By Contributor on July 09, 2014

By Stephen Zunes

The murder by unknown assailants of three Israeli teens who were members of an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Back would normally have been treated by both sides as simply another senseless loss of innocent young life experienced too often by Israelis and Palestinians alike. But the right-wing Israeli government took advantage of the tragedy to whip up ultra-nationalist sentiments, engage in a new wave of repression in the occupied West Bank, launch heavy mortar attacks and air strikes against civilian targets in the besieged Gaza Strip, and now to threaten all-out war.

This latest round of violence came on the heels of failed peace negotiations in which the Palestine Authority agreed to unprecedented concessions, including accepting a settlement in which their state would be demilitarized and would encompass just 22 percent of historic Palestine, militias would be dismantled, Israeli and international forces could guard all borders, Jerusalem would be shared as both nations’ co-capital, 80 percent of Israeli colonists would be allowed to stay in their illegal settlements, and the Palestinians would renounce the right of return of refugees expelled from their homes during Israel’s 1947-49 war of independence.

By contrast, the Israelis—according to both U.S. and Israeli sources--essentially refused to make any concessions from their longstanding insistence that the Palestinians only be allowed control of a series of tiny non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel.  Rather than acknowledging Israel’s culpability in the failure to achieve a peace agreement, the Obama administration blamed “both sides” and insisted that the Palestinians not just recognize Israel, as they had done more than twenty years ago, but explicitly recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” Never in history has a country been required to recognize the ethnic or religious identity of another as a requirement for peace.

With Israel’s intransigence in the face of Palestinian moderation, which raised global disapproval to unprecedented levels and prompted questions even among many Israelis, Prime Minister Netanyahu apparently felt a need to change the focus, taking advantage of the kidnapping and murder to his advantage. First he insisted, without making public any evidence, that the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas was responsible and, by extension—given their recent unity agreement to join the Fatah-led Palestinian government—the Palestine Authority itself. This came despite vehement denunciation of the kidnapping and murders by Palestinian officials and aggressive actions by Palestinian security services, first to find the missing teens and then to find the perpetrators. 

Israel then began air strikes on the Gaza Strip, prompting Palestinian militants—who may actually have been affiliated with groups even more extremist than Hamas—to lob home-made rockets which, unlike the Israeli attacks, have not yet resulted in any casualties, but have reinforced the Israeli determination to escalate its assault on Gaza and prepare for a possible large-scale military offensive.

President Obama, to his credit, in an article written for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, declared that "all parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution” and, while praising President Abbas for his willingness to work for peace, refrained from doing the same for Netanyahu. However, Obama failed to join Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and various governments in condemning Israeli violations of international humanitarian law, including collective punishment and attacks on noncombatants.

Since the beginning of 2014, nearly thirty Palestinian civilians, including nearly a dozen children and adolescents, have been killed by Israeli security forces. Nearly 1,300 have been injured, and as many as 650 have been forcibly displaced, raising concerns among many Palestinians about the disproportionate focus placed upon the three Israeli teenagers.

Imagine the reaction by the Obama administration if the Palestine Authority had reacted to the deaths of their youth as had Israel: bombing Israeli cities, breaking into and ransacking Israeli homes, and detaining hundreds of Israelis without charge.

Obama’s call for Israelis and Palestinians to exercise restraint and peacefully settle their differences is not enough. Whatever terrible acts may be committed by one side or the other, this is not an ethnic conflict. It is an illegal military occupation of one nation by another. The United States continues to block the United Nations from enforcing resolutions demanding Israel live up to its obligations under international law, while increasing military aid even as Israeli human rights abuses have also increased. This has pushed prospects for a peaceful resolution further out of reach, and made it harder for the Palestine Authority to prevent desperate elements within its population from targeting Israelis, including innocent civilians.

The United States must  use its considerable leverage on Israel not only to prevent a full-scale assault on Gaza, but to end the occupation.


Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

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Comments

The facts here are grossly twisted, and only serve to,promote an even greater anti Semitic atmosphere. Think on this...it begins with a kidnapping of 3 innocent boys. Upon discovery of their bodies, Israel mourns...Palestinians dance in the streets. An innocent Palestinian boy is also murdered. Israel mourns, Israel determines to find the murderers and prosecute to the full extent of the law. No dancing, no celebrating....this was an innocent child. Israeli officials meet with the griefstricken parents. And Hamas lobs missiles...hundreds of them...into southern Israel, have been for years...Israel withholds aggression for way longer than any other country being shot at! I was in Sderot, I saw the devastation. Think on this...the Arab citizens of Israel have more rights and freedom than Arabs in ANY other Arab country. Jobs, voting, etc. there are two sides to every situation, and this one-sided, mis-informed information helps no one.
Thank you, Professor Zunes, for reporting truth and analyzing the situation from a perspective unseen in most other media outlets. Disregard FMK's ignorant comment. He obviously doesn't understand that the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel is the root cause of the conflict.
The strongest generator of Anti-Semitism is the Israeli State itself. Every time Netanyahu and his extreme right wing government wants to call Israel a Jewish State, as a Jew, I cringe! Their policies are horribly reflect on the morality of the Jewish People. That "my people" should be such bullies, harming and killing hundreds of innocents for what a few extremists do, make me rage! What's the score, 1000 to 3?
Accusation of anti-semitism and claims of reactions by a whole people obscures truth. The standard for Palestinian rights in Israel is not Saudi Arabia, it is the fundamental promise of equality fought for by Jews and other minorities for centuries, and still a struggle in almost every country, including the United States. Still, Palestinian Israelis have more rights than Jordanians, than citizens of Qatar, or Turkey? Ask a Palestinian Israeli. Yes, Hamas rockets terrorizing Israelis is abominable. Israeli bombs killing residents of Gaza is not justifiable, is not defense, is sowing more violence, is undermining the security of Israel, is outrageous.
Three innocent, unarmed Palestinian teenagers were shot by Israeli police on May 15th, and two of them died. Israel initially denied everything, but video from security cameras surfaced showing the moment that bullets struck two of the boys. Then CNN discovered video it had taken that day, depicting a uniformed shooter taking long careful aim, and killing a young man who was no threat to him. See the video here: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/cnn-camera-catches-israeli-soldier-who-fired-killed-palestinian-teen But Palestinian life is cheap, so these murders may or may not be "investigated," but nothing will come of it, except to further embitter the grieving parents, and the greater Muslim community, who sees and reads about these murders, even if Americans do not. As Wiki-leak documents have also shown, the Palestinians have, for years, been offering significant concessions for peace, and it is Israel that prefers the gradual acquisition of "Judea and Samaria" to peace, well protected and well funded by the U.S.
Thank you once again, Stephen Zunes, for an excellent, dispassionate article on the subject!
No the facts are correct, Israel is to blame. The Palestinians have been held captive for over 50 years on their own land. They're occupied by an ugly racist Zionist army. Israel considers Palestinians a demographic threat and punishes them for not being born Jewish. Once you research the facts , you have to be willfully ignorant not to see the injustice.
The facts here are the facts. Maybe it wasn't clear enough to you, but Israel right-wingers forced the suppression of news of the three teens' immediate deaths. This gave Israel the opportunity to invade Palestinian homes and detain Palestinians, whether guilty or not. This gave the right wing what they wanted - an end to the cease fire. The right-wingers are going to destroy Israel at this rate because more and more people now scorn Israel I fear. There will be no refuge for Israel if it turns into a fascist country. The occupation as it stands must end and the settlements on stolen land must be dismantled. Israel must return to following God, administering justice and peace.

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Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.

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Yesterday the U.S. Senate narrowly defeated a bill that would approve construction on the Keystone XL pipeline.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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