The Unlikely Road to Peace: Truth and Reconciliation  

Over the past few days, Israeli aggression has reached unprecedented levels during the most recent Palestinian Intifada. Illegal settlements are being expanded, Israeli military tanks are entering Palestinian refugee camps and the general use of heavy military equipment against autonomous Palestinian territories is being augmented. This belligerent activity has come in the wake of the disclosure of Ariel Sharon’s peace plan to the world, which would under no circumstances grant Palestinians in the Occupied Territories anything more than indigenous South Africans had in their isolated townships in Apartheid South Africa, and completely ignores the plight of over 5 million Palestinian refugees in exile.

Mr. Sharon has declared that peace, or ‘the end of the conflict’, as he would rather coin the term, can only come when the Palestinians recognize the right of an exclusively Jewish State to exist in the Middle East. Perhaps these are the same sentiments he shared regarding Apartheid South Africa when he consulted with their military in 1981 and sought to subvert the UN arms embargo places upon that government as it sought to expand and sustain its racist policies into neighboring Namibia. Pursuant to that, is the obstacle that an entire population of people are terrorized by the idea of agreeing to a negotiated settlement with a man, Mr. Sharon, who qualifies as a war criminal by even the most loose definitions of the term.

Where Mr. Sharon most blatantly fails in these views is best reflected by the failure of any single peace being achieved by opposing communities during modern times under the context of separation. The most simple and blunt truth regarding his view of peace is that there cannot exist an exclusively Jewish State in a land whose inhabitants do not constitute a Jewish majority, and this is something that Mr. Sharon and the citizens of Israel will have to come to terms to over the next few decades.

This is something that was recognized by the world community in struggles of equal rights from African-American movement in the United States, to the case of South Africa, and most recently in East Timor. The founder of the State of Israel, David Ben Gurion, once said, “If I was an Arab leader I would never make [peace] with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country” (quoted in The Jewish Paradox, by Nahum Goldmann, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1978, p. 99). Ariel Sharon’s defiant and aggressive tactics towards the Palestinian people are indeed helping to realize the prophecy of this legacy.

Despite the fierceness of Israeli military tactics towards the Palestinian population under its illegal occupation as according to the Fourth Geneva Convention and against Palestinian refugees, whose return Israel must honour, as according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which it is a signatory, there is a road to peace in the Middle East, and this is through truth and reconciliation.

Albeit unlikely, if the supporters of Zionism will acknowledge their transgressions against the Palestinian people, grant equal citizenship rights to all people within the borders of pre-war 1948, and grant the right of return or compensation to Palestinian refugees and their disinherited descendants, there can be true peace in the Middle East. Many brave Jews from intellectual heavyweights Noam Chomsky, Israel Shahak and Norman Finklestein to righteous men of peace and conscience including Nelson Mandela and Ralph Nader have come to realize this truth. It is time for Israeli society to open the chapters on its history and allow the founding of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that addresses the 53 year old suffering of the Palestinian people and offers constructive progress, under the context of International law and accepted human rights conventions, towards the integration of the historical inhabitants of the land of Palestine with the current citizens of the Zionist state.

Mr. Rabee’ Sahyoun is a economic development policy researcher at the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies and is affiliated with the global grassroots Palestine Right To Return Coalition.

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