Long term cessation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians cannot be achieved without more honest brokering by America with the two parties, and such brokering cannot take place from America without free internal debate at home.
To look at the recent violence that has taken place in the region as simply caused by provocation by Gazans fails to address the roots of the hostilities between the Palestinian and Israel peoples, those roots being the illegal occupation of Palestinian land according to international law. According to the United Nations, Israel has illegally occupied Palestinian land since 1967 in which its government has consistently allowed the building of illegal housing settlements. And though American administrations since then have recognized that Israel continues to expand settlements in further violation of international law, congressmen, senators, nor presidents have placed any conditions on the trillions of dollars of U.S. tax-payer aid money to Israel that it should abide by international law. More directly, U.S. tax-payer dollars are subsidizing illegal occupation through consent of the federal government.
It is true that projectiles should not be indiscriminately lobbed from Gaza into areas where there are Israeli civilians. It is also true that the sheer number of Palestinian casualties from Israeli military actions much less the day to day injustices as a result of occupation is one of the greatest crimes against humanity in recent history. Since America could be part of the solution to hostilities in the region due to our bargaining power and influence, there must be reasons why our nation has been internally impeded in being more proactive in negotiating peace and justice over there. One internal factor is the influence of the pro-Israel occupation lobby in America and its intellectual supporters over our national political discourse.
For instance, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the U.S. along with others have played a major part in cultivating an environment that unconditional support for Israeli policies is in the best interests of America and in fact a sign of patriotism. The current environment is such that politicians can robustly criticize President Obama or United Nations Ambassador Dr. Susan Rice more readily than criticizing Israeli policies. This is unhealthy and not in our nation’s best interests.
Part of the pro-Israel occupation lobby and its acolytes’ strategy, which is detrimental to our democracy, is the subtle and at times overt attempts to marginalize American Muslims, in particular their organizations and leaders. Upon close inspection, one will find that virtually every major organization and activist that foments anti-Muslim bigotry in America supports the current Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. For example, Brigitte Gabriel of ACT! for America, who has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of America’s most prolific anti-Muslim bigots, states that Muslims are a monolithic threat to America and Israel. Such persons and groups target American Muslims due to the belief that the more acceptance Muslims garner socially and politically in the U.S., there will eventually be a shifting away of our nation’s tacit support of illegal occupation.
As the most influential nation of earth, America has an important role to play in cultivating peace in the Middle East, which includes brokering peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This brokerage must be balanced, for the absence of justice in the region will only mean the absence of peace. In order for America to play this important role, our nation has to allow robust debate without monopolization by special interest groups and those who seek to portray certain people as perpetual enemies. Maintaining the status quo, which accepts continued land grabs after hostilities in the guise of temporary peace treaties and allowing the demonization of fellow Americans in tandem is bad for Palestinians, Israelis and Americans.