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Can there be a just peace for Israel?

by Michael R. Burch, an editor and publisher of Holocaust and Nakba poetry

Can there be a just peace for Israel? The debate has been rekindled by President Barack Obama’s suggestion that the basis for a peaceful settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is to return to the “1967 lines” with mutually agreed-upon land swaps. Since the 1967 lines (also called the "1949 armistice lines") are the internationally-recognized borders of Israel, this seems quite reasonable. And while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu insisted that the 1967 borders are “indefensible,” the man most responsible for defending those borders, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, flatly refuted him, telling Edmund Sanders of the Los Angeles Times in an interview that Israel has the most powerful military within a 1,000-mile radius of Jerusalem and thus has no reason to feel insecure.

Yael Dayan, the daughter of Israel's most famous Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan (he of the famous black eyepatch) and herself an Israeli army captain, a member of the Knesset and the current chair of the Tel Aviv city council, also refuted the strange notion that Israel cannot defend itself. In an article published by The Tennessean on May 24, 2011, she pointed out that Israel is in a "position of strength, from our military superiority, to our alliance with the U.S., to the Arab League's offer of comprehensive peace not once, but twice."

If you are unfamiliar with the real history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, or have been told that Israel is "only defending itself," please read Albert Einstein's 1948 letter to the New York Times, then click your browser's "back" button to return to this page. If you want to understand how the the theft of Palestinian land relates to Israel's new offensive against Gaza, known as Operation "Pillar of Defense" or "Pillar of Clouds," please click here Amud Annan "Pillar of Fire." If you want to hear the opinion of the former U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who negotiated peace talks between Israel and Palestinians, please click here Jimmy Carter: "Israeli policy is to confiscate Palestinian territory."

Martin Levi van Creveld, a Jewish military expert who has written seventeen books on military history and strategy, pointed out that some of the settlement enclaves Israel wants to keep would actually make Israel's borders less defensible, saying: "That West Bank would look like Swiss cheese and you can't defend Swiss cheese." He also pointed out that Israel managed to defend the "indefensible" 1967 lines during the Six Day War: "The situation as it existed before '67 shows that Israel can perfectly defend itself." And of course Israel is much more powerful today than it was in 1967, thanks to the incredible generosity of the American taxpayer.

Van Creveld has also pointed out the Bibi is bluffing about the "danger" of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, because he knows Iran couldn't use them without being completely destroyed by Israel: "We Israelis have what it takes to deter an Iranian attack. We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us ... thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the U.S. and Germany."

Israelis “in the know” are fully aware that Bibi is bluffing, as does "the smartest man in the room," since over the years the U.S. has supplied Israel with hundreds of billions of dollars in advanced weapons, financial aid and shared military technology. President Obama knows the power of Israel, and of course he knows that Israel has hundreds of nukes and other WMDs, meaning no nation on earth can possibly hope to conquer Israel.

So why is Bibi bluffing, and why aren’t American politicians calling his bluff? Why did Congress greet Bibi's bluff with 29 standing ovations when he stood before them, offering a gooey concoction of half-truths and evasions? I will share my thoughts momentarily. I believe the basic facts are more than obvious. But first let me return to my original question: “Can there be a just peace for Israel?” I believe the answer is no, there can never be a just peace for Israel … or perhaps there could be, but a just peace is so unlikely as to seem impossible. I believe a lasting peace is possible, but it will be far from “just” because it will be heavily skewed in Israel’s favor. Like any riverboat gambler, Bibi intends to come away from the table with oodles of easy winnings. He’s not worried in the least about the slim pickings he’ll leave the Palestinians. But if we want a lasting peace, we should be. Why? The maps below are illuminating ...

Map of 1946 Palestine, showing more than 90% of the land belonging to Palestinians (first map)
Map of 1947 U.N. partition plan of Israel and Palestine (second map)
Map of 1967 borders of Israel and Palestine (third map), known as the "1967 lines" and the "1949 armistice lines"
Map of 2000 borders of Israel and Palestine (fourth map) showing how Israel keeps acquiring land outside its legal borders, creating discontiguous Palestinian bantustans

These maps clearly explain why a just peace is so unlikely. They also explain why a lasting peace requires Israel to return to its 1967 borders, because a discontiguous Palestinian state will not be viable, and without a viable Palestinian state a lasting peace is not possible, due to the virulent racism being practiced against Palestinians by Israelis. (To get the picture, just think of the movies District 9 and Avatar.) To understand the problem and the solution, it is necessary to understand the grotesque, brutal nature of Israeli racism against Palestinians. But first, let's consider the maps and what they tell us.

