Monday, January 05, 2009

Let’s talk about Israel and Palestine

Starting with my somewhat biased view of the conflict as a Christian and American, which will provide an excuse for others to completely disregard what I have to say. I’ve developed a view that I don’t feel is biased, even as either side will view it as totally biased against them. You really have to read the whole post to get it, or maybe, just skip to the end.

Each side should consider the fact that not all wrongs can be righted. It is a fact of life, that sometimes we must let bygones be bygones. There is a lot of disputed history involving the land of Israel and Palestine which intertwines religion and politics. It is safe to say, that the Jewish people were there first, at least the first well defined civilization, of course, they were ruled by other empires throughout ancient history. The Roman rule at the time of Christ seems to be the best documented, and resulted in the mass expulsion of Jews from the area about one hundred years after the death of Christ, although Jews remained, throughout recorded history.

In the seventh century, Islam was spreading, and the Muslim conquests captured the land known as Israel and many Muslims came to the area as a result, often with no connection to the pre-Jewish inhabitants. At this time, there is no doubt that the land was Palestine and belonged to the Muslims, rightful or not, they were there from the seventh century until the early twentieth century.

The Jews returned in mass numbers in the early twentieth century, especially during and after World War II. This obviously crated conflict as Arab Muslims had the land as their own for centuries. In 1947 the United Nations stepped in to set some borders, which were accepted by the Israeli Jews, but not the Arab Muslims. Although neither side really liked the borders that were defined, this was the point in history where both sides could have lived in peace as independent states. After Israel declared its independence as a state within the UN defined borders, Arab countries invaded, indenting to destroy the state of Israel and create a single state of Palestine. As we now know, this move backfired, destroying the state of Palestine and creating a larger state of Israel. It is important to note that Israel was not the aggressor in this conflict, and many Palestinians fled the area fully expecting Israel to be destroyed and the spoils of war would be theirs for the taking. There is a clear wrong done by Israel here, they took over the land and denied the right for its inhabitants to return. When the war began, the Palestinians were all too eager to have the other Arab countries on their side, but such a deal involved risks, and the armistice borders known as the green line was accepted by those same Arab countries at wars end.

Despite the wrongs of the past the green line was another chance for peace, even if it didn’t include a state of Palestine. But Israel’s Arab neighbors felt differently. In 1967, another invasion of Israel was on the horizon. And while Israel was the first to strike, it was clearly a defensive move, with Israel again involved in a war with its neighbors where it is not the aggressor. The outcome of this war again cost the Palestinians a great deal, land once ruled by their Arab neighbors had fallen into Israeli hands. While I believe that Israel was right to occupy these lands for a time following the war, it was clearly wrong to establish settlements and remain for so long. I’m not sure what I’d do with Jerusalem, clearly there are a lot of issues there and I’m not so sure that the 1947 solution wouldn’t be valid today. The problem here is that the Palestinians were very supportive of the effort to attack Israel, but when the war was lost, simply could not accept defeat.

Israel desperately wants peace with its neighbors and supports the creation of a Palestinian state roughly within the borders of the 1949 green line. Israel wants security for its people, and to right some of its wrongs. The 2005 Israeli withdraw from Gaza is a good example of Israel’s intentions. Israel felt that leaving Gaza was the first step at establishing a lasting peace in the region, but instead, it has created greater security problems for Israel, which will surely delay the righting of another wrong, the occupation of the West Bank. Palestinians are still as close as they have ever been to having a state of their own since 1947, but such a state will likely require a Jerusalem compromise, claims to land on the Israeli side of the green line, and a desire to live in peace with their neighbor.

I’ll part with what Palestinians claim as the right of return, one of the most difficult issues in the region. My argument being, if the Arabs would have won in 1948, would the same right have been given to fleeing Israeli Jews? I have my doubts. The many wrongs done in the region, it was wrong for the Arab countries to invade in 1948, it was wrong for Israel to capture the land, it was wrong for the Arab countries to attempt to invade in 1967, and it was wrong for Israel to capture more land. Israel is willing to right some of these wrongs, but it can not right them all, but most importantly, Israel wishes to right the wrong of denying the Palestinians a state of their own, even if the borders are not what Palestinians wish for.


