Progressive Writers Bloc

The Holy Land: Part I

By Bill Becker

On June 16, 2004, a group of 27 former diplomats and military commanders issued a call for the defeat of President George W. Bush in November. The men and women of Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change are not bleeding heart, terrorist-appeasing wimps--rather, they are experts who "believe that current Administration policies have failed in the primary responsibilities of preserving national security and providing world leadership. Serious issues are at stake. We need a change."

One of those "serious issues" is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict:

"The United States suffers from close identification with autocratic regimes in the Muslim world, and from the perception of unquestioning support for the policies and actions of the present Israeli Government. To enhance credibility with Islamic peoples we must pursue courageous, energetic and balanced efforts to establish peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and policies that encourage responsible democratic reforms."

The DMCC understands what the vast majority of the American people do not:

  • President Bush has utterly failed to provide crucial leadership toward solving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

  • Failure to broker a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians virtually guarantees future terrorism against U.S. citizens on our soil.

  • Israeli and U.S. assertions to the contrary, there are credible avenues toward a settlement of the conflict that will minimize that loss of life on both sides. Israel does have a partner with whom to negotiate a just peace, but meaningful negotiations cannot take place without unwavering U.S. support.

First, in his latest meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, President Bush agreed to Sharon's demand that Israel will keep some (illegal) settlements in the West Bank as a reward for Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The president thus abandoned the founding precept of decades of U.S. efforts to broker a peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Leading American clerics agree that the president's new approach is politically, strategically, and morally untenable.

  • I firmly believe that there will be no just or lasting peace for either Palestine or Israel without the engagement of both parties in that process. Your endorsement of Prime Minister Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan and support for his positions on the vital issues of borders, settlements and refugees outside of the context of negotiations is a serious departure from America's traditional view that a resolution of these issues must be negotiated. I fear that your commitment threatens the renewal of negotiations in which Israelis and Palestinians can accommodate each others' vital interests without coercion or imposition. Turning away from meaningful negotiations will undermine hope, discourage moderate Palestinian voices, and threaten further violence. A retreat from strong, even handed American diplomacy in this conflict also jeopardizes America's struggle against terrorism. - The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church, USA

  • With deep commitment to the constructive role that the United States can play in the Middle East, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) urges you to reconsider giving your support to ill-considered policies advocated by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. We urge you to reclaim your role as a leader capable of using the influence of the United States to pressure Palestinian and Israeli leaders to turn from violence and re-engage in the hard work of moving toward a just peace. - Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

  • In accepting Israeli-created "facts-on-the-ground," which were established in defiance of long standing US policy regarding Israeli settlements and the right of return, the United States has set a worrying precedent that will make it extremely difficult to create a viable, independent Palestinian state, especially if the West Bank settlements are enlarged and the security wall proceeds as planned. The combined pressures of expanding settlements, prolonged occupation, the security wall, and general insecurity could lead in time to de facto "transfer" of much of the Palestinian population. For those who remain, it will yield a life of desperation; and for many it will feed the fires of resistance. - Bishop Wilton D. Gregory Bishop of Belleville, President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Second, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a never-ending wellspring for anti-American sentiment among Muslim youth. It is perhaps the most effective tool imaginable for recruiting anti-American militants for al Queda and its increasingly numerous imitators. Col. Daniel Smith, USA, (Ret.) makes the point:

"President Bush (April 14, 2004): 'I welcome the disengagement plan prepared by the Government of Israel, under which Israel would withdraw certain military installations and all settlements from Gaza and withdraw certain military installations and settlements in the West Bank…. '

"With this April 14, 2004, statement, President Bush threw the full weight of the United States government against any impartial settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. ..."

"... as the intifada continued into autumn 2003, new doubts about Israeli tactics were aired within Israel from unexpected quarters. In late October, General Moshe Yaalon, Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff, told reporters that the restrictions then in effect on freedom of movement by Palestinians were so harsh that, by increasing anti-Israeli sentiment, they were strengthening the appeal of terrorist organizations and undercutting Israel's strategic interests. ... One [former security chief] noted that 'terror is not thwarted with bombs or helicopters' ..."

Col. Smith concludes:

"As expressed by Ambassador Perry, the U.S. may 'be working towards a Middle East in which America and Israel dominate the region militarily, forcing the Arab and other Muslim states to conform to our image of what they ought to be.' Such an outcome will no more bring peace than whistling in the dark by the cemetery will ward off ghosts. It is a recipe for perpetual war and unending terror."

I will address avenues toward peace in Part II.

See our web site at

Contact Information
Website designed by DavidChandler