Thursday, March 14, 2024

Rethinking thoughts on the Middle East

October 7th  2023 brought forth a big shocking surprise as it was meant to.  This blog represent some further thinking on the situation.  The world at first sympathized with the Israelis, but only a bit later much of the world was ready to condemn Israeli authorities. There is a lot of history behind this event.  The Mid-East is a subject that evokes strong emotions.  The most underlying emotions are fear and hatred.  To a lesser degree guilt.  

The current situation is apt to escalate emotions.  A more basic problem is the need for better understanding particularly for the two main parties:  Israel and Palestinians.  A big part of the solution is to greatly increase understanding, not only to the immediate participants, but also to the rest of us.  I would like to quote Stephen Covey's fifth habit for highly effective people:  "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

 The Jews had been discriminated against in most of the world for millennium.  With the threats of Hitler many tried to escape to safer countries but encountered  resistance.  In Canada one quote from an unidentified government official when asked how many Jews were acceptable,  'None is too many"  The United States and other countries refused to accept  the M.S. St. Louis with Jewish refugees.  The Holocaust proved that the worst nightmares were more than true.  Since then there have been spurts of anti-Semitism in all quarters of the world.

Many western nations had blood on their hands and voted for an Israeli state.  And many realizing the hatred in Arab lands gave military support.  A huge factor, especially in America were Evangelicals.  Some were able to interpret Biblical passages to predict a second coming.  One believer told me that certain conditions had to be fulfilled first, one of which was that Jews had to be in control of the Holy Land.  There were enough who subscribed to these beliefs to impact U.S. elections such as in 2016 when Trump was elected..

What have Jews done to merit this hatred.  First they believed in one God while other religions worshiped a multitude of gods.  Christianity appropriated the concept.  As a whole they were not warriors, although some did turn to military means to protect themselves although not noted for wars of conquest.  They have been noted for  science, music, philosophy.

Money lending was one of the few opportunities they were allowed which in some circles added to hatred.

Westerners have long thought the Arabs were backward, but they forget who helped bring them through the Dark Ages.  Greek and Roman science and philosophy had been buried, but it was Arab scholars that re-discovered the rich cultures and spread them around.  They gave the world their own rich culture. including Arabic numbers, algebra,architecture, food, music, etc.

It surprised many Zionists when first reaching Palestine to learn there were actually more Arabs than they imagined.  There were always non Jews in the so-called Holy lands. The Zionists brought irrigation to the land as a survival mechanism.

Palestinians Arabs balked at the two states proposed by the United Nations.  They felt this was their land too.  They had been under Turkish and British domination for centuries.  Agreeing to fight for the British in World War I they felt  they had been promised independence over Palestine.  Arabs have been there for millennium. 

They feel they have been displaced from their rightful place.  Politics and military might have taken away most of their freedom and imposed restrictions.  Anyone would feel resentment and hatred

Arab dictators wanted to do business with the west when energy resources were discovered and learned that acceptance of Israel was part of the deal.  

Every assault on Jews and Israel adds to the fear.  The Munich Massacre, countless anti-Semitic killings and massacres only reinforced the fear.  On the other hand every restriction and humiliation placed on Palestinians built resentment.

At ground level it seems those on the Palestinian side had been taken over by those who felt violence (with added shock value) is the only solution to rid the hated Israeli landlords.  The response has been not only by politicians, but much of the Jewish population that their own solution is to obliterate those persistent Arabs.  Things may calm down a bit and perhaps more realistic thinking will progress, but the danger is that the situation of fear and hate will escalate.  

Politics is a big obstacle.  Politicians in democracies respond to voters.  They also provide information which can be factual, supportive or misleading, even hateful.  America who is a big financial and moral supporter found itself split.  Israel was having its own political stresses at its leadership level.  Some might speculate that Russia with its unjustified attack of Ukraine benefited from a diversion of attention.   Earlier policies advocating two states are being revived.

At the moment as I finish this blog it appears to be a political dilemma for Israel and the West.  Apparently many Israelis would like elections to force Netanyahu out to be replaced by not sure (possibly more right wing).  Any change in such a situation could be perilous.  In the west, there has been a slow recognition that Israel has been provocative, are aggravating a humanitarian crisis and that a two state solution does make sense.  Hostages are still being retained  although not sure how many of them are still alive. Whatever our leaders do they will offend part of their constituency.  Ukraine is suffering as to many they now seem a side issue. but that attitude could lead to consequences for Taiwan and eastern Europe.

Is there a solution to this fear and resentment?  Hatred and fear are inflammatory,

The goal should be to build up trust.  There are some people on both sides working towards that end.  Outside Israel the rest of us could set a better example.  Anti-semitism has been joined by Islamaphobia. 

Most of each side claims to want peace.  If instead of focusing on our enemies we joined with whoever was willing to help with  crucial international projects such as climate change, pollution, inequality, international hacking, drug trafficking and more.  Neglected these other concerns may do in humanity including Jews and Arabs.  Recognizing all humans enjoy sports, music and art can we not enjoy our favorite activities more.  One of the best and most popular players in British soccer is an Egyptian Muslim.  Muslims and Jews are in fact integrated into world wide sports and the world of the arts contains all religions.  

I remember watching the dominant Israeli wheelchair basketball team at the Paralympic Games held in Canada.  They had a lot of military amputee veterans which gave them an edge, but one not sought.

Religious leaders can set a tone.  Tolerate (and respect) each other.  Freedom of religion is closely related to freedom for everyone. Any inter faith efforts need to be well publicized.  It is not the Evangelicals that need to be catered to.

Jewish settlers in Palestine need to be curtailed and perhaps should be under the jurisdiction of Palestinians.  They have been a key provocative factor with support from their government.

Yuval Noah Harriri is a hero of mine.  He is one who does not think Jews are God's chosen people.  A Jewish scholar he has wide ranging views on humanity and has much to say about the Jewish place in the world some of which is covered in a previous blog:   Today he is a peace activist and is working at children's level as he sees them as our future.  One children's book is intended to deal with the feeling that life is unfair.

Is Israel a legitimate state?  Many Arabs don't think so.  Israelis feel this is their home where they should feel safe.

Everyone has their own set of prejudices, although few of us are willing to admit it.  Many are comfortable with the status quo while others want changes.  Here are a few perspectives. 

Underlying the solution is to reduce fear.and hatred.  Politicians please take note.  Citizens set the example.  A better understanding of each other is a helpful step and then more hard work is necessary.


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