- Politics and Social Issues»
- Middle East Political & Social Issues
The United States, Israel, and The Middle East Peace Initiative
Could the Real Solution be a No Brainer!?!
Over the centuries, the history of the Jews has been captured and recorded from mostly a biblical perspective. From this viewpoint their troubled journey as a nation of people is alledged to have began over 3500 years ago with the biblical heroines known as Abram, Issac, and Jacob.
This vital information comes mainly from data recorded in the Hebrew Bible (known to Judaism as the Tanakh and to Christianity as the Old Testament). Other aspects of these historical events derived from non biblical history, elaborated and confirmed by other ancient sources such as classical writings like the Talmud; the writings of Nicolaus of Damascus; Artapanas; Philo of Alexandria, and Josephus (the Jewish historian). These sources have been critically examined and weighed against other medieval material such as the Ethiopian Kebra Nagast, and other ancient sources uncovered by archaeology including Egyptian, Moabite, Assyrian, Babylonian as well as Israelite and Judean inscriptions.
The title "Jews" derives from their origin in Judah. The Israelites are thought to have come into existence between 1400 and 1100 BCE in Canaan, developing an independent kingdom around 1050 BCE. Around 950 BCE, the kingdom later split into two separate factions identified by biblical historians as the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel. For reasons unrecorded in the Hebrew Bible the Israelites were later exiled by Assyria around 720 BCE, becoming what was known as the Lost Tribes of Israel. From their conquest of the biblical Cannan to their expulsion the Jews have several times been dispersed from various lands and then returned from exile, simply to be dispersed again and again, and again. First by Assyria, then by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE who exiled the Jews to Babylon. Around 538 BCE Cyrus the Great of Persia granted the Jews their freedom.which resulted in over 50,000 returning under the leadership of Zerubabel and 5000 more under the leadership of the Biblical Ezra and Nehemiah around 456 BCE. It was in 333BCE that Alexander the Great conquered Judea leading to the first translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint) which recorded the beginnings of Judiasm. However, this freedom was short lived under the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes who attempted to eradicate Judaism in favor of Hellenism which promptly lead to the Maccabean Revolt between 174 – 135 BCE. The success of the Maccabean Revolt lead to the Jewish festival known today as Hanukka.
Unfortunately, this success was once again short lived with the arrival of Roman rule around 64 – 330 BCE. The Roman General, Pompey conquered Judea and immediately began a campaign against the Jews. Around 66CE the Jews succeeded from Roman rule, creating their own, short-lived kingdom called “Israel –or- Zion”. Israel immediately began what was later described by historians as an unsuccessful revolt against the Romans which subsequently lead to the destruction of their newly found kingdom, the city of Jerusalem and their temple by the Emperor Titus in the year 70. In the year 135 they started another unsuccessful revolt against the Emperor Hadrian which lead him to rename Jerusalem “Alelia Capitolina” eventually banning the Jews from its territories. The city was later renamed to Ludaea Province and then Palaestinia. These historical events were recorded by the well known, but factually questionable Jewish historian known only as Jesephus – who was as much a mystery as his writings. The Jews however were not ready to give up their quest for a homeland as promised by the God of their forefathers. As a result, in the year 614 they would began another revolt – this time against the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (Christian Roman) who ruled from 330 – 631. Their revolt was backed by the Persians but failed drastically leading to an edic expelling them from Palistinia (later renamed Palestine). From Arab rule (636 – 1099) to the Crusader (1099 – 1291) to the Mamluk Egyptian –Islamic (1260 – 1517) to the Ottoman Turkish –Islamic rule (1517 – 1917) The Israelites Jews would find themselves forever searching for the biblical homeland of milk and honey.
