Member of Faculty Peace Group to Discuss Visit to the Occupied Territories, International Community’s Role in Resolving a Conflict at an Impasse.

Event: Lecture and Slide Presentation: Prospects for Peace in Israel/Palestine
Date: Thursday, July 14th, 2003
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: Friends Meeting Hall, 4312 SE Stark St

On Thursday, July 17th, at 7:30 p.m. at the Friends Meeting Hall (4312 S.E. Stark Street, Southeast Portland), local peace activist William Seaman will be reporting on his recent delegation visit to Israel/Palestine. Admission is free. Seaman traveled to Israel/Palestine as part of a delegation organized by Faculty for Israeli Palestinian Peace. "We met with many key players involved in this conflict, including one of the Israeli Knesset’s very few Arab members, the former Israeli Intelligence Chief, Shlomo Gazit, and with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat," said Seaman, "and we traveled through the West Bank and Gaza to get a feeling for the character of the occupation." Seaman said that he is persuaded that without international involvement, the occupation will not end, the resistance will continue and the conflict will only get worse.

"The Israeli government’s support for the illegal settlements, and the new project of building a so-called ‘separation wall’, are devastating Palestinian communities," said Seaman, "and since the US tax-payers are footing the bill, we must accept responsibility for ending this illegal occupation." Seaman believes that a shift in US policy towards the illegal settlements could bring the occupation to an end very quickly. "Many, many Israelis expect and are happy to give up the settlements, and indeed view the more militant settlers as an obstacle to peace," said Seaman. "Unfortunately, the government of Israel has been pushing to keep and eventually annex large areas of the occupied territories and there is simply not enough political engagement by the Israeli peace movement to change that."

Seaman said that in spite of Israel’s image as the only democracy in the Middle East, he believes there are very significant limitations that have taken a heavy toll on grass roots organizing among Israelis. "Of course the first limitation has to do with the discrimination against Israel’s very significant non-Jewish population, which now stands at around 20%," said Seaman, "but Israelis have also begun to raise questions about the role of military institutions in the government." Seaman said that they spoke with several Israelis who expressed concern with the affects of having former career military men, Barak and Sharon being the most noteworthy, as Prime Ministers. "We know that this can be a problem from our experience with the military dictatorships of Central and South America," said Seaman, "and the Israelis are beginning to wake up to the fact that this may also be a problem for them." Seaman said that this and other factors were making it virtually impossible for an Israeli peace movement, or even the Labor Party, to build enough support domestically to end the occupation.

In spite of this grim assessment, Seaman remained hopeful. "I spoke with many Israelis and Palestinians who expressed the same hope for an end to the occupation and the need for Israelis to recognize the terrible injustice done to the Palestinian people," said Seaman. "The primary obstacle to beginning the process of reconciliation and moving towards peaceful coexistence is the massive US support for the policies of leaders like Sharon and Barak." Seaman said that he hoped the growing Palestinian solidarity community would continue to build its relations with Israelis that are working to end the occupation. "Such a coalition will have the strength to force the changes here in the US and in Israel that will finally bring a measure of justice for the Palestinians and peace to this region."

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