Social and Economic Justice Precede Peace: Has John Kerry Studied History?

Article – Dan Lieberman

Peace is presented as the opposite of war. Stop war and we have peace. Is it that simple?

What if there is no war, is there any peace to be pursued? History answers that question.

Israel’s stance toward the West Bank Palestinians is similar to that of the Puritans’ Massachusetts Bay Colony toward its native neighbors – rejection of all grievances leading to victory in war, followed by peace for themselves, and continued and unobstructed expansion. 

After being wary of the newcomers to their territory, the Native Americans in New England came to regard English settlers and cooperate with them. By not returning the cooperation and not recognizing the wants and needs of their neighbors, the Puritans lost the tribes’ trust.

The Pilgrims bought their land from the Natives, but the Natives expected to continue to use the land’s resources. The colonists built fences where no fences had ever been before, closing off their property to make the land their own. Tensions had long existed due to the two cultures different ways of life. Colonists’ livestock trampling Native cornfields was a continuing problem. Competition for resources created friction. Regional economic changes forced many Natives to sell their land. – Nathan Philbrick, Mayflower.

The Pokanoket tribe and its allies sought social and economic justice. Lack of recognition of their valid pleas and continual encroachments on their territory forced the tribal confederation to wage the 14 month King Philip war in order to drive out the English colony; a war for survival, which they almost won. After subduing the Natives and achieving peace for themselves, the Puritans continued their path of seizing Native territory, and with impunity – no power was available to impede their self-serving destiny. Within a century, the 20,000 Natives of Cape Cod were reduced to several hundred people. Birthrates were low, hunger was high, and many left for more suitable climes.

The Puritans arrival in America and their fatal encounter with the native population set the stage for the aggressive coast to coast settlement of North America. Superior U.S. military forces enabled American pioneers to ignore their Declaration of Independence, which said: “all men are created equal,” and move forcibly from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. Wherever the Americans arrived they found native peoples. Wherever they settled, the native peoples, even those who cooperated, like Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce tribe, were decimated. Treaties were only means to legitimize the illegal gains and set the stage for total destruction of the Native Americans.

The history of the settlement of the New World has been repeated on many occasions, and not always with victory for the settlers or denouement for the native populations. Because the crisis in Israel/Palestine resembles the Puritan narrative, it can signal the future of Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative.

History cannot be ignored. Just as the Puritans, after their victory and welcoming peace, perceived they had nothing to gain from negotiations with the tribes and no reason to offer any compromises, the Israeli government, after its victory and relative peace, senses it has nothing to gain from deliberations that it cannot gain by itself, and sees no reason to offer anything. Never clarified is that negotiations are not between Israel and the Palestinians; they are between Israel and a self-appointed and unelected group in the West Bank. These negotiations occur after Israel has consistently refused to recognize the West Bank and world wide Palestinians’ legitimate petitions for social and economic justice, and when Israel has relative peace. During the last few years, Israelis have not been victims from attacks by West Bank Palestinians, while the Palestinians suffer daily from Israel’s continuous and destructive incursions into their lives.

Noting the similarity of the negotiations to the treaties between the United States and the indigenous peoples whose lands the co-citizens of the Puritans usurped and whose cultures they destroyed, give the 2013 negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) less than zero chance (negative) of yielding benefits to the Palestinians. Even if the lessons of history are ignored, is it possible that a nation that has refused to listen to the pleas for justice from a conquered people, that could at anytime impose an equitable solution to a one-sided conflict, that continues expansion of illegal settlements on West Bank ground and daily damages Palestinian life and property is a nation that will resolve a crisis in an equitable manner? Why would a peaceful Israel change the status quo and invite civil unrest from its extreme factions. Who, on a semi-permanent basis for several years, will Israel confront? The West Bank has only an interim government; Hamas in Gaza, by turning away from its supporters – Syria, Iran and Hezbollah – and depending upon the failed Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, has stumbled into near oblivion; and the dispossessed Palestinians, many stateless in precarious nations, have no representation. Simple logic and rational thought supersede a naive assumption that a manipulative scheme can resolve the injustices done to the Palestinian people.

The push to negotiations, where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is portrayed as dragging a recalcitrant Netanyahu into negotiations is shaping up as a deception – logic contradicts the accepted notion that Netanyahu had no choice. Just the opposite is more probable. Acting as if talks with Abbas were difficult for Israel, but bravely willing to jeopardize his political future for a hopeful agreement (not reconciliation), the Israeli Prime Minister placed President Abbas, who had always demanded that Israel halt settlements before discussions, in an embarrassing position – accept what Netanyahu had determined to reject or be accused of not taking advantage of the “break” of the century, and also forfeit U.S. financial assistance.

If the negotiations proceed and have an outcome (highly unlikely), the finale will favor the overwhelmingly more powerful Israel who can use the deliberations to steer the Palestinian “representatives” to two choices – provide a legal framework for the seizure of Palestinian lands and recognize Israel as a Jewish state, or be accused of sabotaging the negotiations by not agreeing with “reasonable” demands. Attention to human rights has been diverted and bringing Israel before the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been halted. After the PA is pushed into refusing more negotiations, they might find they no longer have the support of many backers for an ICC action. Many will be burnt out and others will be disappointed that the PA could not achieve an agreement. Could this be the principal reason for the Kerry initiative?

