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Palestine and the dream of peace

Neither Israel, Hamas nor the Palestinians are working for peace. If Israel wanted peace it would have throttled the so-called “settlers” years ago and protected the Palestinian population. Hamas made it’s aversion to peace obvious in the brutality of their Oct. 7 attack – they got what they wanted in Israel’s brutal response. The Palestinians are caught in the middle but constantly irritated by incursions on their lives and homes. The surrounding countries made peace almost impossible by excluding refugees and keeping the Palestinians as an uprooted and largely homeless people whose needs are focused on their devotion to their lost land. Peace? It’s been no more than a cruel joke. What Israel and Hamas are looking for is ethnic cleansing, to push each other out dead or alive – yes it’s different from genocide but it stinks nevertheless.

I served this country as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a Muslim country, and on my way home, so I could visit Israel, flew directly from Tehran, in Iran, to Tel Aviv in Israel – yes it was possible in those days. I have friends on both sides. Only peace, shalom or salaam, could stanch my tears. There is in fact a local group of wonderful people who include both terms for peace in their title. And I have been working with a group of Jews in the Capital Region also seeking peace. Oh may that goal prevail. Or am I and many like me doomed to bathe in our own tears.

So what?

No American president until Biden has willingly twisted Israel’s arm. It’s time. I think Biden should condition all forms of continued American support on ending the settler program, returning lands taken by settlers from settled Palestinians, and a total cease fire, provided Hamas observes the cease fire and returns the hostages. If Hamas doesn’t observe those terms, blame for whatever happens to Gaza’s people is on Hamas, and let the press keep asking when Hamas will stop. Israel doesn’t understand the blame dynamics but America could turn the PR on its head. If the Israeli government doesn’t listen, the Israeli people will pay a horrible price, but we’ll have done our best to prevent it. I want to see Israel survive. But it can’t be at any price. This conflict hurts America, innocent Muslims and American and worldwide Jewry. I’m not interested in arguments about who was in Palestine first – that’s irrelevant to people trying to live there. The conflict has to stop regardless of who is “right.”

Frankly, I don’t think there are any honest brokers in the Middle East. But America does have a stake because it has been deeply involved and because most of us care for a variety of reasons about what happens to Israel and what happens to Palestine and Gaza. And because of our historic support of Israel, America does have the ability to affect developments there. We should use it.

Steve Gottlieb’s latest book is Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and The Breakdown of American Politics. He is the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Albany Law School, served on the New York Civil Liberties Union board, on the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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