In a symbolic move, UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organization, overwhelmingly voted last Monday to grant membership to the Palestinians. Predictably, Israel and the United States voted in opposition to the international consensus.
Palestine’s diplomatic success at the United Nations has not gone unpunished.
In addition to cutting funding to UNESCO, Israel announced the construction of 2,000 new “Jewish only” settlements in the occupied territories. Israel has also frozen tens of millions of dollars in payments owed to the Palestinian Authority for customs duties levied on goods sold in Palestinian markets, according to AFP.com.
And the Israeli navy has intercepted and detained peace activists aboard a flotilla known as “Freedom Waves to Gaza” that were attempting to bring humanitarian aid to the people living in the Gaza Strip, according to Democracy Now.
The Israeli government’s actions constitute collective punishment of the Palestinian people. We should remember these actions the next time someone claims the Israeli government wants peace.
It is tragically ironic that Jews, once considered “rootless cosmopolitans” — citizens of the world with universal values — are increasingly isolating themselves from the consensus of the international community.
The vast majority of Jews living in Israel and in the Diaspora want peace. But the actions of Israel’s government are pushing the nation down a path of perpetual war and self-destruction.
By thumbing its nose at the international community, Israel is undermining its security. And by upholding a brutal occupation of three million Palestinians, Israel is antagonizing its Arab neighbors and fanning the flames of hatred in the Muslim world.
Military occupation can never bring peace. Fighting hatred with violence is like trying to put out a fire by dousing it with gasoline.
Palestinian acts of violence — in the form of suicide bombings and rocket attacks — are a persistent obstacle to peace. But we must ask ourselves: why are Palestinians attacking us? Palestinians are not inherently violent people motivated by blind hatred of Jews. It is far more likely that Palestinian violence is a symptom of life under military occupation for 44 years.
When we force people to live in cruel and inhumane conditions, how do we expect them to respond to us?
Occupation breeds hatred and violent extremism. People living in desperate circumstances are driven to extreme measures.
Of course, this is not an excuse or justification for violence. It is necessary for us to understand the causes of Palestinian violence in order to prevent it. It is true that anti-Semitism may always be with us, but our own actions can help create the conditions in which anti-Semitism thrives or is marginalized. By perpetuating the occupation, the Israeli government is playing into the hands of the anti-Semitic extremists and helping them recruit new followers to their cause.
Each new rocket attack in Israel prompts a retaliation in kind, and the violent cycle perpetuates. Are we forever to be stuck in this cycle of endless hatred and death?
Fortunately, there is a solution: non-violence. If we want peace, both sides of the conflict must follow the example of Martin Luther King, Jr., and utilize the weapon of non-violence — the sword that heals.
Non-violence is not a utopian fantasy. It is the most effective form of conflict resolution.
This is why Rabbi Hillel famously said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” If we treat people hatefully, they will respond in kind. But if we treat people with compassion, they will open up their hearts in return. We must treat people the way we wish to be treated.
Let us return to the notion of Jews as cosmopolitan people who are the torch for universal values and equal rights for all human beings. It is time for Palestinians and Israelis to see one another not as enemies, but as neighbors.
— Jonathan Rich is a senior from Alpharetta majoring in sociology
(redandblack.com / 12.11.2011)