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January 3, 2016

A History of Foreign Meddling and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 2:04 am

Welcome to 2016. As many of us celebrate the new year with hopes for a better future, conflicts rage on in the Middle East, Israel, Syria and Ukraine. To achieve a better future, we have to make sense of the past and what’s still going on today.

This perspective is meant to wake you up from the Matrix. Regional differences and struggles that have been going on without huge violence, sometimes for hundreds of years, have been exacerbated by foreign intervention, funneling money and weapons to a region, paying lip service to the actual concerns of the regular people, but nearly always to further their own foreign interests — sometimes perversely and shortsightedly — but that’s just how rich countries come to operate at scale. I will give some examples of foreign meddling, and maybe you can notice a pattern.

Regional Conflicts

I’m sure you have encountered the “Zionists” being compared to “Nazis” without any irony by people passionate about “Justice for Palestinians”. The Poroshenko government in Kiev and the Rada are openly called “fascists” and a “junta” by the Russians, making references to things like Bandera, a Nazi collaborator in World War 2, etc. Assad is called a “brutal dictator without popular support” by the USA, making reference to his human rights violations. But the reality is, all of this is propaganda — it certainly has elements of truth, but ignores comparisons to other countries to avoid highlight a double standard. The “Fascists” label is designed to give legitimacy to any actions by Russia in backing rebels in Eastern Ukraine or unilaterally taking Crimea from Ukraine. The “Assad is a brutal dictator” gives legitimacy for the USA arming “moderate rebels” to fight against and destabilize yet another government. And the slogan, ”Zionism is Imperialism” among others were used by the USSR to justify training and funding the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Do Palestinians have legitimate grievances, as do Greeks, Armenians, Kurds, and many others? Sure. And, if left free from meddling by foreign powers, it’s very likely that Jews and Arabs could have resolved their political issues by now. But this whole “Anti-Zionism” ideology actually hurts both sides, and prevents any local political solutions from happening. If you step back you’ll see it hasn’t worked to help Palestinians for decades, but like any ideology it’s always tried no matter how many times it fails, because it propagates itself as a meme. It is a leftover of a successful operation by the KGB. Ion Michai Pacepa, the highest ranking intelligence defector from the USSR, wrote a tell-all expose in 2003. The KGB trained leaders to put pressure on a government and to topple it — in this case the PLO was funded to topple the government of Israel, after it became clear Israel would not be Stalin’s darling socialist country in the Middle East, as it entered the USA’s sphere of influence instead. Palestine Liberation Organization is also very similar to the Liberation Theology efforts that KGB was pushing in South America. In fact, Arafat and the rest of the PLO made no secret that this was, indeed, their goal. It is only a question of how sincere his change was when they recognized Israel’s right to exist, and met with Clinton.

Nicolae Ceausescu, the head of state of Romania (Communist at the time, part of the Warsaw Pact) met with Carter and vouched for Arafat as someone who would make peace with Israelis, despite his rhetoric at the time. This led to Arafat’s relatively pragmatic “10 point program” , of which section #8 stated:

“Once it is established, the Palestinian national authority will strive to achieve a union of the confrontation countries, with the aim of completing the liberation of all Palestinian territory, and as a step along the road to comprehensive Arab unity.”

Even so, various factions in the PLO would not accept such “moderation” and broke away to form the PFLP and other organizations. Which would mean that America’s blocking of democracy among the Palestinians, all the way to Clinton’s efforts at Camp David, were futile attempts to establish a two state solution with a terrorist organizations who would never accept a Jewish Israel side by side with his state.

