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The Israel-Palestine ‘peace process’ that never produces peace: Minnesota has a role to play

REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Palestinians suffer violence all out of proportion to what is suffered by Israelis.

Americans who follow the news but don’t know this issue thoroughly must be befuddled as to why the endless Israel-Palestine “negotiations” never produce results in spite of the relentless chatter about how the United States and the two parties so badly want to find a “two-state solution” to the conflict. The five-year effort of Minnesota Break the Bonds (MNBBC) to get the State Board of Investment (SBI) to divest its Israel bonds sheds some light on the nature of the challenges faced by those who seek a solution to this decades old dispute.

Robert Kosuth

The thesis presented here is simply that the two powerful actors in this three-way entanglement — the U.S. and Israel — simply do not want any agreement with Palestinians if it undermines their real unstated goals in the region. For the United States that means the maintenance of their ability to project military power in the region in order to control crucial shipping lanes and oil supplies. For its part, Israel claims to be interested in peace, but only on its terms, which put colonizing land and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians far above any other concern. The evidence is simple and clear: Since Israel’s 1967 take-over of East Jerusalem and the West Bank there are now over half a million Jewish settlers where Palestinians used to live and can no longer live. Israel can get away with this because it gets billions of dollars, weapons and political cover from the United States.

None of this is to deny that acts of violence are sometimes directed against Israelis or Jews outside of Israel, as in the recent attacks in Paris. However, thanks to Israel’s massive firepower, financed and supplied by the U.S., Palestinians suffer violence all out of proportion to what is suffered by Israelis. In the 2014 Gaza bombing and invasion, for example, more than 2100 Gazans died, of whom 1,462 civilians; 495 of those were children and 253 women. On the Israeli side 72 soldiers and 7 civilians died, typical proportions in these conflicts.

Second, and more important, if the United States and Israel are so interested in peaceful negotiations, why do they constantly thwart any and every attempt by both Palestinians and the world community to bring the Palestine issue before the United Nations or International Criminal Court for resolution? It was widely reported that both U.N. representative Samantha Power along with Secretary of State John Kerry, if not President Barak Obama himself, lobbied nations on the Security Council to abstain so that the embarrassment of a U.S. veto could be avoided.

Unfortunately, it seems to be no easier to get Palestine issues addressed in Minnesota than it is at the U.N. or in Washington, D.C. Since 2009 MNBBC has been advocating for the divestment of the state’s millions of dollars in Israel bonds, unrestricted money which is used in occupied territories for a whole range of illegal purposes like building Jewish-only settlements, demolishing Palestinian homes, and construction of infrastructure to allow passage to and from Israel proper for Jewish settlers only.

The Fourth Geneva Convention (Article 49) prohibits all such activities. When Minnesota funds activities that violate an international treaty or convention that has been ratified by Congress, under the U.S. Constitution this constitutes a violation of U.S. law. Because the SBI knows that the money Israel gets from selling its bonds is used for purposes that violate international law, it is financially complicit in those violations.

On these grounds MNBBC brought a lawsuit against the SBI. In spite of the issues of international treaties and Geneva Conventions referred to above, the state court and appeals court saw fit to dismiss the case on the grounds that, among other reasons, the plaintiffs were merely in “a policy disagreement with the discretionary decisions made by the Legislature and the SBI.” In fact, it’s not that the state hasn’t or can’t do anything. The SBI has divested from companies in Sudan and Iran based on laws passed in the State Legislature. In 1985, acting on its own authority, the SBI established its own divestment policies for companies doing business in South Africa. Both the state and the US government can find reasons to do what they want to do and reasons to avoid doing what they don’t want to do.

It has become necessary to go directly to the people, the only real road to democracy. The next opportunity is to attend the March 4, 2015, SBI meeting in St. Paul. In the meantime, one can go here to sign a petition. Jettisoning Minnesota’s Israel bonds is a moral and political imperative. Not doing so would be nothing less than a violation of the public trust.

Robert Kosuth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He is the former director of the International Programs Office and Superior English as a Second Language Institute. Kosuth is active in various progressive organizations, most notably Minnesota Break the Bonds.


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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 02/02/2015 - 09:13 am.

    No mention…..

    of Hamas and other terrorist organizations that keep fanning the flames.

  2. Submitted by Paul Shambroom on 02/02/2015 - 09:49 am.

    It’s time to talk about this

    Someone will always point out terrorist acts, as if that somehow ends the conversation. It doesn’t. The next step is usually to label those who are troubled by Israeli policies (and US support for them) as anti-Semitic or haters of Israel. We are not.

  3. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 02/02/2015 - 12:59 pm.


    Do you know what the Israel-Palestinian situation doesn’t need? Moral and political imperatives. Or frivolous lawsuits. Or petitions.

    Seriously, unless you are willing to acknowledge that there is plenty of blame to go around and that 50-year old borders are not coming back, I question the commitment to peace. Fixing this is going to take a lot of compromise. Don’t see much of that here.

  4. Submitted by Neal Gendler on 02/02/2015 - 04:17 pm.


    I hate to dignify this with a response, but the writer, in his nearly one-sided view, is oblivious to the problem, which is pretty simple: You can’t make peace with those who don’t want it. The Palestinian Arabs have rejected every peace plan offered except the last one, in which then Prime Minister Olmert reportedly offered enormous concessions. To that one, PA President Abbas did not respond at all.

    Someone stated this all very well in recent weeks: Abbas wants to be the first president of a Palestinian Arab state, but not to be the Palestinian Arab president who signs a peace treaty with Israel. Hence his efforts through the United Nations. His legitimacy is questionable anyway: He’s in the 10th or 11th year of his four-year term, likely because polls show that if elections were held, Hamas would win.

