common with lots of other ancient disputes, the precise
origins of the Arab/Israeli conflict have been all
but lost to the mists of time. However, a distinctly
unique feature of this particular conflict, are the
number of possible causes cited and the almost unimaginable
length of time involved. Some Biblicists claim it
all began with the enmity between Abrahams two
sons Isaac and Ishmael. For others of a similar religious
bent, it began with the advent of Islam or even the
prophet Mohammeds quarrel with the Jews of Medina.
Another, somewhat more secular opinion stream, points
either to the emergence of Zionism in the 19th century
or to British colonial policy in the 20th century
as being the primary cause. More recently however,
many historians have tended to argue that the conflict
only really emerged with the advent of nationalism
in the Middle East and the competing nationalisms
in the region that flowed from that.
certainly have no intention of embarking on a forensic
trawl through the historiographical backdrop of the
Middle East from Biblical times to the present day.
Suffice to say, and probably to save myself having
to write a book on the subject, all of the above and
more, have at different times and to differing degrees
fuelled the fires of Middle Eastern conflict. But,
for two important reasons, I think it necessary to
at least mention the time factor and the dispute over
origins. Firstly, to do no more than simply remind
ourselves that the present Israeli/Palestinian conflict
does properly belong in the broad and often confused
and confusing geographic/historic/religious/nationalistic
context of the Middle East. It is far from being a
singular, isolated or stand-alone conflict, and ultimately
can only be properly understood if seen as another
episode in an ongoing, wider, at-least-centuries-old
light of this almost-infinite variety of possible
grievances, it would be foolish to assume that all
of those thrown together on either side of the conflict
are necessarily driven by identical motivating factors.
Or even except for sharing basic demands -
necessarily have the same ultimate goals in mind.
Secondly, as the sympathies of outsiders and non-protagonists
are invariably coloured to a large degree by their
initial choice of historical starting off point, it
is important to realise that in this case, the options
available are almost incalculable. Depending on where,
for you, history began in the Middle East, a reasonably
robust case can be made for favouring either side
over the other.
own preferred starting off point is the mere stating
of an indisputable fact: Throughout the known history
of mankind, there has never been another clearly defined
group of people that has suffered anything comparable
with that endured by both the Palestinian and Jewish
peoples down through the ages. It would be futile
and verging on the obscene to instigate any form of
discussion around which of the two has suffered most;
it would also be beside the point I am trying to make.
real obscenity, and one that we shouldnt avoid,
is bound up in the fact that these two most maligned
peoples should now find themselves pitted against
one another in such a bloody struggle while, for the
most part, the world looks on. The brutal and deadly
nature of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict owes a
lot to the troubled histories of the two protagonists
as well. Jews and Palestinians have both learnt through
their own bitter experiences that passivity just doesnt
centuries Jews turned the other cheek while they suffered
discrimination, scapegoating and pogrom within every
society they happened to be part of. Their essentially
passive response to it all eventually led them in
their millions to the death camps of Hitlers
Third Reich and to Stalins equally brutal, but
less publicly castigated, Gulags.
colonial and UNSCOP (United Nations Special Committee
on Palestine) interference in Palestine was an absolute
disaster for the Palestinian people, ultimately rendering
them stateless. Since then, the Palestinians have
at various times, been used, abused, exploited and
deserted by all and sundry - not least, when it suited
their purposes, by their various Arab-state neighbours
in the region.
are two sets of people who have decided that enough
is enough no longer will they stand idly by
in the face of naked aggression or exploitation from
others. If their very existence as a people is to
be threatened, then they will meet that threat full
on, and if they are to be obliterated then they will
die fighting. They fight their enemies with every
means at their disposal unfortunately, nowadays,
their enemies happen to be each other.
there a solution? Well, there has to be. But it will
only become possible when the international community,
particularly the USA, adopts a genuinely neutral position.
No more pandering to Israel alone! If anything there
needs to be an equal pandering to both sides. The
Palestinian argument for a free and independent state
is unassailable but shouldn't be allowed to become
a mere smokescreen for fundamentalist Islamic forces
intent only on killing as many Jews as possible, on
some crazy religious pretext. For those of us outside
of the region, we must always be wary of that poisonous
evil, anti-Semitism, making use of the Palestinian
argument as cover.
tactic of suicide bombing innocent civilians should
be halted; it is completely indefensible and detracts
from legitimate Palestinian demands. Israel has a
right to exist free from terrorist or any other attack,
as does a free and autonomous Palestinian state.
Western standards, Israel in my view, is no more than
a semi-democracy. But this is a matter for the Israeli
people and they alone. (Just as the Palestinian Authority,
with its obvious shortcomings, is primarily
the business of the Palestinian people.) I mention
it only because many western apologists for Israeli
outrages cite so-called democratic credentials in
a bizarre and convoluted attempt at justification.
Israels willingness to depart from accepted
western democratic norms is readily evidenced by its
treatment of many of its own (Arab) citizens and also
by the swift imprisonment of Jewish citizens who spoke
publicly of their experiences while working at its
decrepit nuclear reactor.
reactor should, at the very least, be subject to international
inspection like all others.
must desist immediately from attacking innocent civilians
and so-called legitimate targets in highly populated
areas when there is a clear danger of civilian casualties.
This tactic is as indefensible as the suicide bombings
it almost replicates. Not only must the ongoing Jewish
settlement of the occupied territories be halted,
but also Israel must begin to push back existing settlements.
Zionist fundamentalism is as damaging to the Israeli
argument as Islamic extremism is to the Palestinians.
the Israeli and Palestinian peoples deserve our sympathy
and support. Theirs is a situation largely not of
their own making. It derives from centuries-old religious
arguments, international and colonial expediency,
the scourge of nationalism and the exploitation of
their plight by a whole cast of other unscrupulous
actors. The historical backdrop to this conflict should
tell us that both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples
have suffered enough. And again I will maintain that
the ultimate obscenity in it all is the cruel twist
that now has them suffering at one anothers
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