Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Apologies in advance for treading into a topic which almost invariably provokes vitriol from all sides. While I do hope people add their thoughts in the comments, for what it's worth let me ask that we all try to keep them civil and focused on the underlying issues. Leave name-calling and so forth for elsewhere.

Here's the thing. On a fundamental level, down below the latest human tragedies that fill our headlines, be they Israeli tragedies or Palestinian tragedies, down underneath all of that I just don't get what the Israelis and Palestinians are fighting about.

I'm not going to get into who's right, and who's wrong. I think neither side has any right to claim the moral high ground anymore. I am just hoping, in sincere terms, that someone here can help me understand.

Let me explain. So as far as I've been able to learn on my own, the basic issue is over who gets to control various pieces of territory in and around Israel, including the Gaza strip and some distributed chunks of the West Bank (Wikipedia, as always, has a pretty good map of the affected areas at their main Israeli-Palestinian Conflict page.)

After the 1993 Oslo accords, Israel agreed to cede control of these territories to the Palestinians in a phased manner, in exchange for peace. Sounds reasonable to me. But then it all fell apart because in the end nobody could agree about who gets to control Jerusalem. In 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, it all went to hell, and here we are over fifteen years after the Oslo accords and they're still killing each other.

This is the part I don't understand. I mean, I get it that Jerusalem is an enormously symbolic place. When you add up the people in all the religions that have a historical and religious tie to Jerusalem, you see that it is pretty much the top dog of holy cities of humanity.

So both sides want it. I get that. What I don't understand is the tradeoff that seems to be continually taking place in the region.

On the one hand, you have the possibility of peace. Of stability. Of the ability to live a life without fear of sudden death from the skies or getting blown up at the supermarket. A life of watching your children grow up without starvation and/or PTSD.

On the other hand, you have control over a symbolic city.

Those two just don't have equivalent worth in my head. To me this choice is a no-brainer. I cannot fathom how this choice could ever be so difficult. I don't understand how controlling Jerusalem is so important--to either side--that it's worth the cost. That it is worth the lives of their children, their mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. But especially, their children.

Growing up, my parents taught me, both through words and actions, that parents will pretty much do anything to protect their children. They taught me that this was a basic human truth that crossed all lines of race, creed, color, religion, and geography. I believed them on an intellectual level, then. Now that I am older and have kids of my own, I understand in my gut what they were talking about.

So when the Israelis intentionally make it so damn difficult for food, medicine, and supplies to get into the Gaza Strip, knowing full well that all this will do is cause suffering and anger within the Palestinian population there, I don't get it. They know, they have to know, that the result will, eventually, be that Hamas or even just some random angry Palestinian is going to fire rockets into Israel, and somewhere, a mother will weep. A father will cry out in anguish. The casket maker will buy a new car. And an orphaned child will go to live with relatives.

And when the Palestinians smuggle weapons in from Egypt with which to express their fury and frustration at being caged like animals in Gaza, knowing full well the military reaction they will bring down upon themselves from Israel, I don't get it. I mean, I get their frustration. I understand their rage over their situation. But they know, they have to know, that the inevitable result of lashing out at Israel is a rain of unholy hell from the Israeli air force, and all over Gaza, mothers will weep. Fathers will cry out in anguish. The casket maker will buy a new car. And orphaned children will go to live with relatives.

How is it worth it? This, I do not understand. How is any argument over any piece of land anywhere on earth ever worth the lives of so many children? How is it ever worth this unending cycle of violence?

It doesn't fit with my understanding of the love human beings are supposed to have for their children. Am I to believe that the Israelis and the Palestinians love their children less than I love mine? No. It is inconceivable. So how, then, can I reconcile choice by both sides to have war and death when they could choose peace and life?

This, I do not understand.

Can someone--anyone--explain it to me?


Blogger waleed said...

free plestine from zionists..the criminals

January 14, 2009 12:17 PM  

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