Quid Rides? De te Fabula Narratur

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The Main Obstacle to Peace in Palestine

Posted by Anthony on January 27, 2009

By Anthony J. Aschettino

Most people, their understanding of the situation in Palestine coloured only by that which they absorb through either the main-stream media or a partisan source, could be excused for being unknowledgeable about the overall details encompassing politics in that most volatile of places. US foreign policy is of course heavily one-sided in both its theory and application, and the last two generations (at the least) have grown up with the expectation to support America’s “only true friend and democracy” in the region. Likewise, the left especially has made Palestinian rights a keystone of their global agenda; leftists worldwide have seemed to form a solidarity with the Palestinians and their cause.

Accusations are traded and speaking barbs are hurled from one side to the other and back with little accomplishment, save for the occasional moral victory when one side is found caught with their proverbial hands in the cookie jar. One can argue that the “peace process” has been going on now for the better part of sixty years; at the very least, it has been going on since the Camp David Accords of 1978 where Egypt, the most important of the Arab states, agreed to peace terms with Israel. President Anwar Sadat was faced with the decision of either reaching a settlement with Israel, which included getting back the Sinai Peninsula lost during the 1967 June War, or continuing on in the vain hopes that someday, somehow, the Arabs would be able to best Israel on the battlefield. He chose the former because he was the President of Egypt and as such his primary obligation was to the state of Egypt, not to the Syrians, not to the Jordanians, and not to the Palestinians. His decision was couched in the belief that the conflict with Israel was essentially a political one, and as such it could be resolved in a logical fashion based upon the time-honored tradition of quid-pro-quo. It was not a terribly popular decision, either at home or abroad, and it culminated in 1981 when Sadat was assassinated by Islamic militants while reviewing a parade celebrating the anniversary of the 1973 war that had paved the way for the Peace Accords.

Likewise another politician, this time on the Israeli side, went against the current in order to try and bring a semblance of peace to his state. Yitzhak Rabin did what no previous Israeli Prime Minister had ever dared to do: he sat down with Yasser Arafat and signed a peace accord whereby Arafat and the PLO vowed to renounce violence and recognize Israel while Israel would officially recognize the PLO and steps would be taken to ensure the development of a free and democratic Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. It was a tremendous accomplishment: two enemies who seemed destined for a never-ending struggle were able to sit down and make concessions in order to achieve a peace. Yet as with President Sadat, there were many in Israel who felt that giving away land to the Palestinians was a disaster; even worse, there were many who felt that in doing so, Rabin had betrayed the biblical rights of Israel. Like Sadat, Rabin would meet his end in a violent fashion: he was shot to death by a Jewish zealot convinced that the biblical penalty for giving away part of Israel was death.

By this point the reader will have noticed a similarity between the two related events: both political leaders were willing to make compromises in order to accomplish what they felt was best for their respective states, and both of them were killed by religious zealots who had determined that peace was not the right political answer. So it remains to this day: the single greatest inhibitor to a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is religion. Religion, and in this case one is specifically talking about Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, has so thoroughly embedded itself within the political process that it will be impossible to reach any sort of real solution without first excising the cancer from the body politic. In this case, none of the religions are innocent of meddling in order to further their goals and agendas.

Judaism teaches that the land today known as Palestine and Israel had been biblically promised to them by their god, and the (likely fictional) story of Moses only serves to amplify this belief that the land has already been spoken for. For many Muslims today in the Middle East, the elimination of Israel is a psychotic obsession and a focal point for martial propaganda throughout the Islamic world. Jerusalem, while also a holy city in Islam, has not been nearly as valued by Muslims throughout history as it is to Jews and (until rather recently) Christians. For Christians the great hope is that the revival of Israel will trigger the Second Coming of Jesus and with it global massacres, pandemics, and general calamities. Christian Zionists are often found to be even more hawkish in their support for Israel than many Jews and are a large part of the push for unmitigated American support of Israel, support that enables Israel to act from a position of power and strength when dealing with the Palestinians.

At the end of the day, the question of which people get what land is something that is political and historical in nature, and as such can be resolved by men of good will who are willing to make some sacrifices in order to accomplish a lasting peace with all of the benefits inherent in such an agreement. Religion, however, makes this quite impossible as it goads it followers into ever increasing irrational acts against their neighbors in the name of preserving their faith. It has been said that religion does not, in and of itself, make people bad: the problem is rather that by allowing logic and reason to be replaced by blind obedience to archaic texts, it permits people to do quite evil things and yet earnestly believe that they are doing their god’s work.

Since religion sadly shows no signs of slipping into that great dustbin of history to which all ideas that have outlived their usefulness go, it is almost impossible to see a real and lasting solution to the issues plaguing the Israelis and Palestinians. It would require both sides to crush their internal religious movements and they are either unable (in the case of the Palestinians) or unwilling (both parties) to do so for various reasons. Thus the killing of individuals will go on without end as all parties involved wait for their god or his vicegerent to appear and vindicate their cause


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