In the same theme as my recent U.S. – Mexico Border issue, I look at Israel and Palestine. While I stand on firm ground taking my country to task, I realize that I am on much less solid footing when I take on Israel, as a non Jewish American. But I am not the kind of person who allows someone to stop me from speaking my mind because they might label me as anti-Semitic . I am a supporter of Israel, and while, as an atheist, I find Judaism as silly as any other religion, I vigorously support the rights of Jews and Muslims to follow their own faiths.
What I have a problem with is injustice. So having said that, on to the story.
A long time ago, the land of Palestine belonged to many people, and many peoples. According to tradition, God gave most of it to a guy and all his descendants, forever. Abraham. The problem is both groups who claim it as their land today claim Abraham as their father. One side says the other side is the illegitimate linage thru a hand maid (see Margaret Atwood), the other, so called illegitimate side, says, “Hooey!” those old traditions got back on both sides before written language came to either group. what is not disputed by most historians is that both groups lived in relative peace, that is to say in as much peace as the warring factions of semi cave men in Europe at the time, lived in peace. Whether the Children of Israel (Israel (Jacob) was the legitimate descendant of Abraham, according to the Jewish tradition) wondered down into Egypt for food and stayed for 400 years and came back to find their beloved Palestine overrun by folks God told them to kill or not is a little less clear, and really, in spite of this imaginary guy’s commandments, not to the point.
The point is, for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, lots of folks lived in Palestine, lots of Jews, lots of Muslims, and in much of that time, lots of Jews and Muslims migrated to Europe and both became major civilizing influences on the barbarians roaming over modern day France, England, Spain Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and to much less extent over Russia and Scandinavia. The Moors, as Muslims were called then, taught us to count, to write, to use the scientific method, and so much more. eventually, the barbarians drove out most of the civilized moors (who, being the powerful occupiers, were no saints). Somehow, most of the Jews stayed behind, but then in 1492, while Columbus was “discovering a not lost continent, the Catholic church, with much popular support, began to destroy the European Jews. Of course when the protestant movement got going, one of the things they kept was the hatred for Jews. Finally, 450 years later, Hitler’s overreach of Jew hating finally brought many Europeans to their senses somewhat and they realized you could hate Jews, you could make unpleasant and unjust laws against them, but really couldn’t slaughter them like livestock.
But, unlike the legend I was told by my good Christian westerners when I was growing up, European and American guilt did not carve out the state of Israel as a gift to the Jews. After WWII, there was a movement of Jews to Palestine, somewhat supported, at times, by European powers. This migration, and its holocaust origins, along with the carving up of the middle east and Africa by European powers, created much of the problems of the modern middle east. When Israel managed to carve out a country for itself in 1948, it primarily defeated England, not the Arab countries. But once established, it took a dim view of the Muslims living within its borders. A good parallel would be the attitudes of American whites as they took over more and more of the lands of native Americans. the Muslims were more or less exiled into the no mans land that is today’s west bank. then, in 1967, Israel, defeated an allied Arab army and took over even more land that wasn’t theirs. They not only occupied the territories, they exported the most valuable resource in the region, water, to Israel, and to the Jewish settlers and left the Palestinians with a few liters of water per day per person
So for the past 40-50 years, most of Palestine has been divided into a colonial/apartheid system, much as the old south in America, and the recent past of South Africa, except instead of black and white, it has been Jews and Arabs. This has led to an environment where anyone proposing to throw off the tyranny of Israel tends to get a lot of support with the common man in Palestine. Matters have not been helped by the corruption that is endemic with new quasi govt/resistance organizations. the PLO and the PA have both done much to earn the hatred of the people they claim to represent. so when the Gaza Strip fell into the hands of Hamas, Israel, America, Europe, the Arab countries, and the old guard in the wet bank all have a lot of blame to share. At this point, it is hard to know how to unwind the tangle, but it is important to remember, when it comes to the Palestinians:
It’s their country.
Given that Hamas is an evil terrorist organization, given that in the name of defending the rights of the Palestinians, it has probably contributed to any unneeded deaths, considering that its avowed destruction of Israel (about as real of a threat as Castro or Chavez’s threats to destroy America) have shown it to be an unreasonable, unreliable partner for peace with Israel, one still has to figure that Israel, like the U.S. in so many of its international squabbles, has the greater responsibility, as the occupier and oppressor for generations, as well as the rich and powerful and well armed side of the equation, has the burden to figure out how to defend itself, how to defend the average citizen of Gaza, and has to come up with a viable plan to create a two state solution equitable and sustainable for all concerned. Besides, declaring that it is for a free and independent state of Palestine, and besides drawing a map that lets Gaza and the west bank become truly contiguous, and besides restoring proper water rights, Israel, needs to look at being compassionate. Yes, for several hundred years Jews were badly mistreated, even slaughtered by the west, and yes, Israel has a right and responsibility to maintain a safe haven for Jews. But does it not, as a country founded by those who fled the horrors of Christian oppression, extend an understanding to the Muslims in Palestine? Does it not need to say, “look, we have spent the last 60 years so focused on securing a safe place for our people, we have made some horrible mistakes towards our Arab brothers. From this day forward, we will try to amend any harm, we will be your good neighbors. we will relocate the settlements to a site acceptable to both sides, we will restore your land, as much as is practical. in return, we ask that you accept Israel as your neighbor. That we will abide in peace together, respecting our differences in culture, religion and values.”
And if, as is quite possible Hamas will not join in this bargain, then let them wage war against Hamas, but d it in a way that uses the Mossad and other discreet forces to eliminate the bad guys without demolishing villages, schools and hospitals. if there are tunnels that represent a danger. find the tunnels, don’t kill the citizens.
Where is the compassion?
It’s your future
Even though Israel is a young country, compared to Europe and America, its non Arab population is aging and shrinking, except by some degree offset by immigration of Jews from other parts of the world. If the current attitude that Arabs cannot be part of Israel, at least not as equals, the current Muslim population in Israel proper will migrate to other middle east countries as they move towards their own modern societies, leaving the “Flower in the Desert” to wither into a dried up old Gyyast. And if you cannot create a vibrant, sustainable free Palestine, while you are in a position of strength, how will you even survive the revolution when you are a bunch of old people surrounded a million to one by angry, desperate young folks?