EuroYank said...

You forgot to mention one minor point. Gaza is the biggest concentration camp in the world and totally barricaded by Israel, and totally depended on Israel for all its needs. Israel decides what to let through, how much and in what proportion. Gaza has been completely been made into a handout population, and its people made subservient. Each revolt by its population has been one of desperation and hopelessness. Israel has had a long history of war crimes, using illegal weapons like white phosporous, encroaching on even more territory and Israel is the modern version of a NAZI STATE. Israel is of course armed to the teeth with the most modern American supplied weapons, and has for generations decided which way the wind blows by treaties it has broken and by demands it has made. Gaza is just the final struggle of a people that has lost everything but its pride. (Just a minor point you forgot to mention.)

Jay said...

If only the leaders of both sides were as rational as you.

Joseph Martin Durnal said...

I'm not sure EuroYank read the whole thing, at least not the end. It comes down to two wrongs not making a right. Israel doesn't blockade Gaza just for the fun of it. They would like nothing more than open the border to commerce, but not if the open borders are used for suicide bombings and importing weapons that just get used against Israel.

I'm actually surprised that Israel held to the six month cease fire while it remained under attack, and even more surprised that they didn't retaliate on the first day the cease fire ended.

Ali said...

Joseph, thanks for posting about the crisis but I have to disagree with many things.
1. Palestinians are not muslims only, we are Christians, Muslims and Athiasts
2. Palestine was first owned by the Cannanites long before the Jews, Romans, Turks, British and later the Israelis. Muslims came to Palestine and found Christian Arabs owning this land.
3. During WW1 & WW2, Palestine was under the British mandate. And after Lord Belfour promised Palestine for the Jews (which they never thought of before that promise) you can read Bible and Sword by Barbra Tuchman, Great Britian helped the Jews immigrate to Palestine and provide them with weapons and camps.
4. Unfrotunately masscares took place against Palestinians (Dahmash Massacre, my dad and uncle witnessed itm, happened in my grand father mosque, Deer Yassin) that scared the Arab residents who had no weapons. Israel forced the land owners, villagers and residnets in towns and cities to leave which created the great Palestinian Diaspora. Then Israel was created.

Now, it is too late to get rid of both sides, Palestinians and Irsaelis need to learn to coexist. Thats why I always support a one state solution as having 2 states while having illegal settelments and the aparthied wall that is cutting Arab villages and towns in half (including the dominalty Christian Palestinian Bethlehem).

This conflict is not between Muslims and Jews, its conflict of controling as much as land as possible.

I do recommend the following links:
. Arab Voices Speak to American Hearts (by Samar Jarrah)
2. Who speaks for Islam? (by John Esposito)
3. Guilty (by Jack Shaheen)
4. Clash of Identities (by Baruch Kimmerling)
5. The Palestine Israel Conflict (by Gregory Harms)
6. Reel Bad Arabs (by Jack Shaheen)
7. Holy Land, Unholy War (by Anton La Guardia)
8. In Search of Fatima (by Ghada Karmi)
9. Sharon and my Mother in Law (by Suad Amiry)
10. Islam (by Karen Armstrong)
11. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (by Ilan Pappe)
12. Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life (by Sari Nusseibeh and Anthony David)
13. Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (by Saree Makdisi)
14. Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (by Jimmy Carter)
15. A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (by Ilan Pappe)
16. Palestine: A Personal History (by Karl Sabbagh)
17. History of God (by Karen Armstrong)
18. Muhammad: a Biography of the Prophet (by Karen Armstrong)
19. Palestine (by Edward Said)
20. A Peace to End All Peace (by David Fromkin)
21. Bible and Sword (by Barbra Tuchman)

Enemy of the Republic said...


Ali recommended your blog to me. You wrote a good post. Here are some observations--read or ignore:

1. At the time of the creation of the Israeli state, most Palestinians were not Muslims but Christians--Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, etc. It was only in the 80s that many converted to Islam in droves. But yes, some were Muslims.

