Saturday, August 19, 2006

Late Night Musings on the Middle East

The recent dust-up in the Middle East has brought out predictable responses from people. Some see what Israel did today as being nothing more than a bully. Others think Israel was justified to stop a weapons transfer and castigate the UN. It's oh so simple: one side is the good side and the other the bad side. "We support Israel," says one side, "We support the Palestinians," says another.

Eric Black, a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune summed up nicely how people view the Middle East situation in his Big Question Blog:

If Israel is defending its right to exist against hostile, violent neighbors who reject that right, then using its military strength — even when it kills non-combatants — to defeat those who harbor visions of destroying the Jewish state seems at least understandable, probably reasonable.

If, on the other hand, Israel is an aggressive, expansionist power that harbors visions of a Greater Israel in all of historical Palestine, leaving no possibility of a viable homeland for those who now live in Gaza and the West Bank, then attacks on Israel by Palestinians and their sympathizers, maybe even attacks that Jerusalem and Washington categorize as terrorism, start to seem understandable, maybe even justifiable.

You can get a lot deeper into the details than this. And, as with most X or Y questions, you can start splitting the Xs and the Ys and seeking additional options. But, after years of learning about, thinking about and writing about the conflict, the essential perception that this is a conflict about Israel’s existence, or that this a conflict about Israel’s occupation of land captured in 1967, is the central question from which most of the rest of your perceptions and beliefs will follow.

Couldn't have said it better.

The thing is, it's not so easy. I mean, Israel does have a right to defend itself and there are people who want to destroy Israel. If a terrorist group was making daily life in my town miserable, I might understand the need to strike back. In it's short history, Israel has time and again faced enemies that wanted to basically wipe it off the map, so I can understand it's fear. Throw in a history of being a people without a land and then facing near genocide on the European continent and you've got a people that will damn sure try to prevent anyone from messing with them again.

On the other side are the Palestinians and other Arab states. The Palestinians have lived on the land for generations and they slowly see their land being taken away from them. The live in squalor and face a humiliating life. They long for a place to call their own. Other states like Lebanon want to create thriving societies. Even Syria, who is definitely not a nice country, wants part of the terrorities Israel seized in the '67 war back. There is good and bad on the Arab side, but they have some just concerns.

I think Israel is going to have to negotiate with its neighbors. The Palestinians are going to have to comply and work had to prevent terrorists from stopping the peace process.

I'm not one to say I support so and so. What I want is for Israeli kids and Palestinian kids to not have to live in fear. I want Lebanese kids to enjoy their beautiful country and not have to worry about bombs falling on their house. If there is a side I'm on, it's one that will find a just peace for all sides involved.

There is more I want to write about this, but it's late.

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