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And Finally, They Rise

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Over the weekend, over a dozen Palestinians were killed
while trying to enter Israel from Lebanon and Syria commemorating the day Israel was created 63 years ago. The media jumped on the idea of a third intifada and the possibility of more violence. But what does this mean for the Palestinians and will their efforts be in vain?

In my senior thesis at university, I wrote about Egyptian-Israeli
relations since Egypt became the first country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. My conclusion: the relationship between the two countries would not progress beyond a diplomatic formality until the Palestinian question was solved.

The facts are that when Israel proclaimed itself to be a country a lot of Palestinians either fled because of the ensuing violence or were forced from their homes in what we today call Israel. These refugees continue to be stateless and homeless and have not become integrated in their host countries for reasons both owning to said host countries desire to exploit the Palestinian cause
but also because these Palestinians still desire to one day return to their towns and villages that are located in Israel.

In many of the most recent peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine the “right of return,” as the issue of Palestinian refugees returning to Israel/Palestine is referred, is an oft ignored subject. It’s ignored mainly because Israel refuses to begin any talks if there is any reference to the return of Palestinian refugees. They refuse this because if Palestinian refugees were allowed to return it would tamper with the pleasant majority of Jews living in Israel. And what kind of Jewish state would Israel be if the majority of people living within it’s boundaries were not Jewish?

The protests over the weekend marking the Nakba – or catastrophe in English and the word used to describe the day Israel was created – reignited the question of what will be done with Palestinian refugees if Palestine is declared a state. Will they be allowed to at least return to the state of Palestine? Or will they continue to shoved into refugee camps with little hope of having sovereignty over their lives or futures?

Israel would like to ignore the Palestinian refugee question. They feel that the Arab states that play host to these communities should bear the responsibility for their future – meaning do what Jordan has done and give them nationalities. While Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt should have done this a long time ago if they actually had sympathy for the Palestinians as people rather than as a political tool, these countries are not ultimately responsible for their refugee status. They did not create the situation (Israel’s creation), they did not ask for it to be created, and they certainly did not create the cause (the Holocaust) for many European Jews to feel compelled to create their own state.

Holocaust denial in the Middle East is something that angers a lot of people in the West, particularly those of course who lost everything during this horrific period in the world’s history. However, it is not surprising in a region where illiteracy rates are high and education quality low to expect people to know their own regional history much less the history of Europe. Or to somehow overcome educational systems run by governments for whom it is advantageous to distract their populations with another enemy – Israel – by taking away the sympathy for the country’s creation.

But for those who do know the facts around the Holocaust, the general feeling is – the Holocaust was a European problem with a Middle Eastern solution.

It would be inaccurate to say that Jews in the Middle East and Africa never faced discrimination – but it would be inaccurate to say that Jews from the Middle East and Africa suffered anywhere near the amount as those living in Europe or Russia. While many Jews were expelled or indirectly forced to leave their native countries following the creation of Israel, this was much more a protest to the creation of Israel than any inherent anti-Semitism.

While we’re on the subject of anti-Semitism, Semite means person of Middle Eastern descent, not just Jews.

So what will happen next? Probably Israel is going to make a bunch of noise about how their security is paramount to any possible Palestinian state (how arrogant is that to consider you’re own security more important than an entire populations right to freedom and sovereignty?), Netenyahu will talk about Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East (it’s not democratic to hold a population hostage like in Gaza or destroy freedom of movement like in the West Bank), America will veto any UN resolution chastising Israel’s actions in killing unarmed protesters, talking heads will babble about a possible third Intifada, the American Jewish lobby will perpetuate the fear of violence and threaten any American politician who dares to go against Israeli interests with withholding campaign donations, and if any Palestinian dares to so much as throw a pebble, Israel will declare that this is irrefutable evidence that Palestinians are little more than terrorists and and that Israel has justification for occupying the West Bank and Gaza.

Hopefully, the wave of revolutions consuming the Middle East will provide more context and sympathy for the Palestinian cause. Hopefully these revolutions will frame the Palestinian cause as a fight for freedom and democracy rather than as mere violent tendancies.

There is a lot of hope riding on the renewed cooperation on Fatah and Hamas and their ability to receive UN recognition of a Palestinian state in September. If that doesn’t happen, well, you can never predict what hopeless people will do.

