The conflict continued all throughout the last century and no one made a worthwhile effort to stop it! Part-II
By: M S Nazki
From skirmishes to full fledged wars the story has been a horrific one where people died, children got killed, smoke fire and blood were the three distinct remnants all embalmed macabre memories!
- If a doctor were to write a book on this seemingly not lasting conflict what would he write? Probably this, it is human nature to seek revenge in the face of relentless suffering. You can’t expect an unhealthy person to think logically.
- Terrorism, is not the right word for the violence here, neither is an eye for an eye, you could say that its an unbalanced conflict between largely unarmed people against the fourth most powerful military in the world.
- The people of Israel are suffering, and Jewish people have a long history of oppression. We still have some responsibility for that, but I think it’s important to draw a firm distinction between the policies of Israel, as a state, and Jewish people. That’s kind of a no-brainer, but there is very strong pressure to look at the two.
- The Palestinians say that just needing a little piece of peace can cultivate the land of Palestine, but inhuman humans won’t let them do that. What’s a house when you’ve lost a country? Some say with grief.
There has been volumes written on the subject and there are so many books on the conflict written by both Jewish and Palestinian authors, both project their own side of the same story and there are many neutrals who do give vivid portrayals involving the human characters who have suffered immensely. It has been the biggest tragedy that the world has seen and yet far there is no settlement in sight. Anyway let me open this episode with two stories as starters so that we continue with this tale of horrors down the ages.
I. Dr. Shammaa’s story: This was indeed dreadful!
- Her voice broke as she told this. I had to take the babies and put them in buckets of water to put out the flames, she said. When I took them out half an hour later, they were still burning. Even in the mortuary, they smoldered for hours. Next morning, Amal Shammaa took the tiny corpses out of the mortuary for burial. To her horror, they again burst into flames. How can these poor things speak to each other like equals when one of them is holding a gun? Israeli soldiers may be the best, circumstances down the ages must have made them invincible but whatever said and done they have yet to prove themselves humans.
II. Bashir’s tale: The auspicious lemon!
Bashir walked toward a glass cabinet in the dining room. Dalia followed Bashir, and the two stood looking through the glass. Look at the cabinet and tell me what you see, Bashir said. ‘Is this a test?’ ‘It is a test. Please tell me what you see in the cabinet.’ Books, vases, a picture of Abdel Nasser. Maybe some things hiding behind. And a lemon.’ ‘You won,’ Bashir said. ‘Do you remember the lemon?’ ‘What about it? Is there a story? ‘Do you remember when me and my brother came to visit?…Yes? Do you remember that Kamel asked you for something as we left? And do you remember what you gave him as a gift?’ Dalia was silent for a moment, Bashir would recall. ‘Oh, my God. It’s one of those lemons from that visit. But why did you keep it? It has been almost four months now.’ They walked from the cabinet and took their seats in the living room. ‘To us, this lemon is more than fruit, Dalia’, Bashir said slowly. ‘It is land and history. It is the window that we open to look at our history. A few days after we brought the lemons home, it was night, and I heard a movement in the house. I was asleep. I got up, and I was listening. We were so nervous when the occupation started. Even the movement of trees used to wake us. And left us worried. I heard the noise and I got up. The noise was coming from this room right here. Do you know what I saw? My father, who is nearly blind.’ ‘Yes,’ said Dalia. She was listening intently. ‘Dalia, I saw him holding the lemon with both hands. And he was pacing back and forth in the room, and the tears were running down his cheeks. Bashir Khairi stayed in Ramallah and Dalia Eshkenazi Landau in Jerusalem, the twin hearts of the story. If you want to read more about this legendary story kindly read the book the Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan! Trust me it will have you dropping tears. Mine did!
Once again I will get back into the prophecies given in the Bible. Some questions do erupt but surprisingly the answers too are there so here are a few inquisitive ones indeed. Yesterday I did say that there is a lot about conflicts we do not know. What we know is what is available in print after Gutenberg made the fantastic discovery before that it were the hand written scriptures which people have worked upon to crystallize facts and figures from where we get the material as reference to add on the ideas floating around in our minds. Here are a few that certainly did baffle me:
III. Did God give the land to Israel?
Scripture asserts that God promises land to the people of Israel. Some biblical texts suggest that God gives the land with no conditions or expectations. 2. Other passages place conditions on the gift. The Book of Deuteronomy, for example, details calamities which will harm the land or separate people from the land, if they break the covenant with God.3 Texts such as Leviticus 25:18 and 26:31-34, Amos 5:6-9 and 6:1-7 and Jeremiah 7:1-7 concur with this idea of conditionality. Scripture also asserts that the earth belongs to God.4 Land is a gift linked to covenant responsibility in relation to God and others. Meanwhile, both Palestinians and Jewish people have deep connections to the historic land of Palestine.
IV. Aren’t the people of Israel God’s chosen people?
In the Bible, we see God depicted as forming a covenant with Abram and Isaac, while also blessing Ishmael.5 Other texts show destruction, not blessing, for non-Israelites.6 Yet Israel is to be a light to the nations, so that God’s salvation will reach ‘to the end of the earth.’ In other words, ‘chosenness’ does not negate God’s love and blessing for all people.7 God’s definition of citizen is expansive, not exclusive, embracing the alien or sojourner 8 and naming consequences for those who harm sojourners. 9 In Ezekiel, God says that sojourn – ers are to be treated as citizens in land inheritance. 10 Christians embrace Jesus’ words to love God, neighbor and enemy, and to pray for those who persecute us. 11 Jesus, the Jewish teacher, says that on love of God and neighbor hang all the law, or Torah, and prophets. 12 As in all matters regarding a theology of land and chosen – ness, followers of Jesus are called to love all people, the Jewish neighbor as well as the Palestinian neighbor. 13 What about the claim in Genesis 12:3 that God will bless those who bless Abram’s descendants and curse those who curse them? For biblical prophets, 14 acknowledgment of God’s promise to Abram includes a call to practice jus tice. Genesis 12:3 notes God’s purpose in giving the land to Abram’s descendants so that through them all the families of the earth would be blessed. Whether reading Genesis 12:3 as intended solely for the Jewish people or for all of Abram’s off spring (Jewish, Christian and Muslim), blessing Abram’s descendants includes a call to love mercy and do justice,15 while holding ourselves accountable to that same standard in our own contexts.
V. Is biblical Israel the same as the modern state of Israel?
The state of Israel has a beginning point, May 1948. For some, it is clear therefore that modern Israel and biblical Israel are two distinct realities the state a contemporary secular, political entity, and the land a geographical place promised, given and repossessed by God in the Torah and prophets. Others see today’s state as part of an enduring promise of Jewish sovereignty in the land. Whether one views this question from a modern human rights perspective or through the prism of biblical covenant, all people are to be regarded as created in the image of God and as citizens, with security on the land and the other rights that implies.
VI. What is Christian Zionism?
As noted in the section on recent history, Zionism emerged in the 1890s in Europe as a mostly secular Jewish movement working for a safe homeland and to fulfill the dream of restoring Jews to the land of their birth as a people. However, the home was established on land inhabited by Palestinians for centuries. Christian Zionists believe that the 1948 creation of the state of Israel fulfills Old Testament prophecies and is essential for Jesus’ second coming. They interpret God’s land promise to include support for the state. Most Palestinian and other Middle Eastern Christians find this support troubling. Such support usually impacts their own local work and presence negatively (see Palestinian Christians). Some other Christians share these concerns. For instance, a number of evangelical theologians … see a complex relationship between the Old Testament and New Testament covenants when it comes to Israel, Palestine and theological implications.
VII. Early History of Israel:
Israel is a small country in the Middle East, about the size of New Jersey, located on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea and bordered by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The nation of Israel with a population of more than 9 million people, most of them Jewish has many important archaeological and religious sites considered sacred by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, and a complex history with periods of peace and conflict. Much of what scholars know about Israel’s ancient history comes from the Hebrew Bible. According to the text, Israel’s origins can be traced back to Abraham, who is considered the father of both Judaism (through his son Isaac) and Islam (through his son Ishmael). Abraham’s descendants were thought to be enslaved by the Egyptians for hundreds of years before settling in Canaan, which is approximately the region of modern-day Israel. The word Israel comes from Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, who was renamed “Israel” by the Hebrew God in the Bible.
VIII. King David and King Solomon:
King David ruled the region around 1000 B.C. His son, who became King Solomon, is credited with building the first holy temple in ancient Jerusalem. In about 931 B.C., the area was divided into two kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Around 722 B.C., the Assyrians invaded and destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. In 568 B.C., the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the first temple, which was replaced by a second temple in about 516 B.C. For the next several centuries, the land of modern-day Israel was conquered and ruled by various groups, including the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Fatimids, Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamelukes, Islamists and others.
IX. Conflict Between Jews and Arabs:
Throughout Israel’s long history, tensions between Jews and Arab Muslims have existed. The complex hostility between the two groups dates all the way back to ancient times when they both populated the area and deemed it holy. Both Jews and Muslims consider the city of Jerusalem sacred. It contains the Temple Mount, which includes the holy sites al-Aqsa Mosque, the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and more. Much of the conflict in recent years has centered around who is occupying the following areas:
Gaza Strip: A piece of land located between Egypt and modern-day Israel.
Golan Heights: A rocky plateau between Syria and modern-day Israel.
West Bank: A territory that divides part of modern-day Israel and Jordan.
X. The Zionism Movement
In the late 19th and early 20th century, an organized religious and political movement known as Zionism emerged among Jews. Zionists wanted to reestablish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Massive numbers of Jews immigrated to the ancient holy land and built settlements. Between 1882 and 1903, about 35,000 Jews relocated to Palestine. Another 40,000 settled in the area between 1904 and 1914. Many Jews living in Europe and elsewhere, fearing persecution during the Nazi reign, found refuge in Palestine and embraced Zionism. After the Holocaust and World War II ended, members of the Zionist movement primarily focused on creating an independent Jewish state. Arabs in Palestine resisted the Zionism movement, and tensions between the two groups continue. An Arab nationalist movement developed as a result.
XI. Partition plans:
On May 15, 1947, the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations resolved that a committee, (United Nations Special Committee on Palestine), be created to prepare for consideration at the next regular session of the Assembly a report on the question of Palestine. The Committee was to consist of the representatives of Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia. In Chapter VI of the report of September 3, 1947, the majority of the Committee proposed recommendations for consideration by the General Assembly that Palestine within its present borders, following a transitional period of two years from September 1, 1947, shall be constituted into an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem. The Arab state was supposed to comprise roughly 4,300 square miles (11,000 km2) and would contain a tiny Jewish population. The Jewish State was supposed to be roughly 5,700 square miles (15,000 km2) in size and was supposed to contain a sizable Arab minority population. Neither state would be contiguous. Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to be put under the control of the United Nations. Neither side was satisfied with the Partition Plan. The Jews disliked losing Jerusalem which had a majority Jewish population at that time and worried about the tenability of a noncontiguous state. However, most of the Jews in Palestine accepted the plan, and the Jewish Agency (the de facto government of the Yishuv) campaigned fervently for its approval. The more extreme Jewish groups, such as the Irgun, rejected the plan. The Arab leadership argued that it violated the rights of the majority of the people in Palestine.
- On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending to the United Kingdom, as the mandatory Power for Palestine, and to all other Members of the United Nations the adoption and implementation, with regard to the future government of Palestine, of the Plan of Partition with Economic Union (a slightly amended version of the plan in Chapter VI of the report of September 3, 1947). Thirty-three states voted in favor of the resolution, while 13 countries opposed it. Ten countries abstained from the vote. The Yishuv accepted the plan, but the Arabs in Palestine and the surrounding Arab states rejected the plan. The Arab countries (all of which had opposed the plan) proposed to query the International Court of Justice on the competence of the General Assembly to partition a country against the wishes of the majority of its inhabitants, but were again defeated.
XII. 1947–1948 war: Yishuv versus Palestinian Arabs and volunteers
- The approval of the plan sparked attacks carried out by Arab irregulars against the Jewish population in Palestine. Fighting began almost as soon as the Resolution of November 29, 1947 was approved. Shooting, stoning, and rioting continued apace in the following days. The consulates of Poland and Sweden, both of whose governments had voted for partition, were attacked. Bombs were thrown into cafes, Molotov cocktails were hurled at shops, and a synagogue was set on fire. Arab gunmen attacked Jewish cars and trucks, snipers in Jaffa began firing at passers-by in Tel Aviv and Jaffa Arabs attacked a nearby Tel Aviv neighborhood.
- As the British evacuation from the region progressed, the violence became more prevalent. Murders, reprisals, and counter-reprisals came fast on each other’s heels, resulting in dozens of victims killed on both sides in the process. The Deir Yassin massacre took place on April 9, 1948, when around 120 fighters from the Irgun Zevai Leumi and the Israeli Stern Gang Zionist paramilitary groups attacked Deir Yassin near Jerusalem, a Palestinian Arab village of roughly 600 people. The sanguinary impasse persisted as no force intervened to put a stop to the escalating cycles of violence. During the first two months of the war, about 1,000 people were killed and 2,000 injured. By the end of March, the figure had risen to 2,000 dead and 4,000 wounded.
Something had to emerge out of the bloodshed and it did. The Nations settled down for yet another round of talks to sort the problems out. They did come out with a blueprint as they usually do but was it going to be the ultimate peace dropper, that was to be seen. Israel gained independence which was a good thing to happen but the thing never could stop the conflict from prolonging itself which it was destined to be! The world is seeing it till date!
XIII. Israeli Independence:
The United Nations approved a plan to partition Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state in 1947, but the Arabs rejected it. In May 1948, Israel was officially declared an independent state with David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, as the prime minister. While this historic event seemed to be a victory for Jews, it also marked the beginning of more violence with the Arabs.
Though everyone thought that the things had been distilled and Israel was an independent country yet the fact was that nothing had settled. Everything was the same in fact what had grown was hatred. More of it was to flow and blood to be spilled to be in gallons. Israel and Palestine were never destined to remain in peace. The biblical prophecies were coming true. Though the nations were modernizing, the thinking was primitive.
What is America achieving by indulging in this rabid madness is not clear. But whatever it is doing does not augur well for the region. People are still the same, the rage inside them is still the same. What they do is not a cure, but merely put bandages on the corpses. Most of the neutrals feel that people who call themselves supporters of Israel are actually supporters of its moral degeneration and ultimate destruction. Why allow the conflict to continue when the same can be done away with. Why live in times of Gothic horrors when there is so much to gain from the modern day world which we ourselves have made. Ah! Those terms are foreign policy and international relations! They are nothing but the instruments of implementing supremacy. The rest of the money and arms do!
I suggest readers please read the book, ‘In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story by Ghada Karmi. You know reporting on conflicts is one thing but getting into them and getting to the human side of it something else, and something different. One tends to touch different shores and thus wants to further explore. This book is an intimate and powerful narrative in which the Israel-Palestine conflict is presented, unusually, from the Palestinian side, In Search of Fatima reflects the author’s personal experiences of displacement, loss and nostalgia against a backdrop of the major political events which have shaped Middle East conflict. Some excerpts of the book will really make you melt emotionally, ‘we never set eyes on Fatima or our dog or the city we had known ever again. Like a body prematurely buried, unmoored with a pot coffin or ceremony, our hasty untidy exit from Jerusalem was no way to have said goodbye to our home, our country and all that we knew and loved.’. Another one to conclude this part of the story, ‘just as the ripples of a stone thrown into a pond will spread further and further away from the source, so the ripples of the disaster in 1948 hit my parents first and then spread to us and to our children long afterwards. Seeing only the ripples, it was easy to confuse the original cause with its effects.’. Till now the ripples are broadening. Things do seem to settle down, but no sooner they do then another stone is hurled into the pond and the same process starts all over again! (To be continued tomorrow).