Very few Americans appreciate either what is at stake in Palestine or what problems remain to be solved. We just aren't interested.
This last week, presidential candidates and their sympathetic pundits took shots at President Obama's Thursday speech, decrying his call for continued peace talks based upon the 1967 borders. No one on either side or anywhere in between believes that those borders are defensible.
In what Israel would claim to be their sovereign territory, the typical Jewish citizen may travel freely. Not so in Palestine for the typical Muslim. Israeli checkpoints dot the West Bank, making it nearly impossible to travel and conduct business beyond one's own neighborhood. And to make some borders "defensible," Israel has built 20-foot high concrete walls dividing and even isolating Muslim-occupied neighborhoods from each other and from the outside world.
Those who studied Apartheid in South Africa recognize today's condition in Palestine. Yet the one person still living today who has contributed the most to peace in Palestine, Jimmy Carter, was soundly criticized for comparing today's Palestine to Apartheid in South Africa.
South African Apartheid was based upon the establishment of a state for Afrikaners separate and unequal from numerous other smaller states set aside for native populations. South Africa prospered alongside these inferior states, exploiting their labor and restricting their comings and goings. Those natives living in South Africa proper were forced to live in guarded ghettos like none ever seen before and were restricted to travel outside only for work. Not until the outside world finally took a stand against Afrikaners, imposing sever economic sanctions against their businesses, did change begin to occur.
In Palestine today, there are three separate states: Israel, the largest state dedicated primarily to Europeans of Jewish heritage and dissent; the West Bank, the second-largest state policed extensively by Israeli forces who restrict the free movements of its predominantly Muslim population, otherwise ruled by the Palestine Liberation Organization (true liberation yet to have been achieved); and the Gaza Strip, the smallest and most densely populated area ruled by Hamas and kept in a near starvation condition. Native South Africans had it much better.
Today's Israeli politicians desire to maintain this status quo. It suits them just fine. From time to time, the most repressed Gazans strike out in frustration and anger. Interestingly, but for recent European immigration into Israel, were these three states combined, in not very many years Arab Muslims would be in the majority. And were those Arab Muslims who fled Palestine during the war following Israel's 1948 "establishment" to return to their "native land" a majority of Muslim Arabs would exist in Palestine today.
Why is there an Israel today? At the turn of the 20th century, Palestine was ruled as a part of the Turkish Empire; and Jews, Christians and Muslims lived harmoniously side by side in Jerusalem and its surroundings. Not until the mass migration of Jews from Europe was permitted during British administration did this peaceful status quo change. Perhaps peace would return most naturally if there was only one state in Palestine today, one ruled under democratic principles, one vote per citizen and equal citizenship for all. And where European Jews who were without a homeland for upwards of two millennia had cause to "return," surely those Palestinians living in neighboring states today have even stronger rights. It's only been 63 years since they left in fear of their lives.
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Arab Spring is coming to a neighborhood very near yours and there is a much less desirable alternative out there than 1967 borders.
Dale Whiting is a resident of Chandler