Stand together for fair and just peace on both sides of Palestine-Israel conflict

Amid the recent attention given to the troubles in the Middle East, it was disheartening to hear President George W. Bush shift decades-long U.S. foreign policy by supporting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to make permanent some annexations of Palestinian land. This is not right. Not only does this endorse violating U.N. resolutions (ask Iraq how bad it is to do that), it inherently violates the principles of fairness and justice for both peoples.

In what amounts to a bait-and-switch, Sharon’s “withdrawal” plan of leaving Gaza but remaining in the West Bank would not lead to the creation of a functional Palestinian state, but rather the Palestinian version of American Indian-like reservations – disjointed parcels of territory from which no effective means of governance, much less peace and stability, could ever materialize. Every day, Israelis would continue to be held hostage to the unnerving fear of random violence, because the radicals among them advocate for land confiscation and collective punishment.

Conversely, Palestinians would still live their lives as herded, impoverished, third-class citizens subject to a foreign government’s dictates. Who would want to go on living like this? Perhaps Sharon expects the Palestinians to eventually open up casinos to sustain a living.

The president’s support emboldens hard-liners to take even more aggressive, illegal actions against Palestinians, because eventually, they can reason, it will be endorsed as an irreversible reality on the ground. Meanwhile, irreligious terrorists will be better poised to gain support by making the case that we are not unbiased in the Middle East.

Ultimately, this policy and others like it support the dogs of war and hinder the doves of peace on both sides. This can only lead to horrifying consequences for Palestinians and Israelis, as well as result in further erosion of our credibility abroad.

Some who have written to the Daily of late have expressed a sampling of the extreme positions taken on both sides of this conflict. Some have even tried to introduce the well-used specter of racism in blunting criticism of their views. This is wrong, and using such a tactic is worse than the absurdity of their extreme arguments, trying to convince us that either side is infallible and blameless, or that any hint of holding each side accountable is tantamount to leading to the end of their existence. We should all stand together against wrongful acts committed by both sides – whether it is in the form of bus bombings or bulldozers – and we should all stand together for a fair and just peace, for both sides.

During his prime-time press conference, the president said, “Freedom is the Almighty’s gift to every man and woman in this world.” I believe that too. I can only hope he meant that for the Palestinians as well and reconsiders this damaging policy shift. The success of a peaceful, prosperous future for all peoples of the region depends on it.

Muhamad Y. Elrashidi is a health-care administration graduate student at the Carlson School of Management. He welcomes comments at [email protected]