Lines in the sand

The modern history of Palestine and Israel is a history of conflict, not of discussion

ON WEDNESDAY, Sept. 14, Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP) painted "Palestine Deserves a State" on Beta Bridge. The following morning they found the word "Palestine" completely covered in white and "Deserves" crossed out. Whoever was responsible gave attribution to "UVA Athletics UVA," which appeared in white paint at the scene of the incident. Various interpretations of the occurrence have circulated. Some claim it was a bias incident, others assert that it was merely another act of political speech.

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On Sept. 20, an article titled "Proper dialogue" was published in the Opinion section of The Cavalier Daily by Elena Weissmann "on behalf of Hoos for Israel." The author compared the behavior of those who painted over SPJP's statement at Beta Bridge with the actions of the Palestinian National Authority, which has submitted its bid to the United Nations for a free, independent Palestinian state and full membership in the UN. The author finds the two similar in the sense that those who perpetrated the Beta Bridge incident and the Palestinian bid for statehood are both avoiding open dialogue with representatives of the opposing camp.

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As a member of the Middle Eastern community, I personally take issue with this uncharitable comparison. Open dialogue - and in the case of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, one-to-one negotiations - is dependent on the trustworthiness of the parties involved. Weissmann speaks as though the Palestinians have not already made genuine attempts at peace with Israel, and with considerable concessions at that. Attempts at peace notwithstanding, Israel itself has not proven to be the most reliable negotiator. Let us briefly review some of the history of the conflict.

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On May 14, 1948, Israel unilaterally declared its independence and statehood. The territory for this new state was that which previously belonged to Palestinians, which was taken from them without their consultation. I fail to see any reasonable amount of "dialogue" in that. In June 1967, Israel captured the Palestinian lands of the West Bank and Gaza - the latter of which was controlled by Egypt at the time - in addition to the Golan Heights, which belonged to Syria. Shortly after the June War of 1967, United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 was released, which stated the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war." Up until that point, practically all of Israel's territory had been acquired by war, not by dialogue or negotiation.

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I only have referenced two of many historical examples of Israel's failure to engage in dialogue with the Palestinians. At present, Israel is apparently disregarding UN Resolution 242 because it continues to build settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories. Weissmann asserts the Palestinian unilateral bid for statehood will lead to the violation of agreements between "the Israeli and Palestinian authorities." It appears that the relationship between Israel and Palestine, taking UN Resolution 242 as a reference point, is already annulled by the former party because of the continuation of illegal settlement construction.

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The history of Israeli-Palestinian relations could arguably be called one of the greatest examples of theft in history, and tolerated theft at that. Let us examine the situation using an allegory that takes the legal system of the United States as a backdrop. If someone were to steal an item in this country, that individual could be punished by being forced to return the item, if possible, and then might be subjected to variable amounts of time in prison depending on the severity of the offense. Individuals claiming they had been robbed could hire attorneys to argue their case in court.

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The Palestinians have been robbed. During the past half-century they have been desperately trying to make their plight known to the world while Israel continues to deprive them of land. Left with no recourse, some have resigned to allowing Israel to keep some of the stolen property. Eventually enough was enough, and the Palestinians are finally appealing to the court of all nations, i.e. the UN. Meanwhile, the perpetrator expresses no remorse for its crimes and continues its illegal activities. When in the United States was a thief not only released but also permitted to take more stolen goods? Yet this is how the United States has acted toward Israel. It is nearly impossible to carry on a real dialogue with such an incorrigible and unrepentant negotiating partner.

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Michelle Sawwan is a Viewpoint writer for The Cavalier Daily.

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