Backgrounder

Learning More and Educating About the Israel/Palestine Conflict from a Peace and Justice Perspective:  Frameworks and Resources

We are deeply indebted to Professor Steve Niva of Olympia, who generously permitted us to share his excellent writing

Steve Niva, Olympia resident and co-op member, is a a professor of Middle East studies and long-time activist on this issue who works closely with international, Israeli and Palestinian peace and justice organizations seeking to end Israel’s occupation and its violation of Palestinian human rights.

If you are interested in further self-study or engaging in popular education around the issue of ending Israel’s occupation and settlement of Palestinian land or feel there is more you need to understand about this issue in order to be a stronger advocate for peace and justice here are a few suggestions.

A. Framework:  Distance yourself from misleading and deceptive assumptions about the Israel/Palestine conflict such as:

**It is an ancient conflict: “they’ve been fighting for 3,000 years”

**It is a conflict between equal sides:  “both sides are to blame—you should be ‘balanced’ between the two sides”

**There is no solution:  it’s too complicated…

None of these assumptions are true and in fact their repetition actually prevents peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians.  A starting point based in history and reality would include the following:

**Not ancient:  This is a roughly 100 year old conflict that started when a small number of European Jews confronting endemic racism and injustice against Jews in Europe in the late 19th century decided to solve their injustice by building a Jewish state in the land of Palestine that unfortunately produced another injustice:  the displacement and occupation of Palestinian land and people.  This is a territorial and national conflict over land, not a conflict over religion.

**Not balanced:  This is an extremely unbalanced conflict in Israel’s favor, where Israel not only possesses unrivaled military superiority and has inflicted the far greater loss of life and destruction on the other side, but has also imposed a military and civil occupation over every aspect of Palestinian lives and has stolen Palestinian land for Jewish settlement and colonization.  While Palestinians have no doubt engaged in some reprehensible and immoral actions, to seek “balance” in a deeply unbalanced conflict is to support injustice.

**Not complicated:  The solution to this conflict is simple and has been clearly stated for decades, but the U.S. and Israeli governments have refused to accept its terms:  Israel must end its military occupation and colonization of Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza and remove ALL OF ITS its soldiers, settlements and settlers from Palestinian land to the 1967 borders, in addition to complying with International law and all outstanding resolutions on this conflict.  The only thing that has made this complicated has been Israeli/American attempts to get Palestinians to accept far less than a just solution.

B.  On-line Resources for further study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a peace and justice perspective:

Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict:  A Primer

http://www.merip.org/palestine-israel_primer/toc-pal-isr-primer.html

This very useful, clear and exceptionally well researched basic overview to the conflict was put together by one of the leading progressive magazines on peace and justice in the Middle East:  Middle East Report magazine (merip.org).  It was written by progressive Jewish-American and Arab-American scholars.

Veritas Handbook:  A Resource for Justice and Learning About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:

http://www.veritashandbook.blogspot.com/

This document also provides a useful and accurate basic overview to the conflict and was put together by activists involved in current organizing and includes helpful maps and materials.

Phyllis Bennis, Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:  A Primer and FAQ

http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?list=type&type=52

This is a very current and helpful introductory document prepared by long-time progressive Jewish-American analyst Phyllis Bennis first addresses common misunderstandings in a Q&A FAQ format, then provides a basic overview that addresses similar issues to those above.

(By contrast, you might consider looking at this Primer on the conflict written from a perspective that tries not to appear “one-sided” to see where it differs from one of the resources included above.  It has generally accurate information, but frames the information to appear “balanced.”  http://www.annadwa.org/en/images/PDFs/israel_and_palestine_primer.pdf)

C.  Useful Maps to accompany your readings:

Best collection of maps showing Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands

http://www.passia.org/maps.htm

Most important map that shows overall territorial transformation of Israel/Palestine and extent of Israeli territorial domination

http://www.friendsofsabeel.org.uk/Story.shtml

New detailed United Nations map of fragmentation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlements and roads

http://www.usmep.us/usmep/2007/06/04/new-un-map-charts-west-bank-reality/

Reverse image map of Palestinian territorial fragmentation by Israeli settlements and roads that shows how Palestinians now live in small enclosed island-like enclaves

http://mikeely.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/palestine_map_500.jpg?w=330&h=500