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About Catherine Manfre

  • suter

    asking : if the mexicans comming on the fenced border with the usa and throwing stones at the soldiers and entering the us by force like some lebanese and syrian done at Nakba day, what the us soldiers would have done ? i tell you.
    the open fire and shot.
    bad think that israel never learn , if , there will not be other accidends like that . israel have the rigth to defent hes borders agains all intervention and that was a forced border crossing from some stupid arabs
    so shut next time , the whole world would done it in that case

  • http://mekancatherine.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    Besides the fact that your comment is extremely offensive and racist, the Mexican analogy is innacurate. The Palestinians that rushed the Israeli borders are refugees originating from what is now called Israel. These people are from towns and villages within Israel’s current borders and are not allowed back in by Israel. A better example actually would be Native Americans coming out of their current reservations and requesting the land they lived on in the early 1800s or earlier back. Except of course, that the Native Americans actually have treaties with the American government whereas the Palestinians have no such right.

    And also, no, not all countries would not shoot at unarmed protesters – even if they were literally knocking down a border fence. Would they be arrested? Yes. Deported? Absolutely. Generally not shot though.

    I would strongly reccomend reading Jimmy Carter’s “Peace Not Apartheid” as its a great introduction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    There is so much lack of understanding of the issues – and sadly, said lack is found on both sides. As you pointed out, there is a great deal of illiteracy that has made Holocaust denial a valid issue there, yet here in America there is so much blind and unquestioning support of Israel that most Americans are completely unaware of what Israel’s been doing that is not only wrong, but uncomfortably similar to the earliest Jewish “ghettoes” that cropped up in Medieval times.

    And until both sides are willing to properly educate their citizens about the realities of history, I see no possibility of a lasting and peaceful accord.

  • Cannonshop

    Of COURSE there is a complete absence of understanding, Glenn, it’s the bloody MIDDLE EAST, and it’s between Jews, and Muslims, the Jews don’t want to experience Dhimmitude, the Muslims don’t want to acknowledge that Jews are human beings with an inherent right not to be enslaved, killed, beaten, robbed, etc.

    that whole zone MUST belong to some ‘god’, no human being can live there long, and remain sane.

  • http://mekancatherine.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    Glenn – Yes the understanding certainly reaches both ways. The best way to really understand is to visit and interact with the other, however fear generally keeps this from happening.

    Cannon – Au contraire. First, it was not Arabs or Muslims who were the root cause of Israel’s creation (see Holocaust). Second, having lived in the Middle East for the past three years, most Arabs do not have issue with Jews or Judaism as a religion. They have an issue with a group of outsiders taking over a piece of Arab land and expelling a large population of them (Palestinians). The reasons for this anger over the creation of Israel till now are twofold – one because of the experience of colonialism that the entire Middle East and ramifications of which are still being felt and two because in Arab culture much more so than “Western” culture, land is the foundation of your heritage. Of course, there is also the refugee issue and the fact that millions of Palestinians have neither country nor citizenship. Can you imagine being confined to an area the size of Delaware and not being able to leave?

  • Clavos

    So, Catherine, the Arabs (including the Palestinians) only want land; they aren’t interested in exterminating the Jews? If we herd the Jews into a postage stamp of land, like the Palestinians currently are forced to live on, all the Arabs, including the Palestinians, will leave the Jews alone, without attempting to further subjugate them or eliminate them?

    Hmm. I wonder why the Jews don’t buy that?

  • http://mekancatherine.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    Yes. And it’s not the Jews that aren’t buying it, it’s the Israelis – there is a difference between the religion and the citizenry of Israel. Palestinians don’t want to exterminate anyone, in fact when Jews first came to Israel in the 1930s and 1940s they helped many of them survive on the land, showing them how to farm, and even provided security.

    Let’s not forget the large Jewish communities that existed in most Middle Eastern countries up until the founding of Israel. It wasn’t Utopia or anything – every group has its problems with outsiders, see Ground Zero mosque controversy or Florida Qur’an burner – but it wasn’t anything coming close to the pogroms of Russia or the Holocaust.

    So yes I think if the Palestinians are given a state the anger and violence will subside and eventually there will be two peacefully coexisting states. Have you ever talked to a Palestinian?

  • Clavos

    it’s not the Jews that aren’t buying it, it’s the Israelis – there is a difference between the religion and the citizenry of Israel.

    Not much of one; Judaism is the de facto state religion, and more than 75 percent of Israelis are Jewish.

    Palestinians don’t want to exterminate anyone…

    Really? Not Hamas, not the PLO, not the PFLP, or Abu Nidal? According to the Israelis, Palestinians have killed 3500 Israelis since 1948, and wounded 25,000.

