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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

A Renewed Push For Peace

For a great many people in this world, their story begins here in this small strip of land on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, named at times, Israel, Palestine, Canaan ... This is the story and the history that is closest to the hearts of their fathers and mothers, and of their grandfathers' grandfathers. As with all wars, the conflict in Israel is historically based; what sets it apart is the willingness of those fighting to see and envision the historical roots of the conflict. Yet it cannot be forgotten that it remains a contemporary conflict, enveloping people's lives right now.

The roots of this conflict are seen from all different sides and depths, from which separate and opposing conclusions are drawn. Who must die, whose lives must be circumscribed for the safety of all, whose pain shall be ignored, and whose pain shall be seen, mourned and avenged. These are the questions asked and the varied conclusions, at the heart of the conflict, are drawn from the history and the present reality of Israel and Palestine. This history, cherished and recited by its peoples, not only sets the circumstances, but it forms the lens through which the present conflict and suffering is seen. At times this world is made hard and full of hate by the people, and one can always look to the history of one's parents and one's parents' parents to feel the ghost of old chains laid heavy.

There has been peace in this land before. There have been times when peace seemed farther away and times recently when it has been closer at hand. We are young here at Dartmouth and for perhaps half of our lives, there has been uprising and fighting in Israel and Palestine. In the other half, there have been times in between the fighting, times of greater stability where peace had a presence. This now is perhaps just a time in between the peace. Our memories do not go back very far, and the time since most of us have truly been paying attention is not any great number of years. We hear mostly tallies of destruction and war: numbers of people killed, houses demolished. A few years does not resign us to see the fighting as interminable; it does not require us to simplify the conflict to an idea of endless ethnic struggle.

There are enough stories of pain, enough photographs of destruction, for each side to feel justified in fighting a war for a hundred years. But can this massacre be allowed to continue?

Each party in the conflict is oblivious to the suffering of the other side, and we cannot expect any solution coming out of the war-rooms of two enemies. There are those among the Israelis and the Palestinians who are working towards peace and an end to fighting on both sides. Responsibility also lies with us -- Americans, Arabs and Jews -- to view the situation from outside the visceral pain of those embroiled in the conflict. It is up to us to bring the two sides to the negotiating table.

The most important change will come on both sides in the move from hate to understanding, and openhearted willingness to accept suffering without reflexively dealing it back in turn. This is true, though the path to such a change is not simple to find. The complexity, seemingly overwhelming, does not however excuse one from acting and devising plans to stop the fighting, with the hope of peace always in their mind.

A concrete plan must be devised, for aggression to be stopped on both sides. The Palestinian Authority would need to be empowered to govern the Palestinian territories autonomously without outside interference. The newly appointed prime minister should have more authority to make informed decisions on the internal affairs and economy of the territories. The Palestinian police force should be authorized to enforce law and order in their territories, instead of the Israeli army.

Defining the territorial boundaries, albeit an intricate procedure, should follow population distribution, not historical patterns. Any Israeli settlements that lie within majority-Palestinian zones should be dismantled, and vice-versa. The right to return is one thorny issue that needs to be put on the back-burner for the time being.

Israel would need to relax travel, work and other restrictions on all Palestinians. The current blockade has a stranglehold on the Palestinian economy and the territories cannot become self-dependent economically unless they can freely export and import any needed goods. With many Palestinians denied access to their livelihoods, malnutrition and disease have increased dramatically. Ideally, a free-trade zone will be to the benefit of both sides. Palestine needs help rebuilding its industrial and economic infrastructure and America and the Arab states must assist in this task.

This "road map" leading to an independent peaceful Palestinian state may be simple on paper, but it is a daunting and necessary task, needed to prevent more lives being lost in this insanity.

Who struck first? This question must be put out of mind. We must ask instead: How can we achieve a just peace?