Monday, September 26, 2011

Israel and Palestine

Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
I was in high school when I first became aware of Israel. It was 1967, one of my best friends was Jewish and we followed closely the events of the Six Day War. Surrounded by enemies openly declaring the goal to "wipe Israel off the map" and outnumbered more than 10 to one, the war was both heroic and miraculous.

Afterwards I read all I could about Israel. I learned more about the Holocaust than the pablum fed me by high school text books. I read Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Leon Uris' epic novel, Exodus. I read how Mossad captured and brought to justice Adolph Eichmann. I listened to Israeli folk music along with the Beatles. As much as any secular gentile could, I fell in love with the nation of Israel. I still am viscerally in love. Leave out my brain and my gut would support her unconditionally. This is why I ache every time I criticize her, as I often do these days.

One of the reasons I respected Israel was the honor with which they fought which was in sharp contract to how the US Army behaved in Vietnam. Only very much later did I discover that this philosophy had a name, the Purity of Arms,  and as a creed predated the State of Israel and was the basic principle of the Haganah and Palmach. All this began is change in 1973.

Yom Kippur War
Sea of Galilee with the Golan Heights in the distance.
The war Israel nearly lost. The surprise attack by Syria and Egypt on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar caught Israel's vaunted military intelligence completely unaware. Egyptian troops crossed the Suez Canal in force while Syrian tanks advance quickly down the Golan Heights and came close to invading Israel proper. Had Jordan joined the conflict rather than warn Israel of the pending attack, a warning Israel choice to ignore, Israel might not had been able to blunt the attack and stage a counterattack.

For the first time since 1948, significant number of Israelis had been captured. While Egypt treated their prisoners well, the Syrians tortured and murdered their captives.

The result of the war was a nervous Israel that was no longer completely certain it could defend itself.

Rise of Likud
Menachem Begin founded Israel's Likud Party in 1973. He also once led the Jewish terrorist group Irgun. Unlike the Haganah, the Irgun never subscribed to the philosophy of Purity of Arms. Begin and his allies believed that any tactic in defense of Israel was valid.

Since the 1930's, the Irgun believed that all territory described as Palestine was rightfully part of the Land of Israel.
The Irgun foresaw modern Jordan in the nation of Israel.
Begin refused to use the term "West Bank" to describe the West Bank. He insisted on the term "Judea and Samaria" which transparently implied the land was properly part of Israel.

Israeli settlements
Between the Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars there were only a few Israeli settlements established on the West Bank. All of Jerusalem was annexed in 1967, that made sense because while Jerusalem is one of several Islam holy cities it is the only Jewish holy city. Also a handful of communities that had long predated the formation of the State of Israel were reestablished.

With the rise of Likud Jewish settlements on the West Bank blossomed. Hell, they metastasized. Seventeen percent of the 2.5 million people living on the West Bank are Israeli settlers. 

The Wall
Modern Israel has learned two lessons from the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust. Foremost and properly they learned "Never Again." Israel will fight when threatened not just for their national survival but for the survival of the Jewish people.

The other lesson is one nobody should learn, how to treat other people like sub-human animals. Nowhere is that lesson more obvious than in the West Bank Security Fence.

Israel has surrounded the Palestinian population of the West Bank with prison walls. The walls are supposed to reduce the chances of terrorist attacks within Israel and I have no doubt they accomplish that goal. The price is turning Palestine Arabs into a nation of prisoners and turning Israelis into a nation of cruel jailers. While I believe Adolph Eichmann would view the Wall as an eminently practical solution I also believe that David Ben Gurion would be repulsed by the very idea.
The Nazis built a similar wall around the Jewish population of Warsaw.
So where do I stand now? My viscera are steadfast, they support Israel whatever she does. The rest of me is troubled. Israel is no longer the noble Jewish warrior nation. They have attacked the civilian population of Gaza with chemical weapons. They treat Palestinian Arabs like animals, caging them behind high walls. And they have reneged on many of their negotiated deals.

I want to love her but she is making it impossibly difficult. And I can't believe what she is doing will lead to a lasting peace.


Anonymous said...

For so long as any Israeli is allowed to treat an Arab as an alien in his own country and for so long as he is allowed to restrict the movement of the father or mother of the child who is born there, then that land will cry out in pain until there is freedom from oppression and until Arab olives grow once again by the banks of the river Jordan, where the patriarch Abraham once walked in the ancient cities of Hebron and Jerusalem, in the land of Palestine where Arabs have lived as a free people for over a thousand years.

There has always been a majority Arab population between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan river and there must be so again now, and in the future, in order for there to be an end to bloodshed and a lasting peace. _____________________________________

KnightErrant said...

Arabs don't win using the longevity card. Jews lived in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean for 2000 years before the birth of Mohammad. Jews ruled the land, on and off, until 70 AD.

Arabs and Jews are both Semite people. Brothers from the days of Ismael and Issac. For most of that time they shared the land of Palestine.

Anonymous said...

Another view or two are that the only way things will ever change in the Middle East is when there are no Arabs or there are no Israelis; or more likely, a significant environmental disaster (our toppling of the global weather paradigm is a good possibility) vastly reduces the number of people there and the remainder either totally wipe out the other or learn to survive together.

I see the current situation as without solution and without honor.

Anonymous said...

"The walls are supposed to reduce the chances of terrorist attacks within Israel and I have no doubt they accomplish that goal. "

No one likes to see a wall but when it cuts the number of suicide attacks in buses, restaurants and other public places from weekly to almost none, that wall has a right to stand.