I have written a lot about Israel and Palestine, probably so much that I have bored many of my readers who appear to be more interested in what I have to say about technology than my views about the Middle East. However, this is my blog, and I write as much for myself as I write for others.
Like so many others, I struggle to make sense out of the situation in the Middle East. In some ways, it is not possible, because it does not make sense. There are two peoples who claim what is, in reality, one land. Both have legitimate claims in my opinion but neither the Israeli Jews or the Palestinian Arabs recognize this. In their heart of hearts, they just want the other side to disappear. But that will not happen. Politicians on both sides exploit the situation for political gain.
Israel grows stronger and Palestine weaker
If the conflict between Israel and Palestine continues, it will not end well for either side. Israel will find itself potentially more and more isolated from Europe and even the USA, although I suspect its ties with India, China and even Africa will increase. Most concerning is the brutal way Israel treats Palestinians in Palestine that will effect the way Israelis view themselves. As a Jew with a very strong connection to Israel, I find much of Israel’s behavior in Palestine in conflict with my Jewish Values. But I also understand, and I hope to help you understand.
The Palestinians are finding themselves with less and less support. It is not that the world is becoming more pro-Israel. In fact, the opposite is true. But the conflict between Israel and Palestine is becoming less important. World events are pushing this story to the back page. Israel is in a position to extract a terrible price from Palestine. Israel controls all their natural resources. They can turn off the electricity and water not to mention the cell phones and internet.
A Jewish State in the Middle East is not acceptable to Middle Eastern Countries
Many of you, I imagine, think that if Israel behaved differently with respect to Palestine there would somehow be peace. I wish this would be true, but it is not. Even if the majority of the Palestinians would accept Israel’s right to exist (and they do not), the rest of the Arab world would not. No, the more than 300 million Arabic speakers along with countries like Iran, will never accept a Jewish Nation in the Middle East. For thousands of years, Jews were tolerated in Muslim lands but were second class citizens at best. But the idea of a Jewish state is not acceptable to them. And the more that Israel is successful, the less able they are to come to terms with it. I do not believe that the hatred that Middle Eastern Countries have for Israel would change if Israel treated Palestine differently. Interestingly, a growing concern amongst Arab countries about Iran may have more of a positive effect on Arab/Israeli relations that anything that Israel could do in Palestine.
The Middle East: A bad neighborhood
It must be clear to you that violence and intolerance plays a fundamental role in how middle eastern countries deal with conflict. Just look at Syria and Iraq if you want two current examples. The middle east is a very violent place with tribal and ethnic conflicts. The most well know of this is the Sunni/Shia schism. Here in the USA, we watch conflicts as those in Syria and see that there are no “good guys.” The side in power terrorizes the other side, but if the relationship changes, the other side behaves pretty much in the same way.
The more Palestinians engage in acts of terror and violence the more they will be identified with the Muslim Terrorist. Please do not take me wrong. I do not consider most Palestinian acts of violence many which are just self defense, the same as Islamic Terrorist. But that does not mean that others will not conflate the two. Frankly, I think that most Palestinians have more in common with Israelis than they do with ISIS or the Taliban. One would just have to go to Ramallah to understand that. I doubt that Palestinian women would like to to be covered head to toe in black with only their eyes showing.
Meet Netanyahu’s best friend: Mahmoud Abbas
If Palestine had a leader that could get Palestinians to adopt a non-violent approach, I doubt that Netanyahu would survive in office. Both these men depend on the other to stay in office. If things became more violent, Netanyahu might not survive but his replacement could make the Palestinians long for these good old days.
Is there something to learn from the Mexican immigrants in the USA?
The situation between the USA and Mexico is not analogous, but there are some important things to consider. The Mexican’s in the USA want to be Americans even if they are proud of their Mexican heritage. In many parts of the USA, they are treated badly but they do not display hostility to the white majority. I can’t imagine what would happen if they began to attack white Americans.
