Friday, January 14, 2005

Israel failing to do its part Jan. 14, 2005

By Ray Hanania

While all the focus this week has been on Palestinian elections and a collective hope for change, little attention has been paid to what Israelis must do to make peace work. Newly elected President Mahmoud Abbas publicly denounced violence saying it has not benefited Palestinians, a stark assessment many Palestinians did not want to hear.

Abbas will struggle to engage the peace process through a one-sided American "arbiter" while ending violence by Palestinian militia groups, the Israeli army and extremist settlers.

He can't do it alone. Those who oppose peace based on compromise in the Israeli camp know it. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon can continue to obstruct peace with his rigid, uncompromising policies, or he can turn away from his bloodied past and do something before it is too late.

Sharon, facing the breakup of his coalition government, has been forced to cut a deal of convenience with Shimon Peres and the more moderate Labor Government. Peres is a visionary who, like Arafat, recognized that peace based on land compromise is unavoidable. Peres might steer Sharon away from his extremist roots and to a new future of managed moderation.

But the bigger problem is that Israel would not have a vicious prime minister like Sharon as their leader if it were not for the complicity of an emotional and uncompromising Israeli public. Israelis are great at saying one thing and doing something else.

They complain about the racism and anti-Semitism that does exist in Palestinian society, but they say little about the racism and anti-Arab hatred that exists in their society. When Palestinian acts of violence become horrendous, pushed by a disengagement of hate between Palestinian and Israeli societies, Israelis are quick to denounce them and showcase the ugliness of suicide bombings for their own political benefit.

But when Israeli soldiers murder innocent civilians, Israelis remain hypocritically silent. That goes especially for the Jewish-American community, both the rigid right and the silent "peaceniks."

I don't expect humanity from the settlers. The Israeli settlers are an extremist movement driven by religious fanaticism and racial hatred. Their entire existence is to steal lands belonging to Christians and Muslims and convert them into Jewish military enclaves packed with weapons and hate.

But I do expect more from the Israeli peace movement, which has been uncomfortably silent these past four years when it comes to Israeli transgressions and violations of civil rights. Genuine peace is about justice and fairness, not convenience or military might as defined by the old Sharon.

When an innocent person is murdered, Palestinians and Israelis both must speak out, regardless of the victim's origins.

When an opportunity presents itself to overcome the viciousness that has kept Palestinians and Israelis apart these past four years, Israelis need to seize the moment, too.

They must speak out against extremists in their own midst.

They must embrace Palestinians who oppose violence and support a just peace, and they must end their discriminatory and harsh practices of isolating any Palestinians who criticize Israeli politics.

They must articulate a fair compromise dismantling all settlements, sharing Jerusalem and finally addressing the issue of Palestinian refugee rights. Until Israelis do a reality check on their commitment to peace, there will not be peace no matter what Palestinians do.

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

Originally Published on Friday January 14, 2005

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