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The President and the Settlers

     Following President Obama's recent journey to Israel and Palestine, several people have asked about my reaction to his actions and words there.  A few have been surprised by my deep disappointment in our president.  "But didn't you find satisfaction in his words before Israeli college students?" several have asked.

     It's true the president asked Israeli college students to imagine life as it is experienced by Palestinian children.   It's true the president articulated the idea that Palestinians deserve their own country.  It's true he "talked nice" about the need for peace between Israel and Palestine.

     However, this is what he also did:  he vowed eternal (!) support for Israel as a Jewish nation.  This Jewish nation currently includes 20% Palestinian citizens, and this, of course, does not count Palestinians who live under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, or as refugees elsewhere in the world.   A nation which gives significant legal preferences to a single religion or ethnicity is not, in my view, a true democracy. 

     The president also expressed support for the "two state solution" but did so without challenging ongoing construction of illegal Israeli settlements (actually large, permanent and imposing communities) on Palestinian land.

     In fact, the president expressed the idea that Palestinians should no longer demand the cessation of settlement construction as a prerequisite for peace negotiations.   I disagree.   Using a now-classic comparison to describe this option, one could ask:  is it sensible to have a negotiating session over a large, yummy pizza ... all the while watching the other side eat piece after piece of that pizza so that, at the end, there is only one piece left ... and that single piece is full of holes because the other side has picked out all the good stuff and has eaten its fill?   This is the current situation in the Occupied West Bank.  (Although Gaza is intact as a geographical unit, it is actually an open air prison under blockade from land, sea and air.)

     Finally, here is the crowning blow accomplished by the president did during his visit to Israel:  he promised continued, expansive military spending (more to Israel than to any other country; currently $2 billion per year) to support with no restraint or oversight Israel's policies both foreign and domestic.   This means the United States will continue to fund the brutal occupation of Palestine through building the Separation Wall and Bypass Road System which sustain this occupation.  This system turns the lives of Palestinians into a tortuous system of relentless military checkpoints, unbridled military power over daily details of living and travel, and perpetual suffering under the absence of human rights, denial of economic equality, militarily-blocked access to privately-owned agricultural land, and rampant degradation of the environment.

     No, I was not happy with President Obama's journey to Israel and Palestine.  The president has failed to earn his Nobel Peace Prize.   In my view he should give it back.



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