Israel the world’s largest gated community
Jews have at least an equal claim on the land that is now Israel and Palestine. I won’t go into the history, but you can read my other posts on this if you like. Of course, the ideal solution would have been for one country in which Jews and Arabs lived in harmony, and that will not be. While Israelis love Israel, with the exception of the food, Israelis hate living in the middle east. So much, that many of them imagine that they are living somewhere else. I often joke that Israelis think that Israel is located somewhere in Southern California. But, of course, there are daily reminders that they are not. So Israel is building walls not only figuratively but in reality. There are three types of walls. The first is the separation wall which the Palestinians refer to as the Apartheid Wall. The second is the anti-missile defense systems along with other defensive weapons. And finally there is the “Apathy wall,” a psychological defense that enables Israelis to no longer feel empathy towards the lives of Palestinians. When I speak of Israelis, I should say that I do not include the settler movement. Many of its members seek to push the Palestinians out and incorporate what is now the West Bank into Greater Israel.
Where has my empathy gone?
I have not lost my empathy for the Palestinians. Over the years, I have thought a lot about what could be done to change the situation. I have reached out to Palestinians hoping to understand their perspective. I have donated money to organizations that I believed could have a positive impact in Palestine. However, I have to confess that I am moving as they say “more to the right.”
I am very frustrated at how the Palestinian people have handled the situation. CNN is showing a very powerful documentary on the 60s, a decade that played such an important role in my life. Last night I watched the episode on the civil right movement. As a participant in that movement, I remember the events very well. I can only wish that the Palestinians would find a leader like Martin Luther King just as I wish that Israel would find a leader like JFK. Palestinians must learn from the American Civil Rights Movement. They must understand that non-violent protests can be very effective. They must resist violence even when violence is done to them. I know this is easy to say from the comfort of my home in Sonoma, but I do personally remember the days of being beaten by the police and taken to jail, although I will not claim to have personally suffered that much. I also recall with pride the role that Jewish people played in the early days of the civil-rights movement.
No more Mr. Nice Guy
I am not trying to blame anyone. I am just trying to look at reality. Israel is getting stronger, and Palestine is getting weaker. Resisting Israel with force will not end well for Palestine. The more Palestinians denounce violence, the stronger they will become. Palestinians should ask themselves how well have their leaders served them over the years.
I will not justify Israel’s settlements on the West Bank or what I call the slicing and dicing of Palestine by creating the walls and roads which connect the Settlements to Israel and each other.
What I would like the Palestinians to consider is, how would they be treated if Netanyahu behaved as other Arab leaders like Assad. Be careful about what you wish for.
The future of Palestine is in learning to live side by side with Israel and Israelis.
Fair or not fair, as long as they do not accept Israel and engage in violence, they will not achieve their dream of their own nation. Events in the rest of the Middle East are weakening the Palestinian’s position. They are also hardening the Israelis. If ISIS continues to gain strength in Iraq and Syria, I will not be surprised if Israel builds walls all around the country and also a wall along the border with Jordan. These walls will truly create a Palestinian prison on the West Bank just like Gaza is a prison with a beach.
What we need is leadership both in Israel and Palestine that starts with the premise that both peoples are here to stay and must learn to live side by side. Sadly, I don’t see that happening.
If I have to choose
If push comes to shove, I will be on Israel’s side. The future of the Jewish People is at stake. Israel is an extremely small country. The Jewish population is just over six million people. Over half the population are descendants from Jews that were expelled from Arab countries after the creation of the State of Israel. Israel has no choice but to survive. I just hope that its survival will not come at the cost of Jewish Values.
Surely, there will be those of you that will read this blog post and say that I am attacking the Palestinians and giving a pass to the Israelis. That is not how I feel. There will be those of you that think I am unfair to Israel. To the extent that I get criticism from both sides, I will feel that I may have accomplished my goal.
Happy 4th of July but don’t forget our history
It was not always a very pretty picture.