Monday, October 19, 2009

Mythbusting #1: The Heart of the Conflict

One of the most common refrains that I see on the HuffPo boards are variations on the following:

“The Palestinians (and other Arabs) only do what they do to Israel and her allies because of what Israel has done to them. If only Israel would stop being so aggressive, the Palestinians would reciprocate and there would be peace. But Israel won’t stop killing Palestinians/blockading Gaza/stealing Palestinian land, so what can you expect them to do? Of course they have to respond with violence and hate!”

In all honesty, I can see why someone might come to this conclusion. From the outside looking in, it really does look like a cycle of violence that perpetuates itself. Since Israel is the stronger party, it only makes sense that they should be the ones to draw the line first. In my conversations with Uncle C on the topic, he has expressed this viewpoint as well. But I’m going to have to disagree, the heart of this conflict is Arab (and Palestinian) refusal to accept Israel in any size.

In order to understand why the Palestinians do what they do, we have two available courses of action. One of them is to put ourselves in their shoes. Many people on HuffPo do this. The other is to analyze their past and present behavior and analyze the context surrounding them. What remains consistent over time? What doesn’t?

Putting ourselves in the shoes of the Palestinians is problematic. As much as we might believe that all humans share similar things in common, both Palestinian (and Israeli) culture is foreign at least on some level to Americans. And we cannot simply transplant our worldview into that situation and expect to get an accurate read. So in the following two posts I will attempt to analyze Palestinian action to explain why the nation of the Palestinians behaves the way it does.

Part 1: What Palestinians say and do in the present day.

You don’t need to look very far at all to find Palestinian leaders expressing a desire to destroy Israel and kill all the Jews who live there, whether Israel leaves them alone or not. You will find more of them among Hamas, but Fatah is no slouch either. Here is but one example:



To this you might say: “Zach! This is but the statements of the leaders! You cannot claim that this is what the people think! Most Americans don’t agree with George Bush, after all!”

This is correct. I am no Professor Xavier or Martian Manhunter, to read the minds of all the Palestinians and know with one hundred percent certainty that they agree with their Hamas leadership. Take a look at this, though:




Even in this post-Cast Lead world, no one can claim that Hamas is a fringe organization that has no support among the common people. They were elected, after all. Again, this is not to say that every last one of the Palestinians hold these views. But enough of them do. We cannot ignore the facts on the ground.

To this you might say: “Okay, maybe a decent amount of ordinary people do want to destroy Israel! But they only want to destroy Israel because of everything that Israel has done to them! You can’t blame them for being mad when they have lost so many family members to this conflict.”

First of all, neither of us are mind-readers to know what the Palestinians are thinking. It is just as plausible that a Palestinian teenager hates Israel because his parents trained him to hate Israel from the time he was very small. But I will get to that a little bit later.

It is not normal for people, even those who have suffered, to have that kind of extreme hatred. It is normal for the Palestinians to be mad at Israel. I will not blame them for that. They have every right to mad, even to the point of wanting revenge. But the Palestinians cannot be preaching the deaths of five million people in their schools and mosques and then claim that all they want is for Israel to leave them alone. Israel will leave them alone when the conflict ends. And the conflict will only end when hatred is (if not gone altogether) boiled down to a manageable level. On both sides.

Consider this, though: Does it matter that the genocidal ones are in the minority? Regardless of the reasons that the Palestinians might have for hating Israel, legitimate or otherwise, hatred that extreme is incompatible with any kind of peacemaking. And Hamas are the ones who make the decisions. It isn’t Israel’s job to “go easy on the Palestinians” in hopes of appeasing them. Say what you want about Israel, but genocidal hatred of Palestinians is not an acceptable point of view there. On this topic, at least, there is no moral equivalency.

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