It's hard to believe Israel and Palestinians may someday no longer be at war

Reading the BBC’s article about a coalition of prominent English Jews who are calling for Israel to suspend it’s military actions in the Gaza Strip and seek a diplomatic solution to end the Hamas offensive, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been here before, reading as similar well-meaning Jewish groups attempt to rein in the Israeli military during a very serious strategic operation. It all seems just a tad bit futile.

Based upon my understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict, I have no confidence that there will ever be a lasting peace so long as two very pronounced features change. The first is clearly the awful, bitterness-inducing conditions in which Palestinians–the majority of whom are Muslim–live under in the refugee camps set up in Gaza and loosely monitored by the United Nations. The rate of poverty, unemployment and overall health of these Arab peoples is enough for concern. That they are essentially penned in between Israel and Egypt and with little ability to travel or work outside of their camps adds to a sense of bitterness and hopelessness that can only drive a young man into radicalism such as supporting the Hamas movement–particularly its military wing. In recent weeks, that militia has launched rocket attacks at communities in Southern Israel in the hopes of provoking the Jewish nation into a ground offensive. It could be that they would like the world–particularly the Arab world–to see through newspapers and satellite TV the death and destruction Israeli war planes, tanks and rockets have brought to women and children.

The second feature that will have to change in order that there be a lasting peace is the idea among Palestinians that somehow, some way, strategic rocket strikes or any type of terrorism campaign is ever going to bring back the land that was lost decades ago. It hasn’t worked and never will, so long as the Israeli mindset is that they too live on sacred land and are willing to sacrifice their own soldiers and the lives of innocent Palestinians in order to stop the attacks upon them.

I don’t have much faith that things can be better. Not when all over the world rallies are held in support of Israel or the Palestinian people and yet no real true “road map” is advanced and the idea of a Palestinian state evaporates.

Several years ago, I read a book called Righteous Victims, about the history of the conflict in Israel that rages still this day and manages still to provoke hatred across the Muslim world, from Baghdad to Tehran to Kuala Lampur to Karachi.

It’s hard for me to “support” Israel based on the principal that thousands, if not millions of Arabs were dispossessed of their land during concerted, though defensive military campaigns in the 40’s-60’s. That much cannot be denied. Some of the greatest forces behind the creation of the state of Israel were people who did not wish to live with the Arabs, who had not responded well to their emigration from throughout Eastern Europe and beyond.

That said, I can’t point the finger at Israel too much without recognizing that in my own country, millions of people native to the lands from Long Island, to Iowa to the Black Hills to the Pacific Northwest, were themselves dispossessed of lands held sacred to accommodate a group of others.

I suppose that in the march of time there are many groups of people who are displaced, from the North American Indian to the Arab Muslim or Christian who lives within an occupied territory at the whim of Israeli control.

It’s hard to judge Israel, I have found. Like our country, theirs is one with a unique and bloody past. It’s hard also to blame them for defending themselves from rocket attacks, whether they come from Gaza or across the Lebanese border by Shiite terrorists financed with Iranian money.

Still, I’m confounded at how anyone could think that given the current status of things, either side in the conflict would want to be anything but defensive. It seems that things in that part of the world are so stressful, filled with so much hate that it can be said that life is cheap. To Jews, an Arab life is expendable and to Arabs, the life of a Zionist settler or any Israeli citizen or soldier is an affront to the their sacred land.

So long as life is cheap, neither side will win–especially the Palestinians, who need desperately to develop their economies and demand efficient and honest political representation not brute protection by men with rocket launchers and caves.

I stand back and watch on TV these days. I can’t pick a side. I know that in Gaza there are good Arabs, Muslim, Christian or just plain wanting to live. In Israel I know that there are people who just want to live in peace to offer real assistance to the Palestinian people in some way, not just cleaning up after a bombing campaign has destroyed so much in their camps. After all, so many Arab countries only pay lip service to standing in solidarity with their Arab bretheren.

Still, I have no hope for Israel. The Jews who chose to live there did so in a frying pan where religious and class differences constantly boil above the rim and then explode. For 60 + years theirs has been a nation of increasing alienation and a target for terrorism.

I wish there were a magic wand to wave that could make people live peacefully, but I’m afraid neither side has shown the sustained will to do so so far.

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