Developing an Even-Handed Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict


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“As we look at the current Israeli invasion of Gaza and Hamas’ rocket attacks against southern Israel, and as we contemplate the inauguration of a new president, it is time to come up with an even-handed approach to the violence, anger and resentment in Israel and Palestine. The only solution that will bring peace and security to Israelis, Palestinians—and to the United States—is creating two sovereign states based on a negotiated settlement between both sides of the conflict….”

Author: Richard L. Johnson, Ph.D., author and retired Professor of German and Peace Studies at Indiana University and Purdue University in Ft. Wayne
Published in: Huntington News Network (home page: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/) West Virginia
Date: January 10, 2009

For the full article:
Developing an Even-Handed Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict
(724 words)
by Richard L. Johnson
As we look at the current Israeli invasion of Gaza and Hamas’ rocket attacks against southern Israel, and as we contemplate the inauguration of a new president, it is time to come up with an even-handed approach to the violence, anger and resentment in Israel and Palestine. The only solution that will bring peace and security to Israelis, Palestinians—and to the United States—is creating two sovereign states based on a negotiated settlement between both sides of the conflict.

We Americans will be constantly and increasingly in danger of terror attacks if our government fails to help resolve this crisis in the Middle East. Islamist terrorists will continue to win support as long as the U.S. supports Israeli policies that deny the essential needs of Palestinians to their own sovereign state. Being even-handed means to support the integrity of both an Israeli and a Palestinian state—both sovereign, both free, and both assured of justice and a secure future by the United States and the world community.

The only way to end terrorism is to end the causes of terrorism, and every independent researcher I have read recognizes that Israeli control of Palestinian territories is a cause of terrorism.

If we only cared about ourselves in the United States, we would strive toward an even-handed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but of course we care about the women, men and children locked in this conflict. Palestinians have suffered enormously since Israelis began their recent attacks. As former President Jimmy Carter reported January 8 on washingtonpost.com, “After 12 days of combat, the Israeli Defense Forces reported that more than 1,000 targets were shelled or bombed. During that time, Israel rejected international efforts to obtain a cease-fire, with full support from Washington. Seventeen mosques, the American International School, many private homes and much of the basic infrastructure of the small but heavily populated area have been destroyed. This includes the systems that provide water, electricity and sanitation.”

Palestinians in Gaza were suffering before the attacks. Again, according to Jimmy Carter, “the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza were being starved, as the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food had found that acute malnutrition in Gaza was on the same scale as in the poorest nations in the southern Sahara, with more than half of all Palestinian families eating only one meal a day.”

Hamas’ shelling of southern Israeli must be condemned as well. Far fewer Israelis died in these shelling — a handful — but we believe in stopping a killer from killing a few individuals or hundreds. Killing is killing. This killing, and the blockade that is killing innocent civilians in Gaza, must end. And only one country in the world can do that soon and with the minimum of continued fighting: the United States—and not with our military, but by principled negotiation backed by economic carrots and sticks and by the UN.

For the sake of Palestinians, Israelis, and our own citizens, as well as the citizens of the world, President Elect Barack Obama must stop the tilt toward Israel in his negotiations with Palestinians and Israelis. He must be fair and tough-minded with both sides, as Aaron David Miller wrote in the January 12 issue of Newsweek devoted to outlining a path to peace in Israel/Palestine. The only viable framework for negotiations is a two-state solution without prejudice toward one side over the other.

It will not be easy for President Obama to broker a fair deal to this conflict. Many have died over the last decades, many have lost loved ones, and many are understandably bitter and afraid on both sides. But he must resolve this conflict, and he cannot do it alone. He needs our support. Back in 2006, when he decided to seek the presidency, Mr. Obama stated that he would only enter the race if he and his co-workers could join in a grassroots movement to change America. He has asked that Americans continue at the grassroots to work with him toward a better future. That’s where we come in. We can, and must, write articles, letters to the editor, emails to President Obama, organize demonstrations, sign petitions, whatever each of us can do. It is time that we act as world citizens because failure to do so will lead to more misery and death, here and abroad.

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Richard L. Johnson, Ph.D., author of the edited volume, Gandhi’s Experiments with Truth (2006), is a retired Professor of German and Peace Studies at Indiana University and Purdue University Ft. Wayne, where he directed the Peace and Conflict Studies Program for 15 years.