2. It is hard to base propriety on "who was there first." We really don't know. I am assuming you are using the Hebrew Bible as a historical source. If that is the case, there were Cannanites in the land that God promised to Abraham--Israel did not flourish as a people until they went into Egypt where they multiplied and became a powerful force, hence Pharaoh's fear. God chose Moses, a man raised in Egyptian traditions, to lead the Hebrews out. But God did not let the Hebrews into Canaan until the generation of slaves died out as they were ruined by slavery--they were afraid.

3. Joshua won the land because he had soldiers who were not afraid and knew what to do. But again, it was land he had to fight for--it was not freely given and it came at a great price--40 years in the desert is a long time to wait.

4. Israel/Judah does not have a great history according to the Bible. Only David was the most righteous kind and he fought wars throughout his life, even against his own son. Solomon knew peace but he broke his trust with God when he married outside the faith and worshipped the gods of his many wives. That began the downfall of the Israel that David fought for.

4. There are 10 tribes that were assimiliated or killed by the Assyrians. We know little about them. Some have opined that they are Palestinians. If that is the case, then the blood that runs through their veins carries a double whammy: they are sons of Issac and Ishmael. But no one really knows.

5. The two tribes who survived were taken over by the Babylonians and since then the land never "belonged" to the Hebrews, but occupied. Even when they returned from exile, they were subserviant to Greeks and Romans. They lived under occupation and then were cast out.

6. Arabs lived in Judea with Jews--you see their roots in Edom, Samaria and other parts of the Roman Judea. Nazareth had Arabs. Jews had more power and cooperated with Romans (Herod) but Arabs were there.

7. When Islam came to Palestine in the 7th century, there was general harmony. The Christian crusaders invaded Jerusalum and killed Jew and Arab alike. This has been documented by eyewitnesses to the first crusade.

I guess my point is that the land is the land. Many can claim ownership, but after a while it doesn't change things. During the Crusades, the Muslims who won back Jerusalem did not kill the inhabitants as Geoffrey D'Bullion and the Franks had killed them in 1099. The Muslims who lived in Spain since the 8th century showed tolerance to Jew and Christian alike and Spanish culture flourished. Based on distant history, the Muslims have been kind. If we think in terms of recent history, we must remember that many Muslims changed after Britain and France colonized their nations--Egypt, Algeria. So who knows what the Arabs would have done?

Sorry so long.

Joseph Martin Durnal said...

I've collected quite a few comments on this post. I read them all, event he long ones, and won't delete anything that won't get me into legal trouble :).

The problem with the early history is that it isn't well recorded, and what is recorded is disputed.

What this conflict has taught us all is that violence leads to violence, but violence can also prevent violence.

I’m going to write more about this.

Lisa said...

On the 22nd January, 30 people came to a meeting in Bristol (UK) to hold the people of Israel and Palestine in their hearts during this time of terrible conflict. Called by 3 friends (2 Jews and a Quaker), the purpose was to infuse public opinion with compassion. Why? Because we cannot even think of changing minds without first opening hearts. We believe the 9.5 million people living in Israel and Palestine are intelligent and creative enough to find their own way to peace. They deserve our compassion. All of them. Especially leaders like Olmert and Lipni, Haniyeh and Rayan - people who need our support to act with wisdom and humanity. Drawing on our Jewish tradition, we meditated on chesed (loving-kindness), chanted, sang and lit candles in the shape of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Drawing on our Quaker tradition, we held a meeting for worship, a gathered silence with ministry by those moved to speak. Then we shared our vision. One after another, we called out what we want to see, speaking as if it already exists, speaking from our hearts. In the words of one participant: “I came home from this event profoundly moved and heartened. I do not believe this is a ‘cop-out’ or in any way evades the history, seriousness and dangers of the Middle East conflict, or the difficulties ahead.  Instead it reminds us that words and argument and ‘being right’ are sometimes of very limited help, but this does not mean there is ‘nothing we can do’.  Other creative, shared, responses are possible.  And beautiful.  And fragile.  And important.” 
The three friends:
Lisa Saffron, author of Checkpoint - the novel of hope and inspiration about Israel and Palestine Buy on
Sheila Yeger, author of Dove – a drama about conflict and hope. Listen free on Listening to the Tune in Dialogue
Maria Kennedy