Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Okay, you're both wrong, now move on...

I won’t claim to have a deep knowledge of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This war (I’m not sure if we can classify it as such, but I’m not sure what else to call it – maybe occupation) has been going on since the State of Israel was established in 1948. Certainly the decision by the United Nations to place the displaced European Jews on land already occupied by the Palestinian people was questionable, but the situation for the Jews was more than dire, and therefore something had to be done; ergo, the establishment of the State of Israel.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, this didn’t sit well with the Palestinians or others in the Arab League, and it set of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. This first war displaced many Palestinian civilians and pit the Jordanians and Egyptians against the Israelis, priming for future wars to come. Unrest continued to occur, but nothing major, until 1967 when the Israelis, expecting an attack from several Arab states, launched a pre-emptive attack on Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The war, as stated by the name, was ostensibly over after just six days of fight, with Israel taking control of the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula, and occupying a larger portion of Jerusalem. The war indicated to the Arab world, and the world at large, that Israel was not to be trifle with. However, the war only increased tension in the region.
Finally, in 1978, Israel and Egypt met at the Camp David Accords, leading to the Israel Egypt Peace Treaty in 1979; this treaty gave the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt. However, Israel continued to have problems with other actors in the region, and specifically with the Palestinians (as represented by the PLO). In the early 2000s (after many fits and starts) Israel began to withdraw its settlements and occupation of the Gaza Strip, turning over authority (and giving autonomy to) the Palestinians living there. This move was not welcomed by all Israelis, and there was much pushback. However, after the elections of 2006, in which Hamas (a political party, with an army wing that is called a terrorist group by the Israelis) won a plurality of the vote, Israel no longer recognized the authority of the Palestinians to govern themselves in the region, and have basically been fighting with them since then.
The Palestinians in the Gaza and the Israelis along the border have been trading rocket sorties over the past few years, but there have been a few times when they’ve come to the brink of war. We’re now close again. The problem is that Israel, supported whole-heartedly by the United States – with both foreign aid in terms of money and weapons – has been guilty of such disproportionate response, that their claims of defense do not hold up. Hamas rockets fly over Israeli cities in small burst (and shot down by Israeli’s new missile defense system, the Iron Dome), and then Israel retaliates with a shelling that decimates buildings, killing dozens of civilians in Gaza. This is essentially a repeat of the conflict that arose in 2008, in which Hamas was firing rockets into Israel, and the Israelis sent F-16s across the border to destroy schools, mosques, etc., which they said Hamas was using for missile storage (and confirmed in certain cases). Regardless, the conflict was incredibly one-sided with regard to the death toll; more than 1,000 dead Palestinians, as compared to 13 dead Israelis.
I think we can come to the conclusion from the sordid history in Israel and Palestine that this is an incredibly complicated problem. There have been moments when an agreement was close – as in the 2000 Camp David summit where Ehud Barak offered to create a Palestinian State, but Yasser Arafat rejected it – but both sides have been guilty of derailing the process. What we need is a rational, fair, two-state solution that settles the issue of border control, autonomy and recognition for the Palestinians, but also a melting of the cold war that has been doing on for the last 60+ years.

P.S. IDF Spokesperson Avital Leibovich is very anti-Palestine, and justifies the killing of Palestinian civilians under the guise of defense. She feigns pity for the Israeli civilians that have to run to bomb shelters whenever they hear the air raid sirens, but cares nothing for the Palestinian civilians whose buildings are not hit with rockets, but blown up with bombs from IDF airplanes, and who have no bomb shelters to run to. This is not the type of person that should be formulating policy for the IDF.
Also, President Obama needs to recognize that he's missing half of the picture. If Israel has the right to defend itself, then so does Palestine. If the Palestinians interpret Israeli occupation in Gaza to be an act of war, then they see themselves justified in launching rocket attacks. Then escalation leads to escalation, and nobody wins in the end (although undoubtedly the Palestinians will end up with exponentially more casualties). The United States needs to be neutral in both its support and condemnation.


Anonymous said...

Hi Michael. Great piece. I haven't read quite such a clear summary before. Thanks for writing it! ~Desiree

Michael Murphy said...


Crystal Marie said...

Yes. Exactly what Desiree said. It's also really hard to take an opinion or stance on this topic for fear of truly offending someone. It's so volatile!!

I just heard a segment on NPR where a Palestinian mother told this heartbreaking story of how she wants to raise her children to live normal, war free lives, but if she wants them to survive... she has to teach them to hate Israelites and prepare them for ware.

It's tough.