Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Palestinians = Humans.

Without elaborating on why this issue has come up, or the source of my frustration, I'll just say that it was argued to me recently that the top issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the status of Palestinian refugees.

I'm not going to deny that the Palestinian refugee crisis is incredibly important. The settlements, the status of East Jerusalem, all these things will have to be dealt with in order to achieve any sort of agreement. None of these things are the top priority.

The top priority is to stop Israeli brutalization, animalization, and general degradation and humiliation of the Palestinian people. The single most important thing to be done by Israel is to recognize that Palestinians are human beings, and to treat them as such. If Israelis recognized the humanity of Palestinians, and acted accordingly (with respect for their individual dignity), I have no doubt that both sides could sit down and hammer out some agreement, even if the issues are complex and even if it would take some time to work it all out.

Palestinians are human beings.

Demanding that a Palestinian demolish his own home in East Jerusalem, while simultaneously rejecting all Palestinian building permits in East Jerusalem and approving Israeli settlers' permits, does not respect that man's dignity as an individual human being.

I encourage everyone to read a May 2009 report by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law. You need not be an expert on international law to understand the report, so it's worth reading.

For the record, I do not believe that Israel should cease to exist, be destroyed, or anything else like that. I do believe that Israelis have the right to live in peace and security, free from attacks or the threat of attacks.

I do not believe that Israel has the right to deny to the Palestinian people their right to self-determination. I do not believe that Israel has the right to occupy Palestine. I do not believe that Israel has the right to impose a devastating humanitarian crisis on Gaza. I do believe that Israel must respect the human rights of Palestinians.

Above all else, I believe that the Israelis must acknowledge, and in acknowledging act accordingly, that the Palestinians are human beings. Israel must treat Palestinians with the dignity and respect they are due as human beings.

That shouldn't be controversial.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Fear Itself.

Because I'm participating in a human rights boot camp (I swear, that's pretty much what it is), I have no time for anything these days. It ends next week, thank God. In the meantime, I happened to glance at FDR's first inaugural address, and I was struck by how certain of the sentiments expressed in it are very germane today. Check out the full thing on Bartleby, or just Google it. But here is an extract that was particularly striking:
This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. . . .

In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. . . . Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment. Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. [...]

Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.
This is such a brilliant pair of lines: "The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths." The man could give a speech.

Sound familiar?