Really. I know you've heard that before. But seriously. What follows is information that you probably do not yet know, without taking sides. Really.
We all have been besieged recently with impassioned posts and links about the conflict from all sides, taking all sides - you may have read about how Hamas is a terrorist organization firing rockets into civilian populations, and how Israel cannot negotiate with terrorist, and is surrounded and outnumbered, and is in its "Promised Land," while also reading that Israel is an oppressive regime that is slaughtering thousands and instituting Apartheid. And everything in between.
What follows is admittedly very incomplete, because books can be written on this subject, and several have. But what you will find in here is the root of the conflict.
WITHOUT TAKING SIDES.
The first question, really, is this:
Why was Zionism suddenly invented in the latter part of the 19th century?
Why did Jews start heading for what was then known as Palestine at that time, instead of centuries earlier? What was the impetus for the Zionist movement? Why did Jews decide, at THAT specific point in time, to go to Israel, and not earlier, or later?
The answer is below the squiggle.
The answer comes from the unification of Germany, Austria, Italy, et al. Europe was consolidating - and, with the new consolidated nations, Jews suddenly found that they were unable to become citizens of some of the new states. Previously, they could just go to a neighboring country. But with regular, intermittent pogroms in Russia and Europe, and with those consolidations, they saw that it was likely that their days in Europe were numbered. THAT is why Zionism came into being at that place, and at that time. Because, suddenly, Jews were (once again) becoming people without a country, again, and, there seemed like there was nowhere else to go.
In fact, an earlier, discarded possibility, in those colonial times, was to colonize Uganda. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed on that one.
As they entered Palestine, though, remember that it was ALREADY AN OCCUPIED TERRITORY. It was occupied, and occupied oppressively, by the Ottoman Empire. Palestine had been occupied by different empires, at the time, for over 2000 years. It had not been its own nation since it was Israel before the Roman Empire destroyed and disbursed the people, and named it "Palestine" as the name of the enemy of the people - the Philistines - as was the Roman custom at the time. The native Arabs of the area had been living under occupation literally for millennia.
The land was populated, but there was plenty of room for Kibbutzim. The Arab population was very poor under the Empire. Jewish settlers were torn between hiring Arabs, who were very poor and could certainly use the money, and those who were socialist, and decided not to hire them, because they did not want to create class discrepancies.
During WWI, Jews in Palestine saw what the Turks were doing to the Armenians - genocide - and they knew that if the Turks and the Ottoman Empire won in the Great War to End All Wars, the Jews, after the Armenians, would be next. So the settlers allied themselves with the English, and spied for the English against the Turks, and did their best to ingratiate themselves among the English, who by nature tended to be anti-Semitic.
At the same time, T.E. Lawrence, with a romanticized notion of the Bedouins, was organizing Arabs against the Turks, and against his own Empire.
Finally, after the war, countries were carved up in the best interest of the British, but Palestine was still an occupied territory. It was now part of the British Empire.
After the Second World War, and after the Germans succeeded after all in doing to the Jews what the Turks did to the Armenians, but more efficiently, the State of Israel was created. And yes, Arabs who had lived there were displaced, and sometimes worse. The thought, rightly or wrongly, was that there were an awful lot of places that Arabs can go to live and practice their religion, but for Jews, this was it.
And, for decades, it was "us against them": a tiny little country surrounded by many, many enemies, supported by the US as a pawn in the Cold War.
Then came the 6 Day War in 1967. Israel's greatest triumph became it's greatest failure. Knowing that an attack was eminent, Israel destroyed fighter planes on the ground, and took Gaza and the Sinai from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank from Jordan. Gaza and the Sinai were given back in exchange for peace with Egypt. The PLO took the West Bank while almost overthrowing the King of Jordan.
I wrote an article in Tikkun Magazine 14 years ago, before the Intifada, in the last year of the Clinton Administration, when there was still hope for a peaceful resolution in which I wrote:
The relationship of both secular and traditional Jews to the land changed severely after the 1967 war. With the annexation of new territory, the traditional culture that sought to preserve the land as an extension of G-d's will quickly became a culture that worshipped the land itself. Believing the land was theirs to rule, both secular kibbutsniks and religious Jews too easily accepted the role of occupier. Yeshayahu Leibowitz in his essay 'The Territories,' written shortly after the war, predicted that this decision to retain rule over the occupied territories would have tragic consequences. He suggested that the religious traditionalists, in arguing that the land has biblical significance, were actually idolizing the land, thus corrupting the very religion they strove to maintain. Instead of Jews working together on the land and in all levels of society, the process of maintaining rule over a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners within the territories would have significant social repercussions. Arguing that hierarchical relationships would necessarily develop between Jewish Israelis and the Others, he predicted that in a few years there would be no Jewish workers or Jewish farmers, that Arabs would be the working people and Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police. In short, he predicted the dissolution of Israeli social fabric and boundaries as surely as the boundaries of the country itself.Dr. Leibowitz proved to be omniscient. The greatest military success in the history of Israel turned into its greatest failure.
And now, this latest Occupation -and it can be argued, kinda, that Egypt had occupied Gaza and that Jordan had occupied the West Bank pre-1967 - is horrific, dehumanizing, and thousands of innocents are dying.
Yet the people on both sides are being manipulated by their leaders to want to win the war, or at least maintain what was the status quo.
Where are the calls for peace? Well, think about it: when we were attacked on 9/11, there were few voices for a peaceful solution to our newfound conflict with Afghanistan. Attacks on our soil will do that. So, too, when there are attacks on their soil - in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank - those who call for peace get drowned out, as well.
The biggest problem, right now, is to realize that the leaders are manipulating the population into supporting war - on both sides.
For Israel, Netanyahu's coalition demands it. They simply have no interest in giving back any of the West Bank, or Gaza, and they will do what they can to fight peace. That includes shouting that Hamas killed 3 teenagers, when we now know they did not. That was enough to rile up public opinion, and, to send in troops. Any chance they can take, they will gin up conflict with Hamas will be taken, so that the people of Israel will not want to have peace, either.
And, at the same time, Hamas has no interest in living peacefully, side by side, with Israel, and is sacrificing the Palestinians living under its rule in order to strengthen itself and its cause. They want their land, and the destruction of Israel. They also know that the more children die, the more people will have blood vengeance on their minds, and will be willing to die for their cause.
I wrote this before, but it bears repeating - here's what you need to know about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:
"The enemy of your enemy is not your friend."
What does that mean? Think about it. Stalin and Churchill had a common enemy: Hitler. But they were not friends. And so it is in the Middle East.
Those of you who oppose the actions of Israel, you share a common enemy with Hamas. But Hamas is not your friend.
Those of you who oppose the actions of Hamas, you share a common enemy with the Netanyahu Administration, but The Netanyahu Administration is not your friend.
Those who choose to destroy Jewish homes and businesses in France and throughout Europe, well, you simply were looking for an excuse to act on your hatred for Jews from the last war. Hamas is not your friend either.
In fact, Hamas, and the Netanyahu Administration, both have the same common enemy:
But they are not friends.
The losers in all this? The poor Palestinians, who have been occupied literally for millennia, and want, now, what everyone else received in the 20th century but them - unless you count Jordan, which they do not - a homeland with home rule, after all these years.