EDITORIAL: Israel-Palestine peace starts with accurate debate at home
Our View: The discussion surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict, both locally and nationally, is marked by misconceptions.
Last Monday, members of the Arab Student Association staged a protest against recent Israeli military action in the Gaza strip. The Israeli attacks were a response to rocket assaults from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in Western Israel. The primary goal of the protests was to raise awareness in the OU community about the plight of Palestine in its clash with Israel.
The conflict in Israel is more complex than this one issue suggests. The dialogue on campus that resulted from the protests is a reflection of a debate that is occurring in the U.S. and the international community. Like the national and international debates, the discussions on campus are mired in misconceptions and generalizations on both sides, making constructive dialogue on the topic nearly impossible.
Students must take steps to understand both sides of the debate and focus their discussions on the best path for a peaceful solution for the region.
Below are a few examples representative of these misconceptions:
CLAIM: Palestinians don’t have weapons
Palestinians have significant access to rockets, bomb-making materials and small arms they have used consistently to attack Israeli citizens in a variety of efforts. These weapons are smuggled in through Egypt and produced domestically.
Even though Hamas holds significant weaponry, it pales in comparison to the arsenal held by the Israeli Defense Force. The force holds tanks, fighter jets, sophisticated small arms and the region’s only proven nuclear weapons program.
CLAIM: Palestinians do not support Hamas
Hamas is not just a military organization; it is a political party that also engages in social welfare programs aimed at aiding citizens living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In 2006, the party won control of parliament. A 2007 Pew study found the majority of Palestinians have a favorable view of Hamas. The same study also found many countries in Western Europe also sympathize with Palestine more than Israel in the current conflict.
CLAIM: Israelis are just defending their homeland
The UN Partition Plan of 1947 sought to set up two distinct areas in the region, one for Palestinians and one for Israel. The action came after Great Britain had trouble controlling the region amidst a series of rebellions by local non-Jewish Arabs. Great Britain had taken the region from the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.
The UN plan originally was rejected by the Arab League and other organizations but has become the basis of advocacy for the proposed Palestinian state. One of the most contested regions is the West Bank. In the 1990s, Israel has continued establishing settlements, legal and illegal, in the area historically controlled by Palestine.
Because Palestine was never officially created by the 1947 plan, the borders between Israel and Palestine are constantly in dispute.
CLAIM: Hamas has rejected all plans for peace while Israel has supported the peace process.
While Hamas initially advocated for a complete takeover of the Israeli state, this view has undergone significant moderation in the past 40 years. The Oslo Accords demonstrated Palestinian willingness to negotiate a dual-state policy. The effort lost credibility when an Israeli extremist attacked unarmed Muslims in the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre.
The 2000 Camp David summit led to an impasse when both sides refused to come to an agreement on territory relegation with Yasser Arafat being the principle stonewall to the process. The Israel-Palestine peace process is marked by lack of effort and unwillingness to negotiate on both sides.
These issues and more are often intricate and hard to understand. Because of their difficulty, students would significantly benefit from an educational effort that focuses on information and ignores bias.
OU should continue the 2011 Arab-Israeli conflict Presidential Dream Course on a permanent basis and promote continuing forums through the College of International Studies that involve presentations by OU faculty.
More importantly, students must make an effort to foster dialogue between Arab and Jewish students through joint meetings and discussion groups involving organizations from both sides. If both sides seek peace in the region, they must come together here at home.