January 27, 2009 2:18:41 am
THE shocking level of the last wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence reminds us why a final resolution to the so-called Middle East crisis is so important. It is vital not just to break this cycle of destruction,but also to deny the religious extremists in the region who feed on the conflict an excuse to advance their own causes. A just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible,but it lies in the history of the people of this conflicted land,and not in the tired rhetoric of partition and two-state solutions.
Although its hard to realise after the horrors weve just witnessed,the state of war between the Jews and Palestinians has not always existed. In fact,many of the divisions between Jews and Palestinians are recent ones. Jews and Muslims are cousins descended from Abraham. Both faced cruel persecution and often found refuge with one another. Arabs sheltered Jews and protected them after maltreatment by the Romans and their expulsion from Spain in the Middle Ages.
The history of Israel/Palestine is not remarkable by regional standards a country inhabited by different peoples,with rule passing among many tribes,nations and ethnic groups; a country that has withstood many wars and waves of peoples from all directions. This is why it gets so complicated when members of either party claims the right to assert that it is their land.
The basis for the modern State of Israel is the persecution of the Jewish people,which is undeniable. The Jews have been held captive,massacred,disadvantaged in every possible fashion by the Egyptians,the Romans,the English,the Russians,the Babylonians,the Canaanites and,most recently,the Germans under Hitler. The Jewish people want and deserve their homeland.
But the Palestinians too have a history of persecution,and they view the coastal towns of Haifa,Jaffa and others as the land of their forefathers until only a short time ago.
Thus the Palestinians believe that what is now called Israel forms part of their nation,even were they to secure the West Bank and Gaza. And the Jews believe that the West Bank is Samaria and Judea,part of their homeland,even if a Palestinian state were established there. Now,as Gaza still smoulders,calls for a two-state solution or partition persist. But neither will work.
A two-state solution will create an unacceptable security threat to Israel. An armed Arab state would give Israel less than 10 miles of strategic depth at its narrowest point. Further,a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would do little to resolve the refugee problem. Any situation that keeps the majority of Palestinians in refugee camps and does not offer a solution within the historical borders of Israel/Palestine is not a solution.
For the same reasons,the older idea of partition of the West Bank into Jewish and Arab areas,with buffer zones between them,wont work. The Palestinian-held areas could not accommodate all of the refugees,and buffer zones symbolize exclusion and breed tension. Israelis and Palestinians have also become increasingly intertwined,economically and politically.
In absolute terms,the two movements must remain in perpetual war or a compromise must be reached. The compromise is one state for all,an Isratine that would allow the people in each party to feel that they live in all of the disputed land and they are not deprived of any one part.
A key prerequisite for peace is the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the homes their families left behind in 1948. It is an injustice that Jews who were not originally inhabitants of Palestine,nor were their ancestors,can move in from abroad while Palestinians who were displaced only a relatively short time ago should not be so permitted.
It is a fact that Palestinians inhabited the land and owned farms and homes there until recently,fleeing in fear of violence at the hands of Jews after 1948 violence that did not occur,but rumors of which led to a mass exodus. Yet only the full territories of Isratine can accommodate all the refugees and bring about the justice that is key to peace.
If the present interdependence and the historical fact of Jewish-Palestinian coexistence guide their leaders,and if they can see beyond the horizon of the recent violence and thirst for revenge,then these two peoples will come to realise,I hope sooner rather than later,that living under one roof is the only option for a lasting peace.
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