[Response to my entry on “The Myth of the Origins of Terror” by David Ames. I just wanted to add that it is very nicely done.]
I feel that the Israeli-Palestinian problem is one that is unique in the world for one simple reason. In practically every other situation, we study history, learn from it, and figure out how to resolve current problems based on this information. In Israel, I think this course of action can only cause problems. This is a place and a time where history only serves to make the situation worse. Both sides can spout facts (regular and indisputable) out their wazoo to support their views. Often times facts are presented that are absolutely and directly in opposition to each other. As impossible as it may seem, both sides are almost always right. This is not a dimensional rift or some other kind of science fiction, it is reality.
The problem comes when you try to and figure out right from wrong. It can’t be done. Both sides are right and wrong at the same time.
You state: One Israeli “fact” from the war is that the local Arabs were convinced to leave their homes by the Arab powers, who told them that they would return to their homes after Israel was crushed. The Palestinian counter-“fact” is that the local Arabs were forced to leave by Israel. Between these two “facts” there is an “Indisputable Fact” that the Arab residents of British Mandatorial Palestine left their homes in 1948.
I disagree with your analysis. To an independent observer, your “indisputable fact” is correct. However, the reality of the situation is
that independent observers are the ones who matter the least. The only important information is what comes from the polarized parties. When this happens, the “indisputable fact” changes. I’m sure most Palestinians would state that their “counter-fact” is actually the “indisputable fact” because the Israeli “fact” is untrue, therefore leaving no room for a middle-ground fact. As flawed and illogical as this thinking may be, it is the reality of the situation. Both sides think they are in the right (I’m generalizing here of course). No middle ground can exist when opposing parties do not even care about listening to the other side’s arguments. All that remains then is two different opinions at war, there is not a no-man’s land, there is just a front line.
This has been caused by history and fact. I was a history major in college and I am now in law school. I love history and fact. However, for once we need to toss them aside. As long as we keep looking at what happened yesterday, we will never be able to focus on what needs to be done tomorrow. In this situation, frankly it doesn’t matter what happened in the past. It doesn’t matter who killed who on what day, or who lived where in what year. These are things which must be tossed aside in order to proceed. I’m not
just talking about the past, I’m talking about “future history” as well. If this problem is ever going to be solved, inflammatory events must be discarded and forgotten the moment they occur.
It doesn’t matter if a suicide bomber killed X people yesterday. Act as if it didn’t happen and the peace process will go much faster. The killings are not the problem, they are a side effect of the problem. You don’t take headache medicine to deal with a brain tumor; you remove the tumor. The correct response to violence is tolerance. Anything else just makes the problem worse.
That being said, I do not believe such a course of action is possible. It is one thing to propose solutions, it is another to get them to work. My suggestion is that both sides immediately discard all antagonism, ignore centuries of deeply ingrained history (truthful or not), and do nothing to protect themselves. Such a thing is impossible, I personally would not be able to do it. If my friends were being blown up by suicide bombers, I would want the Palestinians to be blown to hell. If my friends were being shot by Israeli soldiers, I would support suicide bombings to make the Israelis feel my pain.
I do not have an answer that will work, all I know is that everything that has been proposed does not work. Those involved in the conflict (as a whole, again generalizing) cannot be objective enough to resolve the situation. Those who are objective are not in a position to resolve the conflict. I just hope there is someone out there who is smarter than I am and who can see a realistic solution to the problem that I cannot.
Monthly Archives: June 2002
[Response to my entry on “The Myth of the Origins of Terror” by David Ames. I just wanted to add that it is very nicely done.]
As a former peace activist, one who came to Israel to find a way to open a dialogue between the sides, I feel a certain responsibility to dispel the myths going around in the left-wing camps of today regarding the origins of terror.
As a disclaimer I must admit that in a conflict as complicated as the one in the Middle East today there are two types of facts. “Facts” are pieces of information that can be shown to be true through a recounting of past events(“history”). The way that those events are recounted, or the way history is read, influences the “fact”—an example is the 1948 War of Independence. One Israeli “fact” from the war is that the local Arabs were convinced to leave their homes by the Arab powers, who told them that they would return to their homes after Israel was crushed. The Palestinian counter-“fact” is that the local Arabs were forced to leave by Israel. Between these two “facts” there is an “Indisputable Fact” that the Arab residents of British Mandatorial Palestine left their homes in 1948.
For the sake of this piece I will try and focus on “Indisputable Facts” only, as only they have the power to expel and dismiss myths.
The central myth in the left wing regarding Terror is that the “settlements are the root of terror.”