Their quest began to see a little hope during the Zionist Movement from 1897 – 1917. It was at this point that the French Revolution, and the philosophy of “Enlightened Idealism” - or – “Religious Tolerance” emancipated the Jewish nation across Europe. Jews capitalized on this opportunity by seeking ways to obtain equal rights. Unfortunately, this new found Jewish pride cause a backlash and counter-reaction by European reactionaries who saw the Jews as aliens and morally inferior. They petitioned their local governments to deny any attempt to nationalized the Jewish movement. They also imposed policies to deny any Jew citizenship. This group was later described and labeled “Anti-Semites” and their actions were described as “scientific racism”. What started out as ‘religious prejudice’ became known as “racial prejudice”. This Anti-Semitic attitude spread throughout Europe. In Russia, the government began a campaign to drive out the Jews based on what they described as the “Jewish Zionist “ conspiracy to achieve world domination. As a result Jews in Russia began flocking back to Palestine in numbers.
Anti-Semitic campaigns across the European continent united Jews around the possibility of re-establishing themselves as an independent nation. Left-wing anti-Semitism and the desire to preserve their historical identity led some socialist Jews to seek solutions from within their own community resources. As a result the “First Zionist Congress” was formed and proclaimed the decision to establish a permanent home for Jewish people in their original land of Palestine. This proclamation attracted Jews from all sects including religious Jews, secular nationalists, as well as left-wing Socialists Jews which led to the revival of the Hebrew language as the first step to an independent, nationalist government.
The Jews realized that a political solution would be more effective than a military one until the start of World War I when the British sought their support in fighting against the Germans. This relationship led to the British Foreign Minister, Lord Balfour making the “Balfour Declaration of 1917”, stating that the “British Government viewed with favour the establishment in the territories of Palestine a national home for the Jewish people” He further declared that “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine". This declaration gave the Jewish people great hope and paved the way for the possibility of a permanent state.
Under the British Rule (1917 – 1948) The League of Nations formally assigned what became known as the “Palestine Mandate” to the United Kingdom, endorsing the terms of the “Balfour Declaration” - adding the term for the creation of an independent “Jewish Agency” to oversee the Jewish affairs in Palestine. This also lead to an additional treaty with the Unites States who endorsed the terms of the mandate – although the US at that time was not yet a member of the League of Nations. Jews once again began returning to Palestine in uncountable numbers. They gained numerous opportunities under the British Rule which eventually lead to Arab resistance and Jewish immigration restrictions. Rapid Jewish migration led to a large-scale Arab rebellion in Palestine which lasted three years from 1936 – 1939. Concerned that the revolt would damage Anglo-Arab/Muslim relations, Britain responded by creating a Royal Commission chaired by Lord Peel which was later identified as the “Peel Commission” which recommended the partition of Palestine into two separate autonomous regions for Jews and Arabs, with Britain maintaining overall control over the territory and a population transfer to secure full separation between the communities. Unfortunately in 1939, the increasing probability of major war in Europe prompted Britain to focus on Arab goodwill, satisfying their goal of preventing immigration by the growing numbers of Jews returning to Palestine from exile. The result was the 1939 White Paper which in part, restricted Jewish immigration to 75,000 over the next five years (further levels requiring Arab consent) and a promise to establish an independent Palestine under Arab majority rule within the next ten years. However, both the Jewish and the Palestinian-Arab leadership rejected the terms described in the White Paper.
Nevertheless, the White Paper was published in 1938, two weeks after Germany annexed Sudetenland. On that same evening a massive campaign ensued in Germany and 25-30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps, 200 synagogues were destroyed and 91 Jews were murdered. The White Paper was passed into law by Parliament in May 1939, a few weeks after Britain agreed to Germany annexing the rest of Czechoslavakia. The 1939 White Paper infuriated the Jews who felt the passage of the document breached the terms of the British Mandate as decreed by the League of Nations and the Balfour Declaration. However, despite rogue action, the Jewish Agency leader, Ben-Gurion, decided to support Britain in the coming conflict with Germany and Palestine's Jewish youth (both men and women)were being encouraged to volunteer for the British Army.
