Egypt, Israel, and Palestine

With the current revolution in Egypt I’ve been hearing a lot of speculation on NPR’s Talk of the Nation about who will come to power when the current government falls.  There’s been a lot of talk about the consequences of a government run by The Muslim Brotherhood.  The fact is that some key figured in Al-Qaeda were active in The Muslim Brotherhood.  Another fact is that Hamas is an off-shoot of The Muslim Brotherhood.  However, at least two guests have mentioned that in the last few decades the organization has sworn off violence. Wikipedia (caveats about Wikipedia reliability apply) claims that bin Laden has denounced the fact that The Muslim Brotherhood has denied violence and is participating peacefully in Egypt’s parliament.

Well, whether or not they are just pretending to be nice or have really reformed, the experts on Isreal they had on the show seemed to be concerned that Egypt would either start a war with Israel or help the Palestinians.  I tend to disagree on the war prospects. I know that Israel hasn’t always won its wars against the Arab states, but when they have won, they have roundly kicked butt all around.  Shoot, after reading a history of the Six Days War (an awesome book – I’ll have to look up the author), I was surprised that Egypt and the other countries in the region ever attacked Isreal again.

But, really, it’s all about the plight of the Palestinians.  I’ve gone back and forth in opinions on what’s going on in that region.  That’s because it’s actually a very complicated issue, so anyone solely on one side or the other probably isn’t considering the whole issue.  It starts off with Palestine, a region of the Roman Empire.  Some people there wanted to stage a revolution against Rome like the Maccabees had done against the Greeks.  Unfortunately, things didn’t go that well this time around.  As punishment, Rome sacks Palestine and destroyed the second temple at Jerusalem.  As time passes and various other empires take over the area, ethnic and religious Jews are scattered to the winds (mostly Europe).  Throughout the middle ages they’re often evicted from their homes whenever they gain money due to the fact that Christians are banned from usury (loaning money for interest).  Eventually we get to the 20th century and Palestine, a backwater country full of farmers is first a colony of The Ottoman Empire and then The British Empire.  While I’m sure there have always been religious fanatic a-holes, everyone lived in peace regardless of religion.

Then after World War II, Israel is created and forced upon the people there.  The key problem is that it’s primarily formed as a Jewish state.  I am sympathetic, considering their treatment throughout all of history, to a state for the Jewish people.  And I understand putting it in their historical homelands.  However, I disagree that it should have been set up so Jewish.  In other words, the objections to Palistinians being allowed to return to their ancestral lands that were taken over in the creation of Isreal is that allowing Arabs would change the Jewish character of Israel.  I think that’s pretty messed up.  Do the Jewish people need a place where they can be safe from persecution?  Yes.  Do they have the right to steal this place from others?  No.  After all, even if the Jews were to point at history for the reason they should be allowed to have those territories – they originally took it from others.  Jerusalem already existed as a city before the Isrealites got there.  So, at some point, you have to invoke whoever got there before things got civilized gets to keep it.  In other words, the reason why countries have the borders they do today.  Parts of Germany may have once been France, but at some point we said – OK – these are the borders from now on and civilized people do not go to war for ancestral lands.

I think that’s the real problem here.  The reason that the Arabs turned to violence is not that they hated Jews for being Jews.  Everyone was coexisting just fine before the founding of Isreal.  In fact, the rights of Jews and Christians in Palestine were guaranteed by the Ottoman Empire.  So when they find themselves displaced and unable to defeat the army, they turned to guerrilla tactics.  It’s the same thing the US did against the British in some of the battles of our Revolutionary War.  The main difference is that the Arab resistance has targeted innocents and I think that’s wrong.  No matter how oppressed you are, you should really only target soldiers, not regular people.

So Israel has been forced to block off the Palestinians and blockade them.  This has led to a humanitarian crisis because if food and other needed supplies can be let in, so can contraband like guns and other weaponry.  I can see why Isreal has been forced to these tactics by the constant terrorist bombings.  I remember a time before the crackdown when they had a bombing on the news every other day.  Now they’re safe, but at the expense of the suffering of the Palestinians.

And so when you look at it this way, you see that both sides have painted themselves into a corner.  The Israelis refuse to compromise on allowing Arabs to live in its borders in significant numbers as citizens.  The Palestinians have proven themselves untrustworthy in terms of not bombing Israel if they’re allowed to go wherever they wish as should be their right as human beings.

So the question is what happens if Egypt demands more human rights for the Palestinians?  Do they go to war over it?  That hasn’t solved anything in the past 60 years.  But what tools do they have at their disposal if both sides remain obstinate?  They could open up their side of the blockade to let supplies in, but what if contraband starts getting in?  They could be inviting an excuse for war.

In the end, I’m not sure there’s ever a solution to this problem until the Middle Eastern oil runs out.  At that point, no one will give a crap about those countries other than the people who live there and they’ll all be able to duke it out fairly without other countries getting involved because they need access to oil.  Anyway, certain interpretations of Christianity hold that when there’s finally peace there again the world will end.  So perhaps it truly is an intractable problem.

Author: Eric Mesa

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