As I See It: Between Israel and Palestine: Which side should we be on, and why?

Jon Huer



Published: 11-03-2023 5:35 PM

On Oct. 7, Hamas, the militant faction of Gaza Palestinians, in a surprise attack, killed more than 1,400 Jews. Three weeks later, the avenging Israeli military has killed close to 9,000 Palestinians in Gaza, and counting. Such attacks and counterattacks have been going on in what is Israeli-Palestinian land over a century, reflecting the larger conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East.

The land is now divided between Israel and Palestine, once promised to the Jews by God thousands of years ago. At the turn of the century, a political movement called Zionism began to encourage the diaspora Jews to return to their Promised Land where the Philistines, now as Palestinians, settled as their homeland. Their number grew, and in 1948, the State of Israel was created in Palestine. Conflict was inevitable between Jews and Palestinians, two ancient tribes — one current and one returning — occupying the same narrow space.

Israeli Jews have the right to exist in peace and with dignity; so do Palestinians. Just now the Jews are slaughtering Palestinians to avenge their own dead caused by Hamas. Which side should we, as Americans, support or condemn? Which side should we be on?

On Oct. 31, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave us the moral compass we need to decide our own direction: The prime minister announced that Israel commenced “the second stage” of its attack on Gaza. When he was asked, with growing pressure from world opinion, whether a ceasefire was possible, Netanyahu declared, ”There will be no ceasefire.”

Notice that all the war-making plans, such as “second stage” attacks and ceasefire options, come from Israel, not from Palestinians. It is the Jewish government in Israel which calls all the shots in the ongoing situation. Never once do we hear about “second stage” resistance or ceasefire plans from Palestinians.

Why is it always Israel that decides, but never the Palestinians who can attack the Israeli Jews only in a surprise move, never “first” or “second” stage attacks on Jews? The Israeli government can plan for attacks — first, second, third, whatever — and decide whether there “will be a ceasefire” or not. Palestinians, on the other hand, must only accept the consequences of such plans as announced and imposed on them by the Jewish government. Like criminals, they kill Jews and brace for the long arms of Israeli revenge many times greater.

In deciding which side we should be on in the Israel-Palestine conflict, our conclusion is clear: We must condemn Israel in the Jewish-Palestinian conflict. Why?

Because, as the Israel prime minister demonstrated in his serene declarations, Israel has all the solutions regarding the Palestinian problem which, in essence, is an Israeli problem. They have the power and solutions, while Palestinians have none. If you have all the solutions, then you have the moral obligation to solve the problems.

As in Netanyahu’s two announcements, we expect a third announcement that should naturally follow the first two, namely, “The Israeli government will solve the conflict once and forever since it has all the power and means to solve it?” Indeed, Israel has the power to solve it once and for all whenever it wants. All Israel has to do is agree to a Palestinian nationhood, by giving back the occupied Palestinians territories.

At the moment in history, only the Jewish government can do it: Israel commands one of the world’s top 10 militaries and a technologically advanced economic society. Palestinians, on the other hand, are in disarray, poor and under oppressive Israeli occupation. Israeli Jews hold all the cards to command, control and activate permanent solutions in Palestine. Palestinians have none. Given that Israel has all the solutions in its possession, we have every moral right to condemn the Jewish government for inaction to stop the carnage on both sides.

Why is Israel unable to choose a solution that it can any time it wants? The answer is so deeply historical and human: Like many other colonial powers, Israel is addicted to its occupied territories. Occupied territory is like an opium addiction: Once you occupy somebody’s land, it’s hard to quit. First you think the occupation (or addiction) is temporary; then gradually your people settle in it and make it their own home, and soon it’s impossible for you to return it to its original owner. France struggled with Algeria, England with Ireland and India, Japan with Korea, American white settlers with Indian lands, and many still remain in the occupying power’s hand the world over. Jews occupied chunks of Palestine and got addicted to their occupation and are in no mood to return them to the Palestinians as the first condition for peace in Palestine (called “The Two-State Solution”). It is this Jewish addiction that keeps thousands upon thousands dying on both sides, now and forever. Jews have no reason not to implement the Two-State Solution.

Morally, power without responsibility equals tyranny. As the Middle East’s great power, Israel can dictate any solution it wants. Its refusal to allow a permanent solution, while it has the full power of solution in hand, cannot be justified and is the reason why we should side with the Palestinians in this conflict and condemn Israel. When the Nazis killed Jews, we condemned the Nazis. When Jews kill Palestinians, we condemn Jews. We should not let complex facts obscure the simple truth.

We have no other moral choice. We cannot allow the Israeli complicity in extracting a pound of flesh from every Jew and every Palestinian, and the rest of the world along with them.

Jon Huer, columnist for the Recorder and retired professor, lives in Greenfield.