Occupation’s violence admitted by Israeli military officials – what about Congress?

How this current wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence ends depends in large part on whether it is heard for the wakeup call it is: that Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza is at the root of today’s violence.  This connection is so obvious that it has even been recognized by current and former Israeli intelligence and military officials, but unfortunately, it is rarely ever acknowledged in the U.S. Congress, which serves as the primary financier of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories. 

{mosads}Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that heaps total blame for the current crisis on Palestinians. This dangerous notion is not only untrue, but it also fans the flames of violence. Instead of perpetuating the problem, here are three steps lawmakers can take to make this round of violence the last. 

1) Publicly Recognize the Unrest is a Symptom of the Occupation                          

A recent one-sided congressional hearing  on the violence used the title: words have consequences. Indeed, they do. The omission of words also has consequences. It should alarm every voter in the U.S. that the U.S. House of Representatives failed to mention the  word “occupation” once either during the “debate” of “anti-incitement” legislation  or in the hour and a half long hearing.   

For those of us who don’t want to see another Israeli or Palestinian lose their life to this violence, we must demand more than band-aid approaches. We must urge our elected leaders to recognize the violence for what it is: a symptom of the underlying disease of a military occupation.  

Major General Nitzan Alon, one of Israel’s top experts on Palestinians affairs and chief of Israel’s General Staff Operations Directorate, recently said: “Some of the motivation of the Palestinians to carry out terror attacks is due to the violence of right-wing elements in the West Bank.”  

In order to move forward, members of Congress must similarly recognize how the Israeli settlement enterprise stokes violence throughout the region. Israel’s prevention of freedom and equal rights for Palestinians plays a central role in the conflict.  

2) End the Blockade on Gaza

Palestinians in Gaza face severe shortages of essentials like water, electricity, and fuel. Thousands of Palestinian refugees are unable to rebuild their homes destroyed in the 2014 conflict due to the land, sea, and air blockade that has been in place since 2007, which prevents everything from the admittance of construction materials to deep sea fishing. Violence will not end while such destitute conditions continue. 

Israeli Knesset member and Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon recently pointed out that the loss of human dignity and way of life that comes from such shortages is not something that can be solved through military force.

“We must stop with the illusion that we can hold a people without rights and sovereignty, and that the desperation of these people that we step on every day won’t turn into shocking hatred and violence.” 

Pressing Israel to facilitate the delivery of basic necessities like water and electricity is a very practical way that Congress can indirectly assist in deescalating the current conflict. 

3) Work Toward a Just Peace

In their article entitled “Israelis Will Have Security When Palestinians Have Hope,” former Israeli security officials Ami Ayalon, Gilead Shear, and entrepreneur Orni Petruschka emphasized the link between diplomacy and peace, saying: 

“Only an internalization of the urgent and crucial need for real diplomatic progress to mark a border between two nation states, and later, for solving the conflict, will prevent an intensification of the external flare-up and of the internal rift.”  

Congress could help lay the groundwork for “real diplomatic progress” by pressing Israel to halt settlement construction, remove illegal outposts in the West Bank, and end its inhumane military detention of Palestinian youth, as some members of Congress have already called for. The aforementioned flawed hearing and debate, as well as previous attempts to legitimize Israeli settlements through various trade bills, only undermines the chance for peace.  

In addition, we must work for an end to the U.S. military aid that is funding an unjust military occupation approaching its fiftieth year. As the Obama administration and Congress have moved the opposite direction and plan to massively increase military aid to Israel, some peace advocates have given up on engaging with the government on this issue. From our vantage point on Capitol Hill, this is a colossal mistake, because we often hear members of Congress tell us they would like to take a more pro-peace position, but are reluctant to do so until they hear more from pro-peace constituencies. 

In the wake of the current violence, now is clearly the time to press lawmakers on Capitol Hill to speak out through their words and actions to end the conflict and begin a just peace that ensures dignity and human rights for all Israelis and Palestinians. 

Gould is the legislative representative for Middle East Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Khalid is the Scoville Fellow in Middle East Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation Education Fund. Follow them on Twitter @k8gould and @YAmericanMuslim.


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