Candid Thoughts on Israel-Palestine
A friend sent me this article and asked me my opinion; this is my response.
‘The Lop-Sided Death Toll in Israeli-Palestinian Conflicts’
Well, I’m not particularly interested in Israel-Palestine beyond its importance for general Middle Eastern politics, global geopolitics, or political theory, but because of its relevance to that I have done a lot of thinking on the matter in the past so thank you for sending- this is relevant to me.
1- No one’s denying (except asshole Bush-era officials and some of the extreme rightist Israelis) that every time the Israelis respond or occupy, they go way overboard. No one’s saying it’s just, no one’s saying it serves the Palestinians or the terrorists among them right, etc etc etc. The Paths of Man are drenched in blood, and particularly at the level of international politics, any idea of justice is primarily a phantasmic illusion.
2- That said- it’s really easy to be sympathetic to the Palestinians. Third World anticolonial complex, etc. What’s harder is to be sympathetic to the Israelis, and it’s necessary to be sympathetic to both if you truly want to have an unbiased and disinterested view of the resolution of the conflict. We Americans are lucky that Mexican drug lords don’t lob rockets over the border every other year (they only lob psychadelic drugs over every hour, which apparently is less detrimental to our republic.) However, IF the Mexican drug cartels DID lob rockets and gunshots and other nasty things over our border, I guarandamntee you we’d be responding in kind with airstrikes, commando raids, occasional occupations, and other unjust and inhumane stuff. We did it a century ago when Pancho Villa crossed the border and revolution threatened, and we’re not above doing it again.
3- So what if the Israelis ‘overreact?’ So what if they kill more people than are killed on their territory, and happen to kill more noncombatants? War is not and was never supposed to be fair. In fact I would posit that overbearing response is, if possible more humane than tit-for-tat; if the Israelis lobbed the same number of rockets over at the Palestinians as the Palestinians lobbed over, if the Israelis kidnapped the same number of soldiers the Palestinians kidnapped- if the Israelis used ‘proportional response’ and sunk to fighting wars the way Hamas does- there’d be literally no end to a tit-for-tat, Stone Age type revenge conflict, the political situation could never be solved, and what’s a tragedy would wind up being something that’s petty. If I were in Tel Aviv charged with protecting the Israeli people, I would not hesitate to respond to attacks with overbearing force. Bear in mind that the overbearing force is not directed at civilian targets the way Hamas’s rockets are- it’s directed at the suspected headquarters of Hamas cells and at the known locations from which the rockets came forth. We Americans do the same in Iraq and Afghanistan (or we did the same anyway) and collateral damage in all its unfortunateness aside, there’s nothing non-strategic about it.
4- I’m not absolving the Israelis of anything. In fact I’m of the opinion that you would be hard-pressed to find a more self-righteous, confused, pig-headed people on this planet, less disposed to stirring up trouble and seeking hypocritical hegemony in the name of security. I don’t think the constant overtures to Israel are healthy on the part of American politicians, and I don’t think the subservience we display to Israeli strategic interests is befitting of a great power. I think the Israelis are idiots for continuing the expansion of settlements on the West Bank when they know what that brings and are even worse dumbasses when they perpetually walk out of negotiations and peace talks and need American presidents to be the ones calling them back into said peace talks. Again- I’m not absolving the Israelis of anything.
I just find the opposition to Israel’s military tactics to be incredibly uninformed.
5- All this being said, we find ourselves in a dilemma that can only be resolved by military means (god forbid if it comes to that) or by political means (in which case we’ll be dealing with this dilemma until one or both peoples either evolve into something else, are absorbed into a larger power, or are extinguished off the map.)
Two peoples with legitimate national identities on a strip of land both claim for their own, with one immensely powerful but not omnipotent and the other weak but not powerless, one with supporters across the seas, the other with supporters on the same landmass. Do you THINK there can be anything we slobbish UN-worshipping multicultural Westerners could call ‘peace?’ This is a clash of civilizations and a clash of interests that was bound to be ever since it was born, and I would venture that the only ways to preclude it would have been for the Jews to have found another homeland and kicked off the inhabitants there, for the Arabs (in the late 1940s not yet Palestinians) to have summoned all their might and pushed the Jews back to the sea, for the Jews to have systematically exiled all the Arabs of Palestine to a spot off of their territory, or for a larger power to have administered Israel-Palestine as part of its empire and kept the two peoples subjugated under its might, and prevented them from fighting each other over the land (as the Ottomans, the Abbasids, the Ummayids, the Sassanids, and so many other empires so successfully did before ideas of self-determination hawked by Westerners conquered the minds of the peoples involved.)
6- All this being said, where do we go from here? Personally I don’t think any of the geostrategic preclusions I laid out above are viable at this moment in history, so we come to an unresolvable dilemma in our grandparents lifetime, our parents lifetime, our lifetime, our childrens lifetime, and our grandchildrens lifetime.
The best that can be hoped for is that cooler minds will prevail in East and West Jerusalem, that the radicals on the Gaza Strip and in the Knesset will be silenced by their peers, and that the two peoples will live, by diplomacy and negotiation so much as is possible, in a relative, uneasy peace, until the trends of geopolitics might lead the two peoples into a historic moment where a more permanent solution- not compromise, but solution- is possible.
Until then, no one ought to condemn the patriots on either side- if I were born to Palestine, I’d be participating in intifadas by night and coming to the table by day, and were I born to Israel, I’d come to the table by day and rain fire down on the Gaza Strip by night- and everyone ought to condemn the radicals on both sides, rather than condemn the radicals on the other side and absolve their own. All solutions ought to be considered, all compromises ought to be entertained, and no one ought to be made into demons, for the peace and happiness of the two peoples relies on the coolness of trigger fingers in the capitals (and, I might add, in Tehran, Washington, Ankara, Cairo, and Riyadh too.) But the sort of peace known to a people blessed by impartial imperial domination will until then be unknown to the Jews and Arabs. We should not impose our standards upon them.
7- So tldr, this isn’t a problem with a solution.
Also, radical pro-Israel types and radical pro-Palestine types, go ahead and eat me alive and charge me of ignorance and bigotry. I’m used to it.
Finally, here is an excellent and hilarious primer on conflict in the Holy Land, if you haven’t seen it yet.
Photo and Video Credit to Nina Paley, whose creativity makes cynics and wise men of us all.
FINALLY finally, the animator of the above video also made these great thematic quilts. They’re for sale online someplace if you want one.
And yes, you guessed it- if you guessed it, you guessed right! I don’t think the above dilemma is a dilemma of the Holy Land alone. It is rather an allegory for one of the most important parts of the human story in entirety, a basic foundation of the tragedy that is human life.