The quickest was to dispel the myth is to look at three indisputable facts:
1. Terrorist actions against Israel have their root in the Fedayun, sponsored by Egypt, who carried out cross-border attacks in the 1950s and 1960s, long before the 1967 War or the “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza.
2. Modern Terrorist suicide attacks have their root in the actions of the Hamas, which only came on to the scene in 1991-2, after Israel attended the Madrid Conference and began the Oslo process. The Intifada of the 1980s, which was a popular uprising and outburst of Palestinian nationalism, did not include suicide attacks. Modern terror, suicide attacks, therefore has its root in opposition to the Peace Process and not in the “occupation.”
3. The terrorist organizations at the forefront of suicide attacks oppose the peace process and the creation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza, and openly state that they do not want a state in the pre-1967 borders.
[Even the Palestinian Authority doesn’t advocate a Palestinian State living side-by-side with Israel. Why is this an “indisputable fact” and not just a “fact?” Easy, look at their own maps and at the Palestinian National Covenant. You see no mention of the State of Israel on the maps they provide their school-children, and the PNC has no mention of the right of the State of Israel to exist. Quite the opposite—it still calls for the struggle against Israel with the aim of its destruction. The existence of the settlements over the line of armistice, therefore, doesn’t affect their national aspirations.]
Moreover, and I will warn you that I might be heading toward “fact” territory, ask yourself when exactly the “Palestinian people” were occupied. I am not questioning the idea that a people is self-defined and that every peoples has the right of self-realization, but think for a second, because in order to call the Israeli presence in the “West Bank and Gaza” (Judea, Samaria and Gaza) “occupation” one must agree when the Palestinians were conquered or occupied.
For this I am going to make a very logical assumption that a people needs to be free before it can be conquered. Only a free nation can be occupied. Otherwise it is just land on which people live.
So when were the Palestinians free? Were they free pre-1967, when Jordan held the West Bank and Egypt the Gaza Strip, both barring their residents by-and-large from gaining citizenship and stuffing them into refugee camps? Were the Palestinians free pre-1948 under British Mandatorial rule? Were they free when the Ottomans ruled the area? The list of conquerors goes back all the way to Roman times, and, get this, before Roman conquest there was only one free kingdom in the “West Bank and Gaza”: the Kingdom of Judea.
So how exactly did the Israelis conquer the West Bank and Gaza?
A response to Omri’s letter (which can be viewed below).
First of all, I would like to encourage responses: they are essential to advance and clarify thought. Please feel free to contact me at ArielBeery@hotmail.com and speak your mind. Make sure to tell me if you mind my posting your thoughts.
Now just a couple of things in response. I numbered them cause they’re long, so feel free to move on after the first line on each paragraph:
1. The Crusaders, and the Christian Conquest of the Holy Land, didn’t just end-the Crusaders were beat off, furiously, by Salah-a-Din (who, by the way, was Kurdish, and yet is hailed by Arafat as the Arab Liberator and his role model). The Crusaders did not go to the Holy Land to kill themselves, but to conquer territory. So did the armies lead by Salah-a-Din. Each loved life more than death, and fought hard to reconquer the land.
2. Although much nicer to the Jews than Europe, the Ottoman empire did not exactly extend freedom to all of its members. Christians and Jews who resisted the forced conversions of early Islam were classified as second-class citizens. The Ottoman strategy for dealing with the heretics was different than the Europeans: they simply gave them almost autonomous control as long as the community paid high “infidel taxes.” (By the way, a great book out there for a quick overview is “What Went Wrong” by Bernard Lewis .)
3. The Ottomans were not Arabs. They were Turks. Egypt and its vassals (the area called later by the British as Trans-Jordan Palestine) was ruled by Armenians and not Arabs. I make this distinction for cultural and not racial reasons. The Ottoman Empire, which faded for two centuries due mostly to Russian pressure, was destroyed by WWI. And the Turks, lead by a military man and the young officers he commanded, installed a Democracy. Militancy, therefore, brought an end to the empire and not ideology.
4. The Arabs first came onto the sceen as a power after WWI, galloping out of the Arabian Peninsula and capturing the vacant Middle East. They were helped by the British and French, who in their partition of the Middle East, allowed them to set up kingdoms. This exporting of Arab Wahhabi culture changed the population of the Middle East and its cultural standards.
5. Holy Books do not have to change in order for their interpretation to be different–different enough that they support violence against innocents.
6. Suicide attacks are a new phenomenon, one that endangers the very openness of modern society. The suicide bombings in Israel began in 1991 (or 1992) and were started by the Hamas and a fatwa (Islamic judicial interpretation)which said that it was honorable to kill yourself if you take others with you–others in this case being anyone that supports an enemy of yours.
