Saturday, July 19, 2014

Thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Best laid plans have a way of going awry. I had planned on doing several articles on the situation in Israel and Palestine. The first was going to go over the basic facts and statistics of the Israel-Palestine conflict, its history, and some verifiable sources to back up those facts to help everyone get on the same page. The second was going to address the current situation, concerning the bombing of Gaza by Israel and the ground invasion, which is now currently underway. The third was going to go where angels fear to tread, and tackle the religious aspect of this issue – not concerning Judaism or Islam, but concerning the Christians who back whatever actions Israel takes, regardless of their inherent moral repercussions, and justify this based on Scripture. I intended to examine the merits of this position from a purely Biblical perspective.

Well, I never made much progress on these articles, primarily due to spending time working on the house I just purchased, which doesn’t have internet, to make it livable enough for my family and myself to move into it. It’s a 45 minute drive from my current residence, and between that and work, I have gotten little done on anything else. I still might do the first and third articles at a later time, and Awakened Citizen and StormCloudsGathering both did excellent articles which cover the second topic well, so there is no need for me to restate what they have already said. But I wanted to at least make a few comments of my own on the situation.

On the topic of ethics, I believe in the Non-AggressionPrinciple, the inherent Natural Rights of every person, and in the inherent personal responsibilities that come with those rights. In that regard, I stand with the people of Israel and their right to live in peace where they choose, to organize their own society in a self-determined and peaceful way, and to defend themselves with force against any aggressor when necessary. For the same reasons, I also stand with the people of Palestine and their right to do the same things – to live in peace where they choose, to organize their own society in a self-determined and peaceful way, and to defend themselves with force against any aggressor when necessary.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a wedge issue. It’s not simple, straightforward, or easily solved. And people are angry about it, and I understand their anger. Innocent people are dying, and I’m angry about it, too. Over the course of the past week I have seen innumerable Facebook fights, arguments, and angry words over this issue from both sides. I have heard many claims and counterclaims, backed by many different sources of varying reputation, which only add to the confusion and fuel the fire of both the conflict and the heated debate surrounding it. I have admittedly, so far, had a difficult time sorting the facts from the fiction.

But, in my searching, a few thing have become abundantly clear. The first, is that there is innocent blood on the hands of both sides. To what degree and in what ways are obviously up for debate, but both sides have killed civilians, children, and otherwise innocent people. The second is that the Palestinian people, especially those in the Gaza Strip, are living in squallor in what can only be described as the world’s two largest concentration camps. Walled in by fences and troops, there is tight control over who and what enters or leaves, and this greatly limits economic development of any kind, and has even hampered relief efforts. Third, is that such conditions of great poverty and oppression, coupled with dogmatic thinking, create a ripe breeding ground for violent extremism. It does not excuse or justify such extremism, but it does provide fertile soil for it to grow in. And fourth, this back and forth, retaliatory violence is not solving anything, and is not going to. It's only making things progressively worse.

Can this conflict ever be solved? Can the senseless violence ever come to an end, and if so, how? I don't have an easy or definite answer to that question. But I firmly believe it's at least possible. But if it's going to happen, it is going to have to start with at least one of the two sides putting their foot down against the elements within them that support aggressive violence and holding those elements accountable. That, of course, is no guarantee of peace, but it is the only path that can lead to it. Either side can choose to make this step, but given that Israel is the more powerful of the two sides, and exerts the most control over the situation, they are by far in the better position to make this move and have it be effective. They have the most power, and therefore, the most responsibility. They are in the unique position to relieve the Palestinian territories of their concentration-camp-like qualities and end the Apartheid.

I have no illusions that, if they did this today and quit the Apartheid cold-turkey, it would somehow magically and instantly end the violence. Not by a longshot. But someone has to take the first step, and that someone will probably have to take the first several steps. Then, eventually, the other party will have to start taking steps, too. And they can only do this if enough people on either side choose to. And I have it on good authority that there are many, on both sides, that do want actual peace. I stand with those among Israel and Palestine who want to see real peace, for both sides. And I stand firmly against aggression of any type, and condemn the killing of innocent civilians, whether by airstrike, by rocket, by gun, or by suicide bomber. That includes these airstrikes by Israel on the densely populated Gaza strip.

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See also: Israel and Palestine - Part 2