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September 6, 2009

Israeli Settlement Expansion Creates Turmoil, not Peace

On Friday, the LA Times reported that the Israeli government decided to "slow down" rather than halt the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This surprised the Obama administration, which has called for a settlement freeze. Palestinians believe this proves the Israeli government has no interest in peace negotiations.

This news breaks my heart.

Former President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in today's Washington Post highlighting the destructive nature of Israeli settlement expansion and the glimmer of hope provided by cross-border partnerships.

As a peace activist, I find it difficult to maintain hope for peace in the Middle East. The military and economic power of the Israeli government has been used for the last 61 years to occupy and subjugate Palestine, with the support of the US government. As a Jew, I am torn between my deep love of my religious heritage and ethnicity, and the belligerent political state created in my name.

As a practicing Jew, the actions of the Israeli government often feel other-worldly to me. I cannot understand how a tradition that has created some of the strongest social justice leaders throughout time has also created such belligerence. We've been persecuted throughout history, and we tend to use that persecution as a coat of invulnerability.

I believe East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza should be a sovereign country and that Israelis have no right to that land. I believe the Israeli government has the upper hand in this conflict and that Israel chooses to fight its neighbors rather than make peace.

The justification I hear most often for Israel not coming to the peace table is that Palestinians want to wipe Israel off the face of the map, so how can you negotiate with people who don't share a common world view? I cannot accept this premise: yes, some Palestinians do not want to recognize a Jewish political state; but if Israelis decided to recognize the legitimacy of the Palestinian state, chose to allow Palestinians the right of self-determination (including full citizenship for Palestinian Israelis), and chose to create economic partnership with their neighbors rather than security walls, then the militants would have less power on both sides of the conflict.

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Posted by cj at September 6, 2009 5:30 AM


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