Before 1946 the Palestinians owned well over 90% of the land. Today they own less than 20% of the land, and all that land is under the jurisdiction of the Israeli military, so in effect they control none of it. And yet the Palestinians have received nothing in return for the "transferred" land, which quite "magically" ended up being "owned" by Israeli Jews. How did this happen? Was it "magic" or armed robbery? Most Israeli Jews don't want to know or admit the truth. Most Americans, particularly Jews and Christians, don't want to know or admit the truth. But the Muslim world knows the truth: Israeli Jews stole virtually all the land from the Palestinians by using massively superior military force (since the Palestinians have never possessed an organized military of any magnitude). In 1948 hundreds of thousands of non-combatant Palestinians, most of them farm families, fled their land and homes, choosing not to oppose Jewish military and paramilitary forces. When the hostilities were over, they had every right to return to their homes and become citizens of Israel. But Israel had a serious "demographic" problem: too many Palestinians to be a democratic state and remain Jewish. So the government of Israel deliberately chose ethnic cleansing as the sordid path to "democracy."

It is important to note that there was Arab resistance in 1948: not by the Palestinians who fled, but primarily by Arab nations with "eyes on the prize." The King of Jordan wanted to annex the West Bank, which he did. Egypt had designs on the southern areas of Palestine. Palestinian farmers were not responsible for the power plays of Jewish colonists, the U.N., and the rulers of nearby Arab nations. Contrary to the prevailing fictions, Israel's forces were superior to those of the Arab nations (largely because Golda Meir had raised fifty million dollars from American Jews), and when the smoke finally cleared, multitudes of Palestinians were either refugees or third-class citizens of a state that didn't want them and would never (to this day) grant them equal rights.

In short, the fledgling state of Israel willfully committed a heinous crime, ethnic cleansing, and as a result it ended up "owning" large tracts of land that it didn't have to pay for. If there has been a case of armed robbery, how can there be justice unless the stolen property is restored to the rightful owners? Israel obviously has no intention of returning the land it stole, and the U.S. government obviously has no intention of demanding anything like real justice for the Palestinians. A just peace would require Israel to allow all Palestinian refugees to return to Palestine and be given back their stolen land or receive reasonable compensation for it.

Is this an outlandish idea? Not really, since the Jews themselves set an international precedent by seeking and receiving billions of dollars in reparations from Germany. World War II ended in 1945; the Palestinians lost the bulk of their land in 1948. Since the Palestinian Nakba ("Catastrophe") occurred after the Jewish Shoah ("Catastrophe"), there is absolutely no reason for Palestinians to be denied rights granted to Jews. But the U.S. has never been interested in treating Palestinians as human beings with equal rights, despite all the sermons on "equal rights," "justice" and "democracy" it preaches to the rest of the world. Jesus Christ repeatedly denounced hypocrisy, but the world's largest "Christian nation" seems to do nothing but practice hypocrisy in his homeland. Ironically, thanks to American Christians, Bethlehem is now surrounded by a gigantic apartheid wall ...

Why did U.S. congressmen greet Bibi Netanyahu with tsunamis of standing ovations? Unfortunately, Israel has turned the U.S. government into a gigantic moneymaking machine. In go a few million dollars in Jewish campaign contributions ... out pop billions of dollars in financial aid to Israel. And of course American politicians know where their bread is buttered: on the pro-Israel side. It is political suicide for American politicians to lose the votes of American Jews and Christians, most of whom support Israel unconditionally (and unthinkingly). If Barack Obama doesn't "support" Israel, he will no doubt be labeled the "anti-Christ" by the ever-irrational believers in the Book of Revelation, which says Jesus will return as the greatest mass-murderer in human history, after which human beings will be tortured with fire and brimstone "in the presence of the Lamb and Holy Angels." According to John of Patmos, the writer of Revelation, it seems there will be an eternal torture chamber in heaven, at the foot of the throne of God. But of course Revelation is full of errors which Christians studiously ignore ...

