Sunday, October 28, 2012

Whirled Peas

As your humble dilettante blogwriter, the next issue I'll hold forth on is the Israel/Palestine conflict.  I read a book, so now I have Opinions. (I actually read 1.25 books, but the first one felt way too biased, so I stopped and found a more balanced treatment.) 

The more I learn about the Israelis and Palestinians*, the more I hate both sides.  Seriously, there are no good guys in this story.

*Note: I use the words Israelis and Palestinians a lot in this post, even though I realize that neither group is a monolithic entity.  There are plenty of Israelis who oppose their government/military's actions, and plenty of Palestinians who want peace.  But unfortunately, those are not the ones who are making the overall decisions.  

Every time I try to sympathize with one side, to see the situation through their eyes, something jerks me back into feeling for the other side.  It's a strange case of sympathy vertigo.  I can't tell up from down, good from bad, right from wrong.  I can never tell who's the protagonist and who's the enemy.  It's like reading a book where the point of view keeps changing, but you can't identify with any of the narrators.

Obviously, it was wrong for the Israelis to forcibly remove thousands of Palestinians from their homes in 1948.  It was wrong of them to ignore the U.N. recommendations for borders, and then to assassinate the Swedish mediator assigned to broker a peace agreement. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It's also patently wrong and unfair that the Palestinians have been living under a foreign occupation for 60+ years.  They are a people without a country, without rights or self-governance.  That is so obviously wrong it's ludicrous. And I can't understand how Israelis could be so oppressive toward a minority under their jurisdiction.  You would think Jews, of all people, would have more empathy for that kind of thing.

To be fair, not only did the Jews have to deal with persecution, pogroms, and the Holocaust, but Israel is surrounded by countries and people who want to kill them, who think they don't have a right to exist.  One can see how they might make them a little skittish.

The Palestinians, for their part, seem to be doing everything they can to make their situation worse.  Every time they attack Israeli soldiers or citizens, they're being, at the very least, stupid.  And at their worst they're being just as big as dickbags as the Israelis.  It's like having two children in the back seat of you car.  The big one is being mean and punching the little one, but the little one won't stop taunting him, inviting more of it.  The Palestinian terrorist attacks not only invite Israel to retaliate (often disproportionately), but it also allows Israel to justify its aggression.  It's just bad PR and hurts the Palestinian cause.  You don't win sympathy,  peace, or justice by blowing up people. When you blow up a bus full of civilians, you just look like an asshole who deserves whatever punishment you get.   

What the Palestinians need is their own Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or dare I say, Jesus.  (This coming from an atheistic agnostic.)  Someone who can show them that peaceful protest is the way to get the rest of the world on your side.  I truly believe that if the Palestinians just laid off the bombs, guns, and rock-throwing, the Western world would have much more sympathy for them and be more inclined to come to their aid.  But they have no patience and no faith.  They don't believe anyone would be on their side.  Maybe that lack of faith is justified.  But let me pose this question: How is the current strategy of blowing shit up working for you?

Where are all your hippies, Palestinians?

The argument I don't buy from either side is that they absolutely must have THIS PIECE OF LAND.  This is where the conflict becomes sectarian and I see no point to it.  Jews argue that they've been yearning to live in the holy land for 2,000 years.  I'm sorry, but your statute of limitations is up.  You can't stake a claim on land from a hundred generations ago.  I fully support the idea of a Jewish state, but I don't buy the argument that this state must be in one specific location. (I once heard a comedian joke that the Jewish homeland should have been taken from Germany after the Holocaust.  Bavaria would be a nice chunk of real estate for the new Jewish homeland. It was a joke, but really, wouldn't that have been more fair than displacing all those Palestinians?) 

The Palestinians' claim to the land is more recent, but still, it's been 60 years.  Israel is established now.  It's not going away, so Palestinians need to learn accept that and move on.  Their uncompromising insistence on "right of return" is not only unrealistic at this point, but counterproductive.

The solution to the problem is obvious: we need two separate, autonomous countries, Israel and Palestine.  It was obvious from the beginning.  The problem is getting there.  

This whole situation reminds me of the old adage about interpersonal conflict: some people would rather be right than happy.  So many of the players in this drama are so focused on the past-- at claims to land and wrongs done to them-- that they are unable to look to the future, to a possible resolution and a peaceful co-existence.  Many of the Palestinians I read about in my book were so intent on going back to the land that was taken from them that they refuse to see any resolution without it.   If you were to offer them a happy, comfortable, and prosperous life where they are, they would not take it.  It must be a return or nothing else.  

They would rather be right than happy.

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