From the September 2006 Idaho Observer:

Our friend, Israel

Last month, U.S. Rep. and candidate for governor "Butch" Otter (R-Idaho) responded to Ingri Cassel’s letter of concern about escalating war in the Middle East by concluding, "It is also important for the United States to stand by our friends and we have no better friends in this region than Israel."

Let’s explore that a moment. By what measure is Israel our "friend?" Going back into childhood we can remember nice kids we could play with as friends and mean kids that wanted to hurt us. It was also apparent that nice kids tended to "hang out" together and mean kids, if they had any friends at all, preferred the company of other mean kids. They would even be seen doing mean things to each other and still be friends. Remember the USS Liberty?

By the time you get through with the "other-sided" overview of the Israel/Palestine conflict below, you will realize that Israel has abused the world’s post-WWII sympathy by only pretending participation in peace processes while boldly prosecuting a dynamic plan to exterminate the Palestinian people.

Reaching back into our memories as children, if, as Rep. Otter observes, "...we have no better friends in this region than Israel," then what does that say about the kind of company Otter, et al, prefer to keep?

by Don Harkins

The international community and the American people need to understand what is happening in Palestine. To have a qualified opinion of the present situation requires one to understand the history of Palestine since 1948—the year Israel was created. What most people claim to "know" about the Palestine/Israel conflict is a media-created impression that is inconsistent with the "facts on the ground."

First off, anything that will be said in the following article has nothing to do with Judaism. All condemnations of Israel are regarding the brutal policies of its secular government. The only reason Israel is allowed to persecute the Palestinians, bomb the Lebanese, threaten Iran and lead the U.S. around by a nose ring is because any criticism of its inexcusably lawless behavior is twisted into charges of "anti-Semitism." The people and governments of the world are so freaked out by the possibility of being labeled "anti-Semitic" that they "turn the other cheek" while internationally-recognized crimes are institutionally and trans-generationally being committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people.

Following is an overview of the Palestinian question as I have come to understand it from mainstream propaganda, Palestinians that I know and various sources absorbed through books, articles and videos. Much of what you are about to read is from my notes as a Palestinian couple updated the situation in Palestine in my presence. Though I have chosen not to identify the couple, they are friends of mine and their first-hand accounts of life in occupied Palestine are, to the best of my knowledge, accurate.

Election of Hamas

The election of a Hamas majority in Palestine was an attempt by Palestinian voters to be rid of a corrupt PLO regime—not to suddenly become radical Muslim "terrorists" intent on destroying Israel. Palestinians were happy to have a chance to vote and did not consider the global public relations consequences of electing a Hamas majority to occupy Palestinian Authority offices. Hamas, as a group, believes that the land taken from them in 1948 with the creation of Israel should be returned to Palestinians.

The world was shocked that Palestinians elected Hamas—as if it was a sign that they wanted conflict with Israel. Since the Palestinian elections last January, things have gotten worse and worse. Palestinians did not elect Hamas to make Israel and the U.S. mad; they just wanted to "clean house."

Ironically, Hamas was created by Israel in the 70s to counter the PLO.

Birth of the problem

Palestinians’ land was taken from them and nearly one million Palestinians were forcibly removed from their homes at gunpoint in 1948 by international decree. No one consulted the Palestinians before kicking them out of their homes to make way for the Jewish state.

Under these conditions, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was born in 1965. In an attempt to bring world attention to the plight of the Palestinians, the bombings and hijackings began. Palestinians became branded as terrorists by a world community that never questioned why they were committing the acts. To this day, some 3 million hopelessly impoverished Palestinians live in refugee camps scattered throughout the region.

Since the PLO, there have been two wars, 1967 and 1973. Israel was the victor and became internationally recognized as a martial authority occupying the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Curiously, discussions about the conflict only go back to 1967 and 1973—they do not go back to 1948 when the problems began. The central question for ultimately resolving the conflict is, "By what legitimate authority was Israel granted title to the land now under its control?"

