Israel. Palestine. I am reticent, honestly, to engage in such a controversial issue.
Not because I believe my fiery rhetoric for the case of one side over the other will earn me unfriendly attention, or because I am too divided between excellent arguments to pick one.
My reluctance stems from, what I believe to be, an innate error in the understanding of human dynamics and the grand endeavor that poisons both camps, making, in my opinion, the entire argument rather moot. Regarding the narrow strip of land on the eastern rim of the Mediterranean—the Levant, Palestine, Israel, Judea, etc—I don’t believe it belongs to anyone.
Additionally, I don’t believe it is possible (and I welcome any contention) to successfully argue to the contrary.
The truth of the matter is unfortunately somewhat unsatisfying, and thus unpopular. It is that, though smart and convincing arguments may be made for either side, Israel or Palestine, it is impossible to found such arguments on logic.
The entire debate, instead, relies on non-negotiable invocations of pathos—for it is impossible to argue, on the basis of logic alone, that one people deserves something more than another.
The concept of entitlement in this case relies wholly on divine sanction: God gave us this land, which, in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict, with both sides invoking the same God (albeit with different interpretations of “chosen people”), inevitably results in ideological stalemate.
In other words, each side believes that, as per God’s directive, the land is theirs. Who is to say which takes precedent?
Of course, this exclusively addresses the religious dimension of the conflict, which is only part of the story.
There is a great deal of merit to the argument that, were religion to be completely removed as a factor between Arabs and Israelis, the conflict would continue undiminished. This relates to the ethnic question.
Ethnicity, of course, is a troublesome issue, as the term itself is difficult to define conclusively (especially with regards to Jewishness). What the ethnic rift rests on, primarily, in the case of Israel/ Palestine, is rather simple. Who was here first?
There is little to be gained in discussing the history of this region’s alternating demographic between Jews and Muslims over the centuries. Simply put, Jews were there first, but Muslims held sway there more recently, in greater numbers, and for a longer period of uninterrupted rule. To whom, then, does this land belong?
There are fallacies on both sides. Should deeper historical precedent take priority, then the land is undoubtedly Canaanite, a no longer extant civilization, or, more practically, Jewish, as the oldest surviving civilization to have governed the region.
Then, however, by the same token, the United States should be governed by Indigenous Americans, Australia should be governed by Aboriginese and Japan by Ainu (or their modern descendants, Mexicans).
A moral/philosophical argument could be made for these changes of cultural hands. Food for thought, perhaps. Hardly a matter of serious debate.
If we are to rely on determination based on the most recent or numerous occupier, then the land is also undeniably Jewish, as it is currently.
Of course, prior to 1948, without question, the land would belong to Arab Muslims. Therein lies a great divide in historical reckoning; one which factors heavily in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and carries a separate and monstrous debate all its own.
At what point does history cease to be relevant in public policy?
At what point do we establish the cut-off for what we determine as ‘the present’? One hundred years? Twenty years? Last week?
In spite of all this philosophical posturing, I generally support Israel. Not on ideological or religious pretense, (I would hardly call myself a Zionist) but as a political realist.
I am not a world citizen. I have no obligation to the wants or needs of all humanity, regardless of nation or creed. I am an American, concerned with and involved in the success or failure of the United States. To this end, I view the state of Israel—a technological innovator, a tenacious military power, a free-market economy and a vibrant Western democracy—to be a far more valuable ally than Palestine could or would ever be.
This is not to be callous toward or dismissive of the plight of an entire people. The Palestinian cause is certainly a worthy fight, with honorable and intelligent individuals carrying its banner.
Should it fall within your particular sphere of allegiances, there is no fault in the slightest in championing the cause for Palestine. I will certainly not begrudge its constituency, or disparage its rhetoric as any less right or righteous than my own. Perhaps they will be successful. If they are, that will be their victory. I will not impune it.
It is difficult to appreciate how such voluminous and extensive currents of global politics rely on simple, innate desires. I believe we live in (indeed, have always lived in) a world governed by want and preference.
The United States wants a world with the United States at its head, and acts to maintain this reality. The Kurds want a state, and act to pursue this goal. The Tibetans want practical autonomy from China. The Israelis want Israel. The Palestinians want Palestine.
Our rhetoric of entitlement, of divine ordinances, of moral certitude and superiority, loses much of its substance when the reality of the world is reduced to such visceral motives. It is hard to accept that wars are fought on the merits of taste.
A nihilistic viewpoint, yes; negate ‘cause’ to its base nature, and deny it any kind of deeper meaning. This may be unfair, impractical or even savage. Near-impossible to implement in a real world context, to say the least.
We are talking about Arab-Israeli peace, after all.