The Israeli nation has its peace and therefore has no need to negotiate peace. The Palestinian masses that have had no peace for more than six decades don’t expect peace from these discussions or desire an unsupportable state. Disbursed in enclaves and refugee camps throughout the Middle East, and not just the West Bank, they want social and economic justice. Justice precedes peace and peace precedes a gathering of the dispossessed into forming a representative government.

And what is this social and economic justice? A book of the size of the Bible could barely contain and explain the injustices done to the Palestinians.

We are talking sixty five years of extensive destruction of more than 400 Palestinian villages, usurpation of homes, bank accounts and property, creation of what has grown into millions of dispossessed and stateless people, continuous seizure of their lands, destruction of crops and water supplies, daily intrusion into their lives, including beatings, imprisonment and killings, inhibiting their communication and transportation by checkpoints and harassment, denying access to sea, fisheries, and the outside world, destruction of commerce, tourism (take a trip to Bethlehem), transportation, agriculture and industry, destruction of patrimony and history, brutal attacks on persona and family leaders in order to weaken family life, and on and on.

A separation wall is deliberately routed in sections in order to cause economic damage to Palestinian business and personal life. Military installations are erected in order to seize Palestinian property in both Israel and the West Bank. New highways are designed to separate Palestinian farmers from lands and slice their agricultural fields in half. Security fences are erected with gates that are opened at irregular times and prevent herdsman from tending their flocks. Violent provocations lead to counter violence and Israel’s accusations of Palestinian violence. A continuous pattern of brutality affecting the lives of several generations, with no consideration to ameliorating the injustices and no plans to end them – eternal victimization until the victims cease.

Can the redress be accomplished? Difficult, but necessary for several reasons:
(1) Redress is the only road to lasting peace.
(2) Without its occurrence, the future for the Palestinian community is precarious.
(3) One aspect of terrorism erupts from the injustices done to the Palestinians. No resolution of the injustices portends increased terrorism.

The near impossibility provides a challenge. Because it cannot depend on Israel’s compliance or Arab world initiatives, it needs aggressive actions by world bodies ( ICC, UN, EU ) and this has precedents. Consider that:

(1) Israel created 1.1 million displaced and stateless Palestinians, who have grown into several million. Why cannot the reverse occur – 500,000 settlers leave the illegal settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem? Unlike the displaced Palestinians, they have a definite place to relocate, which is to Israel (many have never set foot in Israel) or elsewhere with Israeli passports. Israel Court of Justice get to work.

(2) In Bosnia, the displaced persons were allowed to return to their former homes. Not many returned and, of those who returned, not many stayed. Expect a similar reaction. EU and NATO do your job.

(3) Other groups have received return of property that they lost during conflagrations. Why is it different for the Palestinians? Stuart Eisenstadt and U.S. State Department, caretakers of human rights, show you believe in what you say.

(4) In January 2013, a three-member U.N. panel reported that “the settlements contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory and could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.:

War crimes committed by Israeli leaders are documented and validated. Several have tacitly confessed to their crimes by refusing to travel to areas where they might be indicted.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted 95 individuals and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia indicted 161 people. Time to establish The International Criminal Tribunal for Israel.

This serious conversation sounds farcical and for a reason – human rights is a politicized farce in the western world. Yugoslavia, Russia, China, Iran – all considered adversaries by western evaluations – are found guilty of human rights violations. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, India, Israel – all considered friendly to the western world – are not examined for their obvious human rights violations. Terrorism grows from this hypocrisy, from feelings of hopelessness and despair.

With that knowledge, why isn’t Israel brought to task? The liberal and progressive pro-Israeli institutions will support all efforts to improve the life of the Palestinians with one proviso – Israel is shielded from any unpleasant consequences in the uplift. A new tactic for resolving injustices – the perpetrator is not obliged to make amends.

The mostly Arab financed film, The Attack, based on a novel, broadcast that message. In the film, the wife of a respected Palestinian/Israeli surgeon commits a suicide bombing and coincides the attack with the time her physician husband receives an award from the Israeli Medical Association. The twist to the film is that the woman is not a radical Muslim but a respected Christian. All the conspirators the doctor eventually meets, as he searches reasons for his wife’s action, are personable, well spoken and seemingly average Palestinian Christians. They are not driven by fanaticism but by the hypocrisy that allows terrorist actions against their community while ignoring their calls for social justice.

If the Puritans practiced social and economic justice, the King Philip War would have been averted. Development of The Massachusetts Bay Colony would have been slowed but not halted. Greed and a strategy that insisted the conflict was destined and that the Pokanoket, debilitated by smallpox and other European diseases, could not win, encouraged the Puritans to not fear war. The Puritans set the stage for the eventual extermination of the Native Americans, and not only in the Massachusetts Bay, but throughout the continent.

Social justice leads to peace. Peace without social justice can lead to disintegration – birthrates become low, hunger becomes high and many leave for more suitable climes. Those who promote negotiations and also accuse an opposition as “self-indulgent cynicism and self-protective defeatism” are either unaware of historical lessons or have a disoriented agenda that leads them to support a doomed proposal. When Israel demonstrates a willingness to redress the social and economic injustices it has inflicted upon the Palestinians, then negotiations may be possible, or more likely unnecessary.

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Dan Lieberman is DC based editor of Alternative Insight, a commentary on foreign policy and politics. He is author of the book A Third Party Can Succeed in America and a Kindle: The Artistry of a Dog.

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