May 2024 Archives

Dear America,

Spain, Ireland and Norway have just announced their recognition of Palestine as a state.  With the alacritous recalcitrance he eagerly demonstrates whenever he doesn't hear what he wants to hear, Benjamin Netanyahu condemned their actions and recalled the Israeli ambassadors to those countries.  Netanyahu's public pronouncements on the subject were as predictable as the acrimony in which the middle east, especially the region formerly known as the Levant (Palestine before Israel created itself as a state) is inundated.  He declaimed that the creation of a separate state of Palestine would be the creation of a "terrorist nation,"  ignoring the implicit irony implicated when you consider the events preceding Israeli independence.  For example, there is the bombing of the King David hotel with its death toll of British soldiers in July 1946, which was perpetrated by Israel's own terrorist organization, the Irgun.  The leader of the Irgun, Menachim Begin, became a prime minister of Israel under the banner of the Herut party, one of a series of ultra-conservative, ultra-nationalist parties for which the Irgun was arguably the foundation.   Then there is the continued occupation of the area populated by the Palestinian people know as the West Bank (of the Jordan River) by Israel after the 1967 war and its settlement by Israeli zealots in increments since then, all in support of a claim I first heard Begin invoke half a century ago; that the areas formerly known as Samaria and Judea (the West Bank) belonged to Israel by dint of recognition bestowed in the bible.  Apparently it never occurred to Began that under such a theory the United States belonged to the autochthonous peoples of this continent, as do all the countries of the continent of South America, not to mention the Levant itself.  Similarly, he never considered that Israel was created in strife over coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians already resident in the Levant.

All this is not to say that the Palestinians bare no blame for the fog of belligerence that hovers over the region 'til this very day.  The Palestinians were ardently averse to the creation of a Jewish state of Israel in the area and strife has continually broken out since UN resolution 181 in 1947, which partitioned the territory into two states, 56% of the land designated to be Israel, the rest Palestine.  What ensued was denominated an expulsion by the Palestinians whereas Israel has always considered the events by which Jews supplanted Palestinians to be some kind of acquisition of a legal and just nature.  Since the 1967 war in which the Israelis prevailed over an alliance of Arab states, Israel has gradually populated the West Bank with Israeli settlers totaling something on the order of 750,000 to date.  Those settlers tyrannize the Palestinian indigenous population to the extent of murder, and the Palestinians in turn institute "intifada," a euphemism for rebellion, and thus the bellicosity that continues  today.

Given all that has transpired in the Levant, it is tempting to yield to the opinion that the situation is immutable and impossible to peacefully resolve.  Frankly, I often descend into that kind of pessimism as I have evinced by some of what I have written here.  But I cling to the supervening belief that something can be done, and I have even written a proposal for how to do so, which I submitted to you years ago now, and here is my rationale.  If Palestine is granted statehood, it is bound by the rules of international relations that bind all nations of the world, whether they obey them or not.  Russia can call its invasion of Ukraine a "special military operation" all Putin wants, but it is an imperialistic war for territory, and it violates international law.  Similarly, if a State of Palestine engaged...or even allowed...warlike activities against its neighbor, Israel, it would be in violation of international law, and retaliation...including invasion...by Israel would be understood to be in consequence thereof.  Put another way, legitimization of Palestine also entails onerous duties, such as controlling the population and addressing violence across borders, whether they are with Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria or whomever else.  Statehood would be not just a privilege but an onerous duty as well; it could be enforced by permanent peace keeping forces or by an alliance of nations of the region dedicated to world peace, even if at the price of limited war to prevent cross-border incursion.

Likud and Netanyahu have persisted in their "river to the sea" aspirations, and as long as they, and for that matter the Palestinians as well, cleave to such a self-serving proposition as an absolute sine qua non for peace, there will be none, which brings me back to where I started.  If both parities refuse to abandon extirpation of one another as a goal, there is nothing we in the rest of the world can do, so why try.

Your friend,

Mike

Dear America,

On recent coverage of the campus unrest regarding Palestine and Israel, I saw and heard a young co-ed fulminating on the subject most ardently.  Her passion was evident, and when she had concluded saying her piece, she finished by saying, "I am Hamas!"  That scene sums up for me the entirety of the college protest movement on this subject.  Even considering the vileness of the situation in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas is more vile still.  The October 7 incursion into Israel in which more than 1,000 people were killed or taken hostage was an atrocity, and it was not Hamas's first venture into the realm of mindless brutality.  That young woman could have said, "I am Palestine!" and I would have found her ardor self-aggrandizing, but not inexcusable.  In fact, she could have said almost anything else and I would have accepted her zeal as sincere, heartfelt and proportionate to her passion, but lauding Hamas is like lauding Nazi brutality, or Stalinist brutality, or for relevant comparison, Israel's brutality.  If that kind of conduct is justifiable for anyone, it is justifiable for all...but it isn't either justifiable or condonable, which that adolescent failed to recognize.  It was deplorable, which leads me to the point I am trying to make; the students protesting around the world are strutting their adolescent conceit with their excessive self-indulgence.  They have failed to educate themselves about the Middle East, Israel, Palestine or Hamas.  And the comparison to the protests of the sixties, those committed by my generation, is misguided when it comes from the news media and self-serving when purported by the student movement of today.  Just to make the point, you never hear a word about Ukraine and Russia at these demonstrations, but there have been more dead bodies created in the Donbas than in Gaza, and the suffering is just as profound in its way.  And along that line, the protests of the 60's were about American participation in a bloody conflict, not someone else's.  What's more, our own young people were victims and potential victims of the Vietnam war.  It was our business because we were actual and potential victims...at least our young, conscript-able men were, and the history preceding that war made our government complicit in its advent as well.  The protesters then weren't talking about "endowments" that helped them afford prestigious institutions paid for mostly by their mommies and daddies.  They were talking about their own lives and those of people they cared about...and one another as well.  Today's protesters have nothing at stake personally, which makes their high rhetoric hollow and renders it nothing more than precocious vanity.

I was never a protester myself, though I was a candidate for the draft.  I did apply for, and I was granted, 1-A-O status; I was an official conscientious objector.  When I had been in the Peace Corps previously, I had read Thoreau's essay, "Civil Disobedience," and I accepted his premise that civil disobedience...sincere civil disobedience...is legitimate, but part of the endeavor is accepting the consequences, and there were some.  And likewise, those of my generation who suffused the nightly news in Chicago in 1968 during the Democratic National Convention for the presidential nomination, and those who went to Canada rather than be drafted so as to be sent to war as well as those who marched en masse in cities across the nation did too.  Today's students, on the other hand, have rather puled about being arrested, suspended from their privileged student billets in prestigious universities, or God forbid, spending a night in jail and suffering a fine for disturbing the peace and possibly a rebuke from an angry parent.

I would feel differently if the protests had been committed in front of the Israeli and Russian embassies in Washington or those country's consulates across the country.  I could have accepted it all if I had ever heard a protester utter a word about a two-state solution or the internecine history of the Middle East's various tribes, cultures and ethnicities, including the Jews and the Palestinians among many over the past four thousand years.  I might have joined the chorus if the issue at the fore were not just decrying the human catastrophe, but reproaching both sides as well for not learning anything over the millennia, which, had they done so, should have been sufficient to deter both sides from decrying each other's existence and working toward their opposites' extirpation from the Levant.  But that isn't how it has been.  Everyone involved has done plenty of feeling, but it seems no one has done any learning, studying or thinking.

Building figurative...or even physical...walls seems to be the modern means by which peoples coexist.  Think Berlin, our wall across the Mexican border and even the great wall of China, which is over 5,000 miles long, and in that vein I have made this suggestion.  Maybe we shouldn't worry so much about building the wall between us and Mexico.  Maybe we should be focused on building one around the Middle East, literal or figurative, so that Iran, Syria, Israel, the Palestinians, the Iraqis, etcetera won't kill all of us as they proceed to kill each other.   

Your friend,

Mike

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2024 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2024 is the previous archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.