Saturday, December 1, 2012

Settlements are an act of defiance

A lot is shaking the Middle East.  Hatred and fear are mixed through misunderstandings.  It does seem that might is right, and both sides seem to understand the role of power.

I am offended by the Canadian government who has decided to take sides.  I would say the wrong side, but there would be an improvement if they at least tried to stay neutral.

I am an outsider who has only a superficial understanding of what has happened in Palestine, but I have read and listened countless hours as various positions are advocated.  It boils down to this.  Palestine is Biblical, the Jews were exiled from their own lands, mostly after the Romans.  They suffered from persecution everywhere they went culminating in the Holocaust.  Europeans and North Americans felt very guilty (partly because they ignored the Jewish plight and even discriminated against them as well).  Jews, mostly in Europe campaigned for a homeland where they would not be persecuted and Israel seemed the most logical. location.  They were successful through the United Nations in being granted their homeland with a few restrictions.  The Arabs were resentful and resisted this incursion on what they thought was their homeland (they too had been promised more independence) and many were either forced, misled or intimidated into leaving.

The Jewish settlers fought back and with help of foreigners actually conquered large amounts of surrounding lands which made them feel a little more secure with a cushion all around them.  A lot of resentment from Palestinians, but not enough support from their Arab and Muslim neighbours, some of whom were quite wealthy.  The Palestinians resorted to violence and picked up the idea of suicide bombs from the Tamil Tigers.  Suicide bombing is perhaps the most frightening weapon of anyone.  Even with the atomic bomb you realize the aggressor is probably concerned about survival.  The outside world looks upon it as a barbaric, inhuman, misguided and pathetic.  Israelis feel justified in harsh, methodical methods to protect themselves.  The Palestinians claim they want their land back and they want their idea of freedom.  They have been looked upon as backward psychopaths.

I am sure both sides can tell me stories of atrocities, stupidities and unsportsmanlike behaviour.  Most of us in the West feel the Palestinians are backward and should be grateful for what they have.  If they don't behave themselves they deserve to suffer.

Fear and hate, a very bad combination.  The problem at this level is simple enough.

Compounding the problem is this feeling of righteousness.  Words were written thousands of years ago that make one side feel they are entitled to even more land.  They think these words supercede any efforts to work things out fairly.  Israel, as part of their resentment of the recent United Nations vote to award Palestine non voting membership have decided to step up their settlement program.

Increasingly more of the world sees the settlements as an act of aggression against the Palestinians with really the intention of grabbing as much land as possible.  Factions of the Palestinians have grown tired of trying to negotiate and being ignored.  Their occupier has decided the only way to deal with the Palestinians is to press down harder and build walls to protect themselves.  They see no reason to negotiate seriously or to take seriously the complaints of the Palestinians.  When negotiations are not practical, practical people look for other means to attain their ends.

The Israelis are understandably afraid, but some are very self righteous.  They are not alone.  European settlers were similar; they conquered large parts of Africa, Asia, North and South America.  There was even a Biblical theme expressed by some that they had a duty to spread the true word of God to the heathens.  They had superior technology, they were more unified and diseases they brought disarmed much of the opposition.  All of these nations or tribes felt they had mythical justification for their existence, although we tend to look at most of them as backward and often can't understand why they aren't more grateful for the civilization we brought to them.

I don't have a solution.  The problem has been very one sided, with Israel having the power so they get to tell their story.  They are bolstered not only by Jews around the world, but by evangelical Christians who see their dominance mandated by the Bible.  Revenge is self perpetuating.  Trust can be very hard to build.  Building settlements in occupied lands  is very counter-productive.

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