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The Israeli-Palestinian Crisis: An Editorial

Updated on December 10, 2015
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The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.


An opinion editorial

This is merely an opinion editorial, as I am hardly an authority on Middle East matters, much less the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Though, right there, there are many people who would take issue with the word "conflict."

The words we use mean so much! We do not realize how much the words we use mean, so before going into the meat of this editorial, let us examine the validity (or lack thereof) of the use of the word "conflict" to describe the decades-longs Israeli-Palestinian situation ('situation' is a suitably vague term we can use for now).

What does the word 'conflict' mean?

Two or more parties have a "conflict," and this suggests two or more parties of relatively equal strength and resources. We never, in common usage, understand a "conflict" to be anything one-sided. We always understand a "conflict" to be a "back-and-forth" struggle between two or more parties of relatively comparable strength.

For example, suppose a prize fight were to be arranged between the former Heavyweight Champion, Mike Tyson and former the former child star from The Patridge Family, Danny Bonaduce. Now then, would we call such a farce a "fight" or "contest" of any kind? Would we understand such a... such a... (I don't know what it would be).... to be a competitive "conflict" of any kind whatsoever?

Mind you, I'm merely examining the word "conflict" because this is the word that the mainstream media always attaches to the Israeli-Palestinian 'situation.' I hope to examine the word 'conflict' independently of "taking sides" ideologically. Is the state of Israel and the Palestinians engaged in a "conflict"? In other words, if we compare the strength and resources of both sides, do we still come to the conclusion that they are engaged in a "conflict"?

The Palestinians have no military to speak of, but Israel -- under the sponsorship of the United States -- have the fifth mightiest military in the world; and the Jewish state has at least a couple hundred nuclear missiles, according to former American president Jimmy Carter. The Palestinians, in military terms, are barely out of the Bronze Age, in comparative terms; and they have no sponsor even remotely comparable in strength to the United States, Israel's sponsor. Can such parties truly be said to be in "conflict"?

Now, without taking sides ideologically, we acknowledge that Israel has (and I suppose still does?) bulldozed Palestinian homes and to this day, continues to build Israeli settlements in territory that everyone acknowledges to belong, by right, to the Palestinians (and by the way, as they do this both Israel and the United States interestingly and somewhat paradoxically oppose the "Right of Return" aspect of peace negotiations). My point is, that the Palestinians are always basically powerless to stop the Israeli military when they do this.

Furthermore, the Palestinians are utterly powerless to do the same to Israel. The Palestinians do not have the power to bulldoze Israeli homes and build "Palestinian settlements" in "Israeli territory." One cannot even formulate such an absurd proposition with a straight face! So again, without taking sides ideologically, we have to acknowledge that we're looking at a very lopsided power relationship between the state of Israel and the Palestinians.

Everyone knows that it is Israel, with its checkpoints, who controls the comings and goings of the Palestinians. The Palestinian polity has no control of the comings and goings of Israeli citizens. Everyone knows that is is Israel who controls the distribution of utilities (water, electricity, etc) and tax transfers between Israel and the Palestinians. And therefore, when Israel chooses, they can inhibit the supply of water and electicity and money to the Palestinians, for whatever reason, while the Palestinians can do nothing of the sort to Israel.

Israel has the diplomatic and military power to thwart the trade of the Palestinians with the rest of the world. Israel can diplomatically and militarily, if "necessary," prevent the Palestinians from getting humanitarian assistance from the rest of the world, as we have seen with the naval blockade and Israeli interception of ships on just such missions in recent years. As you know, it would be surrealistic fantasy to suppose that the Palestinians could do anything at all like that to Israel. If words mean anything, therefore, there is no "tit for tat," as it were, in this decades-long Israeli-Palestinian situation.

The mainstream media's insistence on framing the situation as a "conflict" is what is called false equivalency. Also, the use of the word "conflict" conditions our understanding of the situation. If two parties are merely engaged in a "conflict," we have the sense that there is no aggressor and victim. We rather believe that "there's enough blame to go around," and so forth. If we are looking at a "conflict," then we are left with the idea that nobody did anything to anyone, and that both parties are equally culpable.

But let me pose this question. Logically speaking, why would a house cat pick a fight with a gorilla? Does it make any sense that a house cat would do that?

Now then, negotiations done in the context of a "conflict" will leave little room for justice. Negotiations done in the context of a "conflict" may yield peace, for a time, but not justice. This exclusion of justice will necessarily guarantee that the peace arrived at in this way, will be temporary. That is because one side will, deep down, feel like they have been ripped off in some way. And this feeling of being ripped off will be due to the miscategorization of an occupation as a conflict, as though the house cat and the gorilla were engaged in a "fair fight."


Let's consider another matter

As you know, yesterday, the Palestinian head of state, Mahmoud Abbas, presented an application to the United Nations to have the Palestinian people considered to be a state by that international body. Everyone expects that this diplomatic effort will fail; the United States is expected to veto it. President Barack Obama and the conservative Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have made speeches saying that the U.S. and Israel want peace, and how a "two-state solution" cannot be arrived at through U.N. resolutions but rather "only through direct negotiations," blah, blah, blah....

What exactly prevents, after forty-plus years, a "two-state" solution based on the overwhelming international consensus of the 1967 borders?

As I understand it, Israel has three basic insistences, let's call them.

1) Israel insists that the Palestinians "recognize" Israel's right to exist. I believe this amounts to requiring the Palestinian authorities to make some public declaration of the existential legitimacy of the state of Israel.