7. Modern Military, and Wars fought Military-against-Military, is a fundamental backbone of Open Society. Sound weird at first, but think of this: an Army gives the citizens within a state a security guarantee in that it will protect them and their property, while also absorbing the aggression of other states. Thus, citizens in a state threatened by other states can feel secure to live their lives with freedom.
8. Aggression and violence are a part of life–to classify them as ‘primitive’ is to allow our ideologies to blind us to the state of the world. Killing people is bad, horribly bad. Tolken says through Gandalf (loose quote)”there are a lot of people who are dead who deserve to live, and a lot of people who are alive who deserve to die. Can you decide who deserves what?” I too wish to “follow the path of love” but I for one will not lay down the lives of my loved ones in order to increase love. I will do everything to avoid violence, but the second that a life I love is threatened it is my moral imperative to protect it. What would you do if your mother was under the gun? Would you show love? If your father was killed by a terrorist hailed by people as a Martyr-hero would you forgive them as an enlightened being and show them love?
9. Terrorism, as a vehicle of chaotic violence which almost by definition can strike anywhere and therefore threatens everyone, threatens the lives we all love. Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Syria, North Korea and even China sponsor groups that use terrorism as their strategy, and therefore are part of this threat on life.
10. War with the terrorist sponsors is not apocalyptic. War is an instrument of a society to protect its citizens and values when threatened by an opposing ideology that aims to destroy it. Since the terrorists threaten us, and not just our armed forces, our States must do their part to protect us by attacking them first.
Omri, you said you could explain the practicality of your philosophy. Without any note of cynicism, I’d love to hear it.
[Response to my post of May 30th by Omri Goldshtrum]
i think the answer lies in history (i feel like jon). i don’t know a lot of history, but i know that during the early middle ages, the muslims had a peaceful existence from india all the way through spain. and more impressive, they had a peaceful COexistence, extending freedom to non-muslim citizens in muslim states. in spain, jews, for example, could have any gov’t position except king. it was the christians at the time that were barbaric. they made up all kinds of tales of holy crusades to justify taking their young and sending them to jerusalem to kill muslims and jews (sounds familiar, huh?). it was a slaughter, not a war. in the long run, they not only won back the european countries politically but expelled the non-christians after killing or force-converting tens of thousands (the
now the holy books of the muslims, jews, and christians have not changed since well before those times (except for an addition of one book by catholics). so it was just the interpretation.
therefore, i think the situation is bound to subside because people have always persevered based on what makes sense, even if it required hundreds of years of suffering to get the lesson. i like when people make doomsday predictions, but i challenge you to consider: when have they ever, EVER, even once come true? the usa and ussr didn’t decimate the world in nuclear holocaust, the nations of the world didn’t eradicate the jews in social holocaust, imperialism fell, etc.
as far as solutions, i would offer that people have to choose to stop violence. in the end, that is the only way that the violence will end.
however, this is a bilateral situation. people in the west think it’s ok to wage violence if it’s through the use of an organized military, with a cause that the citizens feel is substantial provocation, and when they have the support of other western nations. this is as justified as an inquisition or holocaust: it’s the justified, organized killing of a group of people that don’t serve your cause based on your accepted cultural norms.
i’m not trying to be provocative here to call americans or israelis or western nations nazis… or catholics. but put your pride down for a
second. can you truly justify voting for officials, displaying bumper stickers, defending in public spheres the organized killing of other humans? who cares how “bad” they are or what they’ve done to you. you can justify killing another person? these are insanely primitive tendencies. why is it so ok? because we have human rights laws that try to minimize the loss of those living through the violence that we haven’t grouped as “worth killing”? because we wear uniforms and have a code to our executions?
now whether you think it’s sustainable to start leading the world into nonviolence or not, see if you agree with the philosophy that this is what you wish ideally for the world: no more justifying the systematic depression, destruction, and decimation of other nations and peoples.
if it interests you, i could write how i think it could be achieved. in any case, i know your situation is difficult, ariel and others, and i understand that you’re not a nation but one citizen. my suggestion for your life (and this is to everyone) is that if you ever feel conflicted by what you know is truly the more loving solution and what feels more jusitifiable (but less loving), to go with the solution that is more loving. this is an outlook on life, a philosophy. i could also write about the practicality of such a way of life. i offer this solution to your heart, so you won’t hear it if your brain decides everything in your life. i hope you have a marriage of the
two and your mind can appreciate the love, too.
To read my response, listed above