The Solution - How we can all help achieve a fair and lasting peace

“There do not exist problems that cannot be solved around a table, provided there is good will and reciprocal trust: or even reciprocal fear...” Primo Levi, Italian Holocaust survivor,‘The Drowned and the Saved’,conclusion

Even terrorists and war criminals can become peace-makers

We have seen in Northern Ireland that even terrorists can become peace-makers. The PLO’s constitution, Fatah’s constitution and Arafat in the past called for the destruction of Israel, just as Hamas’ constitution does today (1). However over decades of negotiation people like Arafat and Abbas came to renounce violence and in 1988 their party Fatah voted to recognise Israel and renounce terrorist attacks on civilians – just as many senior members of Hamas are today offering to recognise Israel if it withdraws to its 1967 borders (i.e its borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war). (Neither have offered to end attacks on members of the Israeli military in the occupied territories – but then given Israeli military attacks on Palestinian civilians why would they? Under international law and UN resolution 242 of 1967 they have the right to resist the military occupation of the West Bank in any case) (2), (3).

In 2002 all the governments of the Arab league offered full recognition of Israel and normalisation of relations with it on the same terms. Yet every Israeli government so far has rejected these offers on the grounds that they won’t negotiate with terrorists. Yet over the years Israeli governments have included many cabinet ministers and even some Prime Ministers who were involved in organising terrorist attacks (through the Haganah, IZL, Irgun and other militias and terrorist groups) against civilians as part of their campaign for an Israeli state in the 1930s and 1940s. In addition every Israeli government right up to the present has been responsible for the deliberate killing of civilians in large numbers – i.e war crimes. So they have no moral high ground from which to refuse to negotiate with those involved in terrorism. (4), (5), (6), (7).


Giving Israel’s government a motive to negotiate : Reducing the Power Imbalance by supporting the Palestinians

The massive US financial aid and arms sales every year to Israel keep making it more and more powerful relative to the Palestinians. This gives them little motive to negotiate as they can get what they want – Palestinian farmland, water supplies and building areas for new settlements - by force without taking many casualties or losing many votes. They can also provide Israelis with cheap houses built by low-paid Palestinian builders on land taken by force and so get the votes of new settlers (including the many new Jewish and even non-Jewish but non-Arab immigrants arriving in Israel every year) (8), (9), (10).

Only by ending the almost unquestioning economic, financial, military and political support of the US government, the governments of the EU and other governments around the world (e.g the Canadian and Australian) for Israel can Israel be brought to make peace. Until money and arms stop flowing from the US and trade with the EU is vastly reduced there will be no cost to Israeli governments to keep killing Palestinians and taking their land. As a result Palestinian terrorism won’t end either and the whole cycle of violence will continue.


Israeli and Palestinians who want a just peace exist – they just need outside support instead of our governments stoking conflict

In the section on the two anti-Semitisms I quoted some of the many Palestinians and Israelis who don’t hate the other side and want a fair and lasting peace – but they need our support.


US and EU leverage over Israeli governments can be effective

Our governments are not powerless to influence other governments.

Israel is heavily dependent on US financial aid from the US government and on trade with the EU and the US. Cutting either massively can affect who wins or loses elections there and what policies they adopt on settlements (or ending them) and on real negotiations with the Palestinians because they would reduce the Israeli government’s power.

Yitzakh Shamir’s government lost the 1992 Israeli elections after President George H. W. Bush refused Israel low interest loans until it ended Shamir’s plans for a massive expansion of settlements in the West Bank (11). This was only a short-term effect because the aid cut didn’t last long – but it shows the influence that making aid conditional can have on Israel.

The opposite strategy - of handing Israeli governments more money and more arms to make them "feel secure" just makes them less willing to negotiate as they don't need to in such circumstances. As that late Moshe Dayan, the famous Israeli general and defence and foreign minister, once said “Our American friends give us money, arms and advice. We take the money. We take the arms. We ignore the advice.”

