Each Monday I’m devoting space on the blog site to reflections on current events (see the “about” section of this blog). This week I’m posting my summaries of “The Two Stories of the Jewish-Palestinian Conflict in the Middle East.” I’ve tried to clarify the two stories by presenting them in simple point-by-point fashion. The posting is intended to set up a homily I’ll share on Wednesday. That reflection will specifically address the decades-long Jewish-Palestinian conflict in the light of the readings for the Eucharistic liturgy of the following Sunday (May 13: the Sixth Sunday after Easter). Wednesday’s posting will be called “Chosen Nation? No. /Chosen People? Yes. /Learning from Jesus’ Choices.” Consider the two stories below. See if they make sense. Have I presented them fairly? Who do you think are the real terrorists? Let me know what your opinion.
THE JEWISH/ZIONIST STORY
– Jewish Israelis are inheritors of Abraham’s “Promised Land.”
– They were unjustly expelled by the Romans from their God-given homeland in 135 C.E. and dispersed throughout the world.
– After Christianity became the Roman Empire’s official Religion in 381 C.E., Jews were routinely persecuted by Christians, who tended to be anti-Semitic, identifying Jews as “God-killers.”
– Anti-Semitism eventually led to the birth of the Zionist movement in 1887.
– It sought return for Jews to their ancient homeland, now thought of as “a land without people for a people without land.”
– The Jewish People suffered their worst persecution under Christians from 1939-1945, in the Great Holocaust, which slaughtered six million Jews, and which evoked great sympathy for the Jewish people worldwide.
– So in 1947 the UN Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) gave 55% of Palestine to Jewish settlers.
– The returnees were immediately attacked by Palestinians, and by the whole Arab world in 1948, 1967 (Six Day War), and 1973 (Yom Kippur War)
– The goal of the Arabs was to drive Jewish settlers into the sea.
– Beginning in 1995, Palestinian terrorists even used suicide bombers against innocent civilians.
– Despite such outrages, Israeli Jews have generously offered Peace Plan after Peace Plan to the Arab terrorists.
– Most recently this happened in 2000 at a Camp David meeting (moderated by Bill Clinton) between Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat.
– Arafat refused a very generous offer, thus continuing the Palestinian tradition of refusing to recognize Israel’s right to existence.
– Instead Palestinians have continued mercilessly terrorizing Jewish Israelis – especially with suicide bombers.
– Naturally, in self-defense, Jewish Israelis have (1) established security zones that penetrate into Palestinian territory, (2) built a road system from which Palestinians are excluded or restricted, (3) set up checkpoints throughout the country, and (4) built a security fence to further control the terrorists.
– It is true that U.N. resolutions (most notably 242) have ordered Jewish “occupiers” out of territories captured in the 1967 war.
– However such orders come from an “international community” which history has taught the Jewish people not to trust.
– They are forced to rely only on themselves.
THE PALESTINIAN STORY
– Like the Jewish Israelis, the Palestinians are descendents of Abraham.
– From the beginning Palestinians shared the “Promised Land,” which never belonged exclusively to the Hebrew or Jewish people, but was shared by many other tribes (e.g. Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, Geshurites, Maacaathites, and Philistines).
– Jewish people were unjustly expelled from their homeland in 135 C.E. and dispersed throughout the world.
– However, Palestinians had nothing to do with that.
– Instead they lived peacefully for centuries with the few Jews who remained in Palestine over the next 1700 years.
– During this time, Jews thought of themselves not as a nation-state, but as a religion, the way Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others do.
– In the face of relentless persecution by European Christians, European Jews sought a homeland where they might live together in peace.
– They were encouraged to do so by the British, who thought of Jews in Palestine as a European colonial presence that would maintain a “beachhead” in a strategically important area of the world, which contained the “most stupendous prize” of all – a virtual sea of oil.
– With such encouragement, the “Zionist” movement was officially launched in 1887.
– It was an explicitly secular movement completely without religious pretensions.
– In fact, besides Israel, Zionists had considered colonizing Argentina, Uganda, Cyprus or the Northern Sinai region rather than Palestine.
– Palestinians resisted Zionism from the beginning with peaceful demonstrations, local and general strikes, and sometimes with violence.
– Nonetheless, in 1947 the United Nations awarded Jewish settlers 55% of Palestine, even though they represented only 30% of the population, and even though Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust.
– Outraged Palestinians protested so strongly that the UN suspended its “Partition Plan.”
– In response, Jewish settlers inaugurated a terror campaign directed both against the British and Palestinians.
– Israeli Haganah, Irgun and Stern Gang terrorists (under the leadership of future Prime Minister Menachem Begin) blew up British headquarters in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel killing scores of British, Palestinians and others.
– Jewish terrorists evicted Palestinians from their homes, and drove them into refugee camps, often simply murdering even hundreds of Palestinians at a time.
– In response the Arab world came to the defense of their brothers and sisters in Palestine.
– They were militarily weak however (having just escaped colonialism themselves).
– So they were easily defeated in the Six Day War.
– In that conquest, Jewish Israelis took over more Palestinian territory – in the Gaza Strip, on the West Bank, in the Golan Heights, and in East Jerusalem.
– The U.N. subsequently ordered Israel to abandon these “occupied territories” (in Resolution 242).
– But the Israelis (unconditionally supported by the United States) have refused to obey.
– In another attempt to expel the illegal occupiers, the Arab world attacked again in 1973 (the Yom Kippur War).
– With U.S. aid, the Jewish Israelis repulsed the attack, annexing further Palestinian territory in the process.
– Recognizing military defeat, the Palestinians since 1976 have been willing to settle for the arrangements recognized in the original U.N. partition plan – 2 states in Palestine, secure borders, and Jewish Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories.
– Alone in the world, the Jewish Israelis and their U.S. patrons have refused such settlement.
– In fact, far from obeying repeated U.N. resolutions Israeli occupiers have continually encroached further into Palestinian territory, building extensive illegal settlements, and a huge wall (far higher, more impenetrable and extensive than the Berlin Wall) separating Palestinians from their families, work, and vital resources.
– When Palestinian children and young people have resisted in two uprisings (“Intifadas” in 1982 & 2000) by throwing stones at soldiers in the illegally occupied territories, they have been shot by the occupiers.
– When in 2006 Palestinians overwhelmingly elected their leaders in a democratic election, Jewish Israelis (with the support of the United States) have engaged in “collective punishment” cutting off an entire people from vital resources.
– It’s no wonder, then, that many desperate Palestinians have immolated themselves as suicide bombers, against an occupying army that is supported by the United States not only with sophisticated armaments, but with $10 million per day in “foreign aid.”