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In the Mideast, Coexisting Without Walls

Inside Israel, citizens protest the state’s apartheid policies. Outside Israel, numbers of Jews protest as do others. This op-ed is from COEXIST, people who believe that lasting peace can only be sustained when economic, social, and environmental justice have been achieved. If you’ve written a news article, please submit it. Thanks.

by Pippa Bartolotti, 18 February, 2011

In 2006 an election certified as free and fair by international observers was won by Hamas. So Israel sealed off the tiny area of Gaza, already home to 1.5 million refugees from previous conflicts, from the world. All exports and imports are currently banned and the entire population is imprisoned and almost permanently under fire.

Sewing thread is on the list of banned items to Gaza. Whilst it is clear that sewing thread is not an intrinsic ingredient to bomb making -- it becomes clear that the traditional crafts of Palestinians are a threat both culturally and psychologically. Suffocating the culture of Palestinians is part of the long-term plan to force the people into mute insignificance in their own land.

Israel employs state force against even mild forms of dissent. Peaceful protests against the annexation wall are being broken up with shock grenades, teargas beatings, shootings, and killings. Intimidatory arrests are often followed by torture, even of children, and long prison sentences. More than 10,000 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons, many without fair trials.

In May 2010 the Freedom Flotilla was attacked under cover of darkness. Nine civilians were killed. Some were executed by close range shots to the head. Others were riddled with bullets. Dozens more were injured. The Israeli commandos who committed these atrocities received public praise and state medals from their Prime Minister.

Inside Israel, Jewish protests against the state’s apartheid policies are often prevented or put down by internal security forces. Outside Israel, numbers of Jews protest as do others:
_ The Methodist Church in Britain has recently decided to divest from Israeli companies operating in the West Bank
_ Unions in Belgium, Spain, France, Norway, England, and Australia are backing the Boycott Divestment Sanctions campaign
_ 116 governments have already recognized Palestine as a sovereign state

The UN HRC Resolution calls for the Immediate Lifting of Gaza Siege. To see its full text click here .

With thanks to Noam Chomsky, Hopes and Prospects, and Grant Morgan at

The tyrant exists only in the imagination of his subjects -- Tamim Al-Barghouti

The people on the streets in Libya, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia are not looking for palaces and wealth. They are marching for the universal values of justice and human rights; the right not to be tortured by their own police; the right to freedom of expression; dignity and the right to choose their own leaders fair and square.

The price of food is rising. $2 dollars a day is the average Egyptian income. In Gaza where there is over 60% unemployment there is barely any money at all.

Egypt receives the second highest monetary handout, after Israel, from the US. Without the compliance of Egypt the Palestinians could not be kept under siege. The US conspires with the UN to announce the illegality of Israeli settlements, bombings, massacres, siege, and destruction, yet ensures that each of these things can happen by funding them all.

Israel wants the world to forget that the right of millions of Palestinian refugees to return to the place from which they fled is enshrined in international law. The right of return is a Right. They do not need permission.

JJS: How politicians get away with funding apartheid is one reason why one might want to hold subsidies in general as suspect. To correct Congress’ choices, perhaps we should earmark certain taxes for certain policies, such as levying the income tax or charging “Citizenship Dues” to finance only war. And/or, put the budget on the ballot so citizens can say yeah or nay to major programs. Or even go so far as to return most public revenue to citizens as a dividend and let citizens pay for the services they want (if arming foreign regimes is somehow a service to ordinary Americans).

While money does worsen disputes, the thing in dispute lies deeper. Sure, people want money but even more do we all want land.

Individuals no longer kill each other over claims on land. Society has evolved to the point where people pay for land. Can groups of individuals -- ethnic groups, religious groups, racial groups, lifestyle groups -- also learn to settle claims on land by not killing each other but by paying for land?

Presently, when we pay for land, we pay the wrong person. We pay the owner who is vacating the land. (If he goes away permanently, we pay the full price; if he stays away but retains title, we lease the land and pay a smaller sum but regularly -- often more than the full price). But a lone owner creates neither land nor its value.

Who should we pay instead? To own land, we should pay our neighbors, those who respect our claim to the land and keep off it. Similarly, they would pay you for being responsible enough to not trespass on their land. Thus, each would pay all and each would get a payment from all. It’s the principle of Mutual Compensation.

In practice, residents would pay land dues or land taxes into the public treasury and get rent shares or a “Citizens Dividend” back. What does this geonomic policy have to do with settling disputes in hotspots and bringing peace to places like Palestine? Everything.

If you’re Palestinian, living where land values are low, you’d pay small land dues into the bi-national treasury but the dividend you’d get back would easily double your $2/day income. If you’re Israeli, living where site values are high, you’d pay in relatively higher land dues and get back relatively smaller dividends. But, that’s the way it should be, and for once the downtrodden could catch a break.

The huge upside is that sharing creates community (the root of this word in Latin means “share”). And sharing land by sharing her value creates an even stronger sense of community identity. Sharing ground rent is a way to forge a larger identity, one of belonging to, say, a broad region, even to the whole human race.

When people share an identity, then they grow more tolerant of one another and it becomes less difficult to live in peace. If you’ll pardon the pun, for peace on earth, we all need a piece of earth, and an equal share of her worth.

But before we go, consider the other main component of geonomics -- taxation. If the bi-national authority has no power to tax willy-nilly but may merely recover rents and disburse them equally, it can’t financially treat some as first-class citizens, others as second-class. Then people might rise up in their sense of self-worth, a key ingredient to creating justice for one’s self and one’s society.

In the past, some Jews have made discoveries that set the course of civilization: Jesus, Marx, Einstein, Woody Allen, et al. May a modern Israeli discover geonomics and guide humanity to a solution for ethnic conflicts over land.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Resource Rights and Human Rights

Economic Rights In a Nutshell

US outspends everyone on arms, funding enemies, too

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