Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Frank Discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian Situation

Is it maybe, maybe, just possible that it's a bad idea for a bunch of old white men (read: the United Nations in 1948) to decide, essentially based on a Biblical religious passage, to drop the nation of Israel smack dab into the middle of a group of Arabs who had already gotten plenty of repression and military rule throughout the centuries?

A brief history of the land known as Palestine:

1800-1500 B.C. - Canaanites, Hitties, several types of Semitic peoples, Greeks from Mycenae, Philistines and Hebrews settle the roughly 10,000 square miles of modern-day Palestine/Israel.
1000-61 B.C. - About a dozen different empires, from Alexander the Great to the Assyrians to King David to the Persians conquer and rule the area.
61 B.C. - The Roman empire conquers Palestine. Some Jews remain in Galilee, but many leave or are forced out.
600-1900 A.D. - Except brief periods, the longest being about 30 years, Palestine is controlled by Muslim armies, who put down attempts to take it by Christian Crusaders (you saw Kingdom of Heaven, Orlando Bloom is dreamy, Liam Neeson takes an arrow through the nutsack, Saladdin, etc., etc.), Turks and Egpytians. Throughout almost all of Muslim rule in Palestine, Jews are permitted to both live there and practice their religion.
1880 - Palestine is under the umbrella of the Ottoman empire, which places restrictions on Jewish settlement and immigration and encourages Muslims instead to emigrate there. Jewish population is 24,000 out of roughly 400,000.
1917 - After World War I, Britain issues the Balfour Declaration, the first time the idea of an official Jewish state is floated. Britain doesn't want France to get a hold of Palestine, so they form a power bloc with the U.S. to support the creation of Israel (read: a bunch of white guys got together and decided to screw over a bunch of brown guys, justifying it with a Bible passage about it being the Jewish promised land).

So we can both agree that, between centuries of being militarily conquered and occupied and the two major world wars, both the Palestinians and the Jews took some pretty horrible hits. But even as early as 1919, David Ben Gurion, who would go on to be the first Israeli Prime Minister, acknowledged that subdividing Palestine into two countries was not going to work: 
"But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question...We as a nation, want this country to be ours, the Arabs as a nation, want this country to be theirs."
You also have a period of cross-cultural agitation, with politicians and religious figures on both sides inciting the other and generally reinforcing the principles of "the other." Then in World War II, as more and more Jews begin to realize that Hitler is, in fact, trying to exterminate them, they organize the first massive wave of illegal immigration to Palestine, prompting the British to close the borders. Eventually, the U.S. pressures the Brits to let 'em in, and we start serious discussion about a Jewish state. 

So okay, here's the map for what the Palestine/Israeli dual state was to look like, in 1947 (Palestinian land in pink):

All things considered, that seems pretty fair to me. In fact, Israel got more than half, 56 percent, in this original deal. Naturally, they had nothing but good things to say about the proposal. Palestinian Arabs rejected it. Almost as soon as the partition declaration is formalized, fighting and mutual antagonism breaks out. With such a retarded map, it's almost impossible for the UN to enforce all along the borders. Haj Amin El Husseini's Arab army runs incursions into Israeli territory, and the Jewish underground army, the Haganah, begins mounting operations into Arab land. Meanwhile, neighboring Arab countries "declare war" on Israel, but they're not really all that serious and half of them have their own agenda (Syria wants to annex the northern part of Israel, and the King of Jordan is negotiating with Israel's Golda Meir to simultaneously annex areas in the West Bank and block the creation of a Palestinian state). The occupying British, meanwhile, are just sort of standing around, watching the fighting and probably hoping that one side or the other will just win so they won't have to do anything. In the spring of '48, Israel declares independence, and the British leave.

Then you have a series of wars with Egypt in which the Israelis take and give back the Sinai Peninsula, some scuffles with Syria in the Golan Heights, and then leading up through the late '70s and into the '80s you have the formation of the PLO, Fatah and shit with Lebanon and Hezbollah in the mid-'80s.

It should be noted that, during all this time, Israel has really never gotten smaller. It's only gotten larger, and now controls 78 percent of the former area of Palestine (Palestinian area in green):

You also have the United States supporting Israel pretty much every single time, regardless of the situation. I'll grant you, it would not be cool to live there. But they have the world's second-best military, they're a nuclear power even if they won't come out and admit it, and their response to what are really minor attacks by Hamas militants is disproportionate to say the least. 

Israel is like a kid from the neighborhood who got picked on during high school (we're talking pre-Christian). **There really is no good, non-offensive analog in this metaphor for the Holocaust, so let's insert that here** Then, while he was at college, he beefed up and got his confidence up. He came back to town, had a few good ol' boys help him put the fix in to become mayor. When some of the locals complained that he really had no right to be mayor, he started bullying everyone around and acting like a dick. And his mayoral pal from the next town over - who just happened to have the biggest gun collection in the county - supported everything he did.

I'm just sayin'... when you offer blind support for Israel and condemn every Palestinian as a terrorist, you're not really looking at the facts. And you can't have a frank discussion about the whole situation without taking into consideration that its seeds were planted by a bunch of white guys trying to "better the world." (read: establish/force a Western-friendly presence in the Middle East with the convenient-and-better-yet-just benefit of achieving a homeland for millions of displaced, persecuted Jews, the underlying reasons for which also fit into a large segment of the world's religious ideology; it's really a beautiful political double-play if you think about it... it sowed the seeds for a lot of the religious extremism that led to the Islamic Revolution and 9/11, but hey...)

"Few do more harm than those who set out with 'good intentions'" - William S. Burroughs

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