Now, when I say terrorist, I say so advisedly. It is not simply that the PLO adopted the KGB’s ideas about hijacking planes, or invented the suicide bomber, though these are indeed widely acknowledged acts of “terrorism” for political gain. It’s that this pattern is part of a larger narrative which repeats itself around the world: USSR or USA or Saudi Arabia or Iran sponsor and “fund rebels” on the one hand, and “prop up leaders” on the other. The big losers are always the local population. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, and going on today: Ukraine, and Syria, which are funded by a triangle of Russia, USA and Saudis, among others (Qatar, Turkey, etc.). The pattern is: a country trains and funds their favored leaders among separatist rebel groups in a country that has left their sphere of influence, in order to involve the other country / ideology in a proxy war, and hopefully replace the rulers with a regime friendly to them. The most effective such leaders are usually ideological (Muhajideen, Muslim Brotherhood, Viet Kong, etc.) who can inspire masses of regular people into a frenzy, but then turn out no better than the regime they replace. (Sometimes the funds come indirectly from the private sector, because of ideology the government promoted for years.) Meanwhile, the opposing countries prop up a existing regime and funnel weapons to them, making the whole region more violent. The terror group is passed off as a “government in exile” of the oppressed people, who wind up being the biggest victims of the conflict, as Ukrainian army batters Donetsk, Assad’s forces shell Darmouk, or Israeli forces attack Gaza. I should mention, though, that Hamas was funded primarily by Gulf states and Iran, not by USA or Russia (if we ignore stealing international aid from the people they claim to represent). The lack of democratic elections in the PLO and the amassing of wealth by Arafat, Mashal, Yanukovich, and others, fits a familiar pattern too.

At the end of the day, if this leads to the collapse of the state, often the situation is worse, in absolute numbers, than it ever was before foreign involvement. The heads of the foreign countries publicly regret it sometimes, after the fact sometimes, after the fact. But even when they promise that they won’t do it, they still go ahead and do it.

The British Mandate

This is a major element in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In the beginning, when the British made some disastrous mistakes in administering their Mandate in Palestine, the worst being the maneuvering of Amin al-Husseini to the position of Grand Mufti, the President of the Muslim Supreme Council and ultimately resulted in him leading the Arab Higher Committee in Palestine. With a seething hatred of Jews, Husseini is probably the figure most responsible for the breakdown of good relations between Muslims and Jews in Palestine. Had it not been for British machinations, it’s likely that the rival Nashashibi clan been elected to represent the Arabs of Palestine, being both more popular and quite more moderate towards the Jews and willing to work with them. Instead, the resulting conflict provided more fuel to the more violent elements from both Islam and Zionism. The fuse was lit and what could have been a peaceful collaboration in building a country failed:

Samuel tried to establish self-governing institutions in Palestine, as required by the mandate, but was frustrated by the refusal of the Arab leadership to co-operate with any institution which included Jewish participation. - Wikipedia

The point of no return was probably the massacre of Jews living in Hebron in 1929. From then on, the Jews expanded their own paramilitary organization Haganah, which later formed the core of the IDF. The Haganah was the “moderate” Jewish army, as opposed to more violent organizations. The Labor Zionists that were the dominant faction among Zionists, were moderates and abhorred Revisionist Zionism and Menachem Begin, leader of the violent Irgun organization. On the other hand, Husseini gladly collaborated with Al Qassam, a charismatic preacher who personally founded the Black Hand. Both terrorist groups also targeted the British authorities, waging bloody battles and famously bombing civilians. Husseini was later exiled by the British, and went on to join Hitler and exhorting Arabs to kill Jews:

Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you.

The figure of Al Husseini is perhaps most responsible for the breakdown of Arab-Jewish relations in the region. In 1938, a British Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by William Peel found that the mandate had failed and recommended partition. It would be natural to expect that, after the British troops left, there would be some conflict and population transfer as happened in India and Pakistan. But this was considered the only way forward. In 1947, the United Nations put forth its partition plan for Palestine, a recommendation with a 72% vote in favor, which the Jewish population eagerly accepted but which was rejected by all Arab states, arguing that it violated the principles of national self-determination in the UN charter which granted people the right to decide their own destiny.

The Jewish State

This is where the vacuum left by the British began to be filled with new foreign players, with their own interests. Stalin and the USSR believed that the new Jewish state would be a friendly socialist country and would help speed the decline of British influence in the Middle East. They voted in favor of the UN resolution and helped the Jewish Agency (about to become the Israeli government) purchase military weapons from Chezchoslovakia, allowing the reorganized army to defend a Jewish state.

