Nicolas J S Davies

A collection of published articles and letters to policymakers regarding the crisis in United States foreign policy by Nicolas J S Davies.

Location: North Miami, Florida, United States

Friday, June 09, 2006

Letter to Congressman Meek on Palestine

Congressman Kendrick Meek
1039 Longworth House Office Building
Washington DC 20515

Friday, June 9th 2006

Dear Congressman Meek,

Thank you for your latest Report from Washington. I regret that I was profoundly disturbed to read your views on “The Middle East Picture.” In particular, I would urge you to find at least one Palestinian somewhere in your district, and spend a fraction of the time with him or her that you have evidently spent listening to Jewish constituents who support the Israeli government’s policy toward the Palestinians.

Failing that, I would urge you to find some summer reading that can help you to improve your education on this part of the world, where misguided U.S. policy continues to aggravate a situation that has grown more and more dangerous over the past forty years. “The Great War for Civilization” by Robert Fisk, “Holy War” by Karen Armstrong, and “A Peace to End All Peace” by David Fromkin are all excellent.

The Israeli capture of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 launched a still unresolved debate in Israel as to what should be done with these lands and their people. The three choices have always been: to return them to their inhabitants as a sovereign state; to incrementally annex them to Israel while killing or driving out the civilian population; or to annex some areas and allow the Palestinians something less than full sovereignty in what remains. There have always been factions in Israel that support each of these choices, but the failure to resolve this question has effectively resulted in policies consistent only with the latter two options.

The international community made it clear from the outset that only the first option would be consistent with Israel’s obligations under international law. The U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 242 on November 22nd 1967. It emphasized “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and demanded “the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the territories occupied in the recent conflict”.

When President Carter became involved in peace negotiations in 1978, he expressed concern that Israel had allowed 9,000 Israelis to build 39 small colonies or “settlements” in the occupied territories. He called the settlements “inconsistent with international law and an obstacle to peace”. The settlers were mostly Orthodox Jewish fundamentalists who claimed a divine right to the land they had illegally appropriated. What made these colonies illegal under international law was Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

Like each of his successors, the most Carter would do was to urge Israel to restrain settlement activity, claiming, “There is a limit to what we can do to impose our will on a sovereign nation”. By 1982, the settler population had grown to 21,000.

You refer to your repeated endorsement of “Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel”. It is not. East Jerusalem is occupied territory under international law. However, by 1990, with no effective restraint on settlement activity, the settler population had mushroomed to 60,000 Jews in occupied East Jerusalem and another 76,000 in other parts of the West Bank and Gaza. Prime Minister Rabin publicly announced his intention to illegally settle new Soviet Jewish immigrants on Palestinian land: “Past leaders of our movement left us a clear message to keep the land of Israel from the sea to the River Jordan for the generations to come…”

Then new hope appeared for the Palestinians. The Madrid Middle East Conference in 1991 was followed by the Oslo Accords in September 1993. These accords committed Israel to eventual withdrawal from all occupied territory in accordance with SC resolution 242. Rabin and Arafat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist for taking such a courageous step. However, as negotiations dragged on, so did the continuing annexation of Palestinian land. By the time General Sharon took his fateful walk on the Temple mount to seal the fate of the “peace process”, there were 383,000 Jewish colonists in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. In 10 years, under the guise of “peace” and “negotiation”, the Israelis had appropriated more Palestinian land than during the previous 23 years.

I will not try to describe for you the conditions under which Palestinians have been living under Israeli occupation. I think you need to be willing to read more than a letter to get a real sense of that. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, the death toll between 1987 and May 2003 was 1,142 Israelis and 3,650 Palestinians. The number of Palestinian children amongst these numbers is disproportionately high, but the deaths of innocent Israeli children are equally tragic.

You must understand that Palestinians have been watching the progressive annexation of their land for forty years. Many of them see what we condemn as terrorism as the only weapon they have left to fight back with, and the imbalance in casualty figures makes it clear that Israel has consistently used greater violence. Your position effectively asks the Palestinians to trust us and to trust the Israelis, when all the trust they have placed in us for the past forty years has been cynically betrayed.

By electing Hamas, the Palestinians finally rejected a “peace process” that had only accelerated the loss of their land through empty promises of peace and sovereignty. Hamas and their supporters are determined not to collaborate in a process of national suicide.

Just as Hamas does not offer recognition of Israeli sovereignty as a precondition to negotiations, most Israeli politicians throughout this period have likewise not recognized any right to statehood for the Palestinians, and many have openly called for the eventual annexation of the occupied territories, disagreeing only on how to dispose of the Palestinian population.

Hamas has honored a unilateral ceasefire, even as Israel continues to assassinate Palestinian leaders with Hellfire missiles (made in Florida), also killing many bystanders. Israel has consistently targeted civic leaders as well as military ones, as was well documented in an Amnesty International report published on February 21st 2001, entitled Israel and the Occupied Territories: State Assassinations and Other Unlawful Killings.

Our country bears a heavy burden of responsibility for the abysmal failure of past U.S. governments to behave with any moral rectitude throughout this tragic history. Successive U.S. administrations have fostered a closer relationship with Israeli governments that have acted increasingly beyond the bounds of international humanitarian law. The persistent illegality of Israeli policy provides ample grounds for the suspension of U.S. military aid to Israel, and the failure to take such a step has made the United States complicit in Israel’s international crimes.

I should not have to remind you that U.S. treatment of the Palestinians lies at the heart of the spreading antipathy to our country and its interests throughout the Arab and Muslim world. While no Palestinians were involved in the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, our policy in Palestine is a constant reminder to every Arab and every Muslim of our government’s cynical lack of good faith toward a vulnerable, predominantly Muslim, Arab population.

U.S. commercial and strategic interests in this oil-rich region and the disproportionate political power of the American Jewish community accentuate the worldwide perception of a self-serving cynicism as the basis of U.S. policy toward this dire humanitarian and political problem.

This self-inflicted challenge to our country’s primary interest in peace and stability in the Middle East can only be corrected by a fundamental and historic change in U.S. policy. If you cannot look your American Jewish constituents in the eyes and honestly discuss the growing danger posed by present U.S. and Israeli policy, you do them and all of us a great disservice. If you first need to better educate yourself, then please do so. In the meantime, please stop promoting public support for irresponsible and cataclysmically dangerous policies.

If you are in Miami during the next month, I would be glad to meet with you to discuss any aspect of the current crisis in U.S. foreign policy that you would like to to talk about.