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The Jerusalem Post

Israel's persecution of Palestinians is wrong and has to end - opinion

 
 MUSLIMS, JEWS and Israeli security forces are present on the Temple Mount during Passover and Ramadan.  (photo credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)
MUSLIMS, JEWS and Israeli security forces are present on the Temple Mount during Passover and Ramadan.
(photo credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

No moral human being can look at what we as Israelis are doing to the Palestinian people and not feel outrage.

Simply put, it is wrong and it has to come to an end. A few honest and direct questions: how can we look at our Palestinian neighbors and not feel the immorality of our continued control over them for 55 years? How is it possible for us, as Jews, who have experienced more persecution than probably any other people in history to not feel their pain of their suffering at our own hands?

How can we who have just celebrated our Festival of Freedom and soon will celebrate our Independence as a nation not understand the burning desire of millions of Palestinians for freedom and independence? How can we not identify with their passion and their readiness to fight and struggle for freedom and independence against those who bind them into occupation, just as we had done?

Those of us who have been working for peace across the conflict lines for decades have all too often focused our approach and arguments on interests, on what would be good for Israel and for the Palestinians. We have calculated the economic costs of occupation and what profits could be gained from peace. We have avoided talking about morality.

Focused on interests, not morality

We were told and we told ourselves that we would be called yafe nefesh (good souls – almost a curse term in Hebrew). This Passover, hours before our Seder I wrote: How can we celebrate the festival of freedom when our oppression against the Palestinians continues with unrestrained brutality? Al-Aqsa compound and the Qibli Mosque were attacked and raided brutally by Israeli police in order to empty it because during Ramadan many Muslims would like to sleep there and to continue their prayers until the dawn Fajr prayers?

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This is a common custom around the Muslim world and especially in al-Aqsa. In the early morning, the Israeli police came once again and with brute force pushed Muslims praying off their prayer carpets while walking on them with their military boots offending and desecrating them with brute force. How can we as Jews look at that scene and not feel empathy for those Muslims praying?

 Muslim worshipers attend the last Friday prayers of the holy month of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, April 29, 2022.  (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)
Muslim worshipers attend the last Friday prayers of the holy month of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, April 29, 2022. (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

The Israeli forces cleared the mosque and forced those praying from their prayers in order to make way for Jews who were called by our criminal National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to ascend to the Temple Mount in masses in a show of force as to demonstrate who is the owner of this holy site.

I am disgusted by our brutality throughout the occupied territories. I am ashamed of the 55 years of occupation. I have witnessed with my own eyes and have heard from hundreds of my Palestinian friends and colleagues about the shameful behavior of our troops and of Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians.

NO MORAL human being can look at what we as Israelis are doing to the Palestinian people and not feel outrage. It does not matter that the Palestinians also have responsibility for their own plight. It does not change my moral outrage that they use violence against us. I do not buy the false myth that they are taught to hate Jews with their mother’s milk.

Their incitement against us is a direct result of the lives that they are forced to live under a brutal occupation. Their struggle for freedom and liberation is no less just than our struggle for freedom and liberation. On Passover we sing “we were slaves and now we are free.” But we are not free. We are slaves to the occupation that we sustain and feel that we have no choice because we tell ourselves that we have no partners.

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The zealousness of the Israeli settler movements – fully supported by almost every government in Israel since 1967 – has created the binational unequal apartheid-like reality that we have today. This is a fact and making peace on the basis of partition seems less likely than ever. I don’t know how to create a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, (Green) lines even with equal territorial swaps to enable about 80% of the settlers to live under Israeli sovereignty.

No solution based on separation

On this I am absolutely sure – there is no possible solution to this conflict which is based on hard separation. All of those who dream about unilateral withdrawals behind the wall: forget about it. Gaza should be the example of what happens when we do that.

At the time of the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, there was an opportunity to engage with Mahmoud Abbas who had just won a large victory in Palestinian elections on a ticket of nonviolence and opposition to the armed second intifada. Prime Minister Sharon rejected that possibility, mainly because he knew that if he negotiated anything with Abbas on Gaza, the next step would be negotiating a Palestinian state in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as well.

So we unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, closed the gate and threw away the key. And then Hamas claimed victory because they claimed that through “resistance” the Jews ran away. The Palestinian public agreed with that narrative and saw the Abbas narrative of moderation and negotiations as a broken strategy that only brought more Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

Engagement on the road to a genuine peace process is the only way forward to bring security and peace for both peoples living on the land. As long as the occupation continues with continued settler violence and settlement building there will be violence against Israelis. The occupation is violence and could even be called state-sponsored terrorism against the Palestinian people.

There are no easy solutions and peace could be very far away with more innocent casualties along the way, but there is no chance of getting there without serious engagement. Serious engagement begins with leaders who – instead of reciting every day that we have no one with whom to talk – state that our intention is to make peace and to end Israel’s control over the Palestinian people.

Then the long and difficult process of reaching out and talking begins coupled with action on the ground that end provocations, freeze settlement building and enable the Palestinian economy, in Gaza as well, to open to the world and improve people’s lives.

The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to peace between Israel and its neighbors. He is a founding member of the Kol Ezraheiha-Kol Muwanteneiha (All of the Citizens) political party in Israel. He is now directing The Holy Land Bond and is the Middle East Director for ICO – International Communities Organization.

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