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People who follow the seemingly endless conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine have come to expect that Arabs will defend Arab behavior, and Jews will justify Israeli actions. (For an official Jewish justification of Israel’s current policy toward Palestinians, please turn to page 6 of the January 2001 print edition of Metro Lutheran.)
It is not usual to hear a Jewish leader speak out for Palestinian justice. In fact, it’s rare. That’s why heads turn and ears perk up when Edmund R. (“Ned”) Hanauer takes the podium.
Hanauer is director of Search for Justice and Equality in Palestine/Israel. The Fram-ingham, Massachusetts, organization seeks a fair deal for both sides in the presently raging conflict in Israel and Palestine, but believes the deck is currently stacked against the Palestinians.
Hanauer was in the Twin Cities November 30 and December 1, speaking to academic, civic, and faith-based groups. In a conversation with the editor of Metro Lutheran, at the Minnesota Church Center in Minneapolis, Hanauer said that Israel will never be truly secure until Palestinians receive just treatment.
He said, “As an American Jew I’m convinced that a policy supporting Palestinian rights would support Israeli rights as well.”
Hanauer claims that Israel is violating 29 of 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Hu-man Rights, created in 1948 by the United Nations.
He said, “I’m telling people that a big part of the current problem is the United States’ policy that supports Israel indiscriminately. I’m not the only American Jew talking this way. There are 300 American rabbis who have committed themselves to support a just peace.”
Hanauer is convinced that the U.S. media slants its treatment of the issue, adding to the problem. He argues the U.S. government gives one-sided support to Israel, at the expense of the Palestinians “because its policy is skewed by the Israel lobby, which is enormously influential in Washington, D.C.” And, he adds, “Some Christian Zionists, including people who believe biblical prophecy will somehow be fulfilled if the Jews take back the country and rebuild the Jerusalem Temple, for example, are pressing to convince American lawmakers to give Israel whatever they want.”
Other reasons the U.S. supports Israel at the expense of the Palestinians, he believes, are that there’s a weapons market the U.S. likes to feed; there is a belief that Israel keeps the Arab world at bay; there is a degree of cynicism and a pandering after votes by politicians; and, there’s also some prejudice against Arabs. All of these factors, Hanauer believes, help shape American Middle East policy.
The question naturally arises: Is it realistic to believe Israel and the Palestinians can ever find common ground? Hanauer’s answer is immediate. “I think it is realistic. Look how enemies in South Africa found common ground. Apartheid suddenly ended. It took pressure on the White government and its atrocious policies to accomplish it, but people of goodwill around the world finally agreed together it had to happen. But the U.S. government has never told Israel, ‘Change your behavior or we’ll cut off the money supply.’”
Hanauer doesn’t view the fact that the West Bank and Gaza are physically cut off from one another to be an insurmountable obstacle. “The Oslo Accord proposed three or four land routes connecting both areas,” he says. “Israel only provided one. In peacetime, this should be workable.”
He is convinced that the Palestinians have every right to be angry about Israeli settlements in the West Bank. “They are clearly illegal,” he says, “but Israel won’t even put that issue on the table. Instead, Israel has built safe bypass roads for settlers to go to and from Israel. And Israel controls the water.”
Hanauer has his own perspective for explaining the issue of territorial control. “Palestinians want 22% of the territory for 6 million people; that’s half the population of Palestine and Israel combined.”
Nor is Search’s director overly concerned about finding a solution to control of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. “If the other issues are settled,” he says, “that one should be solvable. Maybe an international supervisory team and shared sovereignty would be the answer.”
What do American Jews think of Hanauer’s activity? “The majority of the Jewish community don’t appreciate what I’m doing,” he admits.
So why does he do it?
“I changed my mind about Israel and the Palestinians while I was in college. I met some Arabs. I began to listen to their point of view, and to rethink what Jews typically say and believe about Palestine. I finally realized that the act of creating the state of Israel was a colonialist project.”
In a June 3 letter to the editor of the New York Times, Hanauer wrote, “As a ‘Jewish state,’ Israel recruits affluent Jews from the United States and elsewhere, while excluding indigenous Palestinians, several hundred thousand of whom fled in 1948, either forced out by Israeli troops or fleeing out of fear of expulsion. Such undemocratic behavior will not lead to a viable, realistic peace.”
What’s needed, he concluded, is justice for Palestinians.
Views like these make Hanauer a lonely, some might even say foolhardy-sounding, voice. Some who listen to his message might think of Don Quixote, tilting at windmills.
But for others of his listeners, John the Baptizer, who took on the Jewish power structure of his day, comes to mind.
For more information about Search for Justice and Equality in Palestine/Israel, write to P.O. Box 3452, Framingham, MA 01705-3452, E-mail, or go to