May 24, 2018
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First step: Know Israeli-Palestinian history

By Peter Weil, Special to the BDN

Once more we hear from Nancy Oden, “No more free passes for Israel” (BDN, Jan. 10-11), Down East Maine’s public scold. This time she has wandered into the very complex subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is a subset of many other geopolitical, ideological, historical and religious conflicts that have bedeviled theworld in some cases for millennia. In her commentary, there is no evidence that she is aware of any of this history.

It is probably worth reminding Nancy, among other readers, of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, their forbears and those who followed up to the time of the Diaspora, the forced dispersion of the Jews, in the early years of the Common Era. Jewish history since A.D. 70 has been an unfolding of that expulsion, including genocide. The region has been the home of many people, often contemporaneously, including not a few European crusaders.

Recall that in 1947 Palestine was being governed by Great Britain under a League of Nations mandate dating back to 1922. That mandate specifically recognized the historical connection of the land and the Jewish people as a precedent for a Jewish homeland there. The British mandate ended in 1948, and Israel declared itself a sovereign state the same year. It took this action because after World War II, there were hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees in Europe, and nobody wanted to take them in. My point is that after World War II Jews took what was offered by a world that would just as soon have continued to look the other way.

The war that immediately followed the formation of the state of Israel is traceable to the unwillingness of most if not all the Mideast countries to accept this Euro-centered solution to Europe’s refugee problem. Those Mideast countries, you will recall, would not integrate the Palestinians (such close relatives, after all) into their own populations, but kept them in refugee camps for generations. Those countries did not want Israel to exist, and some of them (again, alliances and accommodations change over time) have used the Palestine refugees as cat’s paws ever since. Where do we think the money for Hamas and Hezbollah comes from anyway, the tooth fairy?Much of the grief that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank live with is because of the “let’s you and him fight” approach of many neighboring countries.

Israel has made many gestures toward peace in the region. It has missed other opportunities, primarily by not withdrawing from Palestinian territory on the West Bank. But I do not live in Israel and do not live with the existential threat of annihilation that both Israelis and Palestinians must have, given the 60-year war of words and bullets.

Warriors who use human shields are as contemptible as anything I can think of. So are nations that turn their backs on problems they were instrumental in starting. So are nations that use the Palestine-Israel conflict to support their own agendas. So are people who pick a side and then bend all evidence to support a presupposition.

Peter Weil of Steuben is a retired sculptor.

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