Monday, February 14, 2005


I spent the time reading through Life as a Dervish blog. Willow is quite an eloquent writer, providing an interesting view on Egypt from an American Cairene, Sufi Muslim, voting Democrat perpsective, as she describes herself. She describes in one of her posts a trip to Sinai, encountering Israelis there, and reflects on the Palestinian problem:

A funny thing has happened to me, living in Egypt—what governments say and what countries are called matters less and less to me, and individual human lives matter more. You’d think it’d be the opposite—that, living in an Arab country, I would find ample fodder for my essentially pro-Palestinian political standpoint, but that hasn’t been the case. Part of this arises from an inevitable disillusionment about the nature of the conflict itself—one side may be in the right, on a basic ‘you were here first’ level, but sadly nothing is that simple. Too many people have been born in the years following ’48 who have nowhere but ‘Israel’ to call home. You can’t blame an Israeli kid for being born in Israel. It’s not his fault his country was never supposed to exist. Beyond that—and perhaps I’m a snob—the endless anti-Jewish rhetoric one hears (Last Temptation of Christ was a blockbuster here), coupled to the zeal with which the Arab world enters into any of its hatreds, makes a passionate defense of their position a little unstomachable. I am now convinced that, were Palestine returned to the Arabs by way of force, the conflict would simply degenerate into a war between Arab nations over who got custodianship of Palestine until the Palestinians were able to run the place. In the end, it would become a protectorate of Egypt or Syria or Lebanon or Jordan. ‘Palestine’ as it was will never exist again, no matter how much we’d like to believe in happy endings.

And, perhaps more ominously, the energy poured into the hatred of Israel, the sensual mindlessness with which the average Arab is willing to indulge his hatred, makes me certain of one thing above all others: were the Arab nations to annex Israel, every Israeli man, woman and child unlucky enough not to escape would be dead within six months.

In other words, we’d be trading a fanatical, racist Zionist regime for a fanatical, racist Arab Nationalist regime.

I couldn't agree more, hence I couldn't have found a better introduction. Growing up as an Egyptian, I've been educated on the history of Palestine, how Palestinians own that land, and were driven out by massacres and autrocities, and how the Jews who live there now are not related to the orignial Jewish semites of that land. I still believe all that, and I respect Palestinians for enduring what they have, and for growing stronger and more determined after 50 years of occuptation and destruction. So, regarding the analysis of the problem and its causes, I'm more or less in line with the common views of most Arabs.

When it comes to the proposed solution however, I find none of the marketed solutions to be realistic, because none of them are just, and an unjust solution will create more problems, providing ample ammo for the pessimists (me among them).

So what are the solutions proposed. The popular ones I know of are two for each side. The Arabs, either want to destroy Israel and get every Israeli out of all of the Palestinian land (whether via tombs or planes), or, they are willing to give in, accept the weak state we're in, and succumb to most of the unjust demands being imposed on them. Though I respect the resistance of the Palestinians (both armed and unarmed), sometimes I question the end goal, and if only such resistance will get them what they want --to own back all of the land, and get rid of all Israelis. If the goal was just abit more realistic, I might've been able to embrace such resistance almost blindly. The other side of the coin, those surrendering Arabs, I believe are giving away a right that's not theirs, a history of evil and pain that isn't healed by what's being offered, and are ensuring a future of continued pain.

On the other hand, the Israelis seem to be offering two solutions as well. One, is to secure a few isolated land plots, and give them a name, Palestine, throw the 4 million Palestinians there, disarm them, isolate them as much as possible, prevent any Palestinian refugees from living there, and have the people there dependant on Israel. This is what the succumbing Arabs are negotiating. On the other extreme of the Israeli spectrum, they want to take over all of the land (Nile to Eufrates, I'm not sure), and enslave all of the Arab bastards.

Apparently, the main problem is mistrust between the two people, and well deserved it is. Putting that aside (if at all possible), and looking for a just solution for all, considering the owners of the land, who came first, and who came before them, who killed who, who raped whose land from under whose feets and destroyed the homes ontop of them, and also who was born there, who had no say in it, and who ended having this land as their home, by fate, not choice. Considering all that, why does the "one-state for all" solution sounds so absurd --except for a handful?!

The only public figures I know of who called for such a solution were Edward Said, and --unfortunately-- Qadhafi (and that speaks volumes for how absurd the idea could be actually). Otherwise, that solution is never proposed, never on the table, and never marketed by anyone (anyone important enough that I've heard of atleast).

Apparently, the reason is very simple. Neither party wants such a solution. The Israeli reason is obvious, they will be out-numbered by Arabs in such a state, and in a democracy (which such state should have), the Arabs would be the majority in any parliament or government representation, hence negating the Jewish entity of such a state. But isn't this just fair, to atleast share the land and the governance with its owners.

The Arabs on the other hand, do not want to share the land either, and completely dehumanize the Israelis, by clinging to their absolute rights of "all or nothing". The negotiating Arabs however, wouldn't dare propose such a solution, because they know the Israeli's are not kidding when it comes to such a solution that risks their existance as "God's chosen people".

But if such a state was to be created, with enough gaurantees for democarcy, secularism, ensuring equality between all its citizens and the rule of fair law, wouldn't this be fair enough? Wouldn't this put an end to all the violence, and the endless negotiations? Wouldn't this be reasonable compromise from both sides? Apparently, everyone thinks not.

In my dreams, you say. Probably so. But so is reaching a viable solution through impotent negotiations, or through plain violence. In your dreams.


praktike said...

I think that, sadly, the two sides hate each other too much for a binational state to work.

What you have aren't simply two groups fighting for the same land, but two national movements. So what would happen? As the Palestinian population grows faster than the Israeli/Jewish population, the Israelis would try to hold onto their power just like the Maronites did in Lebanon. And then you would have civil war, and you would end in the same situation as you are in now.

At least, that's my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Edward Saild a fake! he hated Arafat. He was too learned and polite and sophisticated to want to join the shrill voices to destroy Israel so instead he talked about a one-state solution (destroy Israel without war) fact, Jews lived on that land since the begging of recorded history. In fat there was no arab nation on that land. That land was controlled by Ottoman Empire and then the British Madate. UN offered two states and the ARABS TURNEDF IT DOWN and went to war 3 or 4 there is a chance for a two-state solution. Both Israelis and Arabs better grab that solution because neither is doing very well as things now stand.

Anonymous said...

Er... I'm with you in spirit I guess, a bit, anonymous... being a american crusader white guy and all. But much of what you say is flatly untrue. Check this map:

It's not completely accurate... but I don't know that any are. But see that part along the coast called Philistia? Where Gaza is? That's where the Philistines from the Bible lived. Also, the Canaanites. Cannaanites/Philistines are two names for the same people. Philistia was a name given to that land by the Romans and I'm not sure how it got into the OLD testament, as that pre-dates Roman occupation, but oh well. Canaan was the name used by the Jews, and that's also in the old testament. Both these names refer to the people who are today called Palestinians. There is no "historical palestine" as I see so many Arabs referring too, but there is a historical Philistia/Canaan.

Incidentally, these maps all seem to be in conflict. This one shows Phoenicia where Lebanon is today. Phoenicia is a greek name. I've seen other (maybe more reputable?) maps that show Phoenicia and Philistia as being the same coastal region stretching from present day lebanon all the way down the coast of present day Israel, with the Romans merely having renamed Phoenicia to Philistia. If anybody knows of definitively correct map of these regions from ancient times I'd like to see it.

In any case, though, if you want to make a counterpoint to their points, less emotion and more fact please :)

chor said...

i came upon this entry accidently but i wanted to comment- in arabic, philistinee-oon is the word for palestinians, so maybe it is a linguistic problem?

IRAN AZADI said...

Freedom in Iran will require a revolution. What do you guys think about more democracy and reform in Egypt?