The day after Israel’s declaration of Independence, three members of the Arab League – Transjordan, Syria and Egypt – took control of Palestinian Arab areas and immediately attacked Israeli forces and several Jewish settlements, sparking a war. United by Pan-Arab ideas, they were drawn in to a civil war that was once again incited by Al Husseini, from his Egyptian exile. His nephew, Abd al-Qadir al Husseini led the Arab Higher Committee’s Army of the Holy War while Syria helped organize the Arab Liberation Army, a force bankrolled by five Arab states, including Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Self-determination, in their view, extended only to the Arab residents of Palestine, and the Jews were not viewed as part of the native population that had a right to self-determination after the British mandate. Leading up to the war, the Arab League’s secretary-general said:

“Personally I hope the Jews do not force us into this war because it will be a war of elimination and it will be a dangerous massacre which history will record similarly to the Mongol massacre or the wars of the Crusades. I think the number of volunteers from outside Palestine will exceed the Palestinian population.”

On the other hand, Transjordan’s King Abdullah, who was hostile to Palestinian nationalism, made secret arrangements with the Jewish Agency and Golda Meir to thwart Husseini’s and annex / federate the West Bank with Transjordan. However, learning about this, Egypt and Syria, after seeing that they could not overcome the new Jewish state, formed the All-Palestine government in Gaza, with al Husseini nominally at the head of it.

Ideologies of the war from the Palestinian Jewish side are well-known: various forms of Zionism, religious aspirations about returning to the land, secular socialism etc. and of course the practical necessity of Jewish survival and self-defense. Ideologies from the Palestinian Arab side were quite varied. They ranged from Palestinian nationalism to Pan Arabism, but also Islamic religious ideas about a holy war of a religious character. The former was claimed as the reason to oppose the UN resolution, but the latter two ideologies dragged Arab countries into a conventional military war in Palestine, exacerbating the situation that led to the Nakba — the flight of 700,000, or about 80%, of Palestinian Arabs from their homes in the region, in the ensuing war between Jewish and Arab armies.

The Israeli-Arab war took a terrible toll on the local Arab populations. Out of the Nakba, about 10% were expelled from the towns of Lydda and Ramle, following an order signed by Itzhak Rabin after a brief truce when fighting resumed. This was a tactical maneuver by the IDF, who had run out of steam: from the Israeli perspective, the operation averted an Arab threat to Tel Aviv, thwarted an Arab Legion advance by clogging the roads with refugees, forcing the Arab Legion to assume a logistical burden that would undermine its military capacities, and helping demoralize nearby Arab cities.

The majority of Palestinian Arabs during the war had been anxiously following announcements and news about the ongoing hostilities. Radio broadcasts from the Arab Higher Committee continually urged local residents to leave ahead of the advancing Arab armies. Historian Benny Morris writes:

Arab officers ordered the complete evacuation of specific villages in certain areas, lest their inhabitants ‘treacherously’ acquiesce in Israeli rule or hamper Arab military deployments.” He concluded, “There can be no exaggerating the importance of these early Arab-initiated evacuations in the demoralization, and eventual exodus, of the remaining rural and urban populations.

Contemporary reporting from The Economist and New York Times in 1948 seems to confirm this phenomenon. Arabs who remained in Israel and, thus, acquiesced to its sovereignty, were considered “traitors” to “the Arab cause”, an offense to both Islamic and Pan-Arabist ideology. In this way, Haifa was largely evacuated of 90% of its Arab residents, despite the pleas of the Jewish mayor to stay.

Jaffa, an old city that borders Tel Aviv, actually fought the Jewish paramilitary, and in the end many Arab residents were evacuated. After the war, the Israeli leadership was loath to allow all the refugees to return, having just fought a war against a combined Arab force that aimed to drive them into the sea.  Ben Gurion said:

We must start working in Jaffa. Jaffa must employ Arab workers. And there is a question of their wages. I believe that they should receive the same wage as a Jewish worker. An Arab has also the right to be elected president of the state, should he be elected by all. If in America a Jew or a black cannot become president of the state—I do not believe in the quality of its civil rights. Indeed, despite the democracy there, I know that there are plots that are not sold to Jews, and the law tolerates this; and a person can sell his plot to a dealer on condition that it not be bought by a Jew … Should we have such a regime—then we would have missed the purpose of the Jewish State. And I would add that we would have denied the most precious thing in Jewish tradition. But war is war. We did not start the war. They made the war. Jaffa waged war on us, Haifa waged war on us, Bet She’an waged war on us. And I do not want them again to make war. That would be not just but foolish. This would be a “foolish hasid.” Do we have to bring back the enemy, so that he again fights us in Bet She’an? No! You made war [and] you lost.

