Justice for Peace

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FEATURED Article: Justice for Peace

Yousef Munayyer

In recent months consistent rhetoric and meetings on the highest diplomatic levels have led many to be “optimistic” about future negotiations over Palestine. President Bush held meetings with the leaders of both parties and has repeated commitments to achieve a lasting peace. Yet the point we are at today is far behind that at which we stood years ago in Oslo.

There has long been a myth of the viability of the two-state solution and it is still voiced today. While ending the occupation is the first priority, any final agreement which neglects the rights of the refugees is not representative of the Palestinian people. There is no doubt that Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza endure constant suffering and humiliation and their liberation is awaited by all those who respect human rights. However, the issue of Palestine reaches far deeper than the lands in the green line.

It is imperative that we hold this debate in the Palestinian community. We can not succumb to the demands or language of the Israelis. Across the globe we are told about a solution based on “land for peace” and many of us are guilty of using this same rhetoric. For too long we have spoken in the language of the occupier and we must reject this wholeheartedly. The only way to direct the discourse is by speaking in our terms and in our language.

We can not agree to “land for peace”. As Palestinians, we must accept nothing less than justice for peace. The Palestinians have never removed anyone form their homes, occupied lands, or taken over the livelihood of the Israelis. We need to stop making it seem as though we are being done a favor. “Land for peace” is not a good deal and we must stop selling it as such. Have we given in to the occupier to such an extent that we have forgotten our own history and our own rights??
Justice for peace is the new framework we need to follow. It properly contextualizes the reality of the conflict. We are not resisting because we want land. We resist because we want justice. The point is Palestinians should not have to be fighting for their land and we cannot allow it to seem so. Justice for peace means more than the end of the occupation. Though evacuation of the Israeli armed forces is a positive step it cannot be seen as the last one. Justice for the refugees does not mean retribution, but compensation and the opportunity to return to the area which they are from if they so choose. The refugees are not looking to return to homes which no longer exist. It has never been about the physical structures which existed before 1948 but about the right of an individual to return to his home.
The fact that some advocates of the Palestinian cause have effectively dropped the issue of the right of return is a sign of their submission. There can be no finality to 1948 while refugees still live in limbo, having no citizenship in the land they call home. There return has not only been proven realistically and practically feasible but it is necessary for a just and secure final status agreement.

What Israel has left us within the West Bank, as a result of a long-term plan of land acquisition, are small pockets of land surrounded by a matrix of control that includes racist roads, military boundaries, checkpoints and the apartheid wall. Israel has recognized the demographic threat it faces and has countered it by an anaconda plan to strangle the Palestinian population into submission. Settlements, colonies, or “major population centers” have become immovable realities and their presence further buries the possibility of a free Palestine.

For years now many have been calling for the one-state option. Critics view this as a change in direction but in reality, there has been no significant movement since Oslo and the pillars of Palestinian needs (the right of return, Jerusalem, and independence) have not changed. Talking about a one-state solution is not a change in direction but merely the candid discussion of the concept of justice that exists in the Palestinian national conscience.

Yousef Munayyer is a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Political Science and History with a minor in Middle East Studies and a certification in International Relations.