John of Patmos said that in his vision all the creatures of the earth sang the praises of God, after which God turned around and started destroying them. Would a loving, compassionate, wise, just God do that?

John said in his messages to the churches that Jesus would condemn Christians for eating the wrong foods, even though Peter, Paul and Jesus himself clearly said that Christians can eat anything.

John also said that Jesus would murder the children of a woman living at the time Revelation was written, because she was having extramarital sex. But why would Jesus forgive one adulteress, then murder the children of another? How can Jesus be considered good or just if he murders children because their mother had sex? In what dimension is murder a just punishment for adults having consensual sex, much less the murder their children? And is there any evidence that Jesus actually murdered the children, or was John a false prophet? (Thomas Jefferson called him a lunatic, which seems like a wild understatement.) 

John also misnamed the twelve tribes of Israel, leaving out Dan while including Joseph and one of his sons (Manasseh) but not the other (Ephraim). An all-wise God would obviously have known the correct names of the twelve tribes. But human beings often become confused, forgetting that if Joseph's sons are named there are either thirteen tribes (if Joseph is not included), or fourteen (if Joseph is included). When land allotments were discussed in the Bible, Levi was omitted (because the Levites were priests and didn't need farmland) and Joseph was replaced by his two sons, resulting in twelve tribal "states," but Levi was always one of the tribes. So John should have included Dan and Joseph, leaving out Manasseh, as this is the only way to name the twelve tribes correctly when Levi is included. 

John obviously believed the stars were tiny pinpricks of light that could "fall" to earth. Today we know that a single star approaching the earth would rip our solar system apart long before it arrived.

It seems vastly strange for Christians who profess to believe that God is good to put any faith in the Book of Revelation, when it clearly turns God and Jesus into unjust monsters bent on the destruction of the world and the slaughter of trillions of animals and billions of human beings. And yet this seems to be the "faith" of Christians like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. Do they seem wise compared to non-Christians like Einstein and Gandhi, or more like buffoons? Can anyone really imagine a wise, just God sending Gandhi and Einstein to "hell" in order to "save" Christians who believe he's the Devil?

As I mentioned previously, in order to understand why the Palestinians need a viable state of their own, we have to understand the terrible nature of Israeli racism. A good way to understand the "reality on the ground" is to read Gideon Levy:

Gideon Levy has been called "the most hated man in Israel" because he writes truthfully about how brutally Israel treats Palestinians, even completely innocent women and children. If you click the link above, you can read excerpts from his articles. Few Americans understand how far Israel’s government has waded into the deep, dark, stench-ridden depths of racism. Even kindergartners are not safe from the not-so-tender attentions of the Israeli military, which has been given orders to crush the spirit and will of the Palestinian people and increasingly seems to do so with relish. If you don't trust me or Levy, you can read the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who "came clean" at a site called "Breaking the Silence":

And while the American public dully and dutifully believes pro-Israel propaganda which insists that Israel is only protecting its “security,” the Israelis relentlessly wresting the land remaining to the Palestinians from under them, know the truth. I remember vividly the account of a young Australian peace activist, Sarah Haynes, who wrote an email letter to her mother from an Israeli jail after having been arrested for trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian house. She was working with the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions at the time. In Sarah’s letter home, she told her mother that she had just heard an Israeli tour guide say, “We politely make it impossible for them to live here” when she received word that Jewish settlers were taking sledgehammers to a house, which she rushed to defend. The house she attempted to defend was that of a Palestinian woman who had recently died. Jewish “settlers” had come to demolish it, presumably in order to claim the underlying land as “unoccupied.” This demolition may have taken place while the Palestinian family was still mourning and burying the dead woman. Of course there is nothing “polite” about such vile, disgusting acts of racism.

