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Palestine-Israel dispute: Permanent moratorium essential

By Cody Shilling     10/7/10 7:00pm

Two weeks ago, the Israeli freeze on new settlement construction in the West Bank expired. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had instituted the freeze 10 months ago in a goodwill gesture toward the Palestinian government.With its expiration, the flood gates are reopened for Israeli settlers to continue encroaching on Palestinian land and in some cases razing and completely replacing Palestinian towns, forcing the Palestinians out.

The Palestinian government has said that it will not continue negotiating with Israel and the United States if the freeze is not extended, but can you really blame them? They view the Israeli settlers as invading Palestine's already overcrowded land. (There are approximately 2 million Palestinians in an area the size of Delaware, and 500,000 Israelis have already moved in.)

It is the same situation as that of Tibet: The Chinese government is moving Chinese citizens to Tibet in order to eliminate the culture and assimilate Tibetans into the mainstream society of China. The fact that a country has a very powerful military does not mean it is justified in occupying a state (especially when there is great support for independence, as with both Palestine and Tibet).

The World Court has issued several rulings that Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory are illegal. The problem is that the coalition government led by Netanyahu is made up of mostly the hard right which does not even entertain the thought of negotiating with the Palestinians, much less considering making Palestine sovereign. Israel took control of the West Bank after the Six Days War in 1967 and has yet to begin removing troops.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the United States treated the Native Americans in much the same way: taking their land in the name of Manifest Destiny, treating them as morally inferior and worth less than whites. No one can look back at that part of our history and praise our actions. The Palestinians are being ignored and abused in much the same way; in many towns, Palestinian citizens are not even allowed to use the main roads, as those are reserved specifically for Israelis.

Not only is it in Israel's political best interests to continue the freeze (that would lead to more negotiations and hopefully less conflict with the Palestinians), but it is also their moral duty to treat the Palestinians as their equals.

Cody Shilling is a Will Rice College sophomore.

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