Hamas, the PLO and Hezbollah do not recognize Israel’s right to exist based on the belief that Israel has no legitimate claim to the land now known as the state of Israel. However, the international community is led to believe that the refusal by "militant fundamentalist Muslim fanatics" like Hamas, et al, do not recognize Israel’s right to exist because they hate Jews.

As far as the world is concerned, the problems associated with Palestine are the fault of Palestinians who refuse to recognize the right of Israel to exist. Palestinians, on the other hand, believe the problem is caused by Israeli governments that have used the cover of occupation to persecute Palestinians.

Israel and the U.S. refused to negotiate with the PLO until a meeting in Geneva in 1986 when PLO leader Yassar Arafat agreed to open discussions for "sharing" the "disputed" territories. During this time, Israel began building settlements in the "occupied-turned-disputed" territories, particularly in the West Bank. In violation of international law as an occupying force and in direct violation of UN resolution, there are now an estimated 250,000 Israelis living in some 150 strategically-situated "settlements" (many of which qualify as cities) mostly in the West Bank.

Suddenly, when Arafat did what the U.S. wanted, he was no longer a terrorist. Khadafy was a terrorist until lately and bin Laden was a CIA asset until the U.S. decided he was a terrorist. Freedom fighter one day; terrorist the next. Palestinians do not want to be called terrorists, but will not stop their struggle to be free. Plus, their struggle is in compliance with international law.

Punishing democracy

Per an agreement struck in Paris in 1996, Israel began collecting a value-added tax to products in commerce and forwarded the appropriate revenues to the Palestinian government under Arafat. After the Hamas victory, Israel stopped forwarding the revenue to the Palestinian government. As a result, revenues to the Palestinian government have dropped by 75 percent. Palestinian government officials have not been paid since March, 2006.

Per the Patriot Act, the U.S. government has identified various Palestine-based organizations as "terrorist groups" (whether they are or not) and prevents charitable money transfers from Palestinian sympathizers in the U.S. to needy Palestinians.

Also since March, 2006:

• Gross domestic product down 47 percent

• 70 percent unemployment in Gaza

• 62 percent of primary health clinics shutdown

• U.S. aid of $250 billion gone

• 75 percent of schools barely able to stay open due to lack of funds

And then came the summer rains

Until 1996, Israel was responsible for Palestinians under international law as an occupational force. Since the recognition of the Palestinian Authority under Arafat, Palestinians became responsible for taking care of themselves. Under the present circumstances, Palestinians are not able to take care of themselves. They are turning into a nation of beggars.

Hamas, recognizing that Palestinians were being isolated and slated for "final solution" actions by Israel, was attempting to develop a coalition government, recognize Israel’s right to exist and play an active role in the peace process. Then Israel started a war with Lebanon, allegedly because Hezbollah refused to return two Israeli soldiers captured in southern Lebanon.

This after the Israelis blew up some roads, bridges and buildings, including a power plant in Gaza June 26, 2006—to force Palestinians to return a captured Israeli soldier. The blasts destroyed 65 percent of the power to 1.3 million people and 80 percent of the pumps that supply their water. Israel commenced these hostilities under the name "Operation Summer Rains."

Truth on the ground

Peace negotiations are at square one—back to 1967. Israel has closed off all negotiations with Hamas government; Israel does not want peace with Palestinians. Worse, Israel tricked the world into believing that it was doing its part in building toward the day when it would end the occupation and allow Palestinian self-rule. Instead, Israel provided the opportunity for a Palestinian government to get established to handle the affairs of its people, then absolved itself of responsibility under international law to provide for the health and well-being of the occupied Palestinian people.

At this time, the state of Israel is doing everything in its power to isolate, starve and destroy the Palestinian people. It must be noted that some of the most heavily attacked locations in Lebanon in the recent "war" were predominantly Palestinian ghettos.

