It’s often claimed that the Israel-Palestine Conflict is so complex, complicated, and controversial. Therefore, how could any solution be in sight? It’s also often claimed that the conflict deals with religious battles that have been going on for centuries. Therefore, there is definitely no solution in sight. Right? Based off the historical record, I believe these notions are incorrect.
First, the core elements of this conflict are not about religion, but are political and economic issues. There are four major issues that need to be resolved: borders, settlements, Jerusalem, and refugees. Barring the refugee question, which according to international law would have the “right of return,” the highest judicial body in the world, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), made legal decisions on these issues in 2004 when taking on the legality of the wall being constructed by Israel in Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). On the issue of borders, the ICJ pointed out a basic principle of international law that says it’s inadmissible to acquire territory by war. Following the 1967 war, Israel occupied Palestinian territory, which continues to this day. The legal borders, therefore, would be the pre-war border, which means Israel is legally bound to withdraw its military forces, its wall, and its settlements to its legal border. The issue of Jerusalem, although one may quickly think it has everything to do with religion, is really about the wall, settlements, and military forces that Israel is establishing in East Jerusalem, which, according to international law and the ICJ, is Palestinian territory. These grave breaches of international law, impedes upon “the liberty of movement, the right to work, to health, to education, and to an adequate standard of living” for the Palestinians, says the ICJ. These basic facts seem to be too complex, complicated, and controversial in U.S. commentary because we support these crimes.
There is also another grave breach of international humanitarian law being imposed on the Palestinians in Gaza, namely the blockade, which is an act of war. The blockade includes the closure of commercial and passenger crossings; restrictions on the importation of industrial, agricultural and construction materials; suspension of exports; restrictions on industrial fuel, benzene, diesel and cooking gas; and restrictions on fishing areas and farming land accessible to the Palestinians, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report published in August. OCHA reported that this amounts to “a protracted human dignity crisis” in Gaza. Richard Falk, a highly respected professor on international law at Princeton University and U.N. Special Rapporteur in Palestine, calls the blockade a “flagrant” and “vindictive” violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The United Nations has pointed out that the blockade is breeding extremism and hatred, especially against Israel, Egypt, and the United States, which are the countries responsible for this crime.
It is because of the continuing dire plight of the Palestinians, that my nation, the United States, is responsible for creating by supporting grave breaches of international law, that I will join over 1,300 delegates from 42 countries in an international peace delegation to Gaza in order to bring international awareness and pressure to lift the blockade. This delegation will be joined by notables such as Pulitzer-Prize winner Alice Walker, Roger Waters from the band Pink Floyd, retired U.S. Colonel Ann Wright, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, and many more.
This explicitly non-violent delegation will not take any particular stance on a political settlement to the conflict, but will focus specifically on lifting the blockade. The delegation will begin on December 27 and end January 4. Delegates will be busy with various activities including volunteer projects, meeting with international and local organizations, visiting families and various communities in Gaza, witnessing the most devastated parts of Gaza, and participating in the Gaza Freedom March, which will be the largest public demonstration against the blockade and is conceived in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and nonviolent resistance to injustice worldwide. The best way to stop injustices in the world is to stop participating in them.
I look forward to reporting back about the delegation in various communities in the U.S. upon my return.