    So yes I think if the Palestinians are given a state the anger and violence will subside…

    Ah. You think that if the Palestinians get their way, they’ll leave the Israelis alone. Unfortunately, the historical evidence says otherwise, so it’s no wonder that Netanyahu didn’t like Obama’s “proposal.” If I were an Israeli, I would trust the Palestinians (or Obama) about as far as I could throw either of them.

  • zingzing

    “According to the Israelis, Palestinians have killed 3500 Israelis since 1948, and wounded 25,000.”

    shit… we can pull off that shit in a day. are we out to exterminate anyone? and since 1948, how many palestinians have been killed by israelis? (both sides need to get spanked.)

    “If I were an Israeli, I would trust the Palestinians (or Obama) about as far as I could throw either of them.”

    and if you were a palestinian, or obama, you’d trust the israelis about as much.

  • http://mekancatherine.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    Clavos – Actually there is a HUGE difference between being Jewish and being Israeli. It’s say the difference between being American and being Christian. And also, much less than 75 percent of Israel is Jewish.

    No, Hamas is not bent on destroying Israelis – they do not agree that Israel as a state should exist. Also, Israel has probably killed that many Palestinians in the last ten years alone. Do you have any idea how many children were killed in the last incursion into the Gaza Strip alone? Are you telling me children should be punished for the aggressions of their parents?

    Okay I take back the verb “think.” I am sure that if given a state Palestinians will want to live in peace. They have never been given a state so you can’t point to a point in time and say – see we were nice to them and they still attacked us.

    If someone pushes you, generally you push back. And you didn’t answer my question – have you ever talked to a Palestinian? Or even better – have you ever driven through the West Bank or visited East Jerusalem to see the conditions Palestinians are forced to live in? I have.

  • Clavos

    Actually there is a HUGE difference between being Jewish and being Israeli.

    Not according to the population data published by the Israeli government.

    You’re wrong about the population of Israel, Catherine; here is data from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics:

    On the eve of its 63rd Independence Day, Israel’s population stood at 7,746,000, according to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Some 5,837,000 of the population (75.3 percent) are Jewish Israelis, 1,587,000 (20.5%) are Israeli Arabs and those not identified as either make up the remaining 4.2% of the population, or 322,000 people. (emphasis added)

    No, Hamas is not bent on destroying Israelis…

    Really? In your own words:

    …they do not agree that Israel as a state should exist.

    And in service to that “belief,” they’ve been killing Israelis for decades.

    Are you telling me children should be punished for the aggressions of their parents?

    Parents are responsible for the well being and safety of their children. If Palestinian children have died as a direct result of their parents having put them in harm’s way, those parents should be brought to justice and punished for jeopardizing their kids.

    Your attitude towards Israel and its people appears to be nothing but a continuation of the persecution the Jewish people have suffered at the hands of the rest of the world for millenia.

  • http://mekancatherine.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    Oh see I consider those living under Israeli occupation to also be part of the census.

    I consider the last sentence of your comment to be a personal attack. I have nothing at all against the people of Israel, just against the actions of its government.

    Since it is quite obvious to me that you won’t agree with anything I have to say I see this argument as futile, which is fine because I acknowledge that these are controversial views in America.

    I will only ask the two questions (the only ones I believe I asked) that you didn’t answer: have you ever talked to a Palestinian? Or even better – have you ever driven through the West Bank or visited East Jerusalem to see the conditions Palestinians are forced to live in?

  • Clavos

    Oh see I consider those living under Israeli occupation to also be part of the census.

    Where in the census report I quoted above is there an indication that they’re NOT counted? My point, in any case, was (and is) that 75 percent of the total population is Jewish. Whether you agree with it or not, it IS a “Jewish country” by virtue of that fact.

    In answer to your questions, no, I have never talked to a Palestinian. Nor have I ever talked to an Israeli, or for that matter a Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi, or Saudi. I’ve never talked to a Nigerian either, but I know better than to fall for one of their email scams.

    As far as Palestinians’ living conditions: I’m Mexican, I’ve seen plenty of poverty and subjugation to the point of near slavery in a supposedly “free,” Western country — why do you think they keep pouring over the border here, grateful to work for far less than an American would?

    Palestinians are not unique in the world, and there is no good reason why they should gain what they want by taking it from the Israelis.

    As for your accusation of my having attacked you personally, again you’re wrong; I did not attack you, I addressed my perception of the appearance of your attitude. Attitudes and opinions are exactly what we discuss and argue over in these Politics threads, and I might remind you that you came perilously close to a personal attack yourself, upthread, when you categorized suter’s comment as being racist, but didn’t because you attacked suter’s comment, not the individual.

