Thursday, 21 August 2014


Knowing the sensitive nature of the current conflict in Gaza, I considered avoiding the topic altogether, but I feel as if to do so would be dishonest in some way. If I have something to say, then my usual practice is to say it, and let the reader decide whether it was a good idea.  That being stated, I should point out that I am eager to provoke thought and conversation, rather than anger and argument. So here goes.

The root of the current problem is the creation of the modern state of Israel, which was preceded by Zionism and supported by the UN General Assembly. I do not go so far as to claim that this creation was a bad idea in its entirely, but it certainly seemed to favour the claims of the Israelis over those of the Palestinians in the region, particularly the people who were destined to be displaced. The region has been fraught with violence ever since, and with the benefit of hindsight I can say that errors were made, but even without the benefit of hindsight it seems logical to assume that displacing one set of people in favour of another, on the basis of an ancient claim to the land is going to crate trouble, and furthermore it ignored the rights of the people currently settled in the region, who also have a valid historical claim to the land.
Adding to this is the polarising and deadly attitude brought about by the opposing ideologies of the two sets of peoples, both recently settled and recently moved: a division drawn along religious lines, in which both sides believe equally an unwaveringly in the truth and righteousness of their cause, and in which both sides believe they have the support of god. This attitude, as well as engendering mistrust and hatred of anyone outside the specific faith group, also allows people to believe that dying and killing for the sake of the cause are morally acceptable and desirable.

Now, I don’t think the blame game is likely to produce the desired end result (i.e. peace), and I don’t think there is much value in delving into the various wrongs committed by both sides. This is a long and bloody situation stretching back for years, and neither side’s hands are clean. If Hamas were in possession of the bigger arsenal, I have no doubt they would be using similar techniques to the ones currently employed by Israel. Hamas itself is a nebulous organisation in many ways, with members who have stated that the total destruction of Israel is their goal (see the Hamas Charter), which others have stated that a peaceful coexistence is possible. Israel, for their part, have shown much less restraint than may be desired, but their use of weaponry is understandable (if not acceptable) given the circumstances. They are surrounded by an enemy they believe wants to wipe them from the face of the Earth. This is simply a case of who has the bigger guns.
Now, I have been thinking about a possible solution to this problem for some time, and although my ‘nuclear obliteration of the entire area’ proposal would be the most efficient, it is also the most tongue-in-cheek. There is one option which I feel could work: take the area of conflict, and divide it into two equal parts, one called Israel, and one called Palestine. Take the holy areas of both faiths, and declare these neutral territory. Ideally the territories will be arranged for access to the sites by either side, with a buffer of land between them to help prevent any other contact. The holy sites will be policed by the UN; anyone will be free to visit these sites, subject to a weapons check on entry, and they will belong to no one.
I am not so na├»ve as to believe this option will be one which either side will accept. The ideologies which I have mentioned previously also make any such concessions or trades of land repugnant, particularly the holy sites. We have witnessed over the years that, to many, war and death are preferable to giving up some buildings and patches of dirt. Could the world’s nations step in and enforce the plan anyway? Yes. But this would create more problems, because if the antagonists in this struggle do not accept a solution, the struggle will go on, in various forms and guises. There is also the moral implication of solving violence and displacement with more violence and displacement, as well as the question of whether the nations of the West (for it will be the Western nations who try to solve this problem – and perhaps rightly, since they had the biggest hand in creating it) have the desire to see more of their sons killed in other people’s arguments over, among other things, holy sites, patches of earth, a long list of reciprocal grievances and dead relatives, and who has the better imaginary friend.
In any case I am sceptical about whether the world will support any agreement which threatens to lead to lasting peace. Peace is bad for business. Both sides are being armed and supplied from somewhere, and you can be sure that even if the weapons are free, there is a cost involved. If the will existed, there could be peace tomorrow, but the pain and anger created by decades of killing have exacerbated the differences between two peoples who already believe the other is morally inferior due to an accident of birth or education. Add to this the partisan support for either side shown by both Western and Middle Eastern nations, and you have the recipe for a conflict which will burn for years to come.
Normally, I like to end these little rants of mine on a high note, or at least a note suggesting some kind of progress or achievement. However, in this case I feel a distinct lack of optimism for any peaceful outcome. Perhaps this attitude adds to the problem, perhaps it makes no difference what I do or how I think, since I am not part of the equation and my voice is small. I would like to think that with a value for human life and human rights, a sensible and lasting peace could be obtained, but there has been little or no sign of anything like such a solution being reached as long as I have been alive. While the hatred persists, the war will rage on.

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