Monday, January 12, 2009

Israel and Palestine

Over at Volokh Conspiracy, a site I enjoy even though I disagree with a great deal of what is posted there, especially in the comments, has become a hotbed of controversy over the recent Israeli bombing and ground attacks upon Hamas in the Gaza Strip.* Partisans on boths sides have been demonizing the other, and I've learned all kinds of interesting things, like the fact that CNN has secret Hitlerian plans to destroy the Jews and bring about a new Holocaust, that the ICRC is ardently anti-Jew, and the fact that no one is in the streets protesting the Sri Lankan government's attacks on the Tamil Tigers is proof that opposition to Israel's attacks in Gaza is really just thinly-veiled anti-semitism. Oh, and that the left thinks that Palestinians are "soft and cuddly" and all want Hamas to win.

I personally have two acquaintances who are on opposite sides of this conflict, ideologically. One sides with Israel, thinks Israel can do no wrong, while the other is the same with the Palestinians. Frankly, I never really need to discuss the latest events in the region with either one, because I can pretty accurately guess each one's opinion in advance. For instance, when Israel began its most recent bombing campaign on Gaza, I correctly predicted that my pro-Israeli acquaintance would argue that no sovereign nation could fail to protect its citizens and allow rockets to rain down on them without responding. And I correctly predicted that my pro-Palestinian friend would note how ineffective the rocket attacks had been and therefore call Israel's attacks disproportionate to the threat. I can pretty much see the arguments and points for both sides and see why the arguments for both sides are compelling to those advancing them. (I also pretty much nailed each one's counters to those arguments as well, but I won't go further with this, as it isn't my main point).

I also see why none of those arguments matter in the least and those expending great amounts of time and effort making them are wasting their effort. There's a reason that, though I have a great deal of affinity for Israel and the plight of the Jewish people, before and after the destruction of the second Temple, during the Diaspora, before and after the Holocaust, given the study I have done for my writing and the fact that they have suffered over two thousand years of persecution at the hands of Christians from religiously-motivated antisemitism, I still have trouble getting too worked up over the latest events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and don't really strongly support one side or the other.

The reason is that the conflict cannot be solved because the two sides have mutually exclusive goals. At least, the more radical elements on both sides do, and those radical elements will be sure to scuttle any peace that compromises on those mutually exclusive goals. This has already happened on several occasions. And, as such, peace is essentially impossible.

A few examples of these mutually exclusive goals are: both sides must control all of Jerusalem; both sides must control the Temple Mount; both sides must have the Galilee; etc., etc. Any peace deal, for instance, in which either side gives up control of any part of Jerusalem will be scuttled by the radical elements of its own side. Guaranteed. Neither side will relinquish control of Jerusalem. Neither side will relinquish control of the Temple Mount. (Even now Jewish radicals seek to retake the Mount and raze the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque).

So, the ceaseless arguments about what is best for peace and two-state or one-state solutions and how best to neuter Hamas and whether it is better for Israel to deal with Hamas or Fatah are all pretty much pointless, because, ultimately, the whole idea that peace between the two sides is a fiction. Hamas, by refusing to recognize the right of Israel to exist, is simply refusing to deny the truth, to play make-believe. (Though I think they are wrong, of course, and I believe Israel does have a right to exist). They are simply saying straight out what is true of many Israelis and Palestinians, that there is no real way for them to coexist due to their mutually exclusive goals.

Does this mean that all Palestinians and all Israelis feel this way? That none of them desire peace? That there aren't many, perhaps even a majority, who would compromise on these mutually exclusive goals for peace? No. It doesn't. But the problem is that in the highly charged atmosphere of conflict it only takes a few radicals to lob a rocket or blow up a school to derail any peace initiative. And neither side can control its radical elements sufficiently to prevent this from happening.

So, in the end, I don't get too worked up about who is right and who is wrong with any particular action, incursion, intafada, or whatever in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I see it as another chapter in an unfolding, probably never-ending tragedy that is going to just continue eating up lives probably for as long as I live and long after that. I see no particular reason to argue about who is right or wrong in this particular case. Both are right. Both are wrong.

And as far as I can tell, they always will be.

* Did you know that a kind of light, airy fabric called 'gauze' originally came from Gaza and is where we get the word gauze?


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