Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has been making many comments on Israel and pro-Israeli politicians and in the process has received great deal of public attention. She had to climb down and apologize on one occasion but has continued with fiery comments along the same theme. Congresswoman Omar appears to move from being a supporter of the two-state solution to being a backer of BDS movement.
Though I believe that Ilhan Omar does not have a racist bone in her body – and is most definitely not an anti-Semite – her anti-Israel rhetoric, while pleasing to some Palestine advocates, will not lead to the Palestinians achieving their ambitions but instead could frustrate them. Congresswoman Omar may be confusing speaking up for the Palestinians with falling out with Israel and pro-Israeli politicians and in the process has become part of the conflict.
For many who genuinely want to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians in refugee camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and those living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, the only realistic path forward is an accommodation with Israel to allow the Palestinians to establish their own state. Others who are driven by the quest for historical justice or are driven by hatred for Jews are in effect prolonging the suffering of the stateless Palestinians while claiming to speak in their name.
The suffering of Palestinians has gone on for a full century. The path to putting an end to the suffering is a very narrow one and the extremists on the pro-Israel and pro-Palestine sides continue to work tirelessly to block that path. That path, from 1946 on to the present, is the two state solution. A brief look at the history of the conflict will illustrate that Congresswoman Omar’s interventions may have actually been wrong-headed.
Prior to the 1947 UN Partition Resolution, Palestinians and Jewish representatives were making progress towards an agreement on partition. Extremists , who were set against negotiations and against the concept of a Jewish State on any part of historic Palestine, frustrated this effort. Extremists on the Jewish side exploited the Islamists’ hatred of Jews to take a ‘maximalist’ approach, justifying extensive land grabs, expulsions and denial of basic human rights to Palestinians.
The Oslo Accord , which officially ended the PLO armed struggle and opened a path towards peace, was officially rejected by the Islamist factions who frustrated the peace process. In its public rejection of Oslo, Hamas opted for an ongoing and never ending struggle against Israel rather than the concept of a two state solution – a partition. The Israeli right-wing again exploited the Islamist rejection by building more colonial settlement, building a horrible wall well inside the Occupied Territories and through countless acts of cruelty and brutality against a nation of stateless people living under captivity.
Congresswoman Omar sees hope in the so called Israel BDS, or the movement for the Boycott Disinvestment & Sanctions of Israel. While the official BDS website now alleges to be neutral on the two-state solution, the movement’s founders’ rejection of Oslo, Geneva, Taba, Camp David and all other attempts towards a two-state solution is well documented.
Most American and European entities that applied sanctions against Israel distanced themselves from BDS, avoided the use of the three words capitalized and specifically targeted entities and activities that have to do with the Israeli colonial settlements in the Occupied Territories rather than adopting the official BDS line targeting all of Israel. Congresswoman Omar confuses Palestine with South Africa and sees that BDS worked there, so it should work with Israel too. In the process, she fails to see the huge differences between the two cases.
The United States has a huge influence on Israel and thus over the fate of the Palestinian people, but it’s important to remember that influence does not mean control. Great Britain was the US of its time back in 1947 when it abstained on the UN Partition Resolution and eventually saw an outcome that wasn’t necessarily what it sought at all.
Does Congresswoman Omar really think that the US is capable of pressuring Israel toward a one-state solution, assuming she can get both the White House and Congress to agree on that path? Even before the horrors of ISIS, is it even remotely possible in the foreseeable future to aim for a one state solution?
When your activism isn’t directed towards the only realistic path towards peace, you become an advocate for conflict rather than reconciliation. Congresswoman Omar has a great platform that she should use deliberately for the advocacy of the lone viable path towards peace: Partition. Difficult as it maybe, Arab and Muslim Americans have the opportunity and the obligation to be on the forefront of advocacy for peace and coexistence rather than fall into the trap of the rejectionist agenda and rhetoric.
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