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Boulder Peace Activists Report Back: Friends of Sabeel Trip to Israel and Palestine Report Back

July 16, 2007

At a meeting in Boulder last week (July 11, 2007), a number of peace activists, returned from Israel and Palestine (W. Bank). They had been on a Friends of Sabeel delegation. They held a public event at the University of Colorado to show slides and discuss their impressions of what they had seen and experienced in the Occupied Territories. They had many interesting first hand observations and insights. It was all very well done. Not surprisingly, there were a number of hostile questions from a number of people who, in turn, taunted the speakers and then, although they sat in different parts of the room, almost in unison, got up and left, grumbling as they left.

The speakers addressed all the questions to the best of their abilities, quite honestly and fairly I thought, except for one. A woman sitting in the back asked one of those questions that was more of a statement than a question but finally got to the point: how can this mess (the Occupation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) be resolved? Great question and I waited for the answer. After a certain hesitation and silence, finally one of the speakers, LeRoy Moore of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center answered clearly and simply: End the Occupation. In the end, those three words are the key to resolving the conflict. Often in the discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in a very purposeful way, the term `Occupation’ is assiduously avoided. Israel’s more zealous supporters, both locally and nationally bristle at its mention.

Occupation – Not `Disputed Territories’

Not long ago two Colorado Democrats in Congress, Diana DeGette and Mark Udall wrote letters to Colorado Democrats asking them not to use the term `occupation’ which they consider inflammatory. But calling a spade a spade: what Israel is doing to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (another term they don’t like) is very much an occupation – the longest and one of the cruelest and inhumane occupations by one nation of another in recent times. Now forty years on, it’s lasted longer than the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. So Occupation is quite frankly an accurate and objective term and when peace activists call for ending the occupation, I believe they are hitting the nail right on the head.

That said, the question remains – and this one is still more difficult to broach for some: how can it [ending the occupation] be done. The critique is fine, but without a positive vision – which means proposing a political solution – something is missing. It is all well and good to make a morally and historically accurate critique. But what then? What is the positive alternative that people can support to help resolve the issue politically? And when it gets to proposing political solutions many peace movements and activists find themselves caught in a bind between the different solutions: two states, a binational state (someone did mention that as a possibility that evening) or a democratic secular solitary state for Palestinians and Israelis. Of course, ending the occupation is the pre-requisite for any positive option – 1 state, 2 states, whatever.

My own views on this are well known: I oppose the Occupation and support a 2 state solution (Israel’s right to exist in security within its 1967 borders, a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and both with a shared capital in Jerusalem) and I would hope to see others more seriously consider this option. Whatever, if the level of activity gravitates only around critiques without progressive, human and practical solutions, I don’t believe that the work on this issue will advance very far in the peace movement or that its influence will grow much.

For more information about a presentation from this group, contact Joy Lapp (lappj@earthlink.net)

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