Politics & Media
Dec 30, 2008, 05:34AM

End Israeli Hostility

America’s response to the weekend’s Gaza violence needs to acknowledge the decades of historical explanation that led to it, and our relationship to Israel should change accordingly.

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Photo by Olly Lambert.

Over the holiday weekend, Israeli planes attacked several sites in the Gaza Strip. The air strikes have killed more than 300 Palestinians (so far), and the attacks are continuing.

This is just the latest in a generations-long problem in the region. Sixty-one years ago, in 1947, amidst the aftermath of the Holocaust, the United Nations decided that Jews should have their own homeland. Rather than giving up land in Europe or Eastern Europe, the UN decided to settle the Jews in what the Torah claims is the Jews' homeland: the area in and around Jerusalem.

The problem was that there were already people living on that land: the Palestinians. And there were, literally, millions of them. That problem was solved by forcing the Palestinians to move into two separate regions: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which allowed the Jews to move in and create the quasi-democratic state of Israel. I say quasi because, although the Palestinians are allowed to vote in their own elections, their governments are effectively hamstrung by Israel’s authority over roads, airspace, water, and external security. The Palestinians have no voice within Israel’s government. In addition, Zionist settlers continually build settlements that encroach on Palestinian land, and the Israeli government is always reluctant to stop them.

The Palestinian pseudo-government, which is currently run by the political party Hamas, is almost never effective because Israel controls access to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and uses its leverage to attempt to influence internal Palestinian politics. Hamas has been labeled as a terrorist organization, and its security compounds were the targets of the past weekend’s air strikes.

The Palestinians are literally fenced in, not allowed to travel freely, and are often denied basic necessities including food, medicine, and education. Israel denies these basic services in the hopes that the Palestinian people, once their will is broken, will elect political leaders that are willing to cooperate. This has yet to happen, and in fact the opposite has occurred: Hamas, a more radical political party, won parliamentary elections in 2006 over the more moderate Fatah party.

Palestinian militants, ostensibly controlled by the Hamas security forces, occasionally send salvos of rockets towards towns in Israel. In response, Israeli bulldozers will raze a few houses and shut off the supply of humanitarian aid.

A supporter of Israel might ask, "Well have you ever been suicide bombed? Have you ever been attacked with rockets? These Palestinians are dangerous!" But that is ignoring the fact that the Palestinians view the Israeli state as having stolen the Palestinians' homeland 60 years ago. The struggle against Israel is not, for many Palestinians, a struggle against Judaism or the West: it's a struggle for political freedom and sovereignty. They resent the West only because it is complicit in Israel's aggression.

The Palestinians do sometimes resort to terrorism to further their political goals, and they are correctly condemned for it. But does the provocation justify the response? Palestinians have no leverage politically or militarily. They are second-class citizens governed against their will by a distant minority. Desperation can very well lead to madness.

Israel claims that its Palestinian foe is an existential threat and must be dealt with harshly by, amongst other tactics, bombing its governing party's headquarters with warplanes. But really, how dangerous can a people be when all that they can do to resist Israeli aggression is to throw stones at tanks.

Israel claims that its struggle against the Palestinians is a life or death conflict. But surely there must be a better solution than to allow an entire generation of young people to grow up in what amounts to a lawless refugee camp. What better terrorist recruiting environment could there be?

Stop with the warplanes and start allowing the Palestinians to assert their humanity. Give them food; give them medicine; give them education; give them democracy.

  • You're clearly an antisemitic bastard who has no place in the world to breath the same air as chosen people. You're probably a terrorist....

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  • It's foolish to expect Israel to give any form of aid to a region where the dominating organization is publicly bent on Israel's destruction. Israel faces serious threats from Hamas, Iran, Hizbollah, and Syria, and this military campaign (while far from ideal) is most likely an attempt to get Israel back on the United States' radar. With the recession and the threat of an Indian-Pakistani nuclear war, Israel was low on the Obama administration's priority list, and they're vying for significance. Unfortunately, any hope for Bill Clinton-esque diplomacy in the Middle East is dim, right about the time when it could have been a possibility.

