Both Israel and Hamas Are Asking for a Miserable Future
I do not intend to say who is right and who is wrong. But I think that both Israel and Hamas will suffer in years to come for their mutual intransigence. Both sides have negotiated in bad faith, especially when Benjamin Netanyahu was on one of the sides. Unfortunately, it is the innocent who—as always—suffer the most. The images of wounded Palestinian children are everywhere in the news. And certainly, the casualties are grotesquely one-sided.
The question I ask is: When does Israel’s right to defend itself cross the line over into war crimes? Although their rocket attacks have been one-hundredth the intensity of Israel’s air and land barrage, one might also ask of Hamas why, considering what they know of Israel’s tendency to over-respond, do they continue acting in such a way as to deserve punishment by Israel? But will Hamas be punished, or the Palestinians who just want to survive with their families and property intact?
So much of the news today is about irreconcilable conflicts between people who should be brothers: Ukraine and Russia, Syria and the Syrians, Iraq and ISIS … the list goes on. And the casualties continue to mount.
The (Former) Palestinian City of Lydda (ca. 1900)
It looks idyllic, doesn’t it? And it was, until 1948. At that point, the newly formed Israel Defense Forces expelled the inhabitants of this peaceful city in which Jews and Palestinians had lived side by side for generations. In an article for the New Yorker published in the October 21, 2013 issue entitled “Lydda, 1948,” Ari Shavit writes:
But, looking straight ahead at Lydda, I wonder if peace is possible. Our side is clear: we had to come into the Lydda Valley and we had to take the Lydda Valley. There is no other home for us, and there was no other way. But the Arabs’ side, the Palestinian side, is equally clear: they cannot forget Lydda and they cannot forgive us for Lydda. You can argue that it is not the occupation of 1967 that is at the core of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but the tragedy of 1948. It’s not only the settlements that are an obstacle to peace but the Palestinians’ yearning to return, one way or another, to Lydda and to dozens of other small towns and villages that vanished during one cataclysmic year. But the Jewish State cannot let them return. Israel has a right to live, and if Israel is to live it cannot resolve the Lydda issue. What is needed to make peace now between the two peoples of this land may prove more than humans can summon.
I sit here in West Los Angeles, within hailing distance of the Gabrielino Indians’ shrine at Kuruvungna Springs on the grounds of the present-day University High School. In June and July of this year, I vacationed in Iceland, where a resurgent Viking population drove out the Irish monks that had originally settled the island. (Now there is no trace of their ever having done so.) If all goes well, my next vacation will be in Peru, where the Spanish looted and destroyed the Inca Empire. Their criollo descendants still control the economy and the political power, leaving the Andean serranos and jungle tribes near the headwaters of the Amazon as second-class citizens.
Unfortunately, with its burgeoning West Bank settlements, Israel is continuing the process it began in 1948 of squeezing out, to the maximum extent possible, the indigenous Palestinian population. I cannot condone Israel’s settlement policy, especially with its Likud Party racist underpinnings; but I cannot afford to be too absolute because I realize there is a faint trace of blood on my own hands and on those of my forebears.
Israel’s Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu
Israel has a right to exist. The Palestinians have a right to exist—though no one but a few die-hard Arabs say that Palestine as a nation has a right to exist. I am not sure now that Bibi Netanyahu and his Likud Party, however, have a right to exist.
The path taken by Netanyahu’s Israel is a dangerous one. You could be hyper-aggressive and murderous to the maximum extent, but only insofar as the people are backing your every play. Eventually, you could cross a line where not only the world at large but your own people are tired of infamy as a way of life. What happens then? Can you continue to do the same sort of thing and continue to get away with it? Probably not.
The Arabs see Israel as just another “crusader state.” After the wildly successful First Crusade (1096-1099), much of the Holy Land was divided into a series of feudal states run by the Crusaders. These included the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Tripoli, the Principality of Antioch, and the County of Edessa. Some of them lasted a surprisingly long time. And they might still be around today if the Arabs were not united under a powerful new leader like Saladin (from Kurdistan of all places), and the Crusaders became ever more disunited and fragmented over the next couple hundred years.
Who is to say that Israel’s continued aggression against the Palestinians and other Arabs will not result in a unified alliance to wipe it off the map? What will our attitude be in such a case? Will we have to send in our army to protect Israel’s right to exist? That would be good for another five hundred years of hatred in the Middle East.
I think the Western World had to keep a tight leash on Israel and do everything it can to stymie the right wing politicians who have been in the ascendant there since the days of Menachem Begin. (At the same, our own right wing will continue to support Israeli aggression and confuse the issue.)