I should like to put in a plea for the constant demonizing of one side or the other of the Arab-Israeli conflict to stop. It only poisons the water.
Just imagine if these two small peoples had not clashed on the same piece of territory. What incentive would each side then have had to manufacture so many absurd myths about the other, distorting their histories, despising their religions and trashing their national characters?
It is dangerously misleading to analyze conflicts in such terms rather than by trying to understand how the objective situations on the ground impact on ordinary people caught up in them, whomever they may be. This is not to excuse anyone but to retain a sense of perspective.
Thus, what in 1948 - in the wake of the Nazi holocaust and the double dealings of the western powers - was a joyous liberation for one tormented people was a wretched catastrophe for another. And something similar may be said about the outcome of the war 19 years later.
And then, when the land-confiscations and settlement-building accelerated a decade or so after 1967, and the Israeli occupation no longer looked to be temporary, Palestinian resistance grew in tandem. If, at times, it turned violent and involved deadly atrocities, it was not because the perpetrators were Palestinian, or Arab or predominantly Muslim, but because they were an occupied people. If there is one cast-iron law of history, it is probably that all occupations and other forms of colonial rule are, eventually, resisted.
In parallel, if there has been a persistent pattern of serious human rights violations in the occupied territories, it is not because the perpetrators are Israeli, nor even because they are Zionist - patriotic Israelis and self-proclaimed Zionists have been among the most outspoken critics, as they should be - and certainly not because they are Jews. It is because they are occupiers, and the violations will end when the occupation ends.
As we know from other cases too, enforced rule over another people brutalizes not just the occupied but the occupier as well. By remaining in the West Bank, Israel has done enormous harm to its own social fabric and its international reputation, to say nothing of the profound damage that has been done to the Palestinians who live there. It should not be left to Israel's enemies to call for a full and final end to Israel's occupation. It is time, 40 years on, for the true friends of Israel to assert the same demand.
In this spirit, I propose we call on the Israeli prime minister and government to set about unblocking the deadlock and sparking a new peace momentum by a simple act of state: a public declaration that, in exchange for full peace and subject to agreed equitable land exchanges, Israel is prepared in principle to withdraw fully from the West Bank to enable the Palestinians to build their independent state, with which Israel would desire normal neighbourly relations. Not a hazardous unilateral withdrawal, but a sincere, risk-free, unilateral declaration about the envisaged political horizon.
If Israel’s leadership truly seeks peace, let us hear it make this vital - in principle - statement, loudly and clearly and often. And if not, why not?
/ Dr Tony Klug is a veteran writer on the Middle East who has been advocating a two-state solution since the early 1970s. He is senior policy consultant at the Middle East Policy Initiative Forum and vice-chair of the Arab-Jewish Forum. His doctoral thesis was on Israel's rule over the West Bank between the wars of 1967 and 1973. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org /