Marilyn Garson: Resolution 2334 doesn't make peace more difficult. The Occupation does.

A Palestinian boy, who lives in a container as a temporary replacement for his destroyed house, jumps over a flooded ...
SUHAIB SALEM/REUTERS

A Palestinian boy, who lives in a container as a temporary replacement for his destroyed house, jumps over a flooded path on a rainy day in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.

OPINION: Give me a moment to appreciate Dov Bing and Colin Rubenstein's comment (UN resolution only makes settlement issue harder to resolve, February 15), before I disagree. I treasure the respectful disagreement that goes on within New Zealand's Jewish community, in a debate that can help to inform national policy.

I support Israel, while I oppose its expansion on to land that does not belong to it.  As Ian Black wrote in The Guardian in 2013, "Building settlements means that one side is steadily eating the pizza while negotiations are continuing on how to divide it up."    

I cannot agree with Bing and Rubenstein that resolution 2334 makes peace harder. I don't think theirs is the right basis for evaluation, because there is no peacemaking to impede. Peace will be made in dignified discussion between two peoples, and there has been none of that for a while.  

Conflict maintenance prevails. On the maintenance of this conflict, my opinion is well informed.

READ MORE: Dov Bing and Colin Rubenstein: UN resolution only makes settlement issue harder to resolve

I lived in Gaza 2011-2015, as the economic director of Mercy Corps and the business and livelihoods consultant to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  My teams consisted of bilingual Gazan university graduates, of the same age as my Israeli niece. These young parents composed careful explanations after each war, so that their children would not grow up hating Israelis. I am very, very certain that none of them has ever fired a rocket – but they have lived behind a wall for 10 long years. When wars erupt, they and their children are locked in beneath the bombs.

Why am I talking about Gaza rather than the West Bank? Because this is a single Occupation in three parts, and it will require a single peace to end it. Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank are parts of the same state of Palestine, which is recognised by more than 130 countries. The Occupation of Palestine's territory will be 50 years old this year.   

And we have to talk about the last war, because people are already talking about the next one. In the past week alone, a retired Israeli general said that the country should expect war in the northern spring, and the Education Minister warned that the next war will continue until Israel wins a clear victory, not a draw.  

Israel's defence minister is quoted as saying, "Until the other side cries gevalt [gives up], we're not stopping."  

For me, the purpose of Resolution 2334 lies precisely in the "internationalizing" effect that Bing and Rubenstein oppose. I make no effort to review the text's historical continuity. There are compelling inquiries buried in the historic details of this multi-factual mess, but no solutions. Pick a year, and people will disagree about what happened and where justice lies. Now is not the moment to do that.

Instead, it is the appropriate, urgent task of diplomacy to internationalize, to arrest the momentum that inclines everyone to the next war.  And the war after that.

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Genuine peacemaking would be preferable, but outsiders will not bring it about. Only the participants can resolve to make peace. Sadly, both Israelis and Palestinians are at present led by men who seem hellbent on avoiding peace for as long as they are allowed to do so.

I listened hard from Gaza, and I didn't hear any leader challenge either community to form a difficult partnership with the other; knowing that the others hold just as dearly to a different history and interpretation of justice. Far from it. I heard the ranting of bellicose men, for whom the risks of another war were always easier to rationalise than the risks of compromise.

We, outsiders, cannot make them want peace.  Until they are replaced by leaders who do, we outsiders must invoke the laws, uphold the rights, insist on the accountability of power, and strengthen the protection of endangered civilians. And, yes, write imperfect resolutions, raise the cost of warfare and reward restraint, and keep trying to find regional or creative solutions.   

Bing and Rubenstein downplay the value of the international temptation to "do something" in the short term. With respect, I believe that many civilians, living and raising children under Occupation and between wars, disagree.  Until there are leaders with a longer term vision; I, too, would like us to do more, not less.

Murray McCully, please do more. Build the coalition that will bring more pressure to bear on leaders who seem unwilling to help themselves. Plenty of Jewish and Israeli voices agree: it's not resolution 2334 but the Occupation which makes peace more difficult.  

And please, Minister McCully, restore Gaza to every discussion of Palestine. There will be no solution without it. The two millionth Gazan, baby Waleed Shaath, was born in Rafah on October 12, 2016.  Waleed has never fired a rocket.  If he grows up behind that loathsome wall, I fear that he may want to.

Marilyn Garson recently returned to New Zealand.  From 1998-2015, she worked in economic development in the Gaza Strip (2011-2015), Afghanistan (2005-2010) and elsewhere.  

 - The Dominion Post

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