Friday, February 25, 2005

Sharon moves perplexing but welcome 2-25-05

Sharon moves perplexing and welcome
Feb. 25, 2005 Creators Syndicate
By Ray Hanania

Did someone kidnap Ariel Sharon and replace him with a moderate?

Sharon is a man reviled by Palestinians, yet he has taken dramatic recent steps – only a few so far, but important – that have reversed what Palestinians believe have been civil abuses against that have undermined peace.

One of the most egregious of Israel’s policies has been "collective punishment." That is where Israelis could take out their anger and vengeance against suicide bombers who are not around toe be punished. The Israelis would punish the bomber’s innocent relatives and families.

Over the years, through collective punishment, the Israelis have destroyed thousands of homes belonging to the family and relatives of not only suicide bombers, but also those accused of terrorism, even when the violence was less terrorism and more about resistance.

The destruction of the homes feeds into the Palestinian belief that not only are the Israelis unfair, but they also are using every technique to remove non-Jews.

Israel has not only destroyed homes, it has also killed innocent Palestinian and American civilians (such as Rachel Coury) in the process. When Israel has targeted and attacked extremist Palestinian leaders, they have done so in a manner that results in the killing of many innocent civilians who happen to be nearby, including the target’s wife and children.

That is a form of collective punishment, too.

All of it has reinforced the imbalance in justice that has dominated Palestinian-Israeli relations.
Palestinian extremists have also used their own policy of collective punishment, targeting Israeli civilians in their attacks who are not directly involved in Israeli government policy.

But there has been a double-standard in how this relationship is defined in the West. Israeli collective punishment is tolerated, while Palestinian collective punishment is denounced as symbolic of Palestinian societal erosions.

The point is "collective punishment" is wrong. It is immoral. We wouldn’t tolerate this kind of practice in our own society. Even after Sept. 11, we have taken specific steps to avoid punishing the innocent in our effort to fight the war on terrorism domestically.

The fact that Sharon has declared an end to the policy is a significant shift that is even more important than the act of recognizing Palestinian rights to statehood.

Most Palestinians want an end to the conflict and want a peaceful compromise. They just haven’t believed Israel truly will make the concessions on land and policy required to achieve two-states. Collective punishment and other Israeli policies, such as "extra-judicial killings," have contributed to undermining that public confidence which is necessary to make any peace plan work.

Removing it, coupled with other symbolic but important steps such as reportedly preparing to dismantle many of the humiliating checkpoints, will go a long way to demonstrate that Israeli truly seeks genuine peace. Israel is showing that not only does it desire "an end to violence," but it also supports goals most important to Palestinians, such as peace that is "just and fair."

Sharon has said and done things before that seemed to suggest he is headed away from his history of violence, but has turned around fast. His personal, deep seated grudge against the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was always seen as the motivator of his past actions. Maybe with Arafat gone, that grudge has finally softened. Or, maybe, the threats against his own life by Israeli extremists in his own party and in the violent settler movement have changed him.

Regardless, if Sharon continues on this path, he might help bring about a resolution to a conflict that goes beyond anything his predecessor Ehud Barak proposed.

And just as important for Palestinians, they must act, too. They must recognize that they cannot continue to base their future strategic planning on the high levels of emotion that have risen from a painful history and past.

Yes, Israel has done many terrible things to the Palestinians. But, Palestinians have also done many terrible things to Israelis.

Peace based on compromise that achieves not only Israel’s goals of security and non-violence and also Palestinian goals of fairness and justice, is something new. It is far more important than even national vanity.

I did not like the old Sharon. But I won’t let memories of the old Sharon, including painful ones, stand in the way of a just and fair peace.

If this is really a new, genuine Sharon, I can support him.


No comments: