The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s longest standing conflicts. Many people believe that resolving this conflict is the key to resolving the various conflicts throughout the Middle East. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has continued needlessly for fifty-five years now, represents the greatest threat to GLOBAL INSTABILITY and is perhaps one of the more sensitive issues that is discussed.
Although the conflict generates massive public discussion and debate, there are relatively few forums that maintain an impartial and non-partisan approach to understanding it.
It is important to know the history of the region in order to understand the issue. The key to understanding is dispassionate intelligence.
The land Abraham is said to have been given by God sits at a busy continental crossroads that has been claimed, conquered and carved up by armies since recorded time. Today, the Israelis and Palestinians — whose dominant religious roots both trace to Abraham — continue a long and bitter fight for control of the area.
Both groups rely on force, aid from stronger nations and persuasive arguments that tell why each has a rightful claim to the land, and why the other does not.
Because the land in question is terra sancta to three major religions, the conflict evokes powerful passions involving identity, honor, and the propriety of cultural claims. That its disputants employ sophisticated arguments and armaments, that they are willing to combat not only each other but rival voices within their own ranks, and that decades of international diplomacy have failed to produce a satisfactory solution, render it one of the most difficult political problems of our time, perhaps the most difficult of them all.
The globalizing scope of human rights provides a particularly relevant perspective. As social animals, we are heirs to a variety of cultural influences that shape our identities, aspirations, values, and tastes. It is not unusual to feel trust and affinity with persons of like background, to desire primary and even exclusive association with them. The result is that rich satisfaction that comes from participation in culturally specific activities, from artistic expression to sports, romance to worship.
Yet the very attitudes and conventions that bind individuals also partition humanity into distinct cultural groups, even within a single locale. When the resulting contrast of “we” with “they” is added to our unenviable propensity to shift blame for our misfortunes and anxieties to others, inter-communal suspicion often results. In times of intense political competition and social upheaval this tendency can generate open hatred and persecution.
The History of Israel and Palestine is a story of politics of the powerful. It centers on control of territory and, as common in such disputes, is characterized by conquest, destruction, and revenge, with all the animosity and sorrow that these actions bring. A story of how the aggressors have successfully painted themselves as the victims.
The root problem of the Israel and Palestine conflict is that the Jews running Israel are unwilling to allow non-Jews to have equal rights. Under the shadow of occupation, Gazans face limitations in all aspects of everyday life. It is unreasonable for Jews to insist on a supremacist system that violates the rights of non-Jews. That is the fundamental problem and cause of the conflict.
These structural conditions were partly inherited from the colonial era and partly modified. There is clearly an absence of early historical research. It would have been nice to see a preface with an accounting of the break up of the Ottoman Empire and its consequences.
The conflict is partly fueled by rival normative claims that challenge our philosophical thinking. When does a community have a right to govern or possess a certain territory? Under what conditions are peoples entitled to self-determination? Are religious claims and affiliations relevant in resolving political disputes over territory? Do political institutions, states, or resistance organizations have moral legitimacy? Is a state ever entitled to territorial expansion and conquest of foreign territory? Is violent resistance to occupation ever justified? Under what conditions and in what modes?
Since systemic structural inequalities are at the roots of this conflict and are the causes of injustice and oppression it is important to analyze the roots of current power inequalities and their manifestations in the daily life.
It is also important to explain how structures, systems, sub-systems, laws and regulations have been put in place that organize and determine how rights have been manipulated and violated.
The need for imaginative normative thinking is especially apparent when it comes to the questions posed. Centuries of effort have generated the moral codes and legal systems that prevail in modern societies, and it should not be expected that progress in the global arena will be any more rapid. International law is not yet at a stage to provide decisive answers, but moral philosophy should be able to give inter-societal disputes more precise form and suggest approaches that may not have occurred to those with power to pass laws and move armies.
The lack of human security for people living in Palestine is, first and foremost, caused by physical insecurity. It is the result both of the occupation and the lack of internal security, which are linked. Restrictions on movement, shelling from afar, periodic Israeli invasions, arrest and imprisonment, crime and gang or factional warfare are all part of the daily life of Palestinians. Palestinians experience economic, environmental and food insecurity as well; but fundamentally, these forms of insecurity cannot be disentangled from the lack of physical security, the situation of fear in which most people live.
We need a better solution now!
The Palestinian people must be granted historical, legal, moral and human recognition and redress in accordance with international law and the requirements of justice. And, the Israeli people must be able to live without fear of terror.
Israel watches Gaza from the skies and through informers. From time to time – as in the past few days, when alongside infighting between Fatah and Hamas there have been rocket-attacks on the Israeli border-town of Sderot – Israeli forces invade or shell houses. Israel has declared buffer-zones along the border no-go areas, and in them has destroyed houses, uprooted orchards and made land unusable.
Both sides always claim that what they do is retaliation. But the Israeli response is often disproportionate. The role of the European Union is potentially crucial. The European Union is the largest aid donor in Palestine and plays an active role through missions like EU-BAM (the Rafah monitors) or EU-COPPS (police training). At the political level, however, it is very weak because it is constrained by its own internal structure and the difficulty of reaching agreement among member-states.
This has constrained its ability to improve the situation in Gaza.
From the historic British dominance in the Middle East, and the more recent US influence and control over the region, the Anglo-American goal is simply to be able to dominate the Middle East due to the vast oil reserves and the West’s economic dependence upon it. Prior to the discovery of oil, one of the main reasons for involvement in the Middle East had been religious (Christianity, Judaism and Islam all have roots in the Middle East) and on the natural arable land. During the Cold War, the Soviet excuse may have been used on numerous occasions to justify involvement there, but in modern times, it has always been for oil.
The History of Israel and Palestine is a story of politics of the powerful. A story of how the aggressors have successfully painted themselves as the victims. The history of the Jews in 19th and 20th Century Europe illustrates the problem. Enlightenment and economic development had brought about a gradual emancipation of Jewish populations from previous ghettoization. But liberation was concurrent with rising nationalism in countries that had commonly excluded their participation in the political arena. Because of their differences and their connections–real or imaginary–to Jewish communities in other countries, Jews were thought opposed to national interests.
Anti-semitism erupted in the Russian pogroms of 1881-84 and in the early 20th Century, resulting in massive emigration of Jews from Russia. Similar sentiments were widespread in other parts of Europe as well, and were vividly voiced in France during the 1894 Dreyfus Affair. In each case, government complicity heightened Jewish alarm.
Emancipation itself posed a threat. Promising integration into mainstream European culture, many Jews came to believe that assimilation was their future and that adherence to old ways would expose them to further discrimination. But others feared assimilation would dilute what was distinctive about Judaism and Jews. The Jewish community thereby faced a difficult choice: by assimilating, their distinctive culture may very well be lost, whereas opting for cultural autonomy would carry the risk of continued anti-semitism. In both cases, survival of a separate Jewish people is threatened.
Zionism emerged in the late nineteenth century as an effort to resolve this dilemma.
In its political form it called for establishment of a Jewish State, and, in both its nationalistic aspiration and identification of Palestine as the Jewish homeland its roots are ancient.
But, what is anti-Semetic (or self-hating) in such a position? Is honoring the humanistic values many Jews were taught at synagogue a betrayal of their religious roots? Is caring about another people synonymous with hatred? Is learning about a painful subject likewise symptomatic of anti-Semitism? Isn’t thirst for knowledge a hallmark of Judaism and isn’t it fundamental to solving problems? If criticism of deliberate violations of international law expresses hatred, what does turning one’s back on the suffering of millions express? If calling on Israel to end its human rights abuses expresses hatred, are we to forsake a people who cry out against the destruction of their homes or the traumatizing of their children?
Where, then, is the hatred?
The hatred is conceived in the minds of those who are afraid to ask why someone is critical of Israel. Rather than conduct honest research to refute or confirm the criticism, the accuser panders to feelings of fear, confusion and anger, all of which are animated by unexamined beliefs and images within his own mind.
This mind colors his perception so that he sees the world in terms of personal victimhood vs. the world’s hostility.
What I denied about Israel and about myself, I projected onto the other, who necessarily became my enemy.
Because he is unconscious of this pattern, the accuser can only project his perception onto the world and then presume that the world he sees proves the reality of his perception. Creating his own suffering, he narcissistically scapegoats and blames the world (in this case Palestinians and their sympathizers) for the suffering.
Triggered through denial, this inner thought process attributes to Palestinians and their sympathizers the accuser’s own hatred. The accuser makes the other responsible for, and the repository of, his unresolved pain. He objectifies the other and rejects his humanity. Then he supports inhumane policies, which he justifies under the guise of an existential danger to Israel. In so doing, he brings the world’s anger down upon Israel, which reinforces and perpetuates the cycle of perceived victimhood. This process is a defense mechanism that stems from the fear of inquiring into one’s presumed identity through the questioning of one’s beliefs and images.
The condemnation of Israel is not a product of anti-Semitism. Rather, the behavior that elicited the condemnation fans the flames of anti-Semitism worldwide.” Richard Forer deconstructs the phrase, “self-hating Jew”: “The use of the label ‘self-hating Jew’ is a cop-out. This near automatic reflex is the resource of someone who is too lazy and/or obstinately unwilling to try to understand a point of view that challenges his own beliefs and assumptions. People who say this are, in fact, victims, but not of anti-Semitism. They are victims of an unexamined mind, which has no tolerance for negative images of Israel.
Myths are exposed and debunked including the one about how Islam preaches a doctrinal hatred of Judaism: “If it is true that Arabs have an inborn hatred of Jews, how were Sephardic Jews able to find refuge in North Africa , Turkey and other Muslim lands during the Spanish Inquisition?” Also the Paris Mosque was responsible for saving at least 1,700 Jewish children during the Holocaust.
What is a friend for if not to speak the truth when he sees someone he cares for acting irresponsibly and self-destructively?
For both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, the presence of the other is their most significant and inescapable challenge. Whether we agree that their dispute pits “right” against “right,” it is no less dramatic by a clash of powerful convictions. Perhaps the quest for “absolute justice” in this conflict is futile and, consequently, that fixation upon the past must be transcended and a “tragic justice” accepted.
Here we have two victims of the same oppressor. Europe – which colonized the Arab world, exploited it, humiliated it, trampled upon its culture, controlled it and used it as an imperialistic playground – is the same Europe that discriminated against the Jews, persecuted them, harassed them, and finally, mass-murdered them in an unprecedented crime of genocide.
To realize that people are being beaten up, and having their homes and crops bulldozed in the name of Zionism (as an extension of Judaism) is a horrible thought to confront and comprehend. It is a painful and disturbing realization for any Jew who has always believed that Israel is a blameless victim.
Victimization has been overplayed – It has become a self-defeating and self-fulfilling prophecy.
One generation’s heartbreak and disillusionment is often fuel for another’s cause. What is essential is not only that both Israelis and Palestinians remain alive, but how they remain alive. The safest normative conclusion is that each must retain enough dignity and a capacity for interacting in a manner that is conducive to long-term stability throughout the region.
Moral rights are supposed to be ultimately neither political nor legal rights. They might be enshrined in legal and political documents and so come to be called “legal rights” or “political rights,” but they would ultimately admit of moral justification.
Thus, moral rights are rights that exist prior to or independently of legal, institutional, and political arrangements. In other words, when someone has a moral right, he has a claim that is recognized and justified by moral principles, not legal or political ones.
But notice also that to say that moral rights are basic is not the same thing as saying that they are absolute. To say that a right is absolute is to say that nothing and no one can morally prevent the holder of the right from exercising it. Whether any or all moral rights are absolute is another controversial issue.
“Egyptians love peace … but they have always been able to fend off aggressors and protect the land, the nation and the Muslim world.
The right of return of Palestinian refugees is a moral, legal and a political right. Notice that when Palestinian refugees claim their right to return, they do not mean by this that they have a right to return to a specifically Palestinian state. Rather, they mean by it that they have a right to return to their homes and villages. Nor do they mean by it the right to return as a national people. Rather, they mean by it a right to return as individuals.
Today the world, black and white, recognizes that Apartheid has no future. Perhaps it is strange to observe the situation in Palestine or more specifically, the structure of political and cultural relationships between Palestinians and Israelis, as an Apartheid system. This is because we incorrectly think that the problem of Palestine began in 1967.
Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not just an issue of military occupation and Israel is not a country that was established “normally” and happened to occupy another country in 1967.
Palestinians are not struggling for a “state” but for freedom, liberation and equality.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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