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Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

I liked what I read about Obama’s Cairo speech and I pretty much liked the speech itself. At the risk of sounding fatuous, I would have given a similar presentation had I been in his position – with a couple of additions. I would have been more direct about the necessity of giving more than lip service to democracy. I would have reminded the Arab countries a little more forcefully (as he had indicated he would do) that they haven’t exactly stepped up to the plate when it comes to investing in the future of Palestine although some nations have been happy to arm the militant factions. He might have been a bit more careful when discussing the Holocaust as if it were equivalent to the Palestinian plight; from a tactical standpoint, that wasn’t going to sit too well with an Israel already stunned by the idea that an American President would tell them to stop building settlements. But by and large and given the setting, I think it worked. It brilliantly undermined Osama Bin Laden’s bid for attention and made it seem almost churlish to dislike an America that was trying hard to balance competing interests. 

What I don’t know is whether his comments will help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It seems at this point to be intractable.  As I wrote in a similarly named post here in January:  

“Israelis see themselves as always and evermore in danger of being targeted for extinction. Nearly everything they do seems to derive from their understanding of and belief in the constant threat of annihilation… Palestinians see themselves as always and evermore in danger of remaining as refugees, without rights, without opportunities and without a homeland, pushed around by a small country with a large and powerful friend. Many have been raised to believe it is uniquely Israel that stands in the way of their liberation and so Israel must be destroyed, which, of course, confirms Israel’s worst fears.”

We’ve lived through other two-party conflicts: the Cold War was all about a nuclear standoff between two superpowers with weapons of mass destruction aimed at each other’s cities. Capitalism seems to have been a major player in the end of that faceoff; that and internal dissention pursuaded the USSR to have a go at the free market way of life. There was also the impracticality of surviving in a post-nuclear world, something I wish I felt the current nuclear powers were considering more carefully.

What’s going on between Israel and Palestine ought to be able to be resolved along similarly pragmatic lines: yes to the two-state solution and to Israel’s right to exist, with the proviso that punishment for any violators will come from the Muslim world. Not a chance, I hear some of my readers say. Well then, let’s get right to the heart of the matter. While grievances and fears and biases and hatreds exist, they can be overcome by proof that common ground might yield a better life for everyone. Resolution is always potentially possible, especially when it becomes obvious it makes more sense to do so. So who wants the Israel-Palestinian issue to be resolved, and more importantly, who doesn’t – and why not?

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I’ve always gone out of my way to see all sides of an argument, even if I might favor one side. After all, the best way to win over one’s enemies (or so I believe) is to try to understand why they think as they do and then persuade them to your way of thinking.

Then again, I might have a different idea of what it means to argue. I believe the purpose is to persuade, while others might think the purpose is to win.

War is the ultimate argument – over geography or politics, over belief or self-determination, over control or freedom. War can be calculating or passionate, based on an attempt to address ancient grievances or modern entitlements. The goal of warfare in all cases is to win, which is what makes attempting to find solutions to war’s argument so frustrating.

In the case of the ongoing Middle East crisis, as we always refer to Israel’s battles with its unhappy neighbors, what is left to say? War and threat of war seem to be permanent conditions in that part of the world. The arguments concerning this latest outburst of violence tragically echo the recriminations of fighting boys – “He started it!” “No, he did!” But this isn’t just about power or control; those may be desired outcomes but they mask the larger goal, which seems to be destruction of the other.

Every analysis I’ve ever seen posits that Israelis see themselves as always and evermore in danger of being targeted for extinction. Nearly everything they do seems to derive from their understanding of and belief in the constant threat of annihilation. This is not to excuse every action the government and its army takes, only to try and understand it.

Likewise, Palestinians see themselves as always and evermore in danger of remaining as refugees, without rights, without opportunities and without a homeland, pushed around by a small country with a large and powerful friend. Many have been raised to believe it is uniquely Israel that stands in the way of their liberation  and so Israel must be destroyed, which, of course, confirms Israel’s worst fears. Again, not justifiable nor even perfectly logical except perhaps as a means of trying to see it with another’s eyes. Each side  feels defensive, even when on the offensive.

It seems so absurd the cycle can’t be broken – agree to a two-state solution and agree Israel has a right to exist  – but how?  There’s a trust issue involved and who’s supposed to go first when so much is at stake? There are those with political reasons to support continued instability in the region and mostly there is, among the rest of the population on both sides, all that fear.

Fear doesn’t resolve an argument; it escalates it. There may be a military victory here and a political or public relations triumph there but there won’t be a winner until what becomes more important than the fear is the absence of it.

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