Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Peace in Israel

The truce deal between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups being brokered by Egypt went into effect a little over a week ago, and did not receive much attention. Perhaps this was because it was seen as very fragile. Indeed, it wasn't long before rocket attacks by Gaza militants and the beating of Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer who was returning to his home after receiving an award in Great Britain occurred. Under the terms of the ceasefire, Israel was supposed to increase the amount of goods being transferred across the border, but due to the violations Israel instead closed most of the Gaza crossings. Today Israel has told Hamas it will fire "warning shots" at Palestinians who enter an area west of the Gaza Strip border fence, extending for several hundred meters. This announcement is expected to further raise tensions and weaken the truce.

It pains me to see that these groups are unable to beat their swords into plowshares. My time in the Middle East has shown me the volatility that exists in the region. There is much religious fervor on both sides. Jews and Muslims both have an ancient heritage which is tied to the land, and neither will back down. It is absolutely necessary that they learn to peacefully coexist.

I am not sure what could possibly bring about this change of heart on both sides. Perhaps education and personal exposure to other cultures could have an effect. I am not anti-Zionist, but I believe that the gathering of the Jews is more idealogical than physical at this point. The Jews' physical possession of the land of Israel may only come to fruition at the literal appearance of the Messiah. In fact, I am beginning to think that the Jews embracing their "tainted" diaspora natures could in fact be the means for them to approach peace with their neighbors.


Johnny said...

I really have nothing constructive to say. I just feel the same frustration and hopelessness about the situation. I am often more sympathetic to the Palestinians, but do not think what has been done can be undone.

brooke said...

i have very strong opinions now that i've visited palestine and have seen the situation there. i really need to scan the first chapter of "challenging christian zionism" by niam ateek and others. it gave me a great understanding of the intersection of religious and political zionism. i could write for hours and possibly days about the situation over there. but, i am anti-zionist after seeing the treatment of the palestinians. i am not anti-israel in that i think the state as it is right now should no longer cease to exist, but i am anti-israel in regards to the occupation and the nakba. just as i am anti-american in regards to our policies towards others, towards oppressed peoples. and yes, i am hoping to put my words in to action. i just submitted my application to the christian peacemaker teams for full time service in palestine / israel. inshallah i get to go i'll either be in hebron or at-tuwani (a small village in the south hebron hills). oh and btw, if you are interested in the palestinian side of things - and maybe the israeli side of things - on my blog i've got a whole list of 'palestine links' --> news that doesn't make western news sources. + there is a link to the jerusalem post and ha'aaretz. the jerusalem post is an israeli newspaper that is quite right wing.

NonArab-Arab said...

Biv, a few comments:

While I know there is no ill intent in your comment, and that you are an honest person trying to honestly understand these things, you should be aware that your comment reflects an underlying bias on several fronts that are very common as a result of the way history and the present are badly misportrayed on this issue. Again, I don't fault, when one's view is limited to (just an example here) 20% of the spectrum that is say on the far right of a complete picture, it is natural to assume that the middle of that visible spectrum is the middle of the whole picture, when really you're still on the far right. Heck, in that example, even the far left of the visible spectrum is still on the far right of the whole thing! Alright, stupid metaphor aside, a specific example I mean here is the reference to the Palestinians violating the ceasefire. That's how it reads in most of the English press one reads, but on the ground things are quite different. Earlier in the week, the Israeli press itself reported 7 *Israeli* violations of the ceasefire and only 1 Palestinian violation. See here from the English website of one of Israel's widest circulation dailies: http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3560972,00.html Moreover, this is a common pattern. Israelis are always portrayed as responding to some Palestinian provocation. It is the "Poor Little Samson" syndrome as some historians have labelled it. A big tough bully who cries and demands all the sympathy when his knuckles get bloody beating up weaklings. This is not an even handed conflict where we can just say there are two equal parties. It is in fact a massively lopsided situation of victim and victimizer. Israel is the victimizer and has been from before it's inception. Zionism as we know it ("Gun Zionism" as As'ad Abu Khalil aptly labels it) is an immoral ideology right up there with Apartheid and Jim Crow - it is an institutionalized, systematic statement that one race should have full rights, and another only "privileges" granted to it by the ruling caste. It is written not just in Israeli law, it is written in Palestinian blood. I would recommend reading the following to get a full background:

"The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" and "A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples" by Israeli historian Illan Pappe to understand the roots and history from a clean and meticulously primary-source researched perspective.

