Israel Must End the Occupation

by Robert Jensen

While I was standing at the edge of a recent campus rally in support of the Palestinian cause, students supporting Israel passed out fliers. One of those students and I engaged in a spirited exchange that made it clear how different were our accounts of the problem and potential solutions. One of her points was that Palestinians have to prove they are serious about peace.

“Do you think Israel is serious about peace?” I asked. “Of course,” she replied.

If that’s the case, I asked, why has the number of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and Gaza almost doubled since the Oslo peace process began nearly a decade ago? Given that those settlements are one of the most serious obstacles to a peaceful solution, why would the Israeli government — during a so-called peace process — expand settlements in territory it illegally occupies?

The student steered the conversation back to the one issue on which we agreed — that civilians should not be targeted for political violence — and we parted on agree-to-disagree terms.

Though it is painful for many supporters of Israel to acknowledge, the actions of the Israeli government are consistent with a desire for power and resources, not peace. Much of the recent criticism of Israel has focused on the harshness of the current violence against Palestinians, especially the bombing of civilian targets. But just as important are the everyday actions of Israel — the expansion of settlements, demolition of Palestinian homes, destruction of olive trees for the flimsy reason that snipers might hide behind them, the humiliations heaped upon Palestinians at roadblocks and checkpoints — which have long made it clear that peace is not foremost on the minds of the Israeli government.

Even more crucial for Americans is the simple fact that Israel can pursue those policies — and get away with them — primarily because the U.S. government supplies Israel with the necessary diplomatic cover, military assistance and economic aid (at least $3 billion a year). Without that U.S. backing, the longstanding international consensus for a political settlement likely would have forced Israel to honor U.N. Security Council resolutions and international law.

American pundits pontificate about what might be the mysterious “secret” to peace in the region, as everyone bemoans the supposedly intractable nature of the Israel/Palestine conflict. All this obscures the fact that the “secret” is no secret at all:

Israel must end the occupation, and the United States must withdraw support from Israel until it agrees to do so.

Since the end of the 1967 war in which Israel seized the territories, both sides have squandered opportunities to make progress. I am a fan of neither the Israeli government (whether Labor or Likud) and its colonialist, expansionist program nor the Palestinian Authority under the corrupt leadership of Yasir Arafat.

Nor am I na?ve; ending Israel’s 34-year illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza will not by itself bring peace, for there are many other problems and potential roadblocks. Still, there is no hope for movement toward a just and stable peace unless Israel ends the occupation.

That means not only returning land conquered in war but dismantling the system of Israeli security roads and checkpoints. It means the equitable sharing of water resources and a respect for Palestinian sovereignty. It will not be enough to allow a Palestinian state; it must be a viable Palestinian state.

Although there are forces within Israel that recognize these imperatives, the current government remains committed to power, not peace. The Bush administration, along with most Democrats in Congress, shows no sign of changing a decades-long policy of U.S. support for Israel’s rejection of international law and world opinion.

That means U.S. citizens can be key players in the creation of a real peace process, if we send a clear message to elected representatives: U.S. support for Israel must end if Israel does not end the occupation.

Certainly the complexity of the struggle over Palestine cannot be reduced to slogans. But those three words — end the occupation — capture a simple truth about the hope for peace.

Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas and author of Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Analysis from the Margins to the Mainstream

His pamphlet “Citizens of the Empire: Thoughts on Patriotism, Dissent, and Hope” can be downloaded for free at http://www.nowarcollective.com/citizensoftheempire.pdf He can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu.

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully (Counterpoint/Soft Skull, fall 2015). http://www.amazon.com/Plain-Radical-Living-Learning-Gracefully/dp/1593766181 Robert Jensen can be reached at rjensen@austin.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at http://robertwjensen.org/. To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go to http://www.thirdcoastactivist.org/jensenupdates-info.html. Twitter: @jensenrobertw. Notes. [1] Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996), p. 106. [2] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). [3] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, edited and with a revised translation by Susan McReynolds Oddo (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2011), p. 55.

November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration
John Wight
After Paris: Hypocrisy and Mendacity Writ Large
Joseph G. Ramsey
No Excuses, No Exceptions: the Moral Imperative to Offer Refuge
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS Thrives on the Disunity of Its Enemies
Andrew Moss
The Message of Montgomery: 60 Years Later
Jim Green
James Hansen’s Nuclear Fantasies
Robert Koehler
The Absence of History in the Aftermath of Paris
Dave Lindorff
The US Media and Propaganda
Dave Randle
France and Martial Law
Gilbert Mercier
If We Are at War, Let’s Bring Back the Draft!
Alexey Malashenko
Putin’s Syrian Gambit
Binoy Kampmark
Closing the Door: US Politics and the Refugee Debate
Julian Vigo
A Brief Genealogy of Disappearance and Murder
John R. Hall
Stuck in the Middle With You
Barbara Nimri Aziz
McDonalds at 96th Street
David Rovics
At the Center of Rebellion: the Life and Music of Armand
Weekend Edition
November 20-22, 2015
Jason Hirthler
Paris and the Soldiers of the Caliphate: More War, More Blowback
Sam Husseini
The Left and Right Must Stop the Establishment’s Perpetual War Machine
Mike Whitney
Hillary’s War Whoop
Pepe Escobar
In the Fight Against ISIS, Russia Ain’t Taking No Prisoners
Ajamu Baraka
The Paris Attacks and the White Lives Matter Movement
Andrew Levine
The Clintons are Coming, the Clintons are Coming!
Linda Pentz Gunter
Let’s Call Them What They Are: Climate Liars
Paul Street
Verging on Plutocracy? Getting Real About the Unelected Dictatorship
Nur Arafeh
Strangling the Palestinian Economy
Patrick Howlett-Martin
The Paris Attacks: a Chronicle Foretold
Vijay Prashad
Rebuilding Syria With BRICS and Mortar
Brian Cloughley
Why US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is the Biggest Threat to World Peace