The War between the Palestinians and the Israelis has been going on for a very long time and is being fought–with words–all over the world. We recently posted a story about a group of Orthodox Jews who want to build a new temple near (or on) the site of a major mosque in Jerusalem, while at the same time a group of Palestinians is trying to eradicate all presence of the remains of the original Jewish temple that lies underneath the Dome of the Rock.
We got many angry letters from Jewish readers, who saw it as a criticism of Israel, not noticing that the story was equally critical of the Palestinian excavations. The fact that we did not receive any criticism from Palestinian readers means to me that we have few, if any, Palestinians checking out our website regularly. If we had, I’m sure they would have complained mightily as well.
Actually the story was not critical of either side, it just gave the facts. But the people on one side or the other of that conflict can’t see it objectively anymore, which is why nothing ever seems to get resolved.
I do not claim to know the solution to the war in Israel: If I did, I could stop writing internet news and start running for President immediately. But it’s clear that compromise has to be part of that country’s future.
The Jews have been unwilling to compromise in many ways. The most recent example has been the building of Jewish settlements in the midst of Palestinian territory. It’s clear that some Israelis feel that Palestinians can eventually be pushed out of the country completely.
The Palestinians were unwilling to compromise at the most recent Israeli-Palestinian talks, when they were offered more concessions than ever before, including a shared Jerusalem. Arafat refused to budge or to put a counter-offer on the table, making it clear that some Palestinian leaders feel that the only way to retain power is to continue the war, while blaming the whole problem on the Jews. Perhaps they, too, hope to drive the other side completely out of the territory.
It’s obvious to objective observers around the world that compromise is necessary, just as it was in South Africa. No one is going to get everything they want nor even everything they deserve.
But here’s the problem: Some Palestinians (maybe many, maybe only a few) are committing the kind of terrorist acts that have been recently directed at the United States. Can a country ever compromise in the face of terrorism? Or must we all, in principle, refuse to negotiate as long as these attacks continue? Israel has already taken an uncompromising stance against terrorism and so has England, with regard to Northern Ireland. We have recently joined these countries in totally denouncing terrorism as being war waged solely upon innocent civilians. The elderly and sick, the mothers and children, are always victims in any war, but terrorists target these people in order to demoralize their opponents.
Demanding an end to terrorism has produced temporary cease fires in England and Israel, but never lasting peace. The terrorists always return, causing us to question their motives. If Palestinians truly wanted peace, surely they would be against the people who set off suicide bombs in pizza parlors. This kind of attack only hardens the Israeli resolve, causing them to back off from peace talks that would benefit both sides.
So what do terrorists really get out of their actions? Personal satisfaction (especially if you brainwash some uneducated young man to do the dirty work, instead of risking your own life). A symbolic gesture against people with greater weaponry, in a David versus Goliath scenario. A chance to bully others–and bullies never pick on people their own size. The September 11th terrorists say they struck a blow against the mighty, imperial United States, but what they actually did was kill over 5,000 unarmed civilians. That’s nobody’s definition of heroism.
We may be facing a future similar to England’s, with their Irish problem, as well as the never ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We know we’ll have to compromise, because no one ever wins a complete victory, unless they kill every last person on the other side, which would be immoral and besides, it’s not possible. But what kind of compromise will be acceptable to the American people after the terrible events of September 11?
I wish I had the answer to that question. I hear that Camp David is comfy, plus they never lose your luggage on Air Force One. But I’m just another writer, trying desperately to figure things out. I suspect the answer lies in giving relief to desperate people in need, if only they will stop supporting the terrorists among them. And we may have to give the relief first, in order to convince them of our sincerity.
Yes, we’ve given Afghanistan $43 million, but that was in exchange for them agreeing not to export the poppies which are made into the heroin that makes its way to our city streets. Now that war is eminent and aid has been cut off, these farmers are starving. The G.I.s of World War II made friends by giving out chocolate and cigarettes. We spent much time and money rebuilding Japan after that war, in order to eliminate their potential as an enemy. But this happened after the guns were all through firing.
In the past, we’ve tried to starve people first so we won’t have to fight them later, as we’ve done with Iraq for years. Can we change our tactics and fight a war with both guns and generosity–at the same time? It’s never been done before, as far as I know.
Bush seems to be trying this because, while denouncing the Taliban government, he’s promised the Afghanistan people $300 million in food aid. If this works, it will be a new and more humane way to wage war, if such a thing is possible. Because the only way to eliminate an enemy is to change their hearts and minds.
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