My Turn: Let's level the playing field

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2011

This is a reply to the Dec. 28 editorial page article entitled “Borders, security remain roadblocks to Mideast peace.” In it David Aaron Miller states: “a breakthrough between Israelis and Palestinians requires them to own and invest in their negotiations in a way they currently don’t.” Miller seems to imply a level playing field exists between the Palestinians and Israelis. But as one who has visited that region several times, and who returned less than two months ago, we saw a very lopsided playing field in Israel’s favor. A few examples include:

1. Israeli has the fourth-largest military in the world. The Palestinians are not allowed to have a military.

2. In the dry Middle East, water means life and green vegetation. The West Bank of the Jordan River is part of the Occupied Territories or Palestine, yet Israel has confiscated the waters of the Jordan. This was done without consulting the Palestinians or the neighboring nations across the Jordan Valley: Syria and Jordan. Fred Pearce in his book, When the Rivers Run Dry, details this confiscation. We saw the results. Today Israel controls 80 percent to 98 percent of the Jordan Valley water and the Palestinians living there spend up to 70 percent of their income to buy their water back.

3. The Bedouin people have lived in the desert Negev region (south of Bethlehem 25-40 miles) for many centuries and untold generations. Their village of El-Araqib has been destroyed by Israeli bulldozers, not once, but six times before our visit, and already once since. This was done under the armed protection of their military, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Most Bedouins have large families and winter is here. The leader said to us: “We don’t know what we will do”.

4. I could list many more such ongoing atrocities and lopsided power: Palestinian children harassed and even imprisoned by Israeli settlers and soldiers as they walk through Israeli checkpoints on their way to and from school; A concrete wall, twice the height of the Berlin Wall, snaking its way as a boundary, not on the border, but frequently deeply within Palestine; or the necessity of heavy wire over the open air Hebron Palestinian market to protect the shoppers and shops from bricks and bleach thrown on them from the Israeli settlement which has moved into the city.

This does not look to me like a level playing field. Does it to you?

It is time this racial ethnic injustice stops. World public opinion is powerful. (Argentina, Ecuador, and other countries of South America have already recognized Palestine as a sovereign state.) Dollars do speak. If we want a level playing field than we need to withhold U.S. dollars until both countries are recognized as equals. Especially in this time of mega deficits we need to stop the U.S. aid to both countries. (Israel is our largest single receiver of foreign aid.). We can make a difference. We can either choose to sit on the sidelines of silence or we can stand up for justice, equality, recognition and freedom. Silence is compliance! This is my point of view, others may see it differently. If you agree with me you may want to contact our congressional representatives.

• Beran is a retired minister who lives in Juneau.

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