The world can certainly do better than this. Here's why.

Thursday, June 17

Rights to Exist

Israel, a place for Jewish people to call home, has the right to exist. It NEEDS to exist. And they do fight to defend their state and its people. The displacement, marginalization, and internment of the Palestinian people. This is the core problem. My thesis here is that everybody loses unless the Palestinians, somehow, win.

The lessons of North and South American and Australian aboriginal people had not yet been truly learned when the Holy Land was set aside for the Zionist cause in the 1920s. Further, there were other Arab homelands to identify with the Palestinians, to carry their cause as their own -- which exacerbates the conflict. Then, there's the mixed in divinity of the whole exercise which often confounds and radicalizes every aspect.

The causes at hand, both "Zionist" and the "Arabian" have morphed, changed, and grown into something that, ninety years later, is not what it was in the beginning. Now conflict is the product of generations of suffering on both sides and what that means to each group of people. It is a conflict about the harms being done to each other daily for each slight/devastating blow. It's the psychology of captivity, occupation, authority -- a clash of civilizations in some quarters -- that affect both groups. It's the Stanford prison experiment done on a massive scale.

It is understandable that an Israel that throws down their arms first would no longer exist. This is true for anybody, a person or a State, that has forcibly occupied another. No captor can trust that his captive will never retaliate when the boot is removed from the captive's throat. This is why the US cannot accept a sovereign Iraq or Afghanistan without sub-contracting their security operations to an industry of US friendly mercenaries. This is why Israel cannot accept an independent, sovereign State of Palestine. There would be blow-back.

No land in the world could have been set aside that would have been less of a powder keg as the land that then State of Israel now has. It has been contested throughout history. One must wonder what wisdom there was in a Christian administrator taking land from Muslim, Arab, and Christian farmers to set it aside for Europe's -- and the the rest of the world's -- Jewish population. Since then, with all that has been done in the name of protecting Israel, the chosen path cannot be undone. Therein lies the bind. Would the Palestinians -- and the Arab nations who support them -- throw down their weapons, there could be peace in the Middle East. That would mean they concede the taking of Palestinian land for Israel's right to exist. Palestine would concede to disappear from history for an achievable peace.

The fact that it was 1917 when British Lord Balfour declared it makes as much difference to Palestine now as it does to the people of the First Nations when, in 1534, Jacques Cartier took the name of Canada for that nation; or, to the First Nations of the United States when Columbus landed in 1492 claiming America for the Spanish. Nobody asked, "well, what about the people who are already there?" Nobody figured out whether or not the indigenous people had a right to determine their own future. They didn't have futures worth considering. Throughout history there is one solution: conquer and establish a new order erasing the old.

If these historical dramas were replayed in the 20th century, the people of the First Nations of the Americas or Australia would never be marginalized on their own continents in an age of antibiotics, arms trade, and an international eye. They would fight the Spanish, the British, the French, the Dutch, the Portuguese or any other comers. They might have even found some benefactor to support their cause, perhaps Russia or China. The fate of the American First Nations and Australian Aboriginal people is a matter of our bloody history. Unfortunately for Israel's right to exist, history has hit the wall with Palestine.

Since the turn of the 20th century, the paths toward conquest by arms have been resisted at every turn. The major international wars -- World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars -- have yielded little in acquisition of territory. On the contrary, the world has splintered in the wake of these wars. States have broken away from imperial and colonial bonds. More countries exist today than at any point in history. Only economic conquest has been successful, but then, this is often achieved with nationalistic fervor attached. Without a nation to undermine their ideas, Palestinians will not fall to economic conquest either. Things cannot get worse for them. Imbalanced trade agreements, privatization of utilities, currency devaluation and other forms of shock treatment would fail. So it is that Palestine continues to resist. It is their lot to be sacrificed at the altar of two ideals. That of resistance to the occupation of their lands, no matter who the occupier is; and at the altar of the right for Israel to exist.

Palestinians can't recognize Israel because doing so admits that the lands of Palestine, hence Palestinians, don't exist. It is cultural suicide and they cannot allow that to happen. They refuse to fade from history. They and their allies refuse to allow this to happen. Let it be said that I don't approve of or agree with the methods of resistance employed. The methods of suppression, incursion, and occupation breed such resistance. Israel controls the land but it cannot control the people. As long as Israel holds the land, Palestinians pose a threat to the security of Israel -- they are de facto enemies of the State. As long as the Palestinians are weak and stateless, their attacks on the powerful State of Israel will be defined as acts of terrorism, not as acts of war in response the war which set up the Occupied Territories. As long as Palestinians support the cause of Palestine, Palestinians will be known only as terrorists -- a powerful image in the eyes of people on all sides in this crucible. Any others who support Palestinians will be known as "enemies of freedom" and terrorists themselves.

And, as long as the fight against terrorism remains politically and economically viable -- read: profitable -- support for Palestinians will be marginalized. A state of conflict will persist between supporters of Palestine, some rich and powerful nations in their own right, and a powerful State of Israel and her allies. Arms dealers, oil companies, and heavy industries are ready to take the orders. Banks are ready to extend loans. So it goes.


The unthinkable must happen to resolve this conflict. Israel cast as Goliath and falling to a stone cast by a Palestinian David is a bitter irony. Whether this final stone is cast by arms or by diplomacy is entirely in the hands of the belligerents. What Israel has won by war and occupation must be given back. Jerusalem, at the heart of the conflict, is to be divided. Its center, the holy sites of all the world's major faiths is to be administered by the UN in perpetuity until the two state solution is sufficiently co-dependent as to negate the possibility of war. Jerusalem must be a world city open for all humans to share.

Palestinians and the newly minted State of Palestine must have the right to self-determination and self-defense. The right to trade and freely associate in the world community. The right to establish trade agreements that do not exploit her people. The right to a cultural identity of its own making. The right to develop energy production and resources and an education system and a history of its own writing. In short, all of the rights and freedoms enjoyed by any other sovereign state. This is too much of a threat to Israel and it is why the two-state solution is roundly rejected. The chains of history, those dreadful acts that gone before and are impossible to undo, dictate that Israel will not feel secure unless it controls the Palestinian people.

Failing to recognize the Palestinian people, their claims on the land and their right to exist in that holy land, is altogether worse than what has already transpired in the Americas and in Australia. It has not yet been one hundred years since the first Jewish people flooded into Palestine after World War I. No apology will ever resolve this conflict. No tax breaks or land reserves set aside will staunch the flow of blood that has defined this conflict. Only a change in direction by Israel, and the lobbyists in Washington, can secure a peaceful future for all.


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