7 things 2 consider

star-ali-rizvi-monAli A. Rizvi A Response to Ali A. Rizvi

At the risk of damning Ali Rizvi with faint praise I will say his 7 Things to Consider
Before Choosing Sides in the Middle East is a heroic effort to stay neutral, in an emotion-raising conflict. I, for one, am not accusing him of being either pro-Israel nor pro-Palestinian (is pro-Hamas the same thing?) although I can understand the charge. However I do feel he only sees part of the bigger picture; finds moral equivalence where there is little and spoils his argument towards the end by clichés which he previously challenged earlier.

It’s tribal

These terms intrigue me because they directly speak to the doggedly tribal nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It’s hard to deny that this conflict has a tribal element but there is much more to it. If it wasn’t, how does one explain all the outside interest and emotion in this one conflict?

India/Pakistan is tribal. It would be hard to find even one person, not Hindu or Muslim, who throws a tantrum over a conflict between two nuclear-armed powers, extending over sixty-seven years,  four wars – including an ongoing, almost never reported one in Jammu and Kashmir, and depending on the count over a million casualties.

But everyone, seemingly, gets their knickers in a knot over Israel. In ‘Christian’ states, like Ireland, city councillors call for military action against Israel. Agnostic or is that atheist states like Russia demand a say. Latin American states, on the other side of the world, withdraw their ambassadors.

Can the phenomenon of the far-left automatically siding with fascist-inspired Arab nationalists and Islamists, who arguably oppose everything that the left supposedly supports really be laid at the tribal nature of this conflict? Gay marriage in Iran, anyone?

There is no none-of-our-business when it comes to Israel/Palestine. Everyone, it seems, owns this conflict no matter how far away or whether they have ever had a Jewish/Muslim connection – or for that matter, conflict.

I’m just a little offended by the assertion that Israeli supporters would be just as ardently pro-Palestine if born Muslim.  Don’t know too many Jews, do you Mr. Rizvi? There is still much truth in Martin Himmelfarb’s observation that Jews earn like Episcopalians, but vote like Puerto Ricans.

Jews are generally considered educated, reasonable and liberal to a fault. They would judge this on its merits. If the Palestinians were Jewish this conflict would have been solved forty years ago. This is not the article to debate that assertion but can you reasonably make the same claim for Arabs?

This brings us to the next assertion. Jews and Arabs are really very similar and the same arguments can be found on both sides.

Moral equivalency

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

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

Rasan Alian

Injured Druse IDF commander returns to Gaza

Actually most of the article is about pretending that Israelis/Jews and Muslims/Arabs/Palestinians/Hamas are more or less mirror images, equally good bad. That is, if the looking-glass belongs to Alice.

I’ve long been told that one can find anything one wants in scripture†, especially it seems if you possess a word search utility on a digital file. Probably that’s true but I suspect the real question is what quotes each side uses – and the interpretation they put on them.

If you were to take one hundred Israeli soldiers at random I doubt that you could find more than one who quotes a scriptural explanation for being in Gaza. That includes those who are demonstrably religious.

Many Israeli soldiers are aggressively secular. Others are not even Jewish, in particular the Druse, Circassian and Bedouin troops. Perhaps the most iconic image of this conflict, apart from Hamas distributing dead baby porn, must be the Druse colonel, Rasa Alian, who commands the elite Golani Brigade, returning to the front, his face covered with the healing scabs after an injury that almost killed him.

The other side of the mirror is Hamas. In case anyone has forgotten Hamas is an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement. They consider themselves the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Take one hundred Hamas fighters‡ or their allies the Islamic Jihad and see for how many the first response is to find an Islamic rationale for this war. Even the relatively secular Fatah is more likely to express a Muslim rationale. Note that Fatah’s military wing is the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – referencing both the Jerusalem mosque and shaheeda i.e matryrdom for Islam.

