Stating the Obvious: The Occupation of Palestine Must End

March 27, 2015

Pictureby CSIS, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

President Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough spoke to J-Street’s annual conference on Monday, pushing back against recent statements coming from Israel regarding Palestine. In front of 3,000 delegates, McDonough told the pro-Israel and pro-two-state group that the occupation of Palestinians had to end and that the United States still believed in a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

On the one hand, these comments are historic - the fact that a senior aide openly criticized the Israeli government to such an extent is unprecedented. The occupation of Palestinians has long been an untouchable topic that is shielded from any negative judgement. The Obama Administration is now letting its anger show (albeit behind a veneer of political politeness), hence changing the dynamics of an issue that has not evolved for over 50 years.

On the other hand, while McDonough’s comments were historic,  they were common sense and obvious conclusions that everyone knows and should agree with. The idea that McDonough’s statement--An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end--is even a news story in the first place is absurd. Similarly, the notion that “Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely” can be met with objection is ludicrous.  Is it not right to encourage militaries to not occupy and restrict the aspirations of a stateless people?

Also, somewhat amusing is the shock that greeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks that there would be no Palestine while he was in office. For some reason, it took Netanyahu having to explicitly say it out loud for the Administration to finally believe that he never had any intention of creating a Palestinian state. His egregious concession demands, settlement expansion and obfuscation apparently were not obvious enough examples of his true feelings.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) went so far as to say that McDonough’s words were  “exactly what Hamas uses.” In other words, Senator Graham likens to a terrorist group anyone who points out that a military occupation of a stateless people even exists. So, if reality is ignored when it comes to this issue, it is flabbergasting when someone takes the leap of merely acknowledging the facts. Those who object to any criticism of Israel view McDonough’s words that, “The Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state,” as a call for terror, rather than a rallying cry for the right to self-determination and freedom.

One step that has been overlooked for far too long is partnering with and supporting those who share principles of self-determination and freedom. Now, working with groups on specific issues does not mean we support 100% of their views - almost no partnership is like that.

For example, J Street shares the values of promoting equality and justice for Palestinians in the form of a two-state solution. Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of J Street, lauded the Administration’s reassessment of its Israeli-Palestinian strategy, and even called for the US to support a UN resolution that would set standards for solving the conflict. J Street has even called for Jewish groups to differentiate between Israel and the West Bank, ensuring that money intended for Israel does not support illegal settlements. These are common-sense ideas that deserve support and recognition.

With such partnerships, perhaps mundane facts won’t become breaking news.



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