Today, Arab Israelis make up half the residents of Jaffa.

Pan-Arab feelings of solidarity also precipitated another large exodus – the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. While in some countries, such as Morocco and Tunisia, Jews left willingly and often with Zionist aspirations, other countries such as Egypt made it clear that this was a consequence of the formation of the Jewish state. As the UN partition plan was being debated, the heads of the Egyptian delegation warned:

the lives of 1,000,000 Jews in Moslem countries would be jeopardized by the establishment of a Jewish state… if the U.N decide to amputate a part of Palestine in order to establish a Jewish state, … Jewish blood will necessarily be shed elsewhere in the Arab world … to place in certain and serious danger a million Jews.

and Egypt’s UN representative said:

Imposed partition was sure to result in bloodshed in Palestine and in the rest of the Arab world.

In the end, 900,000 Jews left Arab countries, most going to Israel, a quarter going to France, and others going to the USA, etc. While this was not the first time Jews had been expelled from countries, it was one of the most sizable migrations, and a result of the formation of the State of Israel. Just as with Palestinian Arabs, in many cases the Jews and their families were not able to take much with them, and left everything they had built behind.

The Diaspora

While Israel, France, the USA and other countries absorbed and granted citizenship to these newly displaced 900,000 Jews, the Arabs displaced from Palestine did not fare as well. Both populations consisted of people who made a decision to leave, as well as those who were forced to leave. However, the prevailing sentiment among Arab countries was that Palestinians will one day return, and they remained in a state of war with Israel. Refusing to recognize it, they simply referred to the new Jewish state as the “Zionist regime”. This policy would have tremendous implications for the region, the Palestinian refugees, and their descendants. With the exception of Transjordan, no Arab country would offer Palestinian refugees a home on a permanent basis, whether as permanent residents or citizens. Various other countries did, among them Chile, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Brazil, USA, Germany, Sweden etc, and today a combined 1.5 million Palestinians enjoy security and opportunities. Meanwhile, 3 million Palestinians today live in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Kuwait, in various conditions of uncertainty. In Israel, 1.6 million people live as Israeli Arabs and full citizens.

In line with its aspirations, Transjordan peacefully took control of the West Bank after the Jericho Conference where Palestinian leaders recognized Abdullah as their king, and in 1950 formally annexed the West Bank of the Jordan river and became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. All Palestinians absorbed by Jordan were immediately given Jordanian citizenship. Al Husseini protested from Gaza, but no one listened. The United States extended recognition to both Israel and Jordan on the same day: January 31, 1941. The matter of partition would have seemed to be resolved in a satisfactory manner, with two new states controlling territory of the Mandate of Palestine. From Wikipedia:

The 1950 State Department Country Report on Jordan said that King Abdullah had taken successive steps to incorporate the area of Central Palestine into Jordan and described the Jordanian Parliament resolution concerning the union of Central Palestine with Jordan. The report said the US had privately advised the British and French Foreign Ministers that it had approved the action, and that “it represented a logical development of the situation which took place as a result of a free expression of the will of the people. The major problems of concern to the United States were the establishment of peaceful and friendly relations between Israel and Jordan and the successful absorption into the polity and economy of Jordan of Arab Palestine, its inhabitants, and the bulk of the refugees now located there.

But stability was not to be. While Jordan’s Hashemite rulers were pragmatic, there remained of course Palestinian nationalist factions within the new country that wanted to “liberate all Palestine through armed struggle”. The Palestinian Fedayeen were terrorists attacking Israeli civilians, and Israel responded with reprisals to create deterrence and prevent further attacks. Meanwhile, in Jordan, Abdullah’s son Hussein declared East Jerusalem to be the alternative capital of the Hashemite kingdom, and a program of systematic Islamization and Arabization was imposed, in which Christian ability to buy land was restricted, all Jewish residents were forcibly expelled, 58 synagogues were descrated and demolished, 38,000 Jewish graves were systematically destroyed on the Mount of Olives, and Jews were not allowed to be buried there. Jews were barred from visiting Jerusalem. Thus, both Jews from Jordan and Arabs from Palestine were now expelled and denied the ability to return. Each wanted to retake land they had previously inhabited: Palestinian nationalists wanted to retake all Palestine, and religiously motivated Zionists wanted to take Jerusalem, Hebron, etc. in the West Bank.