It is true, as Mr. Razvi claims that religion can’t be separated from this conflict but the priorities of the parties are not the same.

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.

Not quite in the same way and in most cases celebrating is hardly the best word choice. Most Israelis accept the necessity to go to war and eliminate the physical threat by destroying tunnels dug under the ‘borders’ to allow attacks on Israeli communities and as many rockets and launchers as possible. Many (I have no figures) support eliminating the threat by forcing Hamas out of office. There is a certain relief that after absorbing attack after attack for years that the decision has finally been made to take the military route. But few ‘celebrate’.

Even the minority who do celebrate are qualitatively different from Palestinians handing out sweets to celebrate the destruction on 9/11 and the murder of 3,000 people as a direct and planned consequence of this.

How so?

Firstly the ones who genuinely celebrate, the Germans called it Schadenfreude, are those who have suffered from years of tension as a result of attacks from Gaza. It is not for nothing Sderot is known as the Rocket-capital-of-the world. Running over and over again for shelter with a 15 second window breeds an understandable resentment.

By contrast not one rocket was launched against Palestine from New York, Washington or Pennsylvania. Ironically, although it never receives credit for it, the largest donor to the Palestinians is that same United States they hate so much. If anything is tribal it is the hatred of Muslims for America.

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.

No, not, never!

Israeli children are NOT raised to hate. There is no equivalent to Palestinian incitement. As a former teacher in both the state secular and religious streams I can confirm that there is nothing like that in the programmes of Israeli schools. As a consumer of Israeli television and radio I can verify that nothing like that appears in the Israeli media. If hate exists, something not exactly surprising given Israeli history, it definitely doesn’t have an type of official support or public acceptance.

I regard the Israeli peace movement as terminally naive but for all that where is the Palestinian peace movement?

Clichés

Israel is leading itself towards increasing international isolation and national suicide because of two things: 1. The occupation; and 2. Settlement expansion.

All of Israel is occupied PalestineThese clichés are the only really disappointing part of the article. I have the impression that they were an afterthought, perhaps to avoid accusations of being pro Palestinian. This response is already way too long to debunk these throw away lines so I will be brief.

The original article already accepted that Gaza is not occupied and there are no longer settlements in Gaza. Yet there is war.

It is most important to realise another reason not to take sides, if you will, that Palestinians claim all of Israel is occupied. When protesters scream From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free they aren’t referring to land recovered from the Jordanians and the Egyptians in 1967. They aren’t even referring to the 1948 Partition plan which the local Arabs and all Muslim states  rejected. They are referring to a mythical Palestinian state pre 1948.

Ending the occupation means ending Israel. That is national suicide.

The second thing to take into account is the 1993 Oslo Accords. Ninety-five percent of Palestinians in the Palestinian Authority are ruled by their own, elections long postponed, government.  According to the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority was designated to have exclusive control over both security-related and civilian issues in Palestinian urban areas (referred to as “Area A”) and civilian control over Palestinian rural areas (“Area B”). In other words, legally most Palestinians are not occupied.

As Rizvi, himself, admitted. Unilateral disengagement is probably easier to talk about than actually carry out. But if it the Palestinians don’t work harder towards a two-state (maybe three-state, thanks to geographical, political and tribal reality) solution, they will eventually have to accept whatever ugly choice Israel makes between being a Jewish-majority state or a democracy*. They will not be asked.

I look forward to following Ali A. Rizvi’s further articles. No doubt they will provide plenty of food for thought.

Extra credit


† Could anyone source that quote? I’ve been crediting it to Mark Twain but doing a little fact checking before writing that turns out to be mistaken.
‡ Against Israeli practise Five Minutes for Israel, in this current conflict, labels them fighters rather than terrorists or the ridiculous euphemism militants, using Boaz Ganor’s definition of terrorism as a guide. That doesn’t mean that they are not in other circumstances, terrorists.
* BTW I don’t agree with that conventional analysis but that is material for another article.

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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