Ballot question needed because Palestinians suffer in Israel

For Jamaica Plain fans of the great debate over Israel/Palestine, it’s time to get out the popcorn. One JP resident, Gordon Dale, was mightily disgruntled to find a ballot question on this subject confronting him on Nov. 2 (letters, JP Gazette, Nov. 19). He apparently laid a steaming “no” on the non-binding referendum to instruct our state reps to call on the federal government “to support the right of all people, including non-Jewish Palestinian citizens of Israel, to live free from laws that give more rights to people of one religion than another.” Offended as he was, Mr. Dale at least deserves credit for helping to bring this issue home to Jamaica Plain.

Discussion of Palestinian rights is often stifled in the US, so it is interesting that Mr. Dale drew attention to efforts by Massachusetts Residents for International Human Rights (MRIHR) to address the plight of Palestinians in Israel.

I agree that the question may have been confusing for voters who believe that all residents of Israel enjoy equal civil rights. But the reality is that Palestinians (who are mostly Muslim) have been systematically driven out of much of Israel in a decades-long state-supported program of displacement. Intolerance for the Arab population within most of Israel has been clear since the establishment of the Jewish state. Palestinians are detained and harassed by Israeli authorities and are segregated in ways that make our own Jim Crow legacy look like playground heckling.

Horrifically, tens of thousands of Palestinians have been relocated to gigantic refugee camps within Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. There, behind a giant concrete and barbed wire “wall of separation,” living conditions are dire, as Israel severely restricts the importation of basic human needs like food and medicine. This disregard for human rights has been harshly criticized by the UN, as well as by dozens of humanitarian non-governmental organizations around the world and by both Jewish and Arab groups within Israel.

The epic battle for homeland in the Middle East and the many tragic accounts of Jews who have lost their lives to murderously irate Arabs are well documented. But, until recently, the ugly truth—that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been decimated and forcibly expelled from Israel because of their culture and religion— has been absent from mainstream US dialog.

The persecution of Palestinians continues today. Palestinian lands are being systematically confiscated to make way for Jewish settlements. Israel defies the UN as well as the Geneva Conventions in its collective punishment of Palestinians; and Israeli leaders mock our US administration’s attempts to bring peace and justice to Israel/Palestine.

Mr. Dale complained that, had he known about the question in advance, he would have done some voter education on the issue. He can relax; there are millions of Arab-hating Americans waving his banner every day from Main Street to Capitol Hill.

Stunning examples of injustice can be found throughout the Middle East. On Nov. 2 we had a chance to utter a squeak of support for human rights in one particularly troubled arena.

Paul Normandia
Jamaica Plain

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