Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Rashid Khalidi Outlines Peace Prerequisites at Open Tent Plenary

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Rashid Khalidi Outlines Peace Prerequisites at Open Tent Plenary

Article excerpt

Rashid Khalidi Outlines Peace Prerequisites at Open Tent Plenary

Pat McDonnell Twair is a free-lance writer based in Los Angeles.

Speaking just two days after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dispatched F-16 fighter planes to bomb Palestinian cities, University of Chicago scholar Rashid Khalidi told the plenary session of a May 20 international conference at UCLA, produced by the Open Tent Middle East Coalition, that Americans are finally beginning to realize the enormity of what is going on in the Middle East.

"We are citizens of the country giving all these weapons to Israel," Professor Khalidi said. "The Israelis aren't fighting with sticks and stones. I can't imagine the impact these weapons have wreaked on the Palestinians, especially over the course of several months."

The academic's angry words drew rounds of applause from an audience of 200 attending the closing session of the daylong event on the theme, "Solving the Crisis: The Future of Co-Existence."

"The Palestinians...made a terrible mistake," Khalidi continued. "Ten years ago, there were 100,000 fewer settlers; bypass roads didn't exist. Tragically, there is no Palestinian voice because the leaders...don't even speak to their own people. So we must insist upon our government to change the situation."

If negotiations are to be resumed, Khalidi said, six prerequisites must be met, the first of which is the acceptance of U.N. Resolutions 181, 194 and 242.

The second is full, unconditional recognition of both peoples' rights to sovereignty. While the Palestinians have recognized Israel, he pointed out, Tel Aviv has not reciprocated.

The third prerequisite, Khalidi said, is Israel's acceptance of the pre-1967 Green Line.

"If we proceed that far," he continued, "the fourth prerequisite is a reversal of settlements, which have led to the settlers-only bypass roads, apartheid, racist zoning and violence."

Fifth is to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of both states. Sixth, according to Khalidi, is the right of return, compensation and acknowledgment by Israel of its responsibility to refugees it drove from Palestine. "It is outrageous that Israel ignores U.N. Resolution 194 and says the 300,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon cannot return," he asserted, "while any Jew in the world can go to Israel.

"Oslo failed because it deferred every important issue," Khalidi maintained. "I would argue that if these measures are not accepted, this conflict could be endless, producing nothing but a wasteland."

Discussant Marc Ellis, who teaches at Baylor University, was pessimistic. "Look at the reality of the control of the occupied territories," he said. "The settlements won't be removed, that idea is finished. There won't be two states. The next 50 years will see a land that is unjustly shared and a struggle by the Palestinians for civil and equal rights."

When the Washington Report asked Professor Ellis to elaborate on his gloomy outlook, he said Israel is gambling that its U.S. patronage will leave it immune from ending the occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.

To the argument that there are, after all, 1.5 billion Muslims and at most 5 million Israeli Jews, Dr. Ellis replied: "Now you are making a rational argument. I am stating what Israel is counting on. Israel is a relentlessly expanding state and there is no power to meet it. The Palestinians can't continue to live as they are - a collision could be in the offing."

When asked how other world powers could help the Palestinians, Dr. Khalidi commented: "I don't foresee an apocalypse, but there must be intervention to halt the apartheid. …

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