Instead of introducing a law to urge Israelis and Palestinians to make peace and avoid violence, Illinois Legislators State Sen. Ira Silverstein and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz introduced a law to strip Americans of their Constitutional Rights of Free Speech and to defend Israel’s extremist policies including its discrimination against Christians and Muslims, the theft of civilian lands and the violations of basic human rights, which fuels the conflict and makes peace less likely
By Ray Hanania
State Senator Ira Silverstein and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, both of Illinois, could have introduced a resolution urging Palestinians and Israelis to sign a peace accord that recognizes two-states, shares Jerusalem and ends the conflict.
Instead, Silverstein and Feigenhotz introduced a pernicious and vicious bill that punishes Americans for criticizing Israel, a foreign country, and specifically prohibits state pension agencies from providing investments and loans, as they commonly do, to any institution that boycotts Israel.
Silverstein and Feigenholtz could have said they stand up for justice and oppose the oppression of Christians in the Middle East.
Instead, their legislation says they support the oppression of Christians in the Middle East and Israel’s policies of stealing lands, homes and property from Christians around the “Christian triangle” including Bethlehem in occupied Palestine, and also the confiscation of lands and properties from other non-Jewish civilians.
Silverstein and Feigenholtz could have sent a strong message of peace, reinforcing the need for Israel and Palestine to return to the negotiating table with honesty and a real commitment to achieving a two-state solution.
Instead, Silverstein and Feigenholtz decided it is better to play partisan politics, to appeal to the extremism and the growing hatred in the American Jewish community against Christians and Muslims in Palestine and to support the administration of extremist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The peace process has been a complicated and difficult road over the years, and a lot of that has to do with Israel’s refusal to concede land in exchange for peace.
The stronger Israel has become, the less likely it has been to make peace. Israel’s extremist government and most of its officials want to keep all of the land that was occupied in 1967. They just don’t want the Christians and Muslims who come with that occupation, so they have engaged in a 48-year battle to push them out of occupied Palestine to have the country all to themselves.
The rejection of peace began in 1995 when a follower of Netanyahu assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to prevent the peace process from succeeding.
In the wake of Rabin’s murder, Netanyahu and his growing dark alliance of racist haters have done everything to prevent peace.
In response, Palestinians and supporters of peace turned to the BDS movement — boycott, divestment, sanctions. The BDS movement targeted the growing and illegal settlements Israel has established for “Jews only” in the West Bank and around occupied Jerusalem.
Instead of taking steps to reinforce peace and end the violence, Israel has been taking lands from civilians, provoking anger and frustration and violating human rights by continuing its discrimination against Christian and Muslim civilians.
And each time a frustrated and provoked Christian or Muslim lost their control and allowed their anger and frustration to push them into an act of resistance and violence, Israel has used that as justification to confiscate more lands and oppress more civilians.
Now, Israel is engaged in a strategy, using funds from pro-Israel extremist Sheldon Adelson, to oppose the BDS movement. And Israel is bullying legislators to also curtail American Constitutional Rights of Free Speech to protect Israel and allow Israel to continue its violent policies without being challenged by American citizens.
Maybe it’s time for moderates who support the peace process to accept the futility of the peace process and hasten the destruction Israel. Maybe we should recognize that Silverstein and Feigenholtz do not want peace and oppose the goal of two-states. Maybe we must accept the BDS Movement, not just as a protest against the illegal settlements but also as a protest against Israel itself.
Many moderates who supported peace distinguished between boycotting the illegal settlements and boycotting Israel. For years, there was a debate among pro-peace activists about BDS, with those (who only support boycotting the settlements, the theft of land and boycotting illegal settler products) arguing that we should not boycott Israel itself, since we are engaged in a peace process.
But Israel has made the peace process a sham. Pro-Israel extremists, opponents of peace and supporters of violence, like Silverstein and Feigenholtz, have helped to further undermine the peace process and the pro-peace movement.
Silverstein and Feigenholtz will lie and claim they don’t support violence, yet they have never uttered one word to denounce the growing apartheid and discrimination in Israel that separates Jews and non-Jews and that imposes severe discriminatory policies on Israeli “citizens” who are Christian and Muslim.
My Christian Palestinian relatives who are “Israeli citizens” are among those who suffer every day, denied basic services from the government, and harassed because of their religion and race by Israel. Their land rights are undermined. Their property has been stolen, and Israel punishes any of them who challenge Israel’s oppressive foreign policies and apartheid-like societal policies.
Apparently, Israel doesn’t want peace. It wants the land. It wants the non-Jews cleansed. It was purity, not peace.
Thanks to people like Silverstein and Feigenholtz, there really is no difference between boycotting the illegal settlements and boycotting Israel. Israel has become the illegal settlement, the oppressor of human rights, and the terrorist militant attacking Christians and Muslims.
Thanks, Sen. Ira Silvertsien and Rep. Feigenholtz for destroying the peace process. I hope you can live with what you have done.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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