Where the leaders of the State of Israel stand now, destabilized as they are by their recent failures, it becomes urgent for those who feel a lasting friendship for the inhabitants of the country to question its destiny. It should be obvious that pursuing a policy of military strength, rampant colonization and army occupation of territories conquered by warfare, and of brutal repression of Palestinian attempts to assume their identity, only blackens the image of a country that needs to find its fair place in the Middle East.
The Zionist enterprise, which labeled Palestine as a “land without a people for a people without land,” has caused a great deal of harm and has irreversibly failed. Israel’s policy is now more ambiguous, more Machiavellian, but equally bound to fail: On the one hand, it confines Palestinians to a number of small, highly populated areas–open-air prisons like the Gaza Strip and West Bank towns deprived of cultivable land, like Qalqilya, Bethlehem and Bil’in. On the other, it increases the Jewish urbanization of Jerusalem and its adjacent settlements up to the border of Jordan itself, closing off passage to West Bank Palestinians.
This policy violates UN Security Council resolutions, precludes the setting up of a viable Palestinian state and condemns the Arab population to misery and economic collapse, making it an all-too-easy prey, despite the eagerness for peace of most, to Islamist violence. As my generation clearly remembers, military occupations elicit staunch resistance and legitimize violence. Initiated by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, this policy may have created the illusion of increased security for Israelis. But it only delays the dawning of a lasting solution, which requires the fall of the wall now being built in the occupied territories and the sharing of the land between a state for the Jews and a state for the Palestinians.
In April I met in Jerusalem with Arab and Jewish members of a coalition that fights against the transformation of that great and venerable city, equally dear to the three monotheistic religions, into a vast, densely populated, ugly zone deprived of its traditional Muslim presence. And I have wept.
I then went to Ramallah, where I witnessed the march of picture-holding crowds demanding the liberation of 11,000 prisoners, many of them held without trial in Israeli jails under conditions similar to those in Guantánamo. I have been received by the Palestinian Parliament, with members from both Fatah and Hamas, eager to entrust to President Mahmoud Abbas the task of negotiating a peace settlement with Israeli leaders.
Next I took part in a nonviolent protest march in Bil’in against the separation barrier, which illegally cuts in two Palestinians’ fields and pastures. I have seen how young Israeli soldiers fire rubber bullets and tear gas at these weekly marches, which include peasants from surrounding villages, peace-loving Israelis and volunteers from ten other nations, including an Irish Nobel Prize winner.
Today I loudly cry, Beware!
It is time for the leaders of Israel to adopt a policy that the wisest and bravest Israelis (alas, still a small minority) have been urging for a long time: one that leads to a State of Israel with a strong Jewish majority on three-fourths of the former British Mandate, democratically governed and granting liberal civil rights to its Arab minority; and a sovereign State of Palestine on the remaining fourth of the land, getting trade and financial support from its Israeli neighbor, communicating freely with its Arab neighbors and having its capital in East Jerusalem.
The Israeli prime minister who would proclaim this policy and take the first measures required to open up discussions with the Palestinian president and international organizations, thus treating the Palestinians like respected partners and Arabs like reconcilable friends with a venerable cultural past, would insure for his citizens a future of peace and deserve the gratitude of History.
The Israeli prime minister who would pursue, openly or surreptitiously, the veritable ethnocide performed by his predecessors, the ugly features of which strike everyone who visits the West Bank and Gaza and sees the wall, and desecrated Jerusalem, will be consigning his people to shame.