Saturday, January 10, 2009

The never-ending Middle-East conflict.

The holocaust was an unspeakable atrocity of extraordinary magnitude. In the post-war period, the world salved its conscience for the failure to protect European jews from virtual extermination, but it was at the expense of the Palestinians. The ongoing dispossession of the Palestinians is unconscionable and the world now has a duty to right that wrong.

Israel must treat seriously the threat to wipe it from the face of the world made by some of its neighbours and Hamas. The Jews have, after all, had first hand experience of such an evil enterprise within living memory.

At the same time, Palestinians cannot be expected to accept a life sentence for a crime they did not commit. At best, they are now second-class citizens, restricted to a small part of their own homeland. The Gaza strip has become little more than a self-administering prison camp.

No resolution of this impasse will come from Israel’s iron-fist approach, in its current military campaign against the Gaza strip and also in its longer term behaviour towards the Palestinians e.g. the wall, the settlements, the restriction on movement etc etc..

Neither will the rabid rhetoric of some of Israel’s neighbours, or the actions of Hamas, help towards a lasting peace.

As long as both sides do what they’ve always done, they’ll continue to get the outcome they’ve always got.

When, eventually, a cease-fire is agreed, a number of distinct steps are essential:

1. The US and the EU must formally guarantee the territorial integrity of both Israel and Palestine, based on a return to the pre-1967 borders of Israel. This will have to include a removal of settlements and the resolution of the status of East Jerusalem – perhaps as a UN protectorate?
2. Israel, the US and the EU must fund a compensation package for the dispossessed Palestinians, which should include some limited right of return.
3. Those three parties and the Arab League members must provide a 10-20 year economic stimulus package to help get the new Palestinian state on its feet.

Incoming President Obama has the opportunity to write on a clean slate. Let’s hope he takes that opportunity and provides the necessary leadership to finally resolve this ongoing injustice.

It is, after all, the great running sore that fosters ill-will between the Muslim/arab and Christian/western worlds. It's in everyone's interest that this confict is resolved and a long-term solution demands fairness and generosity for the Palestinians, as well as security for the Israelis.

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