Brown/My Turn: Fratricidal brothers
Back during the Clinton administration, political cartoonist Pat Oliphant had a perfect artistic device for illustrating the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Two twin toddlers, one labeled “Israel,” the other “Palestine” charge into the Oval Office howling, “We need out diapers changed again!” The president gives them both a look of resigned irritation.
I, personally, look forward to the day when the world gets sick and tired of these toddlers and gives them the global version of a time-out. Each party sacrificed the moral high ground years ago. The latest edition of their tribal blood feud taking place in Gaza leaves little room for sympathy.
The violent, stupid Hamas launches rockets into Israel. The brutal, reactive Israelis indiscriminately kill woman and children in response. The Israeli have been rightfully condemned for this but their critics conveniently forget that the Palestinians have never had any moral qualms about murdering Israeli civilians. Had they the technical capability, their rockets would crash into Israeli hospitals, schools and markets.
If there is one glaring crime committed by these fratricidal brothers, it is their habit of dehumanizing the other. If you want an education in this process, access any chat site in cyberspace that confronts this issue. Be prepared for some inflammatory rhetoric. At their worst, those who favor Israel treat the Palestinians as some kind of annoying pests for whom vengeance is too good a fate. At their worst, Palestinian sympathizers, including many westerners, describe Jews in language that was lifted from the pages of “Mein Kampf.”
Even those who don’t sink into the gutter of anti-Semitism, make it clear that Israel has no right to exist. In their view, the Israelis are occupying land that isn’t legitimately theirs. These last two opinions are the nub of the eternal strife between the Israelis and their Palestinian adversaries. It is the Gordian knot which ensures that a solution remains forever out of reach.
I have always challenged the hypocrisy of American “peace activists “who whine that the Israelis live on land taken from others by military force. That rumbling sound you hear is the mass disgusted laughter of every Native American in the western hemisphere. Exploring the long span of human history, one finds that most of the world’s population is living on land their ancestors took by force. The Israelis would challenge that they didn’t “steal” any land from anyone in the first place. They were exiles finally returning home.
The Palestinians hold onto the following myth. “A bunch of Europeans came and stole our country from us.” Although embraced fervently as truth by themselves and their supporters, the historical facts say otherwise. The first Zionist pioneers bought, not stole, the land they settled on. They grudgingly agreed to the 1947 United Nations partition resolution. The Arabs did not. They invaded Israel with the intent of wiping it out. They lost. The victorious Israelis did indeed practice ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian population. Had the Palestinians won, however, they would have done the same to the Jews. The question remains; would the world have been as morally “outraged” were it the Jews being victimized. Probably not. For unfathomable reasons, Jews are held to an impossible double standard unlike the rest of the world. Hence Syria’s Assad can kill 160,000 of his countrymen with nary an outcry from the Islamic world.
The Israelis are victims of their own unshakable myth. It is highlighted by an unfortunate Zionist slogan from the days of Herzl. Palestine was described as “a land without people for a people without land.” Very pithy and completely untrue. The land has plenty of people, nearly all of them Arabs. The Israelis can only pretend for so long that the Palestinians don’t exist or have no rights. While it is too late to allow millions of them to reclaim their former homes in Israel proper, the theft of Palestinian land on the West Bank is immoral and unjust. The religious Jewish settlers there exemplify the racism, fanaticism and brutality of white South Africans during the worst days of Apartheid. That they use God and the Torah (written by their ancestors) as an excuse for murder and thievery is beneath contempt. The United States should forbid any financial aid that goes toward the expansion of these illegal settlements.
So where does it end? Too many on each side of the equation feed off of the fear, hatred and dehumanization of the other. Added is the sense of victimhood, an affliction that allows for selfish entitlement and the abandonment of accountability. Each tribe, the Arabs and the Jews, is guilty of this.
As long as the Palestinians and their allies persist in the belief that Israel has no right to exist, that nation will keep on fighting to prove otherwise. They will do so with the ruthlessness of a cornered grizzly bear surrounded by hunters. How long this cycle of violence continues is up to them, no one else.
Daniel A. Brown lived in Franklin County from 1970 to 2014 as an artist, writer, amateur historian, and photographer before moving to Taos, N.M. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.