Peace in Israel, Gaza seems far off
To the editor:
To join the comments, letters about the Israel/Gaza disaster, I would like to say the following:
The problem started in 1948 when the Israelis in some cases simply took houses from the Palestinian owners and occupants and told them to leave. There was much resentment, naturally. There were people in the U.N. refugee camps in Jordan still wearing their house keys on a chain around their necks, in hopes of the right of return. These people had done nothing to be forced out — they were just inconveniently in the way,
Then, after the Arabs foolishly started a war with Israel and lost, the west bank of the Jordan River was occupied and in effect remains so to this day. The Geneva Convention, which Israel signed, says that occupying states may not settle their own people in occupied land. And therein lies the issue. Israel has expropriated much land in the west bank, claiming that it is necessary for their protection. But the settlements, all of them, are plainly illegal, and they have added to the hatred which the Palestinians feel toward Israel and acted upon in any way they could. The Israelis have taken land, torn down orchards, built walls which separate the farmers from their farms, drilled wells which make the old wells go dry. This is true — I have seen it.
Now the divisions are so deep that it seems impossible to ever achieve peace. This is no apologia for Hamas, who uses the crowded conditions and sense of hopelessness in Gaza to their advantage. Gaza is a prison, fully blockaded. Hamas uses this, too. But perhaps if the Israelis gave up the settlements and gave the Palestinians back their land, the bitterness would be somewhat alleviated and there could be a start of a course towards peace. Or is the hate now too entrenched? But surely it is time for the United States to use its leverage, which is considerable, to move in this direction. There should be consequences when the Israelis say they will give up settlements and then build new ones. It is time for evenhandedness.