2) Israel insists that the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist AS A JEWISH STATE! This necessarily seeks to thwart a Palestinian insistence upon a "right of return" of the descendants of 1948 Palestinian refugees.

3) Israel insists that the Palestinians renounce terrorism.

The first insistence has always struck me as odd. Of course the state of Israel exists. It has existed for more than sixty years now and that is not going to change. Everyone knows that. But why is it, that with two polities of such vastly lopsided power relations, does the vastly more powerful and richer polity seek justification from the vastly weaker and poorer one? This suggests that some of the leadership of Israel, deep down, still has an uncertainty about itself, which is hard to fathom from a third-person point of view.

Such an insistence is a logical absurdity because the Palestinians have no power to determine Israel's "right to exist." Israel is the entity in this "conflict" which has the power to determine the Palestinians "right to exist" in peace, dignity, and equality, not the other way around. In other words, it is not for the Palestinians to "recognize" Israel's "right to exist," but it is for Israel to recognize the Palestinians right to exist. But it appears that Israel will use that power to deny Palestinians this since the United States will likely veto President Abbas's statehood petition.

The second insistence is also very odd. After all, Israel is founded on the idea of attracting Jews to relocate there from around the world, from various countries, cultures, languages, ethnic groups, and skin colors. So, what does the Israeli leadership mean when they say they want to preserve Israel as a Jewish state? Do they mean they want to preserve it as a non-Arab state?

But this would be odd as well, since (as I hear it anyway) twenty percent of the population of Israel is Palestinian. However, I know there is such a thing as an Arab Jew, an Arab person who is Jewish in faith. So, therefore, does the leadership of Israel -- in blocking the idea of the "right of return" -- actually seek to block an influx of the Islamic faith into the state of Israel?

If this is so, the question becomes: Is there no room for religious plurality in the state of Israel? Anyway, the Palestinians have no control over the demographics of Israel, such that they can "recognize Israel's right to exist" as a "Jewish state." Indeed, if the Palestinians had such power, their people would not be the ones suffering an occupation by Israel.

The third insistence is preposterous. Israel insists that the Palestinians renounce terrorism. We all know that one man's "terrorism" is another man's "covert action." Didn't the 18th century American colonists use guerrilla warfare, "terrorism" against the British?

What if the United States, for example, were asked to "renounce terrorism," for whatever reason. We'd have to close down the CIA and the special forces branches of the military tomorrow. If the same were applied to Israel, wouldn't they have to close down Mossad and whatever other special services branches they have?

In other words, what I'm saying is that we have the paradoxical and absurd situation in which Israel proposes to negotiate a "two-state solution" with the Palestinians, which contains -- with its demand for the renunciation of "terrorism" -- an effectively in-built prohibition of the Palestinians from developing a secret intelligence/covert action service.

If you are negotiating the emergence of a state for a people, you cannot disallow that emerging state the right to develop forms of violence, which that state may deem necessary to preserve its national security. The CIA and Mossad are organs of the NATIONAL SECURITY of the United States and Israel respectively, are they not?


What kind of security does the leadership of Israel seek?

Does the leadership (left, right, and center of the governing class) of Israel and Zionists (radical settler operators) seek physical security or psychic security?

I would argue that if these elements had been seeking PHYSICAL SECURITY, the matter of a "two-state solution" could have and would have been worked out a long, long, long time ago. For me, the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian "conflict" was not worked out a long, long, long time ago suggests that it was/is NOT physical security that the conservative/Zionist leadership of Israel sought/seeks.

I believe it is PSYCHIC SECURITY that they want. But they are trying to achiece this psychic security with physical means and that never works. Let me put it another way.

Suppose you come home to your apartment after having been laid off from your job (the very best job you've ever had in your life!) and your significant other tells you "It's not you, it's me," and that you two should probably "see other people." Just to add some more hardship let's say that your landlord has announced a twenty percent increase in rent, and your dog ran away and was hit by a truck -- "Bengie" didn't die from the impact, but he was hurt so bad that you had to tell the vet to put him down. And let's say that you found out that you were conceived and born into the world as a result of a "mistake," and that your parent got married because they "had to." You get the idea.

So you come home and eat an entire pepperoni, cheese, sausauge, pineapple, and meatball pizza. You follow it with a pot of scrambled eggs and a couple of blueberry pancakes. Then you eat half of bag of those frozen chicken wings you get from the supermarket -- you'll cook them first, of course. Next you eat an entire chocolate fudge cake filled with raspberry cream cheese a la mode, and a two liter bottle of diet coke.

Suppose you develop such eating habits (perhaps you splurge at midnight) over the course of time. OBVIOUSLY, YOU ARE NOT EATING SO MUCH BECAUSE YOU ARE HUNGRY! We understand that one is trying to fill "a hole in my soul," as it were, with food. But you cannot fill that kind of emptiness with food.

In other words, you cannot fill a "psychic" emptiness with a "physical" substance like food. If and until our subject realizes this, he will continue to try to fill his "psychic" emptiness with "physical" means, and this means he will eat more and more and more and more..... and so on, with disastrous consequences for his health!

SImilarly, I believe that the conservative/Zionist leadership of Israel, and those they influence, never believe that Israel is safe enough. They try to obtain a psychic security by taking more and more land from the Palestinians (the constant building of settlements beyond '67 borders) with similarly disastrous consequences for peace.

How can Israel's leaders and the right wing heal this psychic wound? Well, they should heed the counsel of this guy...... Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Israeli Knesset....


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