The conflict in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians have been going on for as
long as I can remember. While some say it is a human rights issue with
one side being bullied and ostracized by another, I have heard the
counter arguments that the side we hear most sympathy about in the news
media is that the other side simply doesn’t want the other to exist no
matter how many concessions are given. Religion and tribalism are at the
heated core of this conflict. As long as neither side gives, the
fighting and killing and destruction goes on, and on, and on, and on. If
Israel should throw in the towel and say they are out of there, have
this little piece of crap land will that end the violence? No, it won’t
when the other side wants Jews to not exist anywhere. Those who want
Jews wiped off the face of the Earth will just follow them wherever they
go. When looking at the situation overall, it seems that the reasons
for the fighting are simple…both sides hate each other (though it
appears one side hates the other a little bit more). The solutions are
complicated and seems like a huge stalemate, in my opinion.
I do sympathize with the innocents being caught in the
middle of all this violence, and my heart is grieved to see in the news
media the many bloodied bodies of children lying in the streets.
However, while it is reported that these photos in recent months are
from the Palestinian victims of ruthless Israeli bombings, I read other
reports that many of the photos of dead kids being exploited are
actually of casualties in Syria and other war torn areas of the world.
My heart is sad for the children and people who just want to live in
peace and cannot because of the political stances of others who are in
control of the power.
I ran across this recent article in Huffpost that does
bring up several good points to consider before choosing sides…if we
care to choose a side in the Middle East mess.
"1. Why is everything so much worse when there are Jews involved?
Over 700 people have died in Gaza as of this writing. Muslims
have woken up around the world. But is it really because of the numbers?
Bashar al-Assad has killed over 180,000 Syrians, mostly Muslim,
in two years — more than the number killed in Palestine in two decades.
Thousands of Muslims in Iraq and Syria have been killed by ISIS in the
last two months. Tens of thousands have been killed by the Taliban. Half
a million black Muslims were killed by Arab Muslims in Sudan. The list
But Gaza makes Muslims around the world, both Sunni and Shia,
speak up in a way they never do otherwise. Up-to-date death counts and
horrific pictures of the mangled corpses of Gazan children flood their
social media timelines every day. If it was just about the numbers,
wouldn’t the other conflicts take precedence? What is it about then?
If I were Assad or ISIS right now, I’d be thanking God I’m not Jewish.
Amazingly, many of the graphic images of dead children attributed to Israeli bombardment that are circulating online are from Syria, based on a BBC report.
Many of the pictures you’re seeing are of children killed by Assad, who
is supported by Iran, which also funds Hezbollah and Hamas. What could
be more exploitative of dead children than attributing the pictures of
innocents killed by your own supporters to your enemy simply because you
weren’t paying enough attention when your own were killing your own?
This doesn’t, by any means, excuse the recklessness, negligence, and sometimes outright cruelty
of Israeli forces. But it clearly points to the likelihood that the
Muslim world’s opposition to Israel isn’t just about the number of dead.
Here is a question for those who grew up in the Middle East and
other Muslim-majority countries like I did: if Israel withdrew from the
occupied territories tomorrow, all in one go — and went back to the 1967
borders — and gave the Palestinians East Jerusalem — do you honestly
think Hamas wouldn’t find something else to pick a fight about? Do you
honestly think that this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that
they are Jews? Do you recall what you watched and heard on public TV
growing up in Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Egypt?
Yes, there’s an unfair and illegal occupation there, and yes,
it’s a human rights disaster. But it is also true that much of the other
side is deeply driven by anti-Semitism. Anyone who has lived in the
Arab/Muslim world for more than a few years knows that. It isn’t always a
clean, one-or-the-other blame split in these situations like your
Chomskys and Greenwalds would have you believe. It’s both.
2. Why does everyone keep saying this is not a religious conflict?
There are three pervasive myths that are widely circulated about the “roots” of the Middle East conflict:
Myth 1: Judaism has nothing to do with Zionism.
Myth 2: Islam has nothing to do with Jihadism or anti-Semitism.
Myth 3: This conflict has nothing to do with religion.
To the “I oppose Zionism, not Judaism!” crowd, is it mere
coincidence that this passage from the Old Testament (emphasis added)
describes so accurately what’s happening today?
“I will establish your borders from the Red Sea
to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I
will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will
drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with
their gods.” – Exodus 23:31-32
Or this one?
“See, I have given you this land. Go in and take
possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers — to
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — and to their descendants after them.” –
There’s more: Genesis 15:18-21, and Numbers 34 for more detail on
the borders. Zionism is not the “politicization” or “distortion” of
Judaism. It is the revival of it.
And to the “This is not about Islam, it’s about politics!” crowd, is this verse from the Quran (emphasis added) meaningless?
“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the
Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And
whoever is an ally to them among you–then indeed, he is [one] of them.
Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.” – Quran, 5:51
Please tell me — in light of these passages written centuries and
millennia before the creation of Israel or the occupation — how can
anyone conclude that religion isn’t at the root of this, or at least a
key driving factor? You may roll your eyes at these verses, but they are
taken very seriously by many of the players in this conflict, on both
sides. Shouldn’t they be acknowledged and addressed? When is the last
time you heard a good rational, secular argument supporting settlement
expansion in the West Bank?
Denying religion’s role seems to be a way to be able to criticize
the politics while remaining apologetically “respectful” of people’s
beliefs for fear of “offending” them. But is this apologism and “respect” for inhuman ideas worth the deaths of human beings?
People have all kinds of beliefs — from insisting the Earth is
flat to denying the Holocaust. You may respect their right to hold these
beliefs, but you’re not obligated to respect the beliefs themselves.
It’s 2014, and religions don’t need to be “respected” any more than any
other political ideology or philosophical thought system. Human beings
have rights. Ideas don’t. The oft-cited politics/religion dichotomy in
Abrahamic religions is false and misleading. All of the Abrahamic
religions are inherently political.
3. Why would Israel deliberately want to kill civilians?
This is the single most important issue that gets everyone riled up, and rightfully so.
Again, there is no justification for innocent Gazans dying. And
there’s no excuse for Israel’s negligence in incidents like the killing
of four children on a Gazan beach. But let’s back up and think about
this for a minute.
Why on Earth would Israel deliberately want to kill civilians?
When civilians die, Israel looks like a monster. It draws the ire of even its closest allies.
Horrific images of injured and dead innocents flood the media.
Ever-growing anti-Israel protests are held everywhere from Norway to New
York. And the relatively low number of Israeli casualties (we’ll get to
that in a bit) repeatedly draws allegations of a “disproportionate”
response. Most importantly, civilian deaths help Hamas immensely.
How can any of this possibly ever be in Israel’s interest?
If Israel wanted to kill civilians, it is terrible at it. ISIS
killed more civilians in two days (700 plus) than Israel has in two
weeks. Imagine if ISIS or Hamas had Israel’s weapons, army, air force,
US support, and nuclear arsenal. Their enemies would’ve been annihilated
long ago. If Israel truly wanted to destroy Gaza, it could do so within
a day, right from the air. Why carry out a more painful, expensive
ground incursion that risks the lives of its soldiers?
4. Does Hamas really use its own civilians as human shields?
Ask Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas how he feels about Hamas’ tactics.
“What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?” he asks. “I don’t like trading in Palestinian blood.”
It isn’t just speculation anymore that Hamas puts its civilians in the line of fire.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri plainly admitted on Gazan national TV that the human shield strategy has proven “very effective.”
The UN relief organization UNRWA issued a furious condemnation of Hamas after discovering hidden rockets in not one, but two children’s schools in Gaza last week.
Hamas fires thousands of rockets into Israel, rarely killing any
civilians or causing any serious damage. It launches them from densely
populated areas, including hospitals and schools.
Why launch rockets without causing any real damage to the other
side, inviting great damage to your own people, then putting your own
civilians in the line of fire when the response comes? Even when the IDF
warns civilians to evacuate their homes before a strike, why does Hamas tell them to stay put?
Because Hamas knows its cause is helped when Gazans die. If there
is one thing that helps Hamas most — one thing that gives it any
legitimacy — it is dead civilians. Rockets in schools. Hamas exploits
the deaths of its children to gain the world’s sympathy. It uses them as
You don’t have to like what Israel is doing to abhor Hamas.
Arguably, Israel and Fatah are morally equivalent. Both have a lot of
right on their side. Hamas, on the other hand, doesn’t have a shred of
5. Why are people asking for Israel to end the “occupation” in Gaza?
Because they have short memories.
In 2005, Israel ended the occupation in Gaza. It pulled out every
last Israeli soldier. It dismantled every last settlement. Many Israeli
settlers who refused to leave were forcefully evicted from their homes, kicking and screaming.
This was a unilateral move by Israel, part of a disengagement plan intended to reduce friction between Israelis and Palestinians.
It wasn’t perfect — Israel was still to control Gaza’s borders,
coastline, and airspace — but considering the history of the region, it
was a pretty significant first step.
After the evacuation, Israel opened up border crossings to facilitate commerce. The Palestinians were also given 3,000 greenhouses which had already been producing fruit and flowers for export for many years.
But Hamas chose not to invest in schools, trade, or infrastructure. Instead, it built an extensive network of tunnels to house thousands upon thousands of rockets and weapons, including newer, sophisticated ones from Iran and Syria. All the greenhouses were destroyed.
Hamas did not build any bomb shelters for its people. It did, however, build a few
for its leaders to hide out in during airstrikes. Civilians are not
given access to these shelters for precisely the same reason Hamas tells
them to stay home when the bombs come.
Gaza was given a great opportunity in 2005 that Hamas squandered
by transforming it into an anti-Israel weapons store instead of a
thriving Palestinian state that, with time, may have served as a model
for the future of the West Bank as well. If Fatah needed yet another
reason to abhor Hamas, here it was.