  • http://mekancatherine.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    I enjoy being wrong. Keep em’ coming :)

    But regarding those living under occupation I was referring to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    Palestinians are unique in that they do not have a country.

    Talking to people from other countries is the only way to gain insight into issues that goes beyond reading news articles.

    Again, I strongly recommend reading Jimmy Carter’s book as it gives a really great overview of the entire conflict as well as unique impressions on the peace process.

  • http://mekancatherine.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    Okay so I just re-read your comment and wanted to address one thing. I of course have no idea how much you know about this issue – for all I know you could be a leading scholar in Israeli-Palestinian affairs. So this next few sentences is made with the assumption that you’re not – and the only reason I’m going through this effort is because this issue is very controversial but extremely important to the region I live in (I live in Egypt).

    I understood from your previous comment, that you had the idea that the Palestinians wanted to take something from Israel that is rightfully Israel’s.

    First in 1948, the UN resolution that divided what was then known as the British Mandate of Palestine was supposed to create two states – one for Israel and one for Palestine. The Palestinian state was never created for a long list of reasons that would take a book.

    After a few wars, Israel captured much more territory, the farthest of which in terms of West Bank was in 1967. These are the borders that are being referred to by Obama most recently, and have been generally accepted by the Palestinian Authority and previous Israeli presidents as being the basis for a state of Palestine.

    Hamas aside, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has worked very hard to make a Palestinian state a reality. The Palestinians are not asking for anything more than any person in any country already has – a state and citizenship. This probably won’t solve all their problems but it would be a start.

    So if I misunderstood you’re comment about Palestinians taking something from Israel I apologize but that is how I interpreted it.

    Just a question for thought: if Israel is a Jewish state simply because 75% of the people living within the borders of the state are Jewish, is America a Christian state? And if it is, then how do we address our belief in freedom of religion and expression?

  • zingzing

    clavos: “Palestinians are not unique in the world, and there is no good reason why they should gain what they want by taking it from the Israelis.”

    oh, there’s a damn good reason. don’t tell me you don’t know what it is.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Where’s Ruvy? I’m really surprised he’s not all over this. I hope nothing happened to him.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Catherine –

    Keep it going – you’re slapping Clavos around the ring…not that he’ll admit it, of course.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Glenn, he’s fine as far as I know, but his writing and commenting privileges at Blogcritics have been withdrawn. For further information, please inquire of BC management.

  • Clavos

    Catherine,

    The Palestinian state was never created for a long list of reasons that would take a book.

    So now, the USA, in the person of Barack Obama, wants to give back territory to the Palestinians — territory which has been Israeli for more than four decades. This initiative is a slap in the face of one of the country’s staunchest allies and frankly, none of America’s business.

    It’s ironic (and more than a little hypocritical) that America’s “progressives” (there’s a misnomer!) bemoan their country’s involvement in wars in the Middle East, deriding that involvement as the US meddling in internal affairs which are none of its business, but in this instance they’re all for meddling. Sauce for the goose, etc. True, the Israelis took the disputed territory by force, but if the Palestinians should be given that territory back, what then happens to the identical claim of all the indigenous peoples in North, Central and South America who likewise had their lands taken from them by force by those same magnanimous Americans who want to force Israel to relinquish its land (and by doing so, place itself in a very precarious position in terms of its security).

    Let’s remove all the white people from the Americas and right the wrongs here in this hemisphere first. Send all the whites back to Europe (I’m sure the Europeans will love that), and all the blacks back to Africa, Again, sauce for the goose and all that.

    You ask:

    Just a question for thought: if Israel is a Jewish state simply because 75% of the people living within the borders of the state are Jewish, is America a Christian state?

    It lays claim to that, and the majority of its population self-identifies as “Christian,” so yes. Its behavior over the past 200+ years belies its claimed christian status, however. In any case, as an atheist, I really don’t care what the US calls itself in terms of religion, they are all nonsensical to me — Christianity more than most — particularly in the USA, which is decidedly un-Christian in its behavior to the rest of the world.

  • zingzing

    “This initiative is a slap in the face of one of the country’s staunchest allies and frankly, none of America’s business.”

    while i really don’t care about the former, i somewhat agree with the latter. unfortunately, that doesn’t matter. we’ve made it our business for a long while now, and it is what it is. the very existence of israel is undoubtedly a point of contention that spreads its effects around the world. so even if we should just butt out and let all those involved just hate on and destroy each other, that’s not going to happen.

    “It’s ironic (and more than a little hypocritical) that America’s “progressives” (there’s a misnomer!) bemoan their country’s involvement in wars in the Middle