    A nation can make peace with its enemies, provided the enemies’ goal is peace and coexistence. Peace can’t be made with those whose goal is your destruction. What matters is not what the PA and other Arabs say to the West in English but what they say to themselves in Arabic; with the Internet, it’s easy to discover that the two are opposite.

    The Israeli consensus is to end the occupation, and the March elections may reflect that. The question is whether the PA will agree to peace on any terms at all.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/02/2015 - 05:25 pm.

    So far

    all the terms offered to the Palestinians involve their giving up some of their land — they’re being asked to negotiate how much.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 02/03/2015 - 01:00 am.

      Their land

      I think the definition of “their land” is open to debate. Are we talking about 1967? 1948? 20 years ago? Today?

      Putting that aside, you are essentially correct. Any permanent solution is going to require the Palestinians negotiating away some definition of “their land.” There isn’t ever going to be a deal where the 1967 (or earlier) borders get restored. And the longer this drags out and the more Israeli settlements encroach those borders, the worse the deal is going to get. It may not be fair, but its the reality.

  6. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 02/02/2015 - 08:42 pm.

    Neal said…

    it best, “you can’t make peace with those who don’t want it.” The flames continue to be fanned by Hamas and the Iranians. The Palestinians continue to portray themselves as victims of the Israelis and the mainstream media in the US buys it when in fact they are victims of Hamas and other terrorist organizations.

  7. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/04/2015 - 08:27 am.

    We who share the aparthied of other people by funds, guns and


    “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”

    “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”…

    United Nations officials Navi Pillay and Richard Falk have labeled Israel’s actions as war crimes and crimes against humanity. Israel is in violation of Amendment1, 5,and 25″… Palestinian Chronicle by Mike Kulenbeck.

    Nice Minnesota holds the bonds and Is So Bonded to the acts that will be tried in the International Criminal Court now that Palestinian leaders have been granted membership.

    Bonds support the death of so many innocents: children, families, homes and we add military hardware… so what else do we fund in our name?

    I am constantly amazed at the response to violence when it is there to view and so documented and violence begets violence if it be children with stones and then a gun to the head…is that we indirectly support?…at least read about it before we totally become human drones beyond credibility?

    Religion is not the issue here, we who have Jewish roots…but governments are the issue here…those leaders that destroy or ignore suppression and no one dares speak up? Sad indeed

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 02/04/2015 - 03:14 pm.

      Sad indeed

      What is truly sad is citing 9-11 conspiracy theorists like Richard Falk. UN Ambassador Susan Rice had this to say Falk:

      Its one thing to waste your time on the hopeless cause of trying to get Minnesota to divest from Israel. When you have moved into the realm of noxious crackpots like Falk, you have actually become counterproductive.

  8. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/05/2015 - 07:20 am.

    Power corrupts whomever is in power and Susan is a hard one…

    Susan Rice has been labeled by world press as a one of the three “Warring Graces” stirring the pot for war; stirring the pot for ‘intervention” as a means of securing peace on the global scene?

    Samantha Powers and a third figure…guess who, will lead us into endless confrontations with sacrificing more of our youth.

    Labels never define but simplify a point-of-view…whether it be Susan Rice on Falk, or McCain’s “scumbag “term on Medea Benjamin and Code Pink ( let it all hang out McCain?) or the “Three Warring Graces” labeled by world press.

    Every one has a different view and we either survive or suffer from the choice of our power leaders or their attendant power brokers… but none of the common or uncommon men in our society can change the power drive of a few over the many I suppose.

    We took a beating with the Bush empire and seems to be still around with the hawk like birds delegated; still holding power?

    Sad indeed is the story… when peace is not seriously on the table whatever words we use…enough already, cheers…

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 02/05/2015 - 09:33 am.

      Warring graces

      I was really surprised to hear that the “world press” had labeled Susan Rice as such. I googled that term, and it turns out that the “world press” in this case means a guy named Pepe Escobar who writes for something called the Asia Times Online.

      Like Mr. Falk, Mr. Escobar is also a 9-11 truth conspiracy theorist. That is, he believes that the WTC buildings were not destroyed by airplanes, but instead blown up by our own government. To hold such a belief requires ignoring science and overwhelming evidence, as well as a fair amount of outright lying. Accordingly, Mr. Escobar has as much credibility as Mr. Falk. I don’t think too many in the legitimate world press would publish something as sexist and offensive as his characterization of these three powerful women.

      You talk about peace being seriously on the table. But the people you cite and the author of this piece are not serious about peace. Achieving peace in a complicated situation like this requires a real understanding of the issues involved and actual compromise. It will not come about from bombast and broad condemnations.

  9. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/05/2015 - 11:16 am.


    …will not come about “by bombast and broad condemnations”.

    I could agree on that statement as a broad generality, since those words appear to embrace your comments, my comments and those others in the greater, global communities , whomever…like all those other voices beyond?

    Yes sir, have a good day and appreciate the response whatever be its possible limitations?

  10. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/06/2015 - 08:16 am.

    A sidebar of sorts…

    … on Bibi-attitudes; one unwarranted power grab with the invitation of Prime Minister Netanyahu by House speaker Boehner’s invite to speak to congress:

    The shunning of President Obama in the process is an error that may divest more than some bonds but a general federal pull back of excessive funding and military hardware etc on a grander scale, who knows?

    Even Bibi is losing his power among his own people, and if congress wakes up they may view such a speaker as bypassing respect for the nation, our nation and see Bibi speaking a mere ‘mooning’ at the podium and may congress walk out.

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