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Cor Rautenbach
 
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Palestine and Israel: How do you pick a side when both are wrong?

14 July 2014, 10:47

For the last few days, ever since the conflict escalated yet again with some intense fighting, the topic of Israel and Palestine has been up for discussion all over the world once more. Some people are outraged by Israel, some by Hamas, and nostrils are flaring.

Any argument about Israel and Palestine tends to be a futile affair. If one side points to rockets and suicide bombers, the other points to tanks, soldiers and airstrikes, and everyone has a point.  Whichever way you look at it, the side you pick tends to depend on the propaganda you believe.  

The Palestinians can’t be trusted because they fire rockets and hide in highly populated civilian areas. Israel can’t be trusted because it’s their military action that triggers the violence. The Palestinians are Muslims and Muslims stone women, behead adulterers, and use children as suicide bombers.  It doesn’t even matter if the Muslims responsible for such mayhem are Palestinian or not. Jews are Zionists who destroy homes, enslave people, and drive over them with tanks. The accusations are endless.

Of course, all over the world the stigma of terrorism strikes fear into every heart. The rise of global terrorism by Muslim fundamentalists often has governments on edge, and it can’t be denied that Hamas’ terror tactics hurts their cause from a public relations perspective.  However, some argue that the only difference between a terrorist and a soldier is that one of them has an official mandate to kill.

"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" - Gerald Seymour

To get a clearer perspective one has to look past the fear of terrorism. Should a nation be oppressed because it resorts to terrorism to fight oppression? It is possible that terrorism may continue even if the occupation ends, but one cannot condone the oppression of a nation out of fear of terrorism. How do you decide which nation is more worthy of your sympathy, the oppressors or the terrorists? How do you pick sides when both sides can be seen as evil? One can’t pick sides in this battle based purely on the atrocities committed in the act of war. Both are responsible.

The only way to find an answer is to attempt to take an unprejudiced view of the situation. In order to remove yourself from personal bias and look at it objectively you must ask yourself, what is life in the region like during a time of peace, when the ceasefire is being respected, no bullets are flying, no bombs are going off, and people are carrying on with everyday life? What is the situation then?

What you will find is that Israel enjoys the freedom that peace brings, at the expense of Palestine which is still suffering under the oppression of Israel’s Apartheid-style regulations. During peacetime, Palestinians are subjected to checkpoints, forced removals and other indecencies remarkably similar to those committed by the South African Apartheid regime that outraged the world until it ended 20 years ago.

When you ignore all the atrocities committed by both sides in the conflict, when you ignore your allegiance based on religious views, when you disregard all racial and cultural differences, the basic factor of humanity that remains is that one people are being marginalised, the other not.

It is your moral duty to set aside your prejudice based on religious and racial differences and pledge your support to the oppressed against the oppressor, regardless of their actions in the heat of the battle against their oppression.

“We cannot negotiate with those who say, what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.” – John F Kennedy

The only way this conflict can end is if ways can be found to give the people of Palestine their inalienable fundamental rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. There can be no peace as long as Israel demands a ceasefire in return for not air raiding the Palestinian territories, all while the oppression inflicted on the people of Palestine remains unchecked.

One of two things needs to happen. Either Israel needs to integrate the Palestinian territories into the state of Israel completely and give Palestinians citizenship and rights equal to those of Israelis, or they need to recognise Palestine as an independent and sovereign state within the pre-1967 Six Day War borders, and pull their whole military out. There should be no more separate, but occupied and controlled system. Complete integration, or complete separation.

The current Apartheid Bantustan-style system of separate subordination is inhumane, unsustainable, and a direct assault on human dignity. Changing that is the first and most important step towards reaching a lasting peace agreement.

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