"Perceptions of Palestine" by former CIA Analyst Kathleen Christison to understand the extremely pervasive and dangerous role the US has played in the conflict from its inception a century ago to the present.

Any of the works of Ghassan Kanafani or Emile Habibi (available in translation) to understand more of the Palestinian predicament. Great writers both, one writing from the diaspora (Kanafani - he was assassinated by an Israeli car bomb in Beirut for the crime of...writing about his people's suffering) and one from inside Israel where Palestinians are treated as aliens in their own land.

I would also highly recommend that if you want to learn more that for regular news you add Ali Abunimah's ElectronicIntifada.net website to your regular or at least occasional browsing. If you can handle high acid levels (he's not for the faint of heart and full of his own inconsistencies, but you'll learn a ton), I also highly recommend As'ad Abu Khalil's blog, angryarab.blogspot.com

The reality of this conflict it is amazing to discover the more you read is almost 100% the opposite of how it is portrayed and perceived in the world. Now, you've been in Saudi, and sad to say that while there is a great deal of sympathy for the Palestinians there and throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, it often carries with it a deep add-on sin of anti-Jewish racism. This is not the Palestinians' fault and we should always remember that as it is often used as a stick to beat the Palestinians with. All of us are human beings and equal (and as Latter-day Saints all of us we know are children of the same Heavenly Father). The Gun Zionism that is Israel's founding ideology is an enemy to this basic human equality just as anti-Jewish racism throughout history and in the present is. They each deserve to be combatted where they raise their ugly heads, but neither one negates basic principles of equality. That is why in the end, only a state or other solution that offers all people equal rights is acceptable. A "solution" that screws 6 million refugees for the crime of having been brutally ethnically cleansed is no solution at all, especially when their homes sit sometimes within eyesight. There are actually strains of Zionism - and have been from the beginning of Zionism - as well as strains of Non-Zionist Judaism which vehemently reject the Israeli state's Gun Zionism and deliberate inequality towards Palestinians. These strains are small and weak, but as ideologies which want to return to their ancient homeland while acknowledging it is already/also the homeland of the Palestinians, they are ultimately compatible with coexistence where Gun Zionism is not. A Zionism that asks to share something both sides consider precious, and to come to their ancient home in peace and seeking to live together rather than take over by force of arms and economic exploitation, is a Zionism that can coexist with the native inhabitants of Palestine and eventually integrate the two into a cohesive if diverse whole.

Sorry, long post, this is an issue I know and care a great deal about and I could keep going for hours. Scan through my blog, you'll see a few posts on it. Oh, I'd also recommend:

Lenin al-Ramli's "In Plain Arabic" to get a sense for how other Arabs talk tough on Palestine but ultimately screw the Palestinians most of the time.

Joe Sacco's excellent comicbook "Palestine" for a very personal and accurate account of life in the West Bank and Gaza during the first Intifada (hint, it's much, much, much worse now, especially in Gaza) from a first-time outsider's perspective.

Avi Shlaim's "The Iron Wall" to get a better understanding of Israel's belligerent policies towards its regional neighbors. While Shlaim has too much of a soft spot for Jordan in my view (the Hashemites have collaborated against the Palestinians for their entire existence and are directly responsible for many of their tragedies which they had the power to prevent on numerous occasions) and other times has the Israeli New Historian's tendency to take a primary source document and not draw out its obvious conclusion when seen as too negative towards Israel, it is nonetheless a mostly honest and rich work.

Bored in Vernal said...

Non-Arab, I always appreciate your views on the Middle East, thank you. I agree that it is difficult to get a good idea of what is actually happening by relying on the news reports we get here in the U.S. In this post, I was attempting to avoid bias by including just two examples of violations, one on the Palestinian side and one on the Israeli side. There have, of course, been others. My personal opinion is that both sides have extreme challenges living peacefully with one another. I know of individuals who are trying to promote peace, and I am glad to hear of Zionist groups, however small, who seek to live peacefully. But I do not agree with any facet of Zionism which results in the forceful displacement of Arab residents.

Bored in Vernal said...

Brooke, your plans sound fascinating! I've seen the links on your blog, and I have read some articles about this situation from Ha'aretz.