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‘Israel is the original terrorist’

Pattern of injustice to Palestinians continues

Once again, we are witness to the simmering conflagration of injustice that is the Arab-Israeli reality.

When Obama begins his press conference with “Israel has the right to defend itself,” history is being erased. From 1947-48, Israel systematically eradicated 534 Palestinian towns. They surrounded the towns with armies and told the people “if you don’t leave, we will kill you.” When the people fled in terror, they took the keys to their homes, expecting to return. But no, either their homes were demolished or they were turned into homes for new Jewish immigrants.

When the Arabs went to Israeli courts to demand their right to return, they were told they had “abandoned” their property and thus it became “public land.” Israel is the original terrorist. Gaza and the West Bank are where 4 million Arabs have ended up (another 7 million have left the country).

In the West Bank, where I recently toured, Israelis are occupying in violation of international law. They have commandeered all the water works, declared Palestinian wells illegal (and demolished them), and the only access to water is to buy it from Israelis at three time the cost to Jewish “settlers” (invaders?). Israel has built colonies with population now at 600,000, and intending to double that number, throughout the territory designated by the United Nations for an independent Palestinian state. They have built highways between these colonies that cut a path running east-west through the West Bank, essentially cutting the Palestinian territory in half. Walls on both sides of the highway prevent Palestinians from crossing them and only Israelis are allowed to drive on them. They have built concrete walls three stories high around the eight cities that constitute Palestinian Authority territory and restricted travel between them. Permits are arbitrarily denied.

They have commandeered all of Jerusalem for Israel, which the U.N. had declared would be an independent city shared by both countries (that’s like saying in the height of the Cold War that the U.S. and Russia should share Berlin.) They have built their wall around the Arab part of the city to prohibit travel into the rest of the city except at checkpoints, thus cutting Arabs off from workplaces, ancestral homes and access to Jerusalem University. Most Arab shops in East Jerusalem have lost their business because the 100,000 people a day who used to come into the city to buy their goods no longer come because of the wall.

Israel has expanded the city boundary to include new Jewish colonies on nearby hills, to increase the Jewish population of the city. These are the conditions Israel has offered at the peace talks both Arafat and Abbas have “walked away from,” being labeled as the ones who “don’t want peace.”

Let’s bring this home. Do you know why the Main Street of Greenfield runs east to west while most other towns along the Connecticut River run north-south parallel to the river? The answer is because it was a barricade against the Indians who called this place home. European “settlers” were out-growing Deerfield, and the third-born sons needed land to inherit from their fathers (read “The Conservative Rebel: a Social History of Greenfield”). Expansion was the way to get it, but this land was occupied. Three times the Deerfield sons tried to settle on this side of the Deerfield, and twice they were pushed back. The third time, they succeeded. Do we know where those people went as our ancestors moved in and took charge of the land we now call ours? Didn’t we see this land as ours for the taking? Didn’t we call them “savages” (terrorists) for attacking us back? Didn’t we claim we had the right to defend ourselves? Who were the first transgressors? Didn’t we put them far away out of sight — our version of refugee camps that we called reservations — where our government set all the terms for their future livelihood, including taking away hunting rights and their very children, whom we were determined to “educate?”

The U.N. has passed four resolutions declaring the Palestinian right to an independent state. Four times the U.S. has vetoed the resolutions, saying Palestine can only negotiate with Israel, its captor. That is like telling the Indians on reservations they can only negotiate with their captors, the U.S. government. What need is it of ours to negotiate anything with our indigenous people?

Why should Israel care to negotiate anything with the Palestinians when they can keep building settlements in Palestinian territory, control Palestinians’ movement, access to water, push them off agricultural land in the Jordan Valley and continue an occupation that provides them with a captive economic market of 4 million refugees? The only reason to negotiate is justice, and that would require relinquishing the privilege of power, the “ownership” of stolen land and restoring dignity and human rights to a people they have dehumanized.

Recently, at the Bioneer Conference, I heard an Indian tribal chief from northern Alaska say his people are petitioning the U.S. Congress to restore their hunting and fishing rights. What will we do?

Sandra Boston is a Greenfield resident.

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