Important map of current disposition of Israeli settlements

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Palestine_Map_2007_%28Settlements%29.gif

Map of current Israeli plan to settle and colonize Palestinian land

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article4750.shtml

D.  Important Books to consider for further reading and education:

**Sandy Tolan, The Lemon Tree:  An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East

This is an excellent reading group book for addressing the history of the origins of the conflict in the creation of the state of Israel and the expulsion of Palestinians who became Palestinian refugees in 1948.  It reads like a novel, but the history is excellent and draws from new Israeli and Palestinian work.  It is not an “advocacy” book but rather lets it story do the talking.  You discuss.

**Saree Makdisi, Palestine Inside Out:  An Everyday Occupation

This is simply the best current guide to the way in which Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land is organized and effects everyday Palestinian lives, documenting the massive human rights violated that result from the process.  It is very readable and full of well documented human rights sources.

**Raja Shehadeh, Palestinian Walks:  Forays Into a Vanishing Landscape

This is an unusual and lovely book in that it addresses the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land through documenting the “hikes” that a famous Palestinian human rights and non-violence advocate liked to take through his own land, only now he is blocked on all sides by Israeli settlements and roads.

**Rene’ Backmann, A Wall in Palestine

This is an excellent journalistic overview of the harmful aims and impact of Israel’s wall/barrier that surrounds and divides Palestinians in their own land under the false pretense it is built for Israel’s “security”.  It is clearly written with personal stories of those effects and interviews with the Israeli generals and planners who built the wall.

**Jeff Halper, An Israeli in Palestine:  Resisting Dispossesion, Redeeming Israel

An important book by a major figure in Israeli-Jewish organizing and work against Israel’s occupation.  His organization is ICADH (Israeli committee against home demolitions) which is an extremely valuable source of information and work by Israeli Jews and allies on the ground in Israel/Palestine.

**Avraham Burg, The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise From Its Ashes

This controversial book (in Israel) is written by one of most establishment Jewish-Israeli-Zionist leaders who now believes that Israel and its supporters have to significantly change, above all else, by ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and lives, in order to be faithful to Judaism and not to the policies of the Israeli state.  He strongly argues that the nightmare of the Holocaust not be used to prevent adopting a position based on justice for all.

**Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

This book is written by one of the most courageous of the new Israeli-Jewish historians who have challenged the founding myths of the country and its denial of the history of dispossessing Palestinians.  This book provides an overview of the origins of the conflict in 1948 and beyond.  He now teaches in England due to pressure and intimidation in Israel.

**Read all these books and then read Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel.  It should take less than a couple of minutes to note how his entire project is to present pseudo facts in the service of a propaganda exercise to absolve Israel of its wrongs and portray Palestinians (he tends to slip into use of “arabs”) as unremittingly filled with anti-jewish hatred as the only explanation for their criticism of Israel’s occupation.

There are many other books to consider, but this is a general sample to begin with.

E.  Resources for Current Information from Peace and Justice Perspective

Electronic Intifada website:  http://electronicintifada.net/

Updates and articles on current events from Palestinian-American-progressive activist perspective

Stop the Wall website:  http://www.stopthewall.org/

Current news of the non-violent struggles and campaign against Israel’s wall/barrier

Palestine Monitor website:  http://www.palestinemonitor.org/spip/

Information about struggles and effects of occupation for Palestinians

Alternative Information Centerhttp://www.alternativenews.org/english/

Anti-occupation Israeli organization with long-standing record of work against Israeli occupation

Jewish Voice for Peacehttp://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/

Jewish-American activist organization with close ties to Israeli anti-occupation organizations, excellent information and material

B’Tselem websitehttp://www.btselem.org/English/

Updates and news from the leading mainstream Israeli-Jewish human rights organization

Local Resources: Palestine Solidarity Committee (based in Seattle) with local resources and events calendar.     http://www.palestineinformation.org

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