Sunday, April 02, 2006

Matt McCarten: Renewed hope for Middle East peace

This week's Israeli election victory for Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party heralds a real opportunity for a permanent peace in Palestinian-Israeli relationships.

Although Likud officials said yesterday they may recommend that the Labour Party, led by Amir Peretz, form the next government to block Kadima, the electoral devastation of Israel's right-wing parties removes the hardliners who have been fervently opposed to dialogue with Hamas.

I think Hamas' electoral victory last month strengthens the chances of getting a settlement. No one is challenging the legitimacy and mandate of Hamas and they can't be ignored. This change of political leadership in both countries opens up a new possibility. The removal of Fatah and Likud from the political landscape was probably essential. New parties and new political leaders allow both sides to move forward.

I know it's sacrilege in New Zealand to say anything that isn't fawning support for the Israeli state. There is a well-oiled propaganda operation run from Zionist supporters that lambasts anyone who questions Israel's side of the story.

But we can't ignore the historical facts. The creation of Israel was based on the theft and occupation of Palestine. The only way that Israel has got away with it internationally is because it's backed by the United States and Europe.

But I don't see why Palestinians have to pay the price for Europe's guilt at their complicity with the Nazi genocide against their Jewish populations.

The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is in violation of UN resolutions. The major powers enforcing UN resolutions against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait by military means while actively supporting Israel building settlements on illegally occupied lands takes hypocrisy to a new level. This immorality isn't lost on ordinary Palestinians. The rise and success of Hamas as their champion was inevitable.

Israel and their Western backers can harp on all they like about terrorism. But when Palestinians have had their land stolen and been interned in refugee camps for generations, what are these people supposed to do? If it was the other way around, the West would be calling them freedom fighters and nationalist heroes.

Instead, we call them terrorists and stay silent while successive Israeli governments systematically hunt down their political opponents and murder them. If innocents get in the way - too bad.

Outrage that Hamas won't recognise Israel's right to exist is nonsense when Israel won't allow Palestinians to have their own state in their own country. Instead, most Palestinians are banished to camps erected by the UN.

The new Hamas leadership is painted as unreasonable and not interested in peace because they object to Israel pinching the best land in the West Bank for themselves and leaving the barren bits for the locals.

Meanwhile, Israel keeps building walls throughout the occupied lands to keep out the Palestinians permanently. The irony of the Nazis buildings walls around Jewish communities in European cities can't be lost on people.

Of course, funding that enables Israel to build these walls to legitimise their thefts comes from Western countries. Even Olmert says that if Hamas doesn't accept that Israel can have this land then he'll steal it anyway. So it's a bit rich that Western countries are now withdrawing their funding from the Palestinian government because Hamas won't play ball.

The Israeli people at the polls have obviously accepted they can no longer continue to oppress the Palestinian people by military means. It has brutalised both peoples. It has to stop.

The political change of guard in both countries really does allow the possibility a long lasting peace will break out.

Have Israel and their Western backers the courage to face up to the criminal acts against the Palestinian people and put it right? And please don't go on about not negotiating with terrorists.

The Israeli state subjugates an entire people and could objectively be described as a terrorist state. And don't call me anti-Semitic. It's the truth.

The only fair way for peace talks to begin is for Israel to accept they will have to leave the West Bank, pay compensation to the Palestinians for past crimes and recognise a Palestinian state without condition.

It's time Israel did the decent thing. The world will thank them.


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