Just as most Germans were in denial about the Holocaust, most Jews and Americans are in denial about what is really happening to the Palestinians. Even Israelis who know the “game plan” seem to be unable to fully grasp the horror of its execution (which quite literally involves executions because robbing large numbers of people of their land and homes will invariably lead to deaths). What we are seeing is clearly ethnic cleansing: an unconscionable crime against peace and humanity. Here’s the full text of Sarah Haynes’ email, if you can bear to read it:

To keep Israeli citizens from seeing the full horror of its ghoulish “final solution” for the Palestinians, the government of Israel has erected hundreds of miles of apartheid walls and created “Jewish only” roads and settlements inside Occupied Palestine. But do apartheid walls and "Jewish only" roads and settlements increase Israel's "security," or only its insecurities? Bullies are never “secure” because at any time their sins may find them out.

Like many bullies, Israel blames its victims while claiming to be the “victim.” If you ask a bully why he acts cruelly, he will invariably tell you what he doesn’t like about the people he abuses, as if this somehow justifies his actions. But of course he will always feel deeply insecure if there is any possibility that someone might retaliate and inflict the same kind of pain on him. A bully’s goal is to dominate other people without suffering himself. Israel’s goal is to dominate the Palestinians and force them to leave (but where can they go?), without being caused to suffer in return. But in the real world it is impossible to cause millions of people to suffer without suffering the consequences. White Americans learned this hard lesson when they abused millions of Native Americans and African Americans. The results were the Trail of Tears, massacre after massacre on both sides, and the Civil War. The U.S. didn’t become a true democracy or gain relief from large-scale racial violence until it finally established much fairer, nonracist laws and courts in the mid-1900s.

Americans finally learned that it was much better to establish equal rights and justice for everyone, and treat everyone as equals in the eyes of the law, then to practice government-sponsored racism. But Israel has set the clock back to the days when the “chosen few” proclaimed it their “manifest destiny” to steal other people’s land and freedom, and rule over them.

We can tell a lot about men by the way they treat women and children. Israel’s claims to be merely acting for purposes of “security” evaporate when we consider the way Palestinian mothers and their children are being treated by Jewish men. Was it wrong for white men to do what they did to Native American women and children? Was it wrong for white men to do what they did to African American women and children? The answers are obviously rhetorical, so of course it is wrong for Jewish men to do the same terrible things to Palestinian women and children. The problem with ethnically cleansing men of another race is that their women and children must also be “cleansed.” The human race has thankfully evolved to the point where causing women and children to suffer and die because they were “born wrong” is considered an abomination, so Israel’s propaganda simply doesn’t work. All we have to do is watch how Palestinian women and children are being treated, and we know the truth.

I sometimes hear pro-Israel propagandists whine that it is “unfair” for Israel to be expected to abandon racism, since not all nations have done this yet. This is an evil, utterly stupid argument. My son was once bullied at school. Did I tell him to find someone weaker to bully himself? Of course not. If another man abuses his wife and children, should I abuse my wife and son? Of course not. If a dictatorship denies its citizens freedom of speech, should Israel and the U.S. deny their citizens freedom of speech? Of course not. Pro-Israel propaganda invariably fails to make sense because the modern world has rejected racism, while Israel practices racism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Nothing an apologist says in defense of Israel will make any sense to someone who knows the facts. If the Confederacy, Nazi Germany and apartheidist South Africa were wrong to practice government-sanctioned racism, then Israel is just as wrong. Knowing the truth is as simple as knowing that a Jewish baby is born with almost infinitely superior rights to a Palestinian baby. What more do we need to know than that, really?

According to Gideon Levy, the government and military of Israel are its own worst enemies. Over 200 Jewish human rights organizations agree with Levy; some of them send volunteers to use their bodies as “human shields" in order to protect Palestinian schoolchildren and farmers from the abuses of Israeli robber barons euphemistically called “settlers.” What sort of "democracy" requires citizens of one race to use their bodies as "human shields" to protect people of a less-favored race? Why are armed soldiers protecting the robber barons rather than the innocent children and farmers? How does preventing Palestinian farmers from harvesting olives increase Israel’s “security”?