Fast forwarding through history, between 1945 – 1947 after the war, the Jews would rise up against British rule leaving the remaining survivors – and those from the Holocaust in Central Europe as displaced persons or refugees. Many began leaving British territories and returning to Palestine. As a result numerous boats could be seen carrying stateless Jews to Palestine without appropriate legal documents in direct violatoin of the terms of the White Paper which limited Jewish immigration to Arab consent. This led to the British government taking countermeasures which unfortunately led to another era of human tragedy for the stateless Jews. Both public and militant resistance among Jews began to rise against the British government. However, during the British elections the Labor Party, who were courting the support of the Jews eventually won enough seats and gained control of the British government - giving the Jews renewed hope in the quest for their own state. However, it was later discovered that the Labor Party secretly honored the decree of the “White Papers” which brought on more Jewish abuse under what became known as “Operation Agatha” leading to the arrest, imprisonment, and persecution of thousands of Jews.
Fast forwarding once again through history to July 1947, when the United Nations appointed a commission titled the “United Nations Special Committee on Palestine” or UNSCOP to revisit the Palestinian/Israeli home land issue. The UN decided to go forward with the mandate of creating a Jewish state in Palestine – once again causing an Arab backlash. The Arab States declared they would greet any attempt to form a Jewish state with war. Dr Izzat Tannous, the Palestinian Arab representative to the UN declared that “We are now at war, a war in which no quarter will be asked and none will be given. It will be a battle of life and death and woe to the vanquished.” Fighting immediately spread as the British gradually began to withdraw from Palestine. The Arab League could not invade before the British withdrawal but planned to invade the day after the British left – as they immediately did which resulted in bloody fighting between Arabs and the Jewish communities from 1947 to early 1948.
In late 1947 the Jews claimed victory over the Palestinian Arabs and on May 14, 1948, after the remaining British forces left Haifa, the Jewish Agency, led by David Ben-Gurion, declared the creation of the State of Israel, in Arab, Palestinian territories in accordance with the 1947 UN Partition Plan. Both superpower leaders, then U.S. President Harry S. Truman and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, immediately recognized the new state of Israel and pledged to protect its interests – defending it against any hostile nation who sought its destruction.
However, despite the public appearance of a committed relationship most Europeans countries today, and some Jewish sects do not support the state of Israel and the European government is somewhat puzzled by the Americans protectionist attitude toward Israel. The common views outside the United States towards Israel is that they are an oppressor state — some go as far as declaring Israel a "terrorist" state, while others give Israel the benefit of the doubt by declaring "well, both sides are guilty, but Israel is stronger and should know better" It is estimated, per an opinion poll by the Pew Research Center, that the growing transatlantic opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict suggests that the majority of the countries in Europe disapprove of current U.S. policies with regard to the Middle East, while only 26 per cent of Americans themselves polled said they approve. France, for an example has a disapproval rating of over 72%, Germany 74%, Italy is at a 63% disapproval rating. From the beginning of its acceptance as an independent state Americans have generally always sympathized with Israel over the Palestinians, with percentages ranging from 60% in 1990 to over 75% in 2007. Reasons range from religious, to political, to military support. A reasonable explanation perhaps stems from the strong support among the Evangelical Christian movement implying that their motives are purely scriptural.
Most European countries, in association with Arab nations points to Israel, backed by the United States of America as being the main source of conflict in the Middle East. Once dependent on America and her allies for protection Israel today is clearly prepared to act on her own – which they have, without the approval of Washington. Taken by surprise, in 1973, Israeli forces reeled from the combined Egyptian-Syrian sneak attack. Aided by "Operation Nickel Grass", an airlift of vital military supplies from the U.S., the Israelis held their positions and then started to push back – coming within 43 miles of Cairo and taking the Golan Heights before the UN called a halt. Today, it is the Syrians who have been taken by surprise, and, this time, the Israelis may not stop until they roll through the streets of Damascus. That, at least, is the threat implicit in their actions, according to Damascus. Israel has become a military powerhouse in the Middle East with weapons matching that of the United States, Germany and Russia – to include nuclear arsenals which, according to Arab countries are against the United Nations mandate.