The rest of the Arab League condemned Jordan’s annexation, instead considering al Husseini’s “All Palestine Government” in the Gaza as the “sole representative of the Palestinian people”. So what happened with Husseini and the “All-Palestine” government? According to historian Avi Shlaim:

The contrast between the pretensions of the All-Palestine Government and its capability quickly reduced it to the level of farce. It claimed jurisdiction over the whole of Palestine, yet it had no administration, no civil service, no money, and no real army of its own. Even in the small enclave around the town of Gaza its writ ran only by the grace of the Egyptian authorities. Taking advantage of the new government’s dependence on them for funds and protection, the Egyptian paymasters manipulated it to undermine Abdullah’s claim to represent the Palestinians in the Arab League and in international forums. Ostensibly the embryo for an independent Palestinian state, the new government, from the moment of its inception, was thus reduced to the unhappy role of a shuttlecock in the ongoing power struggle between Cairo and Amman.

Instead of a stable resolution, it was this kind of “government” that was favored by the Arab League. In 1952, the Egyptian military overthrew the monarchy in Egypt and established a republic, of which Naguib and Nasser became the first two presidents. Both were pan-Arabists, but Nasser was the most ambitious, establishing the United Arab Republic of Egypt and Syria, in which the Gaza strip was simply annexed. This “republic” was quite authoritarian, dominated by Egyptians and purged Communists and Syrian Ba’athists. Soon afterwards, a military coup in Syria put an end to the unity and restored Syrian independence.

Geopolitics

Nasser’s relationship with Israel is a striking example of how ideologies lead countries to sponsor terrorism. Unlike Jordan, Nasser’s government actually sponsored Fedayeen to go attack Israeli civilians, in an effort to show leadership over the Arab world by being the foremost Anti-Zionist state. Despite UN security council chastisement, Nasser ignored the resolution and continued to prevent ships bound for Israeli ports from passing through the Suez canal. The USSR, disillusioned with Israel for leaving its socialist sphere of influence, switched to arming its enemies: Egypt and Syria. Israel, meanwhile, made alliances with France. This led to an arms race where France shipped arms to Israel, and USSR shipped arms to Egypt. Americans completely failed trying to broker a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, and Nasser rejected all Israel’s proposals for direct talks. The nationalization of the Suez canal in 1956 pissed off the Britain and France, and Israel joined in the military operations against Egypt.

Forced to choose, the USA sided with Egypt against Britain-France-Israel. The USSR came out the big winner, though, as Nikita Khruschev threatened Britain and France with a nuclear holocaust if they didn’t stop immediately. This decisive brinksmanship caused the USSR to gain influence in the middle east, which would play a major role for the Palestinians.

The Resistance

The PLO was established by Nasser in the aftermath of the failed United Arab Republic. It was through this organization that “Arabs of Palestine” came to be known as “Palestinians”. Despite most of the Palestinians already living in Jordan, the aim of the PLO was to become “the sole representative of the Palestinian people”. Its stated goal was the destruction of the state of Israel, called “liberation of Palestine through armed struggle”. The basic idea in the PLO’s ideology was that Zionists (without distinction) had unjustly expelled the Palestinians from Palestine, and established a Jewish state in place under the pretext of having historic and Jewish ties to Palestine.

Much like the “All Palestine Government” in Gaza, the legitimacy of the PLO as the “sole representatives of the Palestinian people” was established by jockeying of foreign governments. Egypt, with their USSR allies, threw all their weight behind the new organization. Syria, on the other hand, still considered Palestine as part of their historic land, and said as much to the PLO in the 70s.