We have to put pressure on our governments to put pressure on the Israeli government

While limited EU sanctions on Israel and cuts in , or an end to, US aid and arms sales to Israel might well help bring the Israeli government to the negotiating table the governments of the EU states and the US are unlikely to change their policies unless they know they’ll lose votes otherwise.

Making our governments’ foreign policy bias towards Israel and against the Palestinians an issue in elections by, for instance, writing to newspapers and calling in to radio phone ins about it is one way to get them to change their policy.

Another is writing to or emailing your MP or congressman/woman and to candidates in elections to let them know they’ll lose your vote unless they demand an end to the bias towards Israel. For elected politicians judge them on what they’ve done , not what they say they’d do – talk is cheap and often the opposite of actions taken by governments.

Make sure to demand that your government ends the blanket sanctions on Gaza that are starving Palestinians and killing them through shortages of medicines too.

If your MP or congressman/woman has opposed the government’s bias towards Israel though reward them by voting for them.

Mass boycotts by individuals of products produced in Israel or China or the US can also have an impact.


The simple way to solve the “demographic problem”

The “demographic problem” of who is in the majority in Israel/Palestine could be unimportant if the conflict was ended by a peace offer acceptable to both sides which gave Palestinians either full sovereignty in their own state in most of the West Bank or else full citizenship in a bi-national state.

Israeli Jews fears of being heavily out-numbered by Arabs could be reduced by re-distribution of wealth and jobs to give Palestinians and “Israeli Arabs” incomes comparable to Israeli Jews so that their birth rate and that of Israeli Jews will become similar. In every ‘developed’ country birth rates have fallen as average incomes have risen and pensions have become available. Poor families in countries with no welfare state or pensions tend to have more children because there is a high death rate among children due to lack of health care and clean water – and because they need children to work when they are too ill or old to as a form of sickness benefit and pension.


Does might make right? If we decide it does we can’t denounce terrorism: If we decide it won’t we can all live without fear

What we must decide is if we want to live in a world in which might makes right – in which Palestinians and Bedouin Arabs may be killed and their houses destroyed by Israeli forces and Tibetans similarly killed and tortured by Chinese forces, Iraqis and Afghans by American forces and refugees by Sudanese forces and Janjaweed paid by the Sudanese government?

If we do decide that might makes right is good enough so long as we have the might then we cannot talk about injustices that must be righted, about the righteousness or nobility of “our cause”. Nor can our governments then call those who murder us in turn terrorists without their words being empty hypocrisy unless they end their war crimes. Killing civilians deliberately or making no serious attempt to avoid killing them is a war crime and no better than killing civilians by terrorist attacks. The same goes for Israelis, as many Israeli peace activists have already said.

We’ll also be wasting our own time on empty words condemning terrorist attacks that could kill us or our friends or families if we pretend there is no link between them and the deaths our governments are bringing about by military occupations in other countries.

It’s true that we can’t always control our governments’ actions and that two wrongs don’t make a right – but we can try – and if enough people try and less people become apathetic or make no attempt then a minority can become a majority, governments – or their policies – can be changed.

Those of us with democratic rights – Jews in Israel, everyone in North America , Europe, Australia and New Zealand – are not powerless to influence our governments if we make it clear that we value the lives of people in other countries (and Palestinians and Israeli Arabs) as much as we value those of our country’s citizens – and that they will have as much effect on which way we vote.


Violence Breeds Violence : Our governments’ violence must end to end ‘terrrorist’ and ‘insurgent’ violence

War , occupation and terrorism are all part of the same cycle of violence and we cannot end one without ending the other. Ending the cycle which is spiralling out of control will benefit us all.

After the April 2004 assault by coalition forces on Fallujah (in which numerous war crimes were committed) Adnan Pachachi of the Iraqi Governing Council correctly predicted that “More violence will cause more violence and this will be an endless spiral.” (12)

He was right – and his words apply just as much to Israel-Palestine and to the rest of the world as they do to the Iraq conflict.