Palestine is now a prison—a concentration camp. The infamous "wall" is a high-tech barrier dividing Palestine into three distinct areas surrounded on all sides by Israel. Israel controls all roads going in and coming out of Palestine. It has the power to determine how much food, water, fuel, medicines and other necessities will be allowed into Palestine; it determines how much Palestinian "exports" (primarily produce) will be allowed out of Palestine and into Israel. Israel is also able to control the prices of goods for sale to Palestinians and the prices of goods Palestinians are selling.

Unemployed Palestinians seeking work to feed their families are seldom allowed to leave the jobless occupied territories.

Within the wall, there are hundreds of Israeli checkpoints; Palestinians are only allowed to travel at the arbitrary discretion of Israeli soldiers at arbitrarily determined day and night hours. Food, water and medical attention are scarce. For little or no reason, Israeli soldiers will bulldoze Palestinian homes and businesses, destroying their contents. Shootings of innocent Palestinians—even children and the elderly—by Israeli soldiers are common. Palestinians have no recourse. Many Palestinian neighborhoods are filled with rubble and there are no resources for reconstruction.


The two state solution: The "roadmap for peace" embodies the "two state" solution—the peaceful coexistence of Israel and Palestinian states. On the table now, Palestinians were willing to settle for 22 percent of the land Israel has been occupying since 1967. As of today, Israel still pretends to be adhering to the "roadmap" while continuing to (illegally) move Israelis into Palestine and establish cities there. Israel is not interested in the two-state solution, except as a delay tactic to continue its systematic conquest of Palestine—and the extermination of Palestinians—while the world remains oblivious.

It should be noted that Palestinians, though they cannot afford them, are making as many children as possible. The average Palestinian woman will give birth to seven or eight children. There is a sense among Palestinians that their only hope to survive the Israelis and an indifferent world is to keep making babies.

The one state solution: The one-state solution has been proposed. This would entail Israelis and Palestinians to leave their disputes in the past and agree to peacefully coexist. Though the possibility is alive and well among ordinary Israelis and Palestinians, the government of Israel, in particular, will never consider it. The reason is purely separatist: There are more Muslim Palestinians than there are Jewish Israelis. The one-state solution would, by numbers alone, ruin the concept of a "Jewish state"—an eventuality that is not acceptable to the state of Israel. Israel is so militant about its separatist Jewish state that it is building high-tech walls to secure it.

Though the Palestinians would be more likely to entertain the notion of a one-state solution because they are so desperate for an end to their collective misery, the recent escalation of genocidal activities on the part of Israelis has likely destroyed any Palestinian hope to live peacefully with the state of Israel.

That means there is no solution—so long as the world looks the other way while Israel commits the same types of crimes against the Palestinians as the Germans were alleged to have committed against them in WWII.

Ask Palestinians today and they will tell you they support a one state solution: The Palestinian state.

"To hell with the international community" for refusing to recognize the plight of Palestinians; "To hell with the international community" for allowing Israel to do this.

The paragraph above represents the sentiments of Palestinians who have lost all hope for peace and are faced with the choice of fighting and dying for freedom or meekly accepting the genocidal fate secular Israel has planned for them.

In my opinion, the secular Israeli government has abused whatever claim it has to the region it now occupies and no longer deserves the privilege of its state sovereignty.

Going deeper

Those who desire to understand better the truth about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, an excellent book by Professor Virginia Tilly "The One State Solution" (2006) gives an excellent background to the conflict and a detailed analysis of how conditions for the Palestinians have been steadily deteriorating under Israeli occupation to the present state of total desperation. I, personally, do not believe that a single state will ever be possible, but Tilly’s information is excellent.

The DVD "Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land" is also available for purchase or downloading off the web. This graphic, well-produced, 80-minute documentary from the Media Education Foundation is narrated by Amy Goodman and contains appearances by many notables such as Noam Chomsky and Rabbi Michael Lerner.

While my tendency is to view Goodman and Chomsky, et al., as "left gatekeepers" on issues such as 9/11, they must be commended for their work in exposing Israel for its institutionalized oppression of Palestinians, ongoing U.S. support for these crimes and media complicity in the systematic destruction of these displaced, disenfranchised people.

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