The Israel-Palestine Conflict

My comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after the United Nations Security Council meeting

I recently watched a UN Security Council meeting about the ongoing chaos in Israel where every now and then some extremists run a terrorist campaign, then the state of Israel feels duty-bound to respond with force. The result is always some deaths on both sides along with collateral damage who were likely innocent bystanders. This has been happening to Israel since its independence and both sides feel under siege.

I listened as state after state talked about the need for peace, a two-state solution where both can live side by side in peace, restraint from Israel, understanding the plight of the Palestinians, and a call for dialogue. I have listened to mostly the same talking points for the past 30+ years and I’m starting to think we are deluding ourselves if we fail to, over and over again, see the reality on the ground.

A Summary of the History

Despite the Romans forcibly removing and displacing Jews from their ancestral homelands, there always remained a small minority of the Jewish population in what is today Israel. Over the two millennia, different groups and tribes moved in and everyone did live alongside each other mostly peacefully no matter who ruled the lands.

The most dominant group occupying the lands were people who followed Islam and built the al-Aksa Mosque and the iconic Dome of the Rock, where it is told that the Prophet Muhammed ascended to heaven. Since Islamic empires ruled the region for more than a millennium, it makes sense that most of the people living there are most likely followers of Islam.

These Islamic holy sites were built over and on top of what remained of the Jewish Second Temple that the Romans destroyed in 70 CE. Christians also claimed Jerusalem as an important holy city so now all three great monotheistic God religions have holy sites there. The Jews claimed the area first with nearly all of what is written in the Torah taking place there. The Christians came along several hundred years later and most of what was written in their bible takes place throughout the region. The Christians also reset the clock that we all live by today.

Jesus Christ was a Jew who claimed to be the Messiah that some Jews believed and many others did not. Thus starting the rifts between the Jews and Christians. As Christianity spread, so did anti-semitism against the Jews. It just goes to show how cruel humans can be despite the existence of religion to curtail the excesses of human cruelty.

Islam came about some 700 years after Christianity and spread throughout the Middle East, parts of Eastern Europe, Central, South and Southeast Asia through different Islamic empires, the last being the Ottoman. Even during Ottoman rule, all three religious groups lived mostly peacefully in the region. The end of WWI brought about the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1919 and the British Empire claimed the Holy Lands for the Christians.

The Jews, who never felt completely safe or welcomed wherever they lived because of constant outbreaks of communal violence and pogroms, started to dream about the reality of returning to the land of their ancestors. Some Jews started to return and buy up whatever land anyone was willing to sell to them. British census records of the Palestine Mandate region showed massive increases in Jews coming to what is now Israel. The records also showed massive increases in the Muslim population in what is now Israel but very sparse populations in the surrounding areas that now make up Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Some argue that the increased Muslim population is natural birth but I find it highly suspicious.

World War II brought such devastation to the Jewish population in Europe that there was no doubt now amongst the Jews that they had to return to the land of their ancestors. Despite the outpouring of sympathy and a Christian rethink of the horrors their anti-Jewish sentiments have caused, the Jews can only see safety when they are in charge of their own destiny. Nearly 2000 years of discrimination have taught them that Christian charity may be time limited. Knowing this history, I don’t blame the Jews for the decisions they made.

Knowing they could not get everything they wanted, the Jews consented to whatever the British or the United Nations was willing to give them. Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948 and the next day, five Islamic countries, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon with the support of the Arab League went to war with Israel. Israel won and several wars have broken out over the past seven decades but Israel always won. The Jews have proven that this time, they intend to stay put and if the American Jews have anything to say about it, they intend to make sure the US government continues to support Israel.

The return of the Jews became al-Nakba for the Arab Muslims who now call themselves Palestinians. The many displaced found new places to call home but a persistent population remains in refugee camps after more than seven decades. There have been many attempts at peace agreements but each time, as told by many, the Palestinian Authority walked away from negotiations. Even a former Saudi diplomat has confirmed these facts. So is the Palestinian Authority credible and serious every time they publically call for a two-state solution? After watching this for more than 30 years, I am starting to have doubts.

Can the Two Sides Live in Peace?

Part of the slogans of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah starts with “From the river to the sea…” That’s a clear indication that they don’t see Israel anywhere between the river (Jordan River) and the Mediterranean Sea. Israel has had to live with seven decades of intermittent terrorism by the militant groups Hamas, Hezbollah and the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). How is that an indication that Palestinians intend to be peaceful? The Palestinian Authority has lost control over its militant factions but expects the Israelis to believe that there will be peace once a two-state solution has been agreed upon (but this probably won’t happen because the PA always walks away from the negotiations).

The latest rebuke of Israel started with terrorists hiding within Jenin shooting at Israelis. Israel planned and then went into Jenin to find/capture the terrorists. While this was happening, a Hamas terrorist went on a stabbing rampage in Tel Aviv. We can see how the eye for an eye keeps happening. Despite the fact that there are some 20% of Palestinians living peacefully within the territory of Israel, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have zero tolerance for any Israeli settlements within their “claimed” territory. So every now and then some terrorist activity, jihad, intifada starts up and the Israelis respond with force.

The Israeli settlement is seen by the Palestinians as further encroachment into their lands and given the history, they are not wrong. But can the two sides live “side by side in peace” when the state of poverty within the West Bank and Gaza further exacerbates the tensions on both sides? Can the territories the Palestinians occupy have a real economy when terrorism threatens the stability of both sides? The refusal to denounce and end terrorism has fed the corruption in the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Hezbollah to the point that it is also destabilizing Lebanon.

The Arab Muslims control vast territory from North Africa to the entire Middle East. Can the territory the Israelis control including Gaza and the West Bank be Israeli? Is that too much to ask? What will it cost for the Israeli to take all of this territory and for the Palestinians to be relocated elsewhere within the Middle East?

The Israelis won’t leave because this is their ancient land, it is written in the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran. Without Judaism, there would not have been Christianity or Islam in its current form. The Palestinians won’t leave because they also have a claim because of al-Aksa and the Dome of the Rock, but otherwise, most events in Islam as told in the Quran take place outside of Israel. Access to both can certainly be negotiated somehow.

I don’t like seeing the Palestinians continue to suffer because of extreme elements within their community. They have been suffering and will continue to suffer unless there is a settlement. Terrorism brings instability, death and destruction. The terrorist element within the Palestinian community makes it hard to believe that both sides can live peacefully next to each other when they can’t seem to do so for the past seven decades. So either the terrorist element is somehow completely eliminated and a settlement is reached or some elements within the Israeli community will find a way to take all of the territory and a different settlement will be reached.

It’s time to rethink the conflict in Israel.