6. Why are there so many more casualties in Gaza than in Israel?
The reason fewer Israeli civilians die is not because there are
fewer rockets raining down on them. It’s because they are better
protected by their government.
When Hamas’ missiles head towards Israel, sirens go off, the Iron
Dome goes into effect, and civilians are rushed into bomb shelters.
When Israeli missiles head towards Gaza, Hamas tells civilians to stay in their homes and face them.
While Israel’s government urges its civilians to get away from rockets targeted at them, Gaza’s government urges its civilians to get in front of missiles not targeted at them.
The popular explanation for this is that Hamas is poor and lacks
the resources to protect its people like Israel does. The real reason,
however, seems to have more to do with disordered priorities than
deficient resources (see #5). This is about will, not ability. All those
rockets, missiles, and tunnels aren’t cheap to build or acquire. But
they are priorities. And it’s not like Palestinians don’t have a handful of oil-rich neighbors to help them the way Israel has the US.
The problem is, if civilian casualties in Gaza drop, Hamas loses
the only weapon it has in its incredibly effective PR war. It is in
Israel’s national interest to protect its civilians and minimize the
deaths of those in Gaza. It is in Hamas’ interest to do exactly the
opposite on both fronts.
7. If Hamas is so bad, why isn’t everyone pro-Israel in this conflict?
Because Israel’s flaws, while smaller in number, are massive in impact.
Many Israelis seem to have the same tribal mentality that their Palestinian counterparts do. They celebrate the bombing of Gaza the same way many Arabs celebrated 9/11. A UN report recently found that Israeli forces tortured Palestinian children and used them as human shields. They beat up teenagers. They are often reckless with their airstrikes. They have academics who explain how rape may be the only truly effective weapon against their enemy. And many of them callously and publicly revel in the deaths of innocent Palestinian children.
To be fair, these kinds of things do happen on both sides. They
are an inevitable consequence of multiple generations raised to hate the
other over the course of 65 plus years. To hold Israel up to a higher
standard would mean approaching the Palestinians with the racism of
However, if Israel holds itself to a higher standard like it
claims — it needs to do much more to show it isn’t the same as the worst
of its neighbors.
Israel is leading itself towards increasing international
isolation and national suicide because of two things: 1. The occupation;
and 2. Settlement expansion.
Settlement expansion is simply incomprehensible. No one really
understands the point of it. Virtually every US administration — from
Nixon to Bush to Obama — has unequivocally opposed it.
There is no justification for it except a Biblical one (see #2), which
makes it slightly more difficult to see Israel’s motives as purely
The occupation is more complicated. The late Christopher Hitchens was right when he said this about Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories:
“In order for Israel to become part of the alliance
against whatever we want to call it, religious barbarism, theocratic,
possibly thermonuclear theocratic or nuclear theocratic aggression, it
can’t, it’ll have to dispense with the occupation. It’s as simple as
As seen with Gaza in 2005, unilateral disengagement is probably
easier to talk about than actually carry out. But if it Israel doesn’t
work harder towards a two-state (maybe three-state, thanks to Hamas)
solution, it will eventually have to make that ugly choice between being
a Jewish-majority state or a democracy.
It can be, you can think of it as a kind of European style, Western
style country if you want, but it can’t govern other people against
their will. It can’t continue to steal their land in the way that it
does every day.And it’s unbelievably irresponsible of Israelis, knowing
the position of the United States and its allies are in around the
world, to continue to behave in this unconscionable way. And I’m afraid I
know too much about the history of the conflict to think of Israel as
just a tiny, little island surrounded by a sea of ravening wolves and so
on. I mean, I know quite a lot about how that state was founded, and
the amount of violence and dispossession that involved. And I’m a
prisoner of that knowledge. I can’t un-know it.”
It’s still too early to call Israel an apartheid state, but when John Kerry said Israel could end up as one in the future,
he wasn’t completely off the mark. It’s simple math. There are only a
limited number of ways a bi-national Jewish state with a non-Jewish
majority population can retain its Jewish identity. And none of them are
After reading these seven questions, I have decided that for now, I
am not choosing a side. This is a tribal-religious centered conflict as Ali A. Rizvi, the author of this blog article states:
"Let’s face it, the land belongs to both of them now. Israel was
carved out of Palestine for Jews with help from the British in the late
1940s just like my own birthplace of Pakistan was carved out of India
for Muslims around the same time. The process was painful, and displaced
millions in both instances. But it’s been almost 70 years. There are
now at least two or three generations of Israelis who were born and
raised in this land, to whom it really is a home, and who are often held
accountable and made to pay for for historical atrocities that are no
fault of their own. They are programmed to oppose “the other” just as
Palestinian children are. At its very core, this is a tribal religious
conflict that will never be resolved unless people stop choosing sides.
So you really don’t have to choose between being “pro-Israel” or
“pro-Palestine.” If you support secularism, democracy, and a two-state
solution — and you oppose Hamas, settlement expansion, and the
occupation — you can be both.
If they keep asking you to pick a side after all of that, tell them you’re going with hummus."