Periodically, I make the mistake of posting something about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict on Facebook. This often results in a long dialog by various Facebook “friends”. I join in a bit. However, I thought this time, I would open it up to you my blog as readers as well as my Facebook “friends”.
Democracy in the Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa, with the exception of Israel, is not capable of being democratic, sadly. This does not have to do so much with the predominant religion, Islam, the culture of the people or even the hot sun. It is the result of actions taken by western powers over the years. First the British and French explicitly screw things up by carving up the territory, they got from the Turk at the end of World War I, in ways that would benefit them and keep them colonial power in the region.
How did we get this mess
After WWII, Europe decided it would be better to let their remaining Jews emigrate to Palestine rather than have to deal with their collective guilt resulting in their complicity in the holocaust and anyway, they really did not like Jews and were glad to get rid of them. At that time, they cared even less for the Arabs, so they had no real concern for what would result from the immigration of European Jews to the region. By this time, there were many Jews that had moved to Palestine which was sparsely populated.
After WWII, England and France were no longer the powers they once were. Keeping their control over the Middle East was too expensive. England decided to dump the problem of Palestine (which at that time was at that time one area which contained both what is today, Israel and the West Bank) in the laps of the newly formed United Nations. The result was the partitioning of greater Palestine into Israel and Palestine. Then the war of independence started. The Jews were attacked by Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and a few other Arab countries. Palestinians were told to leave by their leaders and in some cases, they were forced out by the Jews. Eventually, there was an armistice and the pre-1967 war, border was established. Rather than getting a country of their own, the Palestinians on the West Bank of the Jordan river were made citizens of a greater Jordan. Gaza which was a small and sleepy fishing village which was swelled in numbers because of refugees from Israel giving up beautiful land and homes in places like Yafo, for squalor of Gaza became part of Egypt but those living there were made stateless by the Egyptians.
Most Arab nations (not Iran which is not an Arab nation) expelled their Jewish Citizens which had the unintended consequences of strengthening the Jewish State. It was not until the religious fanatics took over Iran, that most of the Iranian Jews left to colonize Beverly Hills. The plight of Palestinians which left Israel on their own or were forced out (one can debate the relative numbers) gets a lot of attention. This is because, after three generations, most are still living as refugees thanks to the UN support. Arab countries have been unwilling to absorb the Palestinians. The plight of Jews forced out of Arab countries is not discussed because they have been fully integrated into Israel.
Keeping the West Bank and Gaza was a terrible mistake by Israel
After the 1967 war, Israel made a terrible decision to hold onto the West Bank and Gaza with the hopes that they could trade those lands for Peace with Jordan and with Egypt. By the time peace with those two countries came, neither Jordan or Egypt were interested in getting back the land they administered prior to 1967. Arafat for instance tried to overthrow the King of Jordan and started a civil war there. By the way, there was no Palestinian State. Palestinians have gotten more governmental control under Israeli occupation than they ever had under the Jordanians or Egyptians.
While it made sense for Israel to use its military to provide security in the West Bank and Gaza, political forces in Israel involving both economics and religious factions resulted in the settlements and the building of roads for Israeli’ through the territories which I refer to as the slicing and dicing of Palestine.
Who really cares about the Palestinians
Arab countries treat the Palestinians that lived in their countries as second-class citizens or worse. They accused Israel of crimes against the Palestinians but force them to stay in refugee camps. They used hatred against Israel and the Jews to strengthen their own political positions.
Israel gave up Gaza which was taken over by a bunch of gangsters (I can’t call them terrorists because they give terrorists a bad name), Hamas. Hamas came into power because the USA pushed for democratic elections against the advice of Israel. Please note
that there has not been an election in the West Bank for eleven years. If there was, Hamas would likely win. The current leaders of the Palestinians carry on the tradition of Arafat, the first Palestinian leader, and embezzle billions of dollars. Ramallah, where the Palestinian leaders live, has some really nice Villas although the really great ones are in Switzerland.
How the USA screwed up and continues to screw up
By invading Iraq, the USA changed the balance of power in the middle east and, in particular, strengthen the role of Iran.
US policy in the area has been a disaster from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen.
