Monday, June 25, 2007

Israel & Palestine 01-12-10

Israel and Palestine

Mirza A. Beg
Written Dec. 10th 2001
Birmingham News, Sunday, April 14, 2002

Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli assassinations and invasions are about to ignite the Middle East. In the last eighteen months 400 Israelis and 1200 Palestinians have died. In proportion to U.S population it is 21,600 Israelis and 108,000 Palestinians. Israelis and the Palestinians must end this dance of death. They need help more than ever.

This conflict is only 54 years old. Muslims and Jews have lived in harmony since the advent of Islam 1400 years ago. Persecuted Jews from Christian Europe fled to Muslim lands, from the Byzantine Empire and from Spain in the fifteenth century. After massacre by the Crusaders, Jews returned to Jerusalem under Saladin. Jews benefited from and contributed greatly to the grandeur of the Islamic civilization.

The Romans in 67 AD expelled Jews from the ancestral Israel. Christianization of the Empire made it worse. Pogroms in Europe went on through the centuries. Enlightenment in Western Europe made the lot of Jews better, only to degenerate into the Nazi holocaust.

In 1995 the president of the Jewish center in Sarajevo fleeing the Serbian aggression said, "We have strong historical obligation to the Muslim community here, because they accepted and welcomed us 500 years ago. Throughout much of that time, Sarajevo was one of the few places in Europe---perhaps the only one--- where Jews lived freely and with full rights as citizens".

Genocide of Jews by the Nazis was shook the world. Europeans found themselves in a self-created dock at the bar of civilized justice. A simple mea culpa could not suffice.

Fifty years before the holocaust, Jews realized, to survive with dignity they needed a state of their own. The most emotionally satisfying place to call home was the Biblical Israel. Guilt ridden West, as penance granted it to the ravaged Jews of Europe. British and French had won those lands from the Ottoman Empire with the help of Arabs, as spoils of the First World War.

What was to be Israel was a densely populated area, consisting of 80 percent Muslim and 20 percent Christian Arabs. Arabs, naïve about the duplicitous ways of the Europeans, did not realize what was happening till too late. West in the name of United Nations partitioned the "British mandate" territory of Palestine into, the Israel and the Palestine, dividing the land approximately fifty-fifty. The shocked Arabs still under British and French domination, attacked Israel but were defeated. The war helped Israel accrue more land at the expense of Palestine.

The Palestinians waited for justice. Arabs could not accept the partition. Israel claimed the right from God and conquest to keep what it had won. Israel was a power supported by western might. To counter the military imbalance, some Arab Sates became clients of the erstwhile Soviet Union. This impasse brought on the "67 War". Arabs lost again. Israel occupied the whole of Palestine, the Sinai from Egypt and the Golan-Heights from Syria.

This debacle brought the Palestinians new vitality. Twenty years of deprivation, insult and injury produced a harvest of bitterness. The impasse was broken in 1973 by Yom-Kippur War. Anwar Sadat's bold gesture in 1979 helped former terrorist Begin and revolutionary Sadat to make peace between Egypt and Israel.

In the first “Intifada”, Palestinian slingshots faced the might of Israeli tanks and bullets. The motto was, "Give me liberty or give me death". Israeli solders killed young boys for throwing stones at the tanks in the internationally accepted Palestinian territory. The anemic view was that the stone throwing boys were terrorizing the gun wielding solders. The anger and frustration had come to a boil. Young men were ready to die for the cause. In came Hamas, to convert young boys into human bombs.

Enough Israelis and Palestinians realized that they had to make peace. It led to the Oslo accord in 1993. The idea was land for peace in three years. That was nine years ago. In Israel, Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated, peacemakers were defeated and those who mocked peace were elected to scuttle it. In tandem Hamas, gained strength. The state terrorism of Israel and the individual terrorism of Palestinian extremists have a symbiotic relationship. The Israeli government, while relinquishing some land to the Palestinian Authority, built more settlements in the last nine years of peace process than ever before.

The January 2001 summit under Clinton was scuttled because the Palestinians were again getting a sop: No water rights in that parched land and only partial dismantling of the settlements. Palestinian hopes were dashed and the extremists, such as Hamas gained strength. Young men in reaction to the indiscriminate civilian killings and collective punishment by Israeli forces were even more radicalized. Sharon, whom Israelis themselves had rejected as a war criminal, came to power. It made Hamas very happy.

The Israeli lobby in the United States is extremely strong. Christian politicians, journalist or religious leader can not afford to be sympathetic the Palestinians. But there are brave Jewish leaders in Israel and the United States who recognize the suffering of the Palestinians, such as, Rabbi Michael Lerner, journalist Anthony Lewis, and the former terrorist and legislator Uri Avneri.

No people have suffered more and longer than the Jews. If they can not empathize with the Palestinians, it bodes ill for the human race. It is time that the Israelis and the Palestinians recognize the rich heritage of the Jews and the Palestinian Diaspora to be a gift for the development of the region. Many of the world's hot spots and problems are languishing because the Israeli-Palestinian discord sucks away the oxygen of world attention.

The Israelis, Palestinians, and the U.S. should recognize that the chasm of doubt and ill will can not be crossed in small jumps. It requires one leap. There is a detailed peace plan by the Israeli peace movement "Gush Shalom". It asks Israel to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories to the 1967 borders. Israel still keeps the territories conquered in 1948 beyond the United Nation's award. The Palestinians will get complete sovereignty over their lands; East and West Jerusalem will be capitals of the two states. The dispossessed Palestinians will be compensated in cash for the land lost.

It is within the grasp of America to solve this problem, if President Bush has the courage to rise to the challenge. Sharon and his cohorts and Hamas and their kind may not agree to this plan. The United Nations with American backing has to impose it. After all they created Israel the same way. Overwhelming majority of Israelis and Palestinians will rejoice in it, while publicly criticizing the plan. Once strong independent states with aspirations and responsibility are created, the terrorists will wither away; just as Irgun, Hagnah and the stern gangs withered, once Israel became a viable state.

Mirza may be contacted at

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