Primo Levi agreed, writing"Nor is the theory of preventive violence acceptable: from violence is born only violence, following a pendular action that becomes frenzied as time goes by rather than slowing down”.

How Levi's Example shows that we all have freedom of choice and a duty to use it to reduce the suffering of others

This shows that nothing is inevitable and the wrongs of the past, however terrible, can be learned from rather than leading to more terrible wrongs being committed. We all have free will. We all have intelligence and compassion. We all suffer to some extent and so can understand and want to avoid unnecessary suffering for others.

Elie Weismann, another Holocaust survivor, claimed on Levi's death that Levi had "died in Auschwitz 50 years ago". He was wrong. He did not understand that Primo Levi was a decent and humane person before he was sent to Auschwitz and left Auschwitz and came home still a decent and humane person despite all the horrors he had seen and all he had suffered. His views on right and wrong never changed. That is why Levi condemned Begin's invasion of Lebanon and the siege of Beirut and the Israeli government and military's collusion in the Sabra and Chatila massacres just as he condemned the Holocaust. Levi was one among many who proved that within the heart of every human, of every culture, nationality and religion lives the potential for senseless cruelty, violence and murder - but also the opposite, compassion, decency and humanity. He proved that the decent instincts can triumph over the worst ones even among those put through the most terrible suffering and injustice. The spirit of Primo Levi shows that there is hope for a fair and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

People and cultures may be affected by events, but those events are determined by the actions of large numbers of people. Nor are people's future actions determined by how others have treated them or their parents and grandparents in the past. Levi did not react to his direct experience of the Holocaust in the way that Weismann or Begin did. Similarly people can change their behaviour, as Rabin and Arafat did in the last few years of their lives. While circumstances my restrict freedom of choice (sometimes to no choice at all) that is not the situation most of us find ourselves in today, nor the situation of most governments. Governments most of all have power and choice - and so they are responsible for using that power morally and not hiding behind the excuse that they represent only one group or citizens of one state when their actions and choices affect many more. We all have a duty to do everything we can to make our governments act in the interests of all and to reduce the suffering of those who are suffering the most.


copyright©Duncan McFarlane 2007

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Sources and Footnotes

(1) = = Morris, Benny (1999), ‘Righteous Victims : A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-1999’, John Murray Publishers, London, 2000, Hardback Edition, page 303

(2) = Morris (1999), ‘Righteous Victims : A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-1999', John Murray Publishers, London, 2000, Hardback Edition, pages 603-608

(3) = Telegraph 09 Feb 2006, ‘Hamas offers deal if Israel pulls out’, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/02/09/wmid09.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/02/09/ixworld.html

(4) = Guardian 29 Mar 2007, ‘Arabs unite at summit to renew peace offer to Israel’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,2045033,00.html

(5) = Morris (1999), ‘Righteous Victims : A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict 1881-1999’, John Murray Publishers, London, 2000, Hardback Edition, pages 147, 173-179

(6) = Kimmerling, Baruch (2003), ‘Politicide : Ariel Sharon’s War against the Palestinians’, Verso, London, 2003

(7) = Amnesty International Report 2007 ; ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES, http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/Regions/Middle-East-and-North-Africa/Israel-and-the-Occupied-Territories

(8) = House of Commons Hansard 26 Jun 2007 , column 63WH – 66WH – speech by Clare Short MP on War On Want delegation to occupied territories , http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070626/halltext/70626h0010.htm and http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070626/halltext/70626h0011.htm

(9) = Guardian 10 Sep 2007, 'Israeli neo-Nazi ring caught after attacks on synagogues', http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,2165980,00.html

(10) = New Statesman 27 Nov 2000, ‘A pool, a home, bullets and bombs’, http://www.newstatesman.com/200011270024

(11) = Brzezinski, Zbigniew (2007) ‘Second Chance : Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower’, Basic Books, New York, 2007, page 75

(12) = Guardian 8 April 2004, ‘Battles rage from north to south’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1188103,00.html