April 5, 2005

Activist Speaks On Difficulty of Mid-East Peace

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Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian activist and co-founder of Electronic Intifada, a website that explores the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through a Palestinian perspective, spoke at Cornell yesterday evening and shed light on the fundamental debate: “Is Peace in Palestine a doomed fantasy?”

Abunimah was brought to Cornell by a new Cornell club, Student Advocates of Palestine. “Our goal is to educate people in Cornell about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from the Palestinian perspective,” president Chris Tozzi ’08 said.

According to Abunimah, peace between Israel and Palestine is doomed. “It is time to think of alternatives,” Abunimah said. “We can continue to fool ourselves that a two state solution is around the corner.” But, Abunimah believes a better solution is one state in which Israelis and Palestinians live together with the same rights. “Your choices are apartheid, ethnic cleansing, constant warfare, or you live together,” he said.

Abunimah cited why a two state solution is doomed.

“Israelis simply act as if the Palestinians don’t exist,” Abunimah said. Instead, Abunimah believes that Israel has continuously used excuses to attempt to prevent Palestinians from gaining rights.

He cited that following the death of Yassar Arafat, some believed that there were new opportunities for peace. However, he argued that the death of Yassar Arafat changed nothing; for according to him there are still thousands of Israeli troops engaging in war crimes, there are still Palestinians resisting, and there are still millions of Palestinians who remain in exile.

Abunimah further suggested that Israel” goal is to make the creation of the Palestinian state impossible. “After a decade and a half, Israel has done nothing to slow down its colonization,” he said. Instead he cited how Israel has spent over three billion dollars building settlement blocks in which only Jews are allowed to live in.

Israelis claim that the lack of peace and inability for a solution to the conflicts is due to Palestinian resistance. But, “such arguments ignore fundamental facts,” Abunimah said. In support of his argument, Abunimah cited that since December 30, 2004 70 Palestinians were killed by Israelis where as five Israelis were killed by Palestinians. And, “It’s worth emphasizing that the vast majority of resistance is and continues to be nonviolent,” he said.

Lack of Palestinian support from the United States is another reason, according to Abunimah, that a two-state peace between Israel and Palestine has not been created. He said that there is an irony in the fact that President Bush believes that Palestine must first create a perfect democracy and then we can talk of their human rights. “When it comes to Israel, no one is willing to put down the line,” he said.

As there are numerous debates and proposals for peace, such as the Geneva Convention, “everyone supports a Palestinian state in theory … but the problem is when it gets down to details, you find that it is a mythical consensus,” Abunimah said.

He thus proposes a one state solution. Abunimah supports many advantages to this one state: equal opportunities to the land, Palestinian refugees could return to their homes, the goals of Zionism could be realized, and Palestinians would gain equal rights.

Abunimah agreed that there will be a vast majority of Israelis who reject his plan but he does not think that the rejection should be an obstacle. “Israel’s walls are powerless in a one state solution,” he said.

Responses varied from the audience. “I thought it was very informative. It was nice to hear a pro-Palestinian voice on campus,” Bradly Cardozo ’07 said.

“I think he presented everything intelligently. Yet he presented only one side. I feel that he alienated the crowd,” Amit Caspi ’06 said. Abunimah does not deny that there will be continued conflict. But, “the moment has come for us to start addressing this [conflict] … because it is only through discussion that something becomes real,” Abunimah said.

Archived article by Nessie Sloan
Sun Contributor