Wednesday, 7 January 2009

A mess of our own making

Israel and Palestine.

What a mess.

I don't really know where to start, and I think that is part of the problem. Other bloggers have rallied to the defence of Palestinians in the latest conflict/Israeli offensive (depending on your point of view) while others have suggested that, whatever Israel does, it must be supported. I'm not of that view - and I will explain why.

Israel was formed in 1948, unilaterally declaring independence from the British mandate of Palestine, as a home for the Jewish population there and from across the world. Immediately afterwards, Israel was invaded by surrounding Arab states. A year later, a ceasefire was called and the Green Line - the de facto border of Israel - established. UN estimates of 80% of the Arab (Palestinian) population (710,000) fled Israel at the time, while mass immigration of Jews from across the world saw Israel's population grow from 800,000 through 2 million in ten years, to around 3 million today.

The whole story of the conflict (attacks, counter-attacks, politics) is way to long to relate here, but I do suggest, for an easy-to-read, abridged, version, Teach Yourself: The Middle East Since 1945 which has the basics of it.

So Israel, with 3 million inhabitants, surrounded by nations hostile to its existence, has found a way to survive for over 60 years. But it has not found a way to secure its borders, nor has it found a way to safeguard its people. Since the foundation of the UN, Israel has been the largest transgressor of UN resolutions. In the name of defence, Israel has attacked - as it is doing so not in Gaza and as it did so in Lebanon in 2006 - civilian targets. And yet the UN is powerless to stop it, because the UN is financed by the US and the US has to bend to the wants of its powerful Jewish lobby.

I am not an apologist for Hamas. I recognise that their actions are not those of democrats and they are not the acceptable face of Palestinians. But Israel's actions can no longer be condoned - whatever the US says. US support for Israel simply makes the situation worse. It gives Israel a clean slate at the UN, more financial backing for attacks against civilians and, perhaps more dangerously, provides further ammunition for Islamic fundamentalists who are already pretty angry at the West.

Maybe Samuel Huntington's conclusions (if not his method) are correct in A Clash of Civilisations. All I'm sure about in this situation is that when, eventually, Israel decides it has destroyed enough of Gaza, this won't be over. There will never be a lasting peace in the Middle East. We've meddled too much in affairs which are not ours.

That's a bit deeper than usual, no?


Arnie 7 January 2009 at 12:41  

Let me explain my position a bit more clearly, because I might have come across as an Israeli apologist in the blog I posted.

I reckon Israel is right to attack Gaza, for two reasons. Firstly, the presence of Hamas hinders the peace process. After all, how can a peace process move forward when part of the territory is held by 'no negotiation, no surrender' type people? Hamas is also a terrible, terrible organisation. Anti-Christian oppression is now rife in Gaza, and Hamas police, just this week, were shooting Fatah members in the arms/legs, to stop them playing any part in the Gaza battle.

This doesn't mean I support everything Israel does, though. I think for the last ten years they have acted in terrible faith, when it comes to settlement building, and helping the PA grow. Even the Gaza withdrawal was done in a way to damage the Palestinians.

Both sides are nearly always out of line. But then again, this conflict has been on and off for hundreds of years, so should we expect anything to change now? I think not.

Anonymous,  7 January 2009 at 14:25  

Good summary. But it's not necessarily the Jewish lobby you should be blaming - be more afraid of Christian Zionists - after all, they're the ones who look forward to the apocalypse.

PJ 7 January 2009 at 14:28  

Arnie you say that Israel is right to attack Gaza, I disagree. I also do not believe that Hamas were justified in attacking Israel. There is no justification for the killing of innocent civilians.

Two wrongs do not make a right.

This is destined to become a war of attrition with no winner. Whilst the world's leaders merely stand in their corners and wring their hands anxiously muttering words of moral outrage there can be no hope for a peaceful outcome.

At the moment I honestly think Tony Blair's conciliatory approach is the sole hope for a resolution.

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