Levy is a former member of the Israeli military who came to realize that when he saw IDF soldiers abusing Palestinian women and children, he wasn’t seeing “anomalies” but normal Israeli government policies in action. Israel’s right-wing, neo-fascist government has a very simple “game plan,” which is to convince the American public that it wants “peace” when what it really wants is to keep stealing land from Palestinians while ethnically cleansing them from their native land, as it has been doing for the last 60+ years. Of course the hardworking but gullible U.S. taxpayer underwrites the whole sordid enterprise. The results have been 9-11 and two decade-long wars. Why can’t Americans put two-plus-two together and realize that we have been bilked into funding Israel’s addiction to “free” land, and then were attacked on 9-11 because the Muslim world sees the U.S. as Israel’s patron, protector and bankroller? That land is very, very expensive to Palestinians, Americans and the rest of the world, because it makes peace between the Muslim world and the West impossible. The only people who benefit, in reality, are a few hundred thousand Israeli robber barons who steal land Israel doesn’t even need, because much of the land stolen from Palestinians in 1948 lies fallow to this day, inside the borders of Israel. Obviously, it would be much less expensive for Israel to develop land inside its own borders, than to develop land outside its borders under the terrible auspices of a military occupation that inflicts misery and humiliation on millions of people on a daily basis.

Before 1948, well over 90% of the land belonged to Palestinians. Today less than 20% of the land still belongs to Palestinians, and yet the “transferred” land was never paid for. Anywhere else in the world when property is stolen by force, it’s called “armed robbery.” How would you feel if members of your family worked all their lives to own a plot of land and a house, then someone showed up with a government edict for them to be evicted, while soldiers armed with machineguns stood nearby to make sure the new “owners” didn’t have to pay a penny to take possession?

How would you feel if your own house was demolished by bulldozers, knowing that you and your loved ones had suddenly be left homeless? If such things happened to Americans, wouldn’t many of us choose to resist by force? After all, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson lived in mansions, yet chose to risk their lives rather than live under a feudal monarchy and British military occupation. If Americans have the right to freedom, equal rights and democracy, why is it “wrong” for Palestinians to forcefully resist what has been happening to them for more than half a century?

Most the abuse doesn’t occur at Israel’s borders or Israeli-occupied areas, because Palestinians who live under military occupation are not allowed to enter Israel, or drive on “Jewish only” highways or live in “Jewish only” settlements. Israel has formally proclaimed that none of the Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their native land will ever be allowed to return to Israel. So most of the abuse takes place inside Occupied Palestine, on the land remaining to the Palestinians in the West Bank, or inside the walled ghetto of Gaza. There the Israeli military rules over the Palestinians with an iron hand, while Jewish settlers steal more and more of the West Bank, just as white settlers in the United States once stole western lands from Native Americans while being protected by the U.S. military. When Native American men like Sitting Bull and Geronimo tried to protect their women and children, the U.S. government and white supremacist press called them “terrorists.” If Americans had eyes, they should understand what is really happening.

If we want peace, we need to open our eyes and understand the simple truth. Israel is bilking us out of money and using that money to steal land from an increasingly destitute people. Millions of those people are completely innocent women and children. This terrible injustice has inflamed the Muslim world against Israel and the U.S., and understandably so. If we want peace, we need to persuade Israel to either make the Palestinians full citizens of a single democratic state, or to let them have their own independent state with secure, internationally-recognized borders. If Israel goes back to the 1967 borders, that is hardly “fair” to the Palestinians because they will still have lost 80% of their land without being compensated for it. Israel and the U.S. should be honest and not act as if this is any sort of “concession” on the part of Israel. Why should the majority of the population be forced to surrender so much land to the minority without being compensated somehow?

But the Palestinians have few options – thanks to the military power and unjust governments of Israel and the U.S. – so they would probably accept these unjust terms, if the U.S. persuades Israel to accept them.

It is a sad world we live in, when the rich and powerful dictate such unjust terms to the poor and defenseless. If there is a peace, it will be like the “peace” that descended on Native Americans, because they had no option other than to fight and die, or to live as a diminished people. So while I long for peace in the Middle East, I hope I never fool myself into thinking this “peace plan” is anything but the sad, sordid end of the looting and rape of Palestine. Still, we must end the looting and rape of Palestine before the Muslim world decides to enter the fray, which probably means World War III and perhaps Armageddon.

I only wish Israel and the United States had the courage and the decency to do what is obviously right.

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