Arab nations suggests that Israel is currently in violation of sveral United Nations resolutions, which Arab nations are forced to comply with. With its military might, Israel has threatened its neighbors such as Iran, Syria, and Lebanon with destruction if they cross the lines of normalcy. This is remarkable considering Israel is slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey. These threats however, have brought the United States to their aid on each occasion – mainly to suppress Israel’s itchiness for mass Arab destruction. Is the US strong support of Israel strictly political or perhaps it’s biblical per the Evangelicals? Are the Israelites of today actual descendants of the Biblical Israelites and are the territories of Palestine the promised land of milk and honey as promised by God? If this is the case then what was Canaan, and Jericho?
Perhaps it is fair for the Israelites, in consideration of their troubled past to inherit such a land and subsequent military might. On the other hand, perhaps it’s just as fair for the Palestinians to fight to maintain their hard earned territories for a unified Arab nation void of Christian idealism? With the growing discontent among European as well as Arab nations towards what is perceived as Israeli terrorism against its neighbors, should the United States do more to reign in Israel who, in the eyes of Arab nations, has become a rogue terrorist nation? Arab argument against US involvement is that they are the ones causing the division and the chaos in the Middle East. Certainly there were peace among Arab nations before the establishment of Israel and in the eyes of the Palestianians peace will once again return with the annihilation of or removal of Israel from Arab territories. Israel has certainly become the eye of the Middle East for US interests. With this in mind perhaps it’s only reasonable for the US to turn the other cheek towards Israeli aggression against its neighbors. After all, from a historical perspective – the lands of Palestine was once Judea which was the home of the Jews. Therefore, perhaps the Jews see Arabs as occupiers of their promised land of milk and honey. In consideration of the Arab viewpoint their problem with the Jews is not directed at the Jews themselves but history which has favored them. History's legacy created divisive issues between Palestinians and Israelis.
Summary of events leading to today's conflict.
Judea, which was the home of the Jews in ancient times, was conquered by the Romans and renamed Palestine. Palestine was later conquered and inhabited by Arabs for over a thousand years forcing out the Jews. The Zionist movement arose to restore the Jews to Israel, largely ignoring the existing Arab population. Following the Balfour Declaration in 1917, Palestine was given to Britain as a League of Nations mandate to build a national home for the Jewish people. The Arabs resented the Jews coming in to take their land. The Arabs, led by Grand Mufti Hajj Amin El Husseini, rioted daily and later revolted, creating a history of enmity between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. Following the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, Britain stopped Jewish immigration into Palestine in an effort to maintain Anglo/Arab peace. However, this campaign resulted in unprecedented pressure on Britain to allow Jewish immigration into Palestine – once again infuriating the Arab Palestinians. In 1947, the UN partitioned the land into Arab and Jewish states.
The Arabs did not accept the partition and wide spread war broke out. With the backings of the US and Brittan the Jews won a decisive victory. As a result they expanded their state thereby creating several hundred thousand Palestinian refugees. In defiance the Arab states refused to recognize Israel or make peace with it. Subsequent wars broke out in 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982, and there were many terror raids and Israeli reprisals which continues today. Each side holds onto different versions of the same history – viewing the conflict as wholly the fault of the other and expecting an apology, evacuation, and vindication - which most likely may never occur.
So, where are we now?
In the meantime, in an effort to bring peace and stability to the Middle East the United States and its allies must come to grips with the profound history of both the Israelis and Arabs, acknowledging the unbalance of power created by the US and Britain favoring Israel. Arab nations are equally willing to work with the United States to bring about peace however the United States, and its allies must be fair in their negotiations and they must be willing to put aside their fear of an Arab revolt by reigning in the powers of Israel. Perhaps the Obama administration has the history, negotiation abilities, and the fairness to provide the balance of power required for a safe and peaceful transition. This balance does not necessarily have to be military – it could very well be political. Then again, perhaps if the US and its European allies simply ceased their meddling in Middle Eastern affairs peace will become a no brainer!
Until then my prayer for both the Palestinians and the Israelis is that your God pave your path to a peaceful solution!