sense of Jews to retain the Zionist hegemony to which Israel has been the physical embodiment of deliverance from continuing persecution. But, as the Israeli military incursion continues, more Americans are seeing the cracks within the armor of the Zionist vision.

The Arab world, Europe, (and now many progressive Americans), are becoming aware of the political and civic inequalities between Israeli Jews and Arabs (not to mention other Palestinians in the occupied territories). For example, regarding land rights, too many Arabs on Israeli land may constitute a threat and their houses may be torn down. They largely must stay in selective areas. In terms of voter representation, Israeli Arabs have a small, predetermined number of seats in the Israeli Knesset (cabinet), not enough to affect policy. Sound familiar?

These Arabs, though lauded as the 'most free' of Arabic people, cannot determine their own political will, physical location, or ultimate economic status, therefore, even these people, are 'prisoners of circumstance.'

Being the leading arbiter of democracy and equality around the world, the United States (as the last superpower) has a particular responsibility to the principle of being an impartial judge in the Mideast. Unfortunately, to attempt to appease conservatives and American Israel lobbies, President Bush has allied himself fully with the hardliner Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, leaving U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's words of compromise and candor with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat rustling in the wind. As a result, the level of Muslim hate and world condemnation simply increases as the Israeli stalemate continues.

Even with Ariel Sharon's pullout timetable of the West Bank, the Palestinians and international observers are quite aware that Israel cannot honestly say it is "pulling out" of the West Bank, leaving Bethlehem and Nablous, but still 'moving into' other West Bank cities (and still being in notorious Jenin). The attempted delay of the United Nations probe into alleged Jenin atrocities by the Israeli government doesn't help the Israeli cause for American Israel support groups. Americans are quickly realizing the depth of the misery the Palestinians face: with over 35 years in refugee camps, many people are refusing to wait for equality and statehood on President Yasser Arafat and the decimated Palestinian Authority. Midst the chaos, the notion of "every man for himself" (save the people's honor) increasingly has relevance.

With even Palestinian society itself starting to tear at the seems, more mainstream Arabic nations (like Egypt and Turkey) are being forced to choose sides. The summit between President George Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was simply a warning by the prince to the U.S., not an exchange of ideas. However, Bush looks helpless, trapped by his post-Sept. 11, terrorist rhetoric to make a meaningful change in policy towards Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Remember the famous "us or the terrorists" phrase? Guess who Ariel Sharon thinks is the terrorist? (Yasser Arafat)

Because of strong, influential constituencies of conservatives and pro-Israel supporters who wish to uphold the Zionist political view of Israel, it should be to no one 's surprise that the U.S. is unable to conduct balanced negotiations with Palestine. In terms of world opinion, the problem people have with President Bush is that (like the non-democratic governments the U.S. has supported in the developing world to preserve economic interests) the current state of Israel is an ethnic, religious democracy for some, but not all. Israeli Jews have full access to democracy; Israeli Arabs do not. For the United States, it has a charge to promote (and support) democracies open to all people, not some based on a certain persuasion (i.e. skin color, religion). In addressing the concerns of the Palestinians, the need to change Israel's political view of Zionism become paramount.

Unfortunately for Israel, Palestine, and the entire Mideast region, a wider conflict (even on a diplomatic level) seems inevitable in the ethnic standoff. The Israelis do not believe the Palestinians will be satisfied with a simple 'land for peace' deal and the Palestinians will have a hard time forgiving the Israeli for the occupation, not to mention receiving adequate business investment to re-build the infrastructure of a fledgling nation in ruins!

Furthermore, the question of whether either state, be it a 'pure' Israel or Palestine, is actually viable in the long-term should be raised. Looking on the economic front, the entire region depends on the strength of Israeli business and the largess of Palestine labor. The occupation has stalled (or shut down) virtually all business development in the region, and venture capital from the United States and Europe has dried up for fiscal 2002. A 'united' Israel and Palestine could solve this problem, among others.

To end the conflict, Bush and Sharon must cede to the demands of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah or risk the crisis of Palestine becoming the movie "The China Syndrome" replayed for the U.S. and Israel, a crisis more diabolical by the day, while the world begs for mercy.

Let us hope, that doesn't happen.

About the author: Tommy Ates loves the left because the left is always right! Tommy Ates is a featured columnist of Left Is Right (http://www.leftisright.net) appearing in several publications, such as The Houston Chronicle, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, The Wichita Eagle, The Macon Telegraph, and Global Black News, among others. His e-mail address is   atesbodhi5@aol.com

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