Tuesday, December 30, 2008

History may not be on their side

With so much bad blood over so many years flowing between them, Israel and Palestine face daunting odds when it comes to the dream of establishing a meaningful and lasting peace.

Many (but not all) Israelis believe that permanent settlement of the land is their God-given right, some have simply lived there all their lives and don't wish to leave a place they consider home. Meanwhile, Palestinians likely feel as though they live under an illegal occupation begun by UN mandate and continued through Israeli governmental force. It is, obviously, an incredibly volatile situation.

Neither side is wholly guilty or wholly innocent in this mess, but it can be extremely difficult for the various involved parties to see that, given the deeply personal stakes.

For anyone to criticize Israel is seen by some to be anti-Semitic. Who wants to be accused of that, especially when the specter of the Holocaust is raised as part of the accusation? But it is absolutely essential that we all be allowed to have an open and honest dialogue concerning the actions of the modern Israeli state in regards to their Palestinian/Arab neighbors. To ignore any and all abuses of power by them would be to do a gross disservice not only to those immediately effected by the problems, but also to those ancestors who actually lived through Nazi persecution.

I heard an Israeli man quoted on NPR yesterday in regards to the current bombing campaign in Gaza. He said he wanted to "see them eradicated." The utter irony of a Jewish person calling for the devastation of an entire people apparently flew right over his head, and that, quite frankly, is incredibly sad.

Too, the extreme degree of violence being leveled against the Palestinians by Israel is appalling. In alleged response to a couple of rockets (honestly, it probably goes back further than that), the country has sent its airforce to bomb various buildings throughout the strip. Doesn't this seem a little, I don't know, disproportionate? Here's another example of the disparity:
I see the frustration on both sides. Far too many people, both civilian and military, have been needlessly killed in this seemingly never-ending conflict. Most folks, both Palestinian and Israeli, simply want to be able to go about their lives in peace, with access to basic needs like clean water, food, and medicine, and with relatively safe streets and schools for their children.

But Hamas and other militant groups (and even heads of state) insist that they want to wipe Israel off the map, and/or kill all of the Jews. That, too, is disgusting and reprehensible. So is sending random rockets into civilian areas.

None of the actors in this are innocent, none without blood on their hands. But no one else should have to die, either. Someone has to step up and put an end to the ridiculous cycle of retaliation--no matter what. Set aside history, set aside pride, set aside political or religious ideology and just stop. That's what it will take.

I know, I know--it's not so easy as all that. There are always rogue players involved who will try their damnedest to spoil any attempts at peace. But let them become the outcasts, reviled for their violent tactics, while the rest rise above and work toward something far more meaningful.

Then again, maybe things are just too far gone. Maybe there can never be a peaceful co-existence between Israeli and Palestinian, regardless of any new partition or independence. That would be, in my opinion, a great tragedy - and a hard lesson learned about what happens when outside forces move into a place and impose their will without any consideration for the native population, and when religious extremism on all sides becomes the rule of the day.

Extreme reactions breed extreme reactions.

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