Peace Between Palestine And Israel Can Exist — But We Have To Stop Lying

When will Palestine's right to exist be recognized?

The claim that peace cannot exist between Israelis and Palestinians until Palestine recognizes the right of Israel to exist is a claim predicated on a lie. It's a lie against Palestinians, and we can do better.

A December 8, 1988 New York Times report reads, "Yasir Arafat said today that the Palestine Liberation Organization accepted the existence of the state of Israel."

This statement was reaffirmed in 1993. This year marks 30 years that Palestinian leadership has been unequivocal that they recognize the right of Israel to exist, and seek an equitable and fair two-state solution. Four American administrations later — five, including the current White House — Palestinians stand by this statement.

The Old City of Jerusalem, including the Dome of the Rock and various church steeples, seen through coils of razor wire, illustrating the Holy Land's history of division and conflict.
The Old City of Jerusalem, including the Dome of the Rock and various church steeples, seen through coils of razor wire, illustrating the Holy Land's history of division and conflict. Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock.com

Meanwhile, on May 14, 2018, the United States shifted its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This coincided with the 70 year anniversary of the creation of Israel. Jerusalem is a holy city for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and must serve as a beacon of unity, not division. Unfortunately, this move dismisses Palestinian Muslims. It dismisses Palestinian Christians — who call the move "dangerous and insulting." It also dismisses most Jews — 80 percent of them — who oppose the move from Tel Aviv.

While the media insists on describing the current violence in Israel as a "clash," the reality is far from it. Since Palestinians began the Great March for Return some 90 days ago, Israel has suffered zero injuries and zero deaths on behalf of Palestinian protestors. Meanwhile, Palestinians have suffered over 90 deaths and more than 2,400 injuries on behalf of IDF snipers, drones, and tear gas. These unarmed victims include the disabled and at least eight children, including 8-month-old Leila Anwar al-Ghandour.

While Israel asserts it is merely "defending its borders," this too is a misdirection. Israel has not defined its borders and continues to move them unilaterally. The current White House has not challenged this constant border advancement, leading to more illegal settlements. Instead, they're profiting from them. When asked about the dozens of Palestinian protestors, including children, killed and thousands more injured, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah dismissed it as "propaganda."

This new approach ignores history. Since at least 1988, both Republican and Democratic administrations have been unanimous in condemning Israel's illegal settlement program. As recently as 2012, Israel's own Supreme Court ordered the Israeli government to dismantle its illegal settlements. That notwithstanding, the U.N. Security Council concluded in 2016, "Israel's establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders." Fourteen delegates voted in favor of this resolution — the United States abstained.

The living building next to the separation wall is a part of the refugee camp, on February 18, 2016, in Bethlehem, Palestine.
The living building next to the separation wall is a part of the refugee camp, on February 18, 2016, in Bethlehem, Palestine. eFesenko / Shutterstock.com

In other words, while peace appears extremely difficult, the reality is that the vast majority of Muslims, Palestinian Christians, Jews, and the world are in agreement on pursuing peace. We cannot forget this. 

Palestinian protesters are gathering in an area that belongs to Palestinians and are of no threat to Israel's sovereignty, Israeli Defense Forces, or Israeli civilians. Critics of Palestine deflect by citing the Hamas terrorist organization.

Hamas is a political party turned terrorist organization out for its own interests. Palestinians and Jews are equal human beings and must be viewed as such. It's worth noting that while Israel was created in 1948, Hamas did not exist until nearly 40 years later in 1987. In other words, the demands of Palestinians for fairness, equity, and a place to call home far precede Hamas. And contrary to vacuous claims that Hamas is inciting violence at the Great Return March, Hamas leadership is on record to Palestinians "to effectively take part in the Great March of Return and remain peaceful to achieve the objective of this event." Meanwhile, it's not Hamas terrorists but IDF snipers have killed two journalists covering the protest. 

Illegal settlements commandeer lands that belong to Palestinians. Hamas commandeers attention and authority that belongs to Palestinians. These are the two unfair choices offered to millions of Palestinian civilians. It seems mutual and justice-based diplomacy — the one tactic that can truly create peace between Palestine and Israel — is left to the wayside. Consequently, the majority of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in both Palestine and Israel who truly seek peace are ignored.

But this is nothing new. In December 1988, when Yasir Arafat publicly declared that the PLO recognizes the right of Israel to exist, the New York Times reported, "His statement, which he presented as a milestone, was immediately dismissed in Israel and greeted coldly by the United States."

Thirty years later, Palestine continues to recognize the right of Israel to exist, but the world has seen virtually no progress. This begs the question — does Israel recognize the right of Palestine to exist?

Qasim Rashid is the national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and a Truman National Security Fellow. Follow him @MuslimIQ.

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