No Lessons Learned

Two New York Times articles printed one day last week describe Israeli and Pales­tinian reactions to the ongoing war and, together, paint a dis­turbing portrait of where we are three months af­ter October 7th.

The first, “Oct. 7 Is Forcing Israelis to Re­think Their Identi­ty,” has the subhead “At­tack has Shaken Belief in a Sanctuary, but Also Unified a Di­vided People.” The other, date­lined “Jenin Camp,” “Facing Israeli Troops and Destruction, Yet Vow­ing to Survive” features a pullout quote: “‘The killing, the invasion, the raids—it will all fuel even more resistance.’” The first focus­es on Ultra-Orthodox Jews now expressing interest in serving in the military and Palestinian citi­zens of Israel saying they’d pre­fer to live under Israeli rule than be governed by Hamas. But such emotional responses only tem­porarily bridge fault lines that re­main and will reemerge.

While “Israel as a sanctuary” has been shaken, the sense of unity and identity now shared by most Israeli Jews is in their Jew­ishness and distrust for Palestin­ians and any peaceful solution to the conflict. They dislike their prime minister, but remain sup­portive of the slaughter in Gaza and silent about the ongoing vio­lence in the West Bank.

If Israelis thought that their massive assault on Gaza and in­tensified repression in the West Bank would subdue Palestin­ians, the second article and a re­cent poll of Palestinian attitudes establish the opposite. Seven­ty percent (70%) of Palestinians support the attack launched by Hamas on October 7th. And opin­ion in the West Bank and Gaza now favors Hamas’ leadership over the Palestinian Authority.

While the numbers of dead (21,000) and wounded (55,000+) in Gaza have been publicized, the impact of Israeli raids across the West Bank are less well known. The Times describes the Gaza-like as­sault on the Jenin camp by Israelis:

“Electricity lines have been damaged, water tanks punctured, and paved roads turned into little more than pebbles and dirt. The stench of sewage hangs thick in the air. Over the past two months around 80% of the roughly 17,000 have temporarily moved…” And 330 Jenin residents have been ar­rested and 67 killed.

One resident said, “What the Is­raelis are trying to do with all this destruction is create a state of de­spair and drive a wedge between the people in the camp and the resistance—so people blame the resistance. What they don’t real­ize is that our biggest strength is our unity.”

Three months ago, I lamented that neither Israelis nor Palestin­ians had learned the lessons of the past—violence will not end the occupation nor resistance to the occupation. When this con­flict is over we’ll find ourselves right back where we started, ex­cept with more death, anger, and extremism on both sides.

Nor has the US learned any les­sons.

We’ve stood by silently after warning Israel about our mis­takes in Afghanistan. We cau­tioned them not to target civil­ians and then shipped the bombs taking a massive toll in civilian life, passively accept their geno­cidal intent. We’ve blocked all in­ternational calls for a ceasefire.

Israel has not hidden its in­tentions, repeatedly declaring it would flatten Gaza, reoccupy it, and drive its residents to Egypt. The feeble US response: mere statements against re-occupation and forced relocation.

The US “plan” for moving for­ward can only politely be de­scribed as adding insult to injury. It’s delusional to think that the Palestinian Authority could gov­ern Gaza in the wake of the Israe­li genocide or that this or any fu­ture Israeli coalition will move toward a negotiated two-state solution. With Gaza devastat­ed, Israeli settlements making a contiguous Palestinian state im­possible, settlers and the Israeli military “cleansing” Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem, no possible Israeli coalition gov­ernment ready to accept an inde­pendent Palestinian state, the PA weakened and Hamas crippled, and the US refusing to rein Isra­el in—what would be negotiated and with whom?

Bad behavior left unchecked grows and festers. The US enabled this situation. Until we recognize that we have fostered an Apartheid state that is committing genocide, and find the political courage to demand a ceasefire and end future political and military assistance, the cycle of violence and repres­sion will continue. We must learn lessons from our past and present failures and change course.

This would force Israelis to con­front the costs involved in their leaders’ chosen path and allow Palestinians to feel hope that their plight is understood. This could mark the beginning of a long process of transformation leading the way to peace.

Dr. James J. Zogby
The writer is the President of Arab American Institute.

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