Hussein, on the other hand, was interested in keeping the West Bank territory, including Jerusalem, under his control. The PLO under Arafat represented the majority Palestinian population in Jordan, created a “state within a state” in Jordan, and tensions grew between the Egypt-USSR-backed PLO and the Western-backed Hashemite government. These tensions culminated in Black September, a civil war that began in September 1970 and lasted 10 months. External governments, including the British, refrained from coming to the aid of the Jordanian crown, because they were under the impression that Palestinians would take control of Jordan. It was only to the poor discipline and lack of central coordination that the PLO lost. Although Hussein described the civil war “life and death” for Jordan, after winning he reacted quite moderately, signing a five point plan for Palestinian factions to honor Jordanian laws. More radical Palestinian factions, however, the PFLP and DFLP refused, and continued the civil war in order to prevent any peace agreement between Jordan and Israel. This led to the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan the following year. In 1972, King Hussein of Jordan floated the idea of the United Arab Kingdom, a federation that would have given the Palestinians the whole West Bank, unity with Jordan, and control of Jerusalem. Israel rejected the proposal straight away, as that would have meant giving up their territory and Jerusalem. But it is interesting that the PLO rejected it with extreme language, and continuing to call for the overthrow of the Jordanian crown.

It’s not that the PLO did not want to unite the West and East banks of the river. They simply wanted one thing first: to rid Palestine of the Jews and their state. If it meant destroying the Jordanian government in the process, they’d do it. One PLO spokesman said:

The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.

The USSR under Khruschev got adept at training and funding a number of liberation revolutionaries to effect regime change, such as Che Guevara and the liberation of Cuba. The highest ranking KGB defector, Ion Mihai Pacepa, described the training and funding of Arafat and the PLO in several prominent articles. Given the collaboration of USSR and Egypt, at the time, such a collaboration make sense. More evidence is that Arafat put a $1 million bounty on Pacepa’s head when he defected. Pacepa’s activities unraveled the intelligence network of communist Romania, and revealed the dealings of Nicolae Ceaușescu, its leader. It was Ceaușescu who introduced Arafat to Jimmy Carter as a potential peace partner for Israel. However, US policy, as formulated by Henry Kissinger in 1975, was that the United States:

will not recognize or negotiate with the PLO as long as the PLO does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and does not accept Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

Most of the anti-Zionist narrative we hear today is the result of refinement and promotion by the PLO, and its various factions. The distinctiveness and nationhood of Palestinians is affirmed as the ultimate basis for their claim to “all of Palestine.” By contrast, Jews are depicted as “European invaders” who, while sharing a common religion, are not even a nation. In anti-Zionist circles, Jewish ties to Israel are delegitimized through, for example, the Khazar theory of Ashkenzi ancestry that has been generally debunked through genetic studies as well as historical reality. The nationhood of Jews is routinely denied, especially citing Shlomo Sand’s book, The Invention of the Jewish People. To Muslims around the world it sounds reasonable: Judaism is a religion, the Palestinians are a people. To Jews, on the other hand, who have kept their national identity throughout their diaspora, wherever they lived, that sounds preposterous.

What constitutes a national identity is a large subject for another time, but I will say that there is no larger “nation” that Jews are a part of, whereas Palestinians are often described as, and readily admit, being part of a larger Arab nation. One of the purposes of nation-states is serving a sovereign nation, and providing a home for its members.

Today, we have ideologies on both sides which carefully curate the narrative and the materials one is exposed to. Among Israeli historians, the Zionist side reads Palestine Betrayed by Ephraim Karsh, the Anti-Zionist side reads The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe. Both have been criticized as being biased, with Benny Morris somewhere in the middle.

The takeaway

The history of the Jewish-Arab conflict is long and detailed. Books like this one by Mark Tessler present a relatively balanced account of both sides. But it is under-appreciated just how much meddling by foreign powers became the dominant factor, filling the power void after the end of the British colonial influence. Today, millions of Palestinians are stateless in many different countries, and Anti-Zionism still provides an excuse for every country except Israel to continue this situation indefinitely.

The term useful idiot is a term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause. All of us are generally guilty of it in one form or another. But when we study just how much foreign meddling caused the local people involved to suffer, we realize how the phrase “X are Nazis” might be a symptom of that. The hardest part is realizing that lofty concepts like “Justice” and “Liberty” have in fact been hijacked by rich countries, centers of ideology, to motivate regular everyday people like us into taking up arms instead of living side by side. Perhaps in 2016 we can wake up and actually start to take a hard look at the role of foreign meddling on *both sides* of a conflict, and what does to the regions involved.

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