A text message appeared on my phone a few days ago from the newly-minted Bernie Sanders campaign. The message reported the “HUGE NEWS” that Sanders “JUST” announced he is running, and asking me if I’m ‘in.’ I texted back, asking about his position on Palestine, and was told where I could donate to the Sanders campaign. For whatever reason, I wasted my time with a few more texts, and got responses such as “I understand, have a great day!” Eventually, the question was answered, and it was the same tired refrain we hear from any PEP politician. That response is included here in its entirety:
“In response to you (sic) first message, he supports diplomatic efforts to end the occupation and broker a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine which allows both peoples to coexist in peace, security and dignity. He also supports steps to put pressure on both sides in response to policies that undermine that goal.”
I will break down this tired old statement into its component parts, and highlight the nonsense of each.
‘Diplomatic efforts to end the occupation.’ Just what would these be? More negotiations? Israel, in its oh-so-magnanimous way, is forever saying it is willing to negotiate without preconditions, as it has done for decades. This means that, while negotiations are ongoing, Israel will continue to occupy the West Bank, bulldozing Palestinians homes to make room for more illegal Israeli settlers; continue blockading the Gaza Strip, periodically bombing residences, hospitals, press vehicles and United Nations refugee centers and have the IDF protect illegal settlers as they harass and kill innocent, unarmed Palestinians.
And we must keep in mind the very basic fact that negotiations can only be successful when each party has something the other wants, that it can only obtain by surrendering something it has. Israel takes whatever it wants from Palestine with complete impunity. Why would Israel not want to ‘negotiate’? It has been doing it for years, and getting everything it wants, as it surrenders nothing.
Another important reason that negotiations are not necessary, is because international law clearly states that the occupation and blockade are illegal. If someone robs a bank, the police don’t work with the robber and the bank manager to determine how much of the money will be returned to the bank, and how much the robber will keep. There is no need for Palestine to negotiate with anyone.
‘Broker a two-state solution.’ And just how would the illustrious senator from Vermont accomplish this? To ‘broker’ implies negotiations, and we’ve just discussed how pointless and unnecessary those are. And with the Israeli government saying there will never be a two-state solution, how is such a dream to be realized?
‘Both peoples to coexist in peace, security and dignity.’ Lofty goals, indeed, but how will they be achieved? Most PEP politicians discuss a ‘disarmed’ Palestine. Assuming there is a two-state solution, is it reasonable for one of those states to be completely unarmed when it borders its mortal enemy, one that has spent over seventy years trying to destroy it? Why should the Palestinians be deprived of the ability to defend themselves from foreign aggression?
‘Put pressure on both sides in response to policies that undermine that goal (both peoples coexisting in peace, security and dignity).’ This implies that there is fault on both sides, which shows Sanders either lacks any understanding of the situation, or would prefer to kowtow to Israel than support justice. Israel has a powerful military, including nuclear weapons, and is backed by the most powerful nation on the planet. Palestine has no army, no navy and no air force. The Gaza Strip is blockaded by land, sea and air, and the West Bank is occupied. Israel deprives the people of Palestine of clean water, and grants them only minimal food requirements. The Israeli army shoots to death unarmed Palestinian men, women and children, some of whom may have thrown stones at them, but many of whom were clearly-marked as medics or members of the press.
My final text in this rather pointless stream was to express my regret that Sanders doesn’t respect international law. Only a few relative points, among many, will be included herein:
- International Law: Transfers of the civilian population of the occupying power into the occupied territory, regardless whether forcible or voluntary, are prohibited. The Israeli government has moved over half a million Israelis onto Palestinian land, and government officials, up to and including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have stated that not one will ever by removed.
- International Law: The occupant does not acquire sovereignty over the territory. Palestinian farmers must apply to the Israeli government to farm their own lands and harvest their own crops. Such permission is often granted only after the time for planting is long past, or after the crops have rotted in the field. Palestinians are given far harsher penalties for any crimes committed than are committed by their Israeli counterparts. Palestinians living the West Bank cannot visit the Gaza Strip, and vice versa.
- International Law: Occupation is only a temporary situation, and the rights of the occupant are limited to the extent of that period. Even considering the occupation as beginning in 1967, that is now 52 years. By no interpretation can that be seen as temporary.
- International Law: The destruction or seizure of enemy (occupied) property is prohibited, unless absolutely required by military necessity during the conduct of hostilities. Tens of thousands of Palestinian homes have been arbitrarily bulldozed, with little advance notice and no recompense.
- International Law: To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the occupying power must ensure sufficient hygiene and public health standards, as well as the provision of food and medical care to the population under occupation. “…[T]he United Nations predicts (Gaza) will be uninhabitable by next year, partly due to the severe shortage of water”. Women often have to give birth at checkpoints, because Israeli soldiers will not allow them to pass. Newborns in need of critical care have died at checkpoints.
Lastly, let us all remember that the occupation of Palestine by Israel has been declared illegal by the United Nations.
So as Bernie Sanders rides his populist wave across the dismal political landscape of the United States, he will continue to burnish his PEP credentials. He will decry income inequality (as he should); he will condemn usurious lending practices that exploit students (again, very commendable). He will remove the unearned tarnish that socialism has in many corners in the U.S. (up to and including this point, I support him). But he will cravenly talk about negotiations between Israel and Palestine, blaming both sides for the decades-long situation, and not dare to speak of true solutions.
In case he doesn’t know what they are, I am happy to inform him. All that is required is an end to U.S. financial aid to Israel; the recognition of Palestine with borders as decreed (however unjustly) by the United Nations in 1947; the establishment of the Palestinian capital as Jerusalem and vast amounts of financial aid to Palestine to rebuild its infrastructure and provide much-needed medical and other treatment for the Palestinians. This would be in keeping with both international law and the U.S.’s oft-stated but never meant ‘humanitarian relief.’ Finally, the right of return, guaranteed to all refugees by international law, must be granted to the Palestinians.
Will this happen? Will the senator from Vermont ever take such a principled stand? I do not suggest holding one’s breath in anticipation of such a move. And for me, a candidate who is PEP is not one I will ever vote for.