Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Why do so many Arabs oppose Palestine Occupation?

 On the surface the title is absurd.  Why does anybody oppose occupation and its companion, humiliation?

The occupation has a long history.  The Jews were expelled close to 2,000 years ago and not by the Arabs. They suffered wherever they went.  Some felt the only way to alleviate their misery was their own state.  They organized as Zionism and gathered support.  World War II heightened the pressure, not only by Jews wanting to escape, but also a guilty group of nations who in some ways contributed to the Holocaust.  

At the same time Arabs were realizing national aspirations.  Some had increased their leverage with vital natural resources.  In Palestine Arabs had contributed to the Allies.  Going back to World War I we learned that T.E. Lawrence had organized Arabs to help defeat the Turks.  

In 1948 the original intent was to establish two separate states.  The Arabs were resentful feeling Palestine was theirs and in fact they dominated the population.  The disputes seemed to go the way of Israel.  In truth they were fearful of the Arabs.  Fortunately for them they were able to have political, military and financial support for their security.  

One could say the Arabs were greedy, selfish, nationalistic, but should that be a surprise?  They wanted what a lot of western nations now take for granted after their own struggles.

Naturally the Israelis were fearful of the Arabs and set up strong defensive systems.  America has given them hundreds of millions of dollars for military equipment and been quick to shut down any efforts at the United Nations to promote Arab interests in Palestine.

Jewish immigration has made Israel stronger, but if they were to expand to more natural borders for Palestine they would be outnumbered by Arabs.  

What has the occupation been like?  Israel is partially dependent on cheap Arab labor.  Arab resistance  can result in imprisonment and shootings.   

The politics of Israel have evolved in large part around keeping Arabs under control.  We in the West have mostly heard their version.  The Arabs have been constantly pictured as violently unreasonable.

In America one group of voters who have helped decide who controls their government are labeled Evangelicals.  They are not uniform, but a strong core believes that for the second coming to happen Israel must be controlled by the Jews.  In close election their support has been crucial and very few American politicians are willing to risk offending them.  Lately more Muslims and Arab sympathizers have supported Palestinian yearnings.  They are still pretty much a minority, but have been able to stir up idealistic people (especially youth) who see the situation a little differently.  They are mocked and criticized.  Both sides feel the other side is ill informed.

Many voters think Joe Biden is a big part of the problem.  He still is committed to Israeli independence, but made the suggestion that some variation of a two state solution should be in the works.  Plus humanitarian considerations are more prominent this time.  Some seem to feel if Donald Trump were in power the situation would soon by rectified..

Donald Trump has already contributed to the mess.  During his initial campaign he threatened to stop Muslim immigration and once elected tried to implement that policy.  He decided that it would be a good idea to put the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.  The White House felt it unnecessary to consult with the Palestinians.  The resistance concluded that political solutions for their ambitions were a waste of time.  As Bernie Sanders said "Talking nice doesn't work."  

Netanyahu is correct when he says that most Palestinians support Hamas.  It may be reasonable to suppose that most people wold like to avoid violence, but most people have a breaking point..  Netanyahu has a history of trying to dominate Democrat politicians and they have been forced.to accept Israeli settlers.  He would prefer that Trump win the next election.  For himself another concern is his own future.  Polls suggest he would lose an election and he would likely be prosecuted and sent to jail.   Who would replace him seems very likely to be even more anti Palestinian.

In Palestine, Israel seems to have some control over the West Bank which is perceived as weak by Arabs who want more changes.  Hamas is considered extreme, but they have gained a lot of sympathy from their fellow citizens who felt more humiliation, not just in Gaza, but also in the West Bank.  Mahmoud Abbas, the P.L.O. leader may seem ineffective, but has his own reasons to maintain power.

David Petraeus expressed a concern that his military activities created as many terrorists as he killed.  That concern does not appear to have much weight with the Israelis who feel their security is dependent on suppressing the Palestinians.    

Our obsession over the Middle East has proved to be a great diversion from Russian aggression against Ukraine.  Putin would be content for the Mid-East conflict to continue.

How can the situation be fixed?  Not easily and not quickly is my first thought.  Expectations are important, but realistically more people need a deeper understanding.  There is nothing strange about the resistance of the Palestinians and their desire for independence.  Also there is nothing strange about the fear felt by the Jews in Israel who feel under attack not only by Arabs, but also by much of the rest of the world. 

Whatever legal constructs might be created the underlying requirement is to build trust.  There are a few people on both sides of the issue trying to do that in different ways.  Sports and entertainment provide some opportunities, but take time.  Recently learned of a group called Jerusalem Youth Choir integrating  both Arabs and Jews which encouraged me to buy a tune from iTunes.  More substantial opportunities might include climate change, pollution and international crime where everyone stands to lose.   Mis- information is prevalent on all sides.  Politicians take a lead from voters, but some courageous ones lead the voters.  Yuval Noah Harriri, a Jewish intellect is one person of stature who advocates for the Palestinians.  The problem really revolves around humans. 

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