There is no longer a functioning government in Syria. Israeli border with Syria is about 90 minutes from Tel Aviv. I have stood at the border several times and watch the war going on in Syria. I could hear the bombs and see the smoke. It is just about an hour drive to Damascus from there. Iraq is falling apart and can only stand up to ISIS with the support of Iran. Libya and Yemen are failed states. Egypt is back safely in the hands of its army instead of the Muslim Brotherhood that Obama supported.
Is this the time for a Palestinian State
I would love to see the Palestinian people have their own state. Really! I do have questions about its viability economically unless there was a strong economic cooperation with Israel. For the Palestinians have their own state Israel would have to be secure that such a state will not become a hotbed of terrorism. Just think that Ben Gurion Airport is closer to the West Bank than Oakland is to San Francisco. The distance from the West Bank to Natalya is just nine miles
If the West Bank was taken over by Hamas or even worse by ISIS, Israel would have to re-occupy it and it would be very ugly and many people, mostly Palestine would be harmed or worse.
I am not comfortable or proud of how Israel handles the Palestinian situation. I think that many take advantage of the real issues like security to further their own political or economic objectives. But I still think Israel treats the Palestinians better than any Arab country with the possible exception of Jordan. The standard of living in the West Bank is relatively high as is health care and reductions. Women certainly have many more rights than they would experience in most Arab countries. But this does not justify the occupation. The only justification is security and I support that totally but do not want to see that exploited.
Netanyahu a Politician with a Messiah Complex
Netanyahu just won reelection. He said some stupid things to get reelected, but he is not the first politician to do that. He said there would not be a two-state solution while he was in power. While that is probably true and something everyone knows, he was supposed to play along with the charade like everyone else. He was also guilty of saying that Arab voters were coming out to the polls in droves because they represent the left. It reminds me of things being done by the Republicans in the USA although they do worse things like passing laws to deny African Americans and Hispanics the right vote.
I believe that Netanyahu thinks he is the savior of the Jewish people. He is not. In fact, maybe he is the opposite although many would disagree with that. However, I think he is better grounded in the facts of the region than Obama.
I did not vote for Netanyahu. I am a liberal and have always been. But the constant attack on Israel by liberals in the USA is getting to really upset me. I don’t expect anything from Europe. Europe continues to have anti-Jewish views. This will probably not change in my lifetime.
Obama such a disappointment
Obama has really made me angry. The American policies in this region have been terrible. You can’t blame all this on George Bush as much as I would like to. Look at how Obama has handled Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. Israel is expected to listen to this man for guidance with respect to Palestine. Now he is working with Iran. This really helps make Israel feel secure about having a Palestinian state as its next door neighbor especially since Iran has been funding Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north. I think Obama confuses short term action and agreements with long term results. He really is not very strategic and I don’t think he would have every been hired by me although I did vote for him twice.
The unholy holy alliance
Over the years, Israel has been able to get more and more support from the American Right Wing and in particular from the Religious Right. They have some kind of idea that the Jews have to go back to Israel so that the Rapture can take place and somehow all the born again will be called up to Heaven. Strangely, most Jews in the USA (Sheldon Adelson excluded) are either Democrats or Independents and certainly few expect they will be whisked up to Heaven.
The left wing in the USA has been slowly or turning against Israel and equating the actions of Israel with respect to Palestine as some kind of Apartheid. This is simple-minded, to say the least. I am sure the same people support the election that resulted in Hamas taking over Gaza. These people would not last a day in Gaza before they would be thrown off a roof or hung. Hamas is not yet into cutting off people heads, but it will probably not be long.
Israeli politics is screwed up by the same movement to the Religious Right. Sometimes I think that the proof that there is no God can be seen by looking at those that say know his wishes.
So what to do
First, it is important to become realistic about the situation in this part of the world. It is a really bad neighbor with infected by various gangs. If you lived in such a neighborhood and had children, you might want to build a fence.
So what is there to do? Let’s stop talking about the mystical two-state solution. Instead, let us spend the next five to ten years to make the West Bank a success by having the equivalent of a Marshall Program to create an industrial revolution in Palestine. Then let us talk again. I am personally willing to commit time and even money to strengthening Palestine but I have trouble finding partners on the other side and I have tried.