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  • It's time to stop this ridiculous game that Israel plays- who started it? What are they, 6? If they are going to act like children, the U.S. should not supply them with big kid toys (weapons, plans etc.). The real story is the way the people in Gaza are denied basic rights, clean water, an economy or any hope of a better future. Then, Israel expects them not to support extremists... grow up, Israel.

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  • After reading this, I have to side with the author. Assuming what he writes is true.

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  • http://www.theonion.com/content/news/long_standing_conflict_ends_as YAY!

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  • That's a huge assumption. "Truth" is, like so much else in the Mideast, relative and depends on your own bias. I really want to know what Obama's stance on this violent crisis is. At the start of Bush's administration he was often called the best U.S. ally in the White House Israel ever had. But he's gone AWOL. These are dangerous times: Obama ought to send a message, even though he hasn't been sworn in yet. From all indications, based on his speeches in the past two years, he'll be firmly in Israel's camp. I hope so.

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  • I think it would be a mistake to be "firmly in Israel's camp." When Obama won the election, his victory was celebrated throughout the Arab world, including anti-American Iran, because he was viewed as a leader who could moderate the conflict to a balanced resolution. If he supports Israel alone then he loses that credibility and the whole mess is back to the violent status quo.

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  • But Demian, that's been the position of every president, save Carter, in memory, to be a staunch ally of Israel. Obama, who trotted out his pro-Israel bona fides during the campaign, was celebrated throughout the Arab world because first, he wasn't the hated Bush, and two, he wasn't McCain, who was far more blatant with his hawkish stance on the Mideast.

  • As long as Obama puts American interests first (and that may not coincide with Israeli interests) it should not be a problem. At times to protect our goal, we got to chide Israel when it does something counter-productive.

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  • To the Author. While this is a well written article you failed to do your research and wrote a complete article of half truths. It was not the UN that decided that Israel would be the location of the Jewish State. Jews bought that land from other Arabs who were not living in the state because they felt they would rather make money than look out for their Arab brothers. The UN then came up with the partition plan of 1947, in which the land was split 50/50. The Arabs were to be given Central and Western Israel, while the Jews were given the south (98%) desert and part of the North. The Jews accepted these terms while the Arabs did not. Once the land had been purchased by the Jewish people, the UN recognized Israel as a Jewish State and within 24 hours a war was waged against the brand new country by five surrounding arab countries. With no official army and almost half of the soldiers fresh out of Nazi concentration (death) camps, the Jews still managed to win. So to your point that the Arabs were kicked out you may be half right but the fact is, the Jews purchased and fought for that land making it theirs. You also mention, "Palestinian militants, ostensibly controlled by the Hamas security forces, occasionally send salvos of rockets towards towns in Israel". THe city of Hebron in Southern Israel had over 100 rockets fired upon it daily for almost six months straight, that does not sound like an occasional attack to me. You say that the Palestinians have nothing but rocks to throw at Israeli tanks, however Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and several other oil rich countries give millions of dollars worth of rockets and ammunition to the Guerilla Hammas. You say give them peace, give them democracy, for that to happen should the israeli government sit back and do nothing while Rebel Palestinians send rockets and suicide bombings into Israel and take the lives of thousands of innocent Israeli civilian lives like what happened before the fences were put up? There was an election to give the Palestinian people democracy, however the Palestinians did not want democracy, instead, as you clearly stated in your article, they elected Hammas, an organization that is recognized by Israel and the USA as a terrorist organization, as their government. Israel did what had to be done to create an internationally recognized country, they purchased the land, fought for the land and do whatever it takes to keep their country strong. The Palestinians have not formed a government or taken any action to create a country other than taking the lives of innocent Israelis (terrorism) until Israel finally cracks. So to those that read this article full of half truths, please look into all of the facts before you focus in on the load of lies that this author has presented to you.

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