This outstanding article was printed in Counterpunch on 20 September. PeacePalestine has written in the past about Palestine and the Left, and this article by Kathleen Christison takes the argument much further: How can an “active” peace movement forget all about the Palestinian people and their rights? What does Peace even mean if Justice is not even considered necessary for the Palestinian people? The Palestinian struggle has been marginalised by those who claim to aim towards peace. Activists seem to have lost the plot, things are in a mess, and we need a good shake out of this dormancy. This is a wake up call that I hope is heeded by all people of goodwill.
A group of anti-war leaders held a conference call at the end of August under the sponsorship of Michael Lerner’s Network of Spiritual Progressives to do some long-term strategic planning for the anti-war movement. The discussants included leaders of the country’s best known peace groups — United for Peace and Justice, Code Pink, Pax Christi, the Department of Peace, and others — as well as Lerner himself and Democratic Congressmen Lynn Woolsey and Jim Moran. They talked about Iraq, of course, but of virtually nothing else. There was a bit about “peace and justice” in general, one passing mention of trying to stop an attack on Iran, and a whole lot of talk about avoiding action on all issues, including even Iraq, until Woolsey and a couple of progressive colleagues try their hands at manipulating weak-kneed congressional Democrats into “showing some backbone” on a withdrawal from Iraq. This must be a new concept in opposing war: do nothing.
You would think there was nothing else wrong in the world. There was no talk of the U.S. aggression in Afghanistan (which is assumed even by the anti-war movement to be a “good” war, despite the excessive number of innocent civilians — never remembered — who have been killed there). There was nothing about safeguarding Lebanon from frequent Israeli attack and nothing, of course, about supporting Palestinian human and national rights or opposing Israel’s gross violation of these rights. There was nothing, in short, about any of the massive injustices perpetrated around the world by the United States, primarily as part of the so-called war on terror, and ignored by the anti-war/peace movement. This is a peace movement but apparently not a justice movement.
Interestingly, two of the discussants, Lerner and Rick Ufford-Chase, a representative of the Presbyterian Church (USA), now lead organizations formed after earlier efforts to address the Palestinian-Israeli issue failed in the face of strong opposition from Israeli supporters. Lerner formed the Network of Spiritual Progressives after his Tikkun Communities faced too much opposition from the Jewish community over the Tikkun effort to tread a middle path between Israel and the Palestinians. Ufford-Chase was the principal Presbyterian spokesman when the church launched a campaign in 2004 to divest from companies supporting Israel’s occupation, but after the church backed away from that position in 2006 under heavy attack from Israeli supporters, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, headed by Ufford-Chase, formed a new organization focused specifically on Iraq, called Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.
Thus has the anti-war movement abandoned Palestine and the Palestinians to the Israeli-U.S. pro-war machine. This abandonment is not new by any means; it just gets more and more unjust with time. United for Peace and Justice has always been chary of speaking out on behalf of the Palestinians. It organized a demonstration in June opposing the Israeli occupation timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the occupation, but this was such a pro forma event that the section of UFPJ’s website dealing with its “Palestine/Israel Just Peace Campaign” has not been updated since mid-2004. Pax Christi regularly tackles nuclear disarmament, the School of the Americas, Iraq, immigration, Haiti — as, of course, it should — but Palestine? Rarely if ever. And so on, with a few notable exceptions, through the catalogue of peace movements.
Scott Ritter’s latest book on strategizing for the anti-war movement, Waging Peace, makes no mention of the very unpeaceful situation in Palestine-Israel. MoveOn.org and other political organizations give little indication that they have ever even heard of Palestine. The same for liberal talk radio hosts on Air America, particularly Thom Hartmann and Randi Rhodes. Grassroots initiatives such as the Declaration of Peace make no mention of Palestine and the very preventable tragedy evolving there. None of the excellent films about the Bush administration’s aggression around the world — neither Fahrenheit 9/11, nor Uncovered, nor Hijacking Catastrophe, nor No End in Sight, nor any of the others that have come out in the last several years — contains a word about the very large part Israel plays in the U.S. imperial machine or about the carte blanche that U.S. war-mongering has given Israel to step up its oppression of the Palestinians and its murder of the Palestinian nation.
And this is the key point: Israel’s war machine is essentially a part of the U.S. war machine, Israel’s assault on Palestinians is part of the U.S. “war on terror,” the U.S. and Israel do not go to war anywhere in the region without close coordination and cooperation. The U.S. enables Israel’s occupation and oppression of Palestinians; Israel facilitates and pushes U.S. war policy. One does not act without the other, and the Palestinian plight cannot therefore be separated from whatever other atrocities this war machine perpetrates elsewhere in the Middle East, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, or Iran. Although Israeli supporters roundly condemn any attempt to link Israel to planning for the war in Iraq, they never hesitate to link the Palestinians to the “terrorists” against whom the Iraq war and the “war on terror” are supposedly being fought.
In their new book on the Israel lobby, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt provide masses of evidence revealing Israel’s and the lobby’s role in pushing for and enthusiastically backing the Iraq war. Indeed, the war was heralded by its neocon proponents as a path to Palestinian capitulation (“the path to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad”) — the idea being that by defeating and humiliating Saddam Hussein and Iraq, the U.S. would so intimidate the Palestinians that they would surrender easily to Israel. But the peace community studiously avoids recognizing the Israeli connection to the war. It also studiously ignores the interlocking realities of the U.S.-Israeli relationship when it argues that the Iraq war is the urgent issue these days, that this is where Americans are being killed and this is where protest efforts must be concentrated. One wonders why “peace and justice” did not concern this peace community before the Iraq war, when Palestinians had already been suffering injustice and oppression at the hands of Israel and the U.S. for decades.
Outside the U.S., the interrelationship between conflict in Palestine-Israel and turmoil in the rest of the region is well understood. Public opinion polls in Europe and the Middle East have demonstrated repeatedly that U.S. support for Israel is the principal cause of increasing anti-Americanism everywhere. In Ireland, according to the chairman of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Committee, James Bowen, writing in Haaretz, “disgust” with Israel’s injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians — and particularly with the land confiscations and home demolitions so reminiscent of British practices in Ireland a century ago– has reached “such a level that even highly conservative institutions that normally try to avoid politics are driven to express concern.” A state-sponsored Irish academy of artists, usually apolitical, issued a call early this year encouraging Irish artists and cultural institutions to “reflect deeply” before cooperating with state-sponsored Israeli cultural events and institutions. “Detestation is spreading around the world,” Bowen wrote. In Britain as well, academic, cultural, and labor boycotts of Israel have been called by various organizations.
But not in America. Despite disgust in Ireland, boycotts in England, detestation around the world over Israel’s U.S.-financed oppression of another people, the peace community and the anti-war movement in the U.S. are unfazed. Gross injustice to the Palestinians raises little concern among those concentrated on the urgent problem in Iraq. Yet the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, specifically the dire situation of the Palestinians, is now, and has been since well before Iraq became urgent, the central issue in Middle East politics, the volatile center of the most volatile region in the world. It forms the basis for the Arab people’s strongest grievance — a grievance against Israel as perpetrator, against the U.S. as Israel’s armorer and benefactor, against the Arab state leaders who have failed to help or stand up for the Palestinians. The anti-war movement ignores the most explosive issue, the one underlying all others, when it turns its back on the Palestinians and ignores Israel’s increasingly brutal treatment. By looking away from Palestine, it is looking away from justice toward a false, at best incomplete peace.
So the anti-war movement essentially contents itself with protesting the Iraq war for self-centered reasons, because it is killing Americans and diverting huge monies from domestic needs. The anti-war movement in many ways reflects the thinking and feelings of society at large, and the fear among protesters, as among Democratic politicians, of being perceived to be not “supporting the troops,” not adequately supporting America, and therefore not properly patriotic, is strong and pervasive because society in general has set up this issue as a major focus.
But an even larger problem for the anti-war movement is the fear of being labeled soft on terrorism and soft on Islam. In an era in which the right wing is manufacturing a “clash of civilizations” between the West and the Muslim world and a strong anti-Muslim bias increasingly colors public discourse, it is simply too uncomfortable for many on the left to be caught on the wrong side of the barricades, advocating justice for Palestinians or any Arabs and Muslims. Anti-war protesters fear being associated with Iraqi insurgents and even more with Palestinians, who are all considered “insurgents” and “terrorists” against Israel. Many who never caviled at being labeled communists for supporting the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war now fear being labeled Islamo-fascists (whatever that is) or terrorists or, horror of horrors, PLO lovers. Being seen to support Muslim or Arab rights at a time when Muslims are opposing Americans in Iraq and Israelis in Palestine and elsewhere is simply intolerable for most on the left. And so the us-versus-them attitude of the Bush neocons has in many ways overtaken the anti-war movement as well, even when this means allowing injustice to flourish.
Some people call this racism. Israeli-British jazz musician and activist Gilad Atzmon, an irreverent anti-Zionist who comments frequently on Middle East issues, gave a talk at the University of Denver in April in which he castigated Western society in general for its “collective indifference” to crimes committed in the Middle East “on our behalf and in our names” and charged the anti-war movement with a self-indulgence that makes it indifferent as well to the worst injustices. Noting that there is a “common denominator between Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan” largely attributable to the influence over U.S. policy exerted by Israel and its supporters (“America has been operating officially as an Israeli mission force . . . currently fight[ing] the last sovereign pockets of Muslim resistance”), Atzmon pointedly accused Americans and Europeans in general of caring about Muslims only “as long as they stop being Muslims.” The notion of a clash of cultures and civilizations, he said, has resonance even in the solidarity movement.
“Naturally, we tend to expect the subject of our solidarity to endorse our views while dumping his own. As much as Blair and Bush insist upon democratizing the Muslim world, we, the so-called left humanists, have our own various agendas for the region and its people. In Europe some archaic Marxists are convinced that ‘working class politics’ is the only viable outlook of the conflict and its solution. Some other deluded socialists and egalitarians are talking about liberating the Muslims of their religious traits. The cosmopolitans within the solidarity movement would suggest to Palestinians that nationalism and national identity belong to the past. Noticeably, many of us love Muslims and Arabs as long as they act as white, post-enlightenment Europeans.”
Western society, including the anti-war movement, Atzmon charged, has “managed to continuously fail to act for the people of Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan.” Supporting Muslims is “probably a bridge too far for most Westerners.” We cannot accept the “otherness” of Muslims, and so we “self indulge with peace ideologies at the expense of other people’s pain.”
This is a harsh indictment, but in fact, the truth is that the anti-war movement today cares little about justice for those who are different, whom it considers “other,” and this gravely undermines the movement’s impact. It cares least of all about justice for those whom Israel considers enemies. Ultimately, a little outrage is in order. The anti-war movement needs a new focus, concentrated on achieving universal justice around the world first, as a prerequisite for a true peace. Only this new approach can accomplish the peace community’s aims.
When CounterPunch published Bill Christison’s article, “A Global Justice Movement” on August 27, he received numerous comments in a favorable vein indicating that the concept of “justice as a prerequisite for peace” or “justice before peace” was a new and revolutionary idea, coming as a kind of epiphany for many people. This is an indication of how little justice enters into the thinking of ordinary citizens and peace activists. It should not be such a novel concept.
There were also a few comments from critics who claimed that the idea of putting peace in a secondary position after justice was wrong because Gandhi and Martin Luther King always worked for peace. But this is a misunderstanding of Gandhian thinking and purpose. Gandhi very clearly did not struggle for peace at the price of injustice, for peace at any price. He already had that; India was peaceful under British rule, but it was not just. The essence of Gandhi’s satyagraha, and of King’s civil rights movement, was resistance to injustice through nonviolent civil disobedience — precisely, in other words, to disturb the peace by conducting direct nonviolent action against unjust laws.
But the idea of justice first is a novel thought in most people’s minds. Think how many anti-war organizations list only peace or “peace and justice,” in that order, in their names. United for Peace and Justice comes to mind. But what if we reversed priorities and spoke of “justice and peace” instead? Think of the much-touted Middle East “peace process” as instead the Middle East “justice process,” and a new light is cast on the issue, forcing us to recognize that, no matter how much we may all talk about “peace and justice,” few of us truly have much concern for the justice half of that equation. And justice fades away altogether as a concern when the perpetrator of injustice is Israel; few, even in the active peace and anti-war community, will deal in any way with Israeli injustice. The anti-war movement is a “peace-at-any-price community,” and for most activists, achieving peace without achieving true justice for all peoples would suffice.
But the mere end of shooting is not peace. Justice does not simply come along with peace as a kind of side benefit; justice must be actively worked for, and it must be achieved before there can be real peace. Peace is an empty concept without justice. The oppressed never call for peace; their struggle is always for justice. Ending the war in Iraq without bringing justice to the Iraqi people will not bring real peace and, even more important, ending the U.S. role in Iraq will most definitely not bring justice or true peace to the Palestinian people.
The concept of “justice” is not easy to define, but there do exist standards of justice in international law and custom that limit the concept and make an agreed definition readily discernible. The body of international human rights laws drafted after World War II provides an enlightened guide to ensuring the dignity and worth of individuals and to guaranteeing the rights that “are considered vital to life in a just society,” as the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem puts it. These laws include the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which defines the rights of individuals and the obligations of states toward those individuals, as well as various covenants and conventions on political and civil rights. In addition, humanitarian laws, such as the Hague and Geneva conventions, governing the conduct of war, particularly the conduct of combatants and occupying powers in war.
Similar standards of “peace” do not exist either in law or in custom. “Peace” means something different for everyone, and one person’s peace is often another person’s injustice. For Israel, peace means security — even if, and perhaps particularly if, Palestinians are disadvantaged and denied justice. For Palestinians, peace means a redress of injustices done to them for almost 60 years.
Many of history’s most epic struggles for good have been struggles not for peace but for justice. Why, for instance, have humanists opposed bigotry and racism in modern times? Not primarily because these fundamental violations of human decency impede peace, but because they violate common standards of justice. White South Africa lived peacefully during much of the apartheid period. Southern slaveholders in the pre-Civil War United States lived in peace while oppressing blacks. Israel has enjoyed peace for most of its nearly 60 years, even while dispossessing the Palestinian people, occupying Palestinian territory, killing and ethnically cleansing Palestinians. But South African blacks and American slaves had no justice despite living in peace. Palestinians have had no justice since Israel’s creation.
If we think about justice as the first priority and allow the principles of justice to be the guide in moving toward a just and peaceful end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, we gain a clearer picture of the situation and the only way out of it. We are led back inevitably to 1948 and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, the only time and event where justice rendered will ultimately resolve this conflict. The Palestinians’ dispossession is a fundamental injustice from which all subsequent injustices have sprung, one that can only be rectified by some mutual agreement on the Palestinian right of return. This is the only way to true peace. It is important to understand that Israel exists as a Jewish state only because it was founded in 1948 on a grave injustice to the Palestinian people. It is also critical to understand that Jews will not be “thrown into the sea” if Zionism and its injustices are ended — any more than dismantling apartheid South Africa meant throwing whites into the sea. (See the Appendix for a description of some of the specific ways in which Israel perpetrates injustice against Palestinians.)
Israeli historian Ilan Pappe observed in his 2004 book A History of Modern Palestine — a history of struggle in Palestine from the people’s perspective, which stands out as a kind of Israeli version of Howard Zinn’s classic A People’s History of the United States — that “for any political peace initiative to succeed, the chapter of Palestine’s dispossession needs to be closed.” Far from closing this chapter, he noted, the Oslo peace process rather asked the Palestinians to forsake remembrance of that dispossession, “the only reason for their struggle since 1948.” An historian with a rare sense of compassion and an even rarer sense of justice, Pappe went on to envision a future of justice and peace for Palestinians and Jews in Palestine: “Recognizing the very act of dispossession — by accepting in principle the Palestinian refugees’ right of return — could be the crucial act that opens the gate to the road out of conflict. A direct dialogue between the dispossessed and the state that expelled them can refresh the discourse of peace and may lead people and leaderships alike to acknowledge the need to seek a united political structure which, at different historical junctures in this story, has seemed possible.”
This is the hope and the promise of justice accorded to both sides.
Palestine stands as a challenge to the anti-war movement in this country. The Palestinian situation is a monstrous humanitarian catastrophe, of literally breathtaking scope. Until the anti-war movement begins to seek justice for the Palestinians and not merely some vague, undefined, and highly politicized “peace,” it will never be respected throughout the world. Only when it honestly begins to protest injustice perpetrated against all peoples in the world regardless of their ethnicity and religion — whether they are Palestinians, Iraqis, Israelis, Americans, or anyone else — will the world look to Americans as a decent people. Until that day comes, the world can expect global injustice to deepen. The unfolding catastrophe created by U.S. policies will only worsen, wars will be endless, peace will never be achieved.
Appendix — A Catalog of Injustices
Put plainly, Israel — encouraged and supported morally, politically, and financially by the United States — is doing grave injustice to the Palestinian people, and has been for 60 years. The first and most grievous injustice occurred in 1948, when 750,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes — either because of fighting in their towns and villages or because they were deliberately expelled by Zionist/Israeli forces — and were neither allowed to return to their homes nor compensated. Ilan Pappe describes in grim detail the Zionists’ carefully laid-out and efficiently implemented plans for the Palestinians’ expulsion and dispossession in his latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Until these refugees, now with their descendants numbering over four million, receive justice by being allowed to return and/or being compensated under a mutually agreed formula, neither Palestinians nor Israelis will ever enjoy true peace and stability.
UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of December 1948 — which stated that Palestinian refugees “wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date” or should be compensated — was the first of numerous international affirmations of what has come to be referred to as the Palestinian right of return. Justice will not be served, nor peace achieved, until this issue is resolved equitably and democratically, in a manner satisfactory to the human rights and the national aspirations of both Palestinians, including those living in refugee camps outside Palestine, and Israeli Jews.
Since Israel’s creation in 1948, justice for Israelis has come at the cost of a succession of injustices to the Palestinians. In Palestine-Israel today, it is the Palestinians who live without justice. Simply by virtue of the fact that Israel enjoys total dominance over the Palestinians and over all the land of Palestine, there cannot be full impartial justice for Palestinians. The absence of justice in Israeli domination over the Palestinians is clear when one examines individual aspects of the Palestinian situation. The international community’s demand, for instance, that any Palestinian governing authority accept three pre-conditions to negotiations — recognition of Israel’s right to exist, renunciation of violence, and adherence to past Palestinian-Israeli agreements — without a reciprocal Israeli acceptance of the same conditions, cannot constitute impartial justice. True peace cannot be achieved until Israel is required to do equal justice to the Palestinians on these issues by recognizing the Palestinian people’s right to exist as a viable nation, by renouncing its own violence, and by agreeing to adhere to all past agreements.
Justice is also violated as long as Israel retains control of land and property inside the West Bank expropriated unilaterally and without compensation from private and communal Palestinian ownership for the purpose of building colonies and roads for the exclusive use of Jewish citizens of Israel. Uncompensated seizure of land from one people for any use, and particularly for the exclusive use of a specific ethnic or religious population, cannot possibly be characterized as impartial justice. No peace will be possible until this grave injustice is first rectified. The Israeli organization Peace Now issued a report in November 2006, updated in March 2007, on the construction of Israeli colonies, or settlements, on privately owned Palestinian land. Entitled “G-U-I-L-T-Y!: Construction of Settlements upon Private Land — Official Data,” the report concludes that almost 32 percent of land appropriated by settlements is actually privately owned by Palestinians. A total of 131 Israeli colonies sit entirely or partially on private Palestinian land . An earlier Peace Now report, entitled “Apartheid Roads,” was issued in October 2005, describing the extensive network of limited-access roads throughout the West Bank, also built on Palestinian land and accessible only to Israelis, that connect Israeli colonies to each other.
Virtually all aspects of Israel’s continued presence in and control over occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza ultimately deprive Palestinians of justice, as defined in international human rights law. International law requires, for instance, that Israel as an occupying power respect the right of Palestinians to move freely in the occupied territories. This right is recognized under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has published a report, entitled “Restrictions on Movement,” on these and other rights denied to Palestinians. The report also contains links to pertinent international laws . A more recent report, “Ground to a Halt: Denial of Palestinians’ Freedom of Movement in the West Bank,” was published in August 2007.
Another, fuller B’Tselem report, entitled “International Law,” describes how international law applies to the occupied territories . The reports provide links to a variety of international human rights and humanitarian laws, including the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which provide for the protection of civilians during war and under occupation (and which Israel signed). The Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War in particular applies to Palestinians living in the occupied territories and the conduct of the Israeli occupier. It prohibits, among other practices, collective punishment, deportation of the occupied population, settlement of the occupier’s population in the occupied territory, and the confiscation of property belonging to the occupied population — all of which Israel has carried out in occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.
The separation wall that Israel has been constructing inside the occupied West Bank since 2002 constitutes a grave human rights violation against the Palestinians and a denial of justice. The wall — composed for most of its length of a 50- to 100-yard-wide expanse including patrol roads, trenches, and coils of barbed wire on both sides of an electronic fence, as well as in urban areas a 26-foot-high concrete wall — is built almost entirely on Palestinian land inside the occupied territory. It appropriates approximately 10 percent of the West Bank by placing this land on the Israeli side, where most of it is inaccessible to Palestinians. Many Palestinian villages are separated from their agricultural lands by the wall. As many as 50 Palestinian communities, home to 245,000 people, are surrounded by the wall on three and in some cases four sides; entry or exit to some of these communities is only permitted on foot, while the remainder can be reached only by one Israeli-controlled road. More than half — up to 90 percent, according to some estimates — of the Palestinians’ fresh water wells are on the Israeli side. Scores of Palestinian homes have been demolished to make way for the wall.
The wall surrounds occupied Arab East Jerusalem, placing some 200,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites on Israel’s side of the barrier and cutting them off from their West Bank hinterland. The wall around Jerusalem also cuts off most West Bank Palestinians from their religious, political, and economic capital in Jerusalem. Altogether, the wall directly affects half a million Palestinians, cutting people off from schools, jobs, hospitals and destroying commerce. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has issued a detailed report, with several subsections, on the wall’s consequences, entitled “Separation Barrier“.
In July 2004, the United Nations’ International Court of Justice found by a vote of 14 to 1 (the lone dissenting vote was cast by the American judge) that construction of the wall is “contrary to international law” . Israel has defied the ICJ injunctions. No peace is possible as long as the injustice of the wall remains. Peace cannot exist when one people believes it needs a wall of any sort between itself and its neighbor. Building this wall deep inside the neighbor’s territory is an even graver injustice, and the wall will remain an insurmountable obstacle to peace unless it is dismantled or at least entirely relocated inside Israel’s recognized borders.
A wall also surrounds the tiny 130-square-mile territory of Gaza, and has done so since the beginning of the Oslo “peace process” in the early 1990s. Despite Israel’s so-called disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and the removal of Israeli settlers and Israeli soldiers, Israel maintains total control over Gaza, literally imprisoning its 1.3 million inhabitants. Gaza’s population density makes it one of the most heavily populated places on earth. Israel controls all four sides of Gaza, not only its northern and eastern borders with Israel, but also its southern border with Egypt and its coastline on the Mediterranean. Gaza’s airspace is also controlled by Israel, and there is no functioning airport or port. Neither people nor cargo can enter or exit Gaza without Israeli permission, and in periods deemed by Israel to be crisis periods, entry and exit points are closed entirely, often for weeks on end, so that critical imports such as food are stopped; products for export, particularly produce, are halted; and Gaza’s inhabitants cannot leave for any purpose, including for medical treatment and schooling. Israel controls, and occasionally halts, the supply of gas and electricity to Gaza. B’Tselem has issued a detailed report on the situation in Gaza, entitled “The Gaza Strip after Disengagement” http://www.btselem.org/English/Gaza_Strip/.
Palestinians do commit injustices against Israelis — primarily in the form of suicide bombings against civilians and the firing of rockets onto civilian areas in Israel, actions that must be condemned — but as a non-sovereign governing authority with no security or judicial control over Israel or Israelis and little way to exert security control even over the Palestinian population, Palestinians are incapable of committing the kind of systematic abuse of justice that Israel perpetrates against them. Although Palestinian attacks on civilians are to be condemned, fairness and balance dictate that Israel’s government-perpetrated terrorism against civilians be equally condemned, along with Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.
As a matter of justice, the Palestinians have the right to resist domination by Israel. Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions considers struggles against “colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes” to be legitimate as part of any people’s right to self-determination. Ohio State international law expert John Quigley has laid out a legal case for Palestinian resistance in a 2005 book entitled The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective. International law, Quigley makes clear, in the form of the UN Charter and repeated UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, affirms the right of peoples to enjoy self-determination and to resist infringements on that right by all means necessary, including force, but short of attacking civilians. In considering other cases of foreign domination over colonial peoples, the Security Council has even recognized a superior right by guerrilla organizations to use force against colonial powers, and in resolutions during the 1970s concerning Israeli reprisal attacks against Palestinian guerrilla raids, the Council found the latter to be lawful and “dealt with them as attacks by a colonized people entitled to the right of self-determination,” according to Quigley.
The late Israeli sociologist and political commentator Baruch Kimmerling, writing in Haaretz shortly after the al-Aqsa intifada began in 2000, affirmed the Palestinians’ right to oppose the occupation forcibly. The “continuing circumstances of occupation and repression,” Kimmerling said, “give them [the Palestinians], by any measure, the right to resist that occupation with any means at their disposal and to rise up in violence against that occupation. This is a moral right inherent to natural law and international law.”
Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession. She can be reached at email@example.com.