Sunday, October 15, 2006

AlJazeera: Does the Palestinian issue fuel extremism?

It's been a while since I last posted - I'm really busy, so my posting frequency is low (and will probably remain so) - but at least it's not zero.

Mohamed Maher said:
> try to see and hear new media other than urs , try to hear the arabic media
And I promised him I will read Arab media.

In keeping with my promise, I read "Does the Palestinian issue fuel extremism?" on AlJazeera.

I think the author was actually calling for a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But I must say: as an Israeli Jew, I found this article to be insulting. I could only bear to read through it because I understand - through my conversations on this blog - that this article truly reflects the way most Arabs see Israel. The vast majority of Israelis would think this article is "shameless anti-Israeli propaganda". I certainly would have thought so a few months ago.

Before I explain why I was offended by this article, I'd like to highlight a small part of a conversation I had with EngineeringChange in the comments to my previous post.

EngineeringChange said:
> But I still cannot understand what this Israeli infatuation is with its Jewish identity.

And I replied:
> It's a complex issue - but the very short explanation is that
> while Christians and Muslims have many countries of their
> own, Israel is the only Jewish country in the world. If Israel
> were to lose its Jewish identity, there would be no one to
> make sure Jews do not become a persecuted minority wherever they live.

To any Arabs reading this post: please keep this in mind when you read the AlJazeera article. And please remember also:

  • I agree with at least part of your cause. Israeli violence towards Palestinians should be stopped. There should be a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
  • Most Israeli Jews living in Israel were born here. This is our home. It is very important to us. Maintaining a homeland for the Jewish people is as important to us as justice is to you.
  • Arabs have a very significant resposibility for the violence in this area. We Israelis are not saints, but neither are you Arabs. It is pointless to blame the other side without admitting that you too have a part in the wrongdoing.

So why was I offended by this article? Mostly because of the absolute one-sidedness.

Here are a few quotes to explain my feelings:

"...Leaders are assassinated, remember Sheikh Yasin?..."
Well - leaders from the Israeli side have been assasinated too. Ze'evi, for example. Not that I support his extremist views - but the article fails to mention his assasination. Nor the assasination of Israel's ambassador to Britian in 1982, and a few others.

"...Houses get demolished for no fault of the occupants. ..."
And what about innocent Israeli civilians getting blown up in busses through no fault of their own? And what about hijacked airplanes? Kidnapped and murdered Israeli children? Why are these - and so many other acts of Arab violence - not mentioned in the article?

"... The Jews claim that Israel is their promised land. Palestinians claim, and rightly so, that they were living here for over thousand years and the land belongs to them. ..."
Why is only the Palestinian claim "right"? Do you think Jews are lying when they claim this is their promised land? I'm not religious - but to the religious Jews, Israel is the promised land - period. This is what they believe. But more importantly, for me, and about 5 million other Israeli Jews: we were born here, and we live here now. This is the only home we've ever known. Ignore this: and you can't understand the current issues. Yes - it is possible that our ancestors may have wronged several hundred thousand Palestinians when they came here a hundred years ago, but to us: this is our only home.

"... Add to this Sabra and Shatila Massacres ..."
These Massacres were performed by a Lebanese militia. Israel's fault was that we were there and allowed it to happen. Don't the Maronites have a part in it too?

"... The fact is for over 50 years the Zionist movement has been holding the world peace hostage to its racist agenda ..."
Our agenda is not racist. Our agenda is the result of racism against us. And just as we are persistent in our fight to protect our home: the Arabs are persistent in their fight to destroy us. It is not any one side who is "holding world peace hostage": it is the fight between our two sides. Whoever wrote this is blind to the significant part the Arabs have in the violence.

"... Jerusalem is holy to all three religions. ..."
Well - at least the author got that one right, and didn't deny that Jerusalem is holy to the Jews.

"... Jews who migrate to Israel are those who hold citizenship in their countries of origin. While the dislodged Palestinians end up with no home or country. They are not given citizenship in any other country. ..."
Israel accepts Jews as citizens. Arab countries do not accept Palestinians as citizens. If the true concern of Arab countries was for the wellfare of the Palestinian refugees - the Arab countries would have granted citizenship to the Palestinian Refugees (or at least to their children who were born in those Arab countries). EngineeringChange explained to me in one of his earlier comments on this blog: Arabs maintain the status of Palestinians as refugees so that the world will not forget the wrong that has been done to them. In my view: the Arabs have as much responsibility to the condition of those poor people as do the Israelis.

"... Is it correct to exile Palestinians from their homeland for accommodating Jews who come in search of a better life? Most point to Holocaust as a justifying reason. But the fact is Holocaust, if ever it happened, happened in Europe and not in the Middle East. Why should Palestinians atone for a crime that Europeans committed? ..."
First of all: this is a very sad misunderstanding by Arabs. For us, the Holocaust is in no way a justification for exiling Palestinians from their homeland. It is a justification for the creation of a jewish homeland. Any solution to the Palestinian problem must take into account that we are not willing to become a "countryless" nation again - and that we who were born here, definitely do not want to be driven out of our homes.

But not less importantly: denying the Holocaust - or even doubting it - is extremely insulting to Israelis. Especially to the children of those who were there - or the few still living who have survived it. My father-in-law survived the Holocaust. My great-grandparents were murdered in the Holocaust. When you doubt the Holocaust: I, and millions of other Jews, are personally offended.

"... A solution to this problem can only be based on justice. First we should agree to the fact all men are created equal. The solution can be just only if it’s based on the principal that everybody, regardless of their creed or religion, has equal rights. A sustainable solution has to recognize the rights of the displaced Palestinians, Palestinians in the occupied territories and those living under the territory controlled by Palestinian Authority.

Also the native Jews too have to be accommodated in the final settlement. ..."

Finally: something I agree with.

"... A pluralistic democracy is the only answer, where Palestinians and Jews will have the equal rights. ..."
No, that is not a good answer. Because this ignores the need of the Jewish people to have at least one country in the world which is committed to protecting them from persecution.

In my view: the only answer is for each side to stop denying the pain of the other side. Israelis must understand the Arab desire for justice. Arabs must understand the Jewish need for a homeland.

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