Forgetting History, Remembering the Future

I have always believed that history is a critical tool in understanding present-day issues, and that everyone should have a good, basic, knowledge of history. But sometimes, while it is valuable in understanding the present, it is a great obstacle to moving forward.  Such is the case in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Because in most of the arguments presented about the issues that the region faces today, one invariably calls upon history: whether as evidence that the only agreement Palestine will accept is war or to demonstrate Israel’s past illegitimacy as a nation. And so as much as I love history and believe it is incalculably important, in this case, it is completely useless.

Some say Israel should never have been created. They point to the fact that the Palestinians were living peacefully in the area beforehand and that the Israelis were bound to cause instability in the region. Its strong alliance with the United States also doesn’t help – leading some to accuse the continued support of the Israeli state as yet another of Washington’s schemes to grab a foothold in the region.

Others believe that there are very legitimate reasons for the creation of a Jewish state in Israel. They point to the fact that Jews had been immigrating to Palestine for decades, and that Palestine was never really a state; it was a British Mandate until 1947, when the UN decided to divide it into an Israeli state and a Palestine state.

There are countless other arguments for both sides, but I’m not going to go into them. Why not? Because the entire debate is completely pointless at this point. It is unrealistic to assume that Israel will cease to exist as a nation any time soon. It is also unrealistic to assume that Palestinians will all suddenly migrate. So rather than squabble over abstract arguments of what should have or shouldn’t have been, people need to focus their attention on much more real, concrete, and pressing issues.

Such as the fact that hundreds of Palestinian children are dying due to malnutrition and insufficient access to water. Or the fact that Israeli troops have occupied Palestinian territories, breaking International law, and have started illegally settling lands once home to Palestinians. These aren’t distorted, radical, views – they are commonly held as facts by everyone besides the United States and Israel. Even a 2007 World Bank report concedes that “the practical effect of this shattered economic space is that on any given day the ability to reach work, school, shopping, healthcare facilities and agricultural land is highly uncertain and subject to arbitrary restriction and delay. In economic terms, the restrictions have created a level of uncertainty and inefficiency which has made the normal conduct of business extremely difficult”.

Whatever your view on the two countries’ history, it doesn’t matter. History doesn’t matter. Right now matters. If you don’t think Israel has the right to exist, you might as well accept it. If you think Israel has the right to exist, then there is really no reason short of extreme, fundamentalist, Zionism, as to why Palestine too should not have the right to exist.

The problem is that right now, only one of those two countries is being allowed to exist. That country is Israel. The other one – Palestine – is occupied by Israel and is not yet recognized as a state by the United Nations. But the Palestinians are trying to change that. They have announced that they will go to the United Nations seeking membership for a state of Palestine.

Now there should be no reason to oppose this. When the legal documents were signed and approved by the United Nations in 1947, both Israel and Palestine were to be states. Yet due to the subsequent wars, Palestine was never even recognized as one in the first place.

What I’m trying to say is that if Israel has a right to exist, then so does Palestine. The perceived threats to peace, which are only claimed to exist by the US and Israel, are not legitimate, and definitely not substantial. The United States and Israel are running an intense diplomatic campaign to convince European leaders not, as you would think, to vote against Palestine’s proposal to be recognized as a state, but to abstain. Why? Because the two countries realize that not many European countries would ever vote against Palestine, although they might fold under pressure and abstain from voting.

This should shed some light on America’s motives, who have absolutely no concern over supposed security threats to Israel. Instead, they are concerned about how illegitimate it will make them look when yet another General Assembly vote shows how isolated they are in their thinking. And they have no reason to be concerned about establishing pre-1947 borders – because that border was created by legislation drafted mainly by the US in the first place.

Opponents of a Palestine state also claim that Palestine has no functioning institutions in place to run a state – which is true. However, the problem is that this issue does not affect the right of Palestine to be a state. There aren’t any functioning institutions in place in Palestine, and there haven’t been for quite some time. While it has been occupied by Israel for the past 40 years, the occupation has yet to provide any functioning institutions. So if Palestine is recognized as a state, there is really no difference. It will continue to be occupied by Israel – which will continue to not provide the functioning institutions. What will change is that the firsts steps will be taken to finally create two independent states that can coexist peacefully with each other, and perhaps lay the groundwork for finally building those presently lacking institutions.

So it would seem like besides false security reasons, illegitimate concerns over the lack of functioning institutions, and personal pride, there are not really many other reasons why Palestine should not be recognized as a state in the coming vote. And since the vote will most likely pass in favor of Palestine, it is of the utmost importance that countries not bow down to US-Israeli pressure and abstain from voting. If no one abstains, the true isolation of US-Israeli policy, and their determination not to negotiate will be firmly established and concretized. Which is important, because it will further demonstrate the illegitimacy of the Palestine occupation – and the breaking of International law. It may even sway some minds from pro-occupation to pro-Palestine. Because unlike what the Israeli lobby presents the issue as, one does not have to be either pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. In fact, one can easily be, and at this point in history, should be, pro-Both. What everyone should condemn with passion is the Israeli occupation, which is breaking International law and should be stopped immediately.

In a democracy, governments are supposed to be accountable to the people. That is why it is incredibly important for you to take action. In little more than a month, more then 900,000 people have signed an Avaaz petition to recognize Palestine. By signing it, you will be increasing the already amounting pressure on countries all around the world not to bow down to US-Israeli pressure and vote in favor of what’s right. To add even more pressure, write some letters to your government, asking them not to abstain from voting. Share this page on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other media platform you can. Or don’t share this page – share the petition or some other article calling on all countries to vote in favor of Palestine. It’s not important what you share, as long as it’s promoting the just cause of a free Palestine. Scroll down to see some suggestions as to what you can do to help.

September 14, 2011 / Julian Modiano

What you can do:

Sign this petition!

Write some letters! How to contact some governments:

4 thoughts on “Forgetting History, Remembering the Future

  1. Pingback: News: Forgetting History, Remembering the Future | The Open Wall

  2. Good article. A state of Palestine should have been created years ago when the original treaty was an open door to having the two peoples live side by side. After all, the SAME blood flows in the veins of both Palestinians and Israelis. But I have never, never, NEVER understood man’s inhumanity to fellow men. And unfortunately, it is almost always men are who create these states of seige–rarely women. I live where Catalans wish to remove themselves from Spain, the north of Italy wishes to divide the country, north and south, and traveling through Spain, one finds the Gallicians, the Basques and several more wanting their own language and their own small country.
    Very disturbing.

  3. Terrific piece. Makes an important point effectively.
    The best thing about it? The “What you can do” section. Most of us, me included, don’t know what we can do.
    So: Thanks.

  4. So timely. Funny how the US will not support Palestinian proposals to create an independent state unless those proposals make their way through the ponderous and historically ineffective process of international negotiation–meaning the support of Israel.

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