My Turn: ‘Humans can tolerate only so much oppression and genuine terror’


Published: 6/18/2021 6:29:59 AM

The Israelites are the world’s most greedy people. They now control more than 90 percent of the land that was once divided between Israel and Palestine, most of it taken at gunpoint. But some they take “legally,” as, for example when a family places trailers on Palestinian property at night and then claim it as theirs the next morning.

The Palestinians are forced to live in enclaves separated from each other, almost always by Jewish settlements. Some years ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa described this maze-like system of enclaves as worse than the Bantustans South African Blacks were forced to live in during the era of apartheid. In fact, when speaking of the conditions the Palestinians must endure, the Archbishop used the word “apartheid.”

In my opinion, one of the saddest aspects of this conflict is the effect such blatantly cruel treatment of one’s neighbors has on the Israelis. Israeli soldiers, some of whom, in the films I have seen, appear to be little more than teenagers, exhibited what appeared to be a kind of sadistic pleasure, as in one instance a young soldier ignoring the pleas of a weeping Palestinian woman whose olive tree he was in the process of cutting down with a chain saw.

After watching several such films and listening to testimony of Palestinians living in the United States, I find it hard not to conclude that Israeli policy has one of two aims: either to make life for the Palestinians so utterly intolerable they will emigrate or to drive the Palestinians into the sea.

I do not think, however, that the majority of the Palestinians will abandon their homeland — though there are already seven million in the Palestinian diaspora; nor does it seem likely that Israel can ever achieve the goal of the ultra-orthodox Jews — a Jewish state occupying all of ancient Palestine.

Short of a radical change in Israeli attitudes and policies, only an indefinite continuation of the present stalemate seems predictable. But humans can tolerate only so much oppression and genuine terror. In private conversations I have heard rumblings of more intifadas, likely as bloody as the one just concluded.

President Biden was correct, of course, when he said that the Israeli government has the right to protect its citizens. But using tanks to destroy Palestinian homes and hospitals seems an odd way to achieve that end.

We U.S. citizens surely have the right to protest such brutality, especially when we remember that Israel receives annually the largest “gift” from the U.S. Treasury. Millions of Americans have said “enough.” It is time for Israel to “grow up” and join the family of nations struggling to fashion a unified community of states dedicated to building the Earth of the future where we struggle not to fulfill promises made thousands of years ago but to deal with threats to the lives of our grandchildren.

With our lovely Earth home being destroyed almost daily by climate change, we have an opportunity to dedicate ourselves to an enterprise that will surely lead our descendants to praise us and glorify our names. Would it not be grand if Israel had a major part in such an endeavor?

Preston Browning Jr. lives in Ashfield.


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