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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Columns

Peace in Palestine only possible when both sides want it


When two issues are in conflict, some choose the path that vigorously supports their side, while others prefer a strategy focused exclusively on defeating the other. These are not the same thing.

One option implies the ability to reach out to like-minded people across the table and find a win-win solution for supporters of both sides. The latter can only speak in a language of victory or defeat.

Peaceful coexistence is not on the table.

Unfortunately for the University of Houston, there is a dynamic at play that mimics this situation perfectly with the frequent and sharp-edged demonstrations that highlight negative aspects of Israeli society. These demonstrations are not pro-Palestinian. They are anti-Israel. There is a difference.

A pro-Palestinian demonstration would support the rights and well being of all Palestinians everywhere.

When the Egyptian government shut down the border with Gaza and refused the passage of people and goods, there should have been protests. When Palestinians in Lebanon continued to be denied their rights and citizenship, there should have been protesters. When the Palestinian Authority withheld much needed funds for the suffering people of Gaza because of political infighting, there should have been protests.

The Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas, a non-democratic Islamist entity designated as a terrorist organization by the EU, Australia, Egypt and others. Week after week, Hamas helps push hapless Palestinians across barbed wire and into border troops with the stated goal of taking over Israeli territory, and every week blood is predictably spilled.

Pro-Palestinian sentiment would urge a different approach, explore compromise, peace and co-existence with the Israelis, as the Jordanians and Egyptians have done.

When one is exclusively anti-Israel, otherwise well-meaning students don’t realize their message sounds like this: We don’t care what happens to Palestinians in the short term. We understand that Palestinians will have to be patient until things get better.

If this makes sense to you, you will begin to realize the popular chant heard on campus, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” is really a call to war against Israel and has nothing to do with pro-Palestinian sentiment. With Israel possessing the most powerful military in the Middle East, that chant encourages one-sided bloodletting and suffering.

There is another way.

A Palestinian intellectual, Edward Said, talked about how one group condemns itself to ignorance by stereotyping “The Other” for their own agenda. He was referring to the Western history of stereotyping the Arab as a caricature far removed from reality.

The UH students that have reduced Israel to a caricature should read up on their Said and understand that intellectual honesty and courage is the path to mutual understanding. Peace will only come when people on all sides work together for it.

Steve Tobias is a guest columnist and has been published in Berlingske (Denmark), Houston Chronicle, Independent (UK) and Jerusalem Post (Israel) and can be reached at [email protected]

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