By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 17, 2021
“We need to solve our problems without causing a civil war that can be a danger to our existence.”
—President Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel
In 1963, Martin Luther King was imprisoned in a Birmingham jail for leading a nonviolent demonstration against American segregation. As he sat in that jail, he responded to the concerns of eight white religious leaders who condemned his participation in that struggle for justice. He noted: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
I remembered these prophetic words as the Israeli government unleashed the might of its military forces on the Palestinians who dared to resist its illegal behavior. In March, Mary Robinson, a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed the decision of the International Court of Justice to investigate the human rights situation in Palestine.
After noting the supremacy of international law and the “unilateral and partisan shifts” that the Trump government made to accommodate Israel’s cruelty to the Palestinians, Robinson noted that “the shift gave cover to the continuing construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem—the biggest threat to the two-state solution and flagrant violation of international law. It also helped justify the extension of Israeli domestic law to the 650,000 Jews living in the occupied Palestinian territories” (Financial Times, March 15) .
In April, Human Rights Watch issued a 213-page report, A Threshold Crossed, in which it contended that “Israel pursues a policy of ethnic supremacy that favors Israeli Jews over Palestinians in both Israel and the occupied territories.” It also noted “the forcible transfer of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes, denial of residency rights to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and their relatives, and the suspension of basic civil rights to millions of Palestinians,” a policy that meets “the definition of apartheid” (New York Times, April 27).
The present fighting was prompted in part by Israel’s land grab in East Jerusalem, and the Israeli police raid on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Sunni Islam, while the Palestinians were protesting the evictions from their homes. Hamas, acting as the guardian of Palestine rights, launched its rockets—a feeble response to Israel’s military might—to support the Palestinian rights to their land and their homes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a caretaker prime minister, who is on trial on corruption charges, found himself in a precarious position. Facing one of the biggest fights of his political existence and hoping to use this crisis to return to power, he warned: “We are at the height of a weighty campaign. Hamas and Islamic Jihad paid…and will pay a very heavy price for their belligerence” (Reuters, May 11).
The Palestinians are not being “belligerent” as Netanyahu suggests. They are fighting for their very existence in a country that aims to remove them from their land. Noam Chomsky, one of the more astute analysts of Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, accused the Israeli government of pursuing a strategy of “terror and expulsion” to expand its territory by killing and displacing Palestinians.
Chomsky stated that the immediate policy goal of the Israeli government “is to construct a ‘Greater Israel,’ including a vastly expanded ‘Jerusalem’ encompassing surrounding Arab villages; the Jordan valley, a large part of the West Bank with much of its arable land; and major towns deep inside the West Bank, along with Jews—only infrastructure projects integrating them into Israel” (Truthout, May 12).
This conflict, the worst between these two parties in seven years, threatens to become a civil war. The New York Times reports that it “is rapidly evolving into a new kind of war—faster, more destructive and capable of spinning in unpredictable new directions” (May 13). Thus far, 120 Palestinians have been killed and 900 wounded. Eight Israelis, including one soldier, have been killed, and there were bloody clashes in other parts of Israel. Fighting has even broken out where “Muslims and Jews have coexisted for years” (NYT, May 14).
There is no doubt that Israel’s military prowess will prevail and the Palestinians will return to their subservient role in that apartheid state. On Thursday night Israel deployed as many as 160 aircraft to pulverize the Gaza Strip in which 1.9 million Palestinians live and which the United Nations considers to be occupied by Israel. As I write, Israeli ground forces are getting ready to invade Gaza from where they pulled out in 2005.
We will be no closer towards a just solution of this conflict while the U.S. and other Western countries continue to blame the impoverished Palestinians for the conflict rather than Israeli illegal expansionary policies . There will be no peace as long as Netanyahu’s government “pursue settlement polices designed to foreclose the possibility of a two-state solution and pass laws that entrench systematic inequality between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel” (Bernie Sanders, NYT, May 14).
On Wednesday, Mo Alghool, a Palestinian who lives in Boston called on the international community to render more assistance to his people. He reasoned: “If I come and take your house and kick you out, you and your kids, and tell you, ‘This is my house,’ how would you accept this? This is exactly what has been going on there for over 70 years now….You cannot take my house and give it to somebody else” (Boston Globe, May 13).
There will be no peace in Israel until the world acknowledges and condemns the injustice that is perpetrated against the Palestinians and demand that the Israelis government act humanely towards them. After all, Palestinians lives matter.
Prof. Cudjoe’s email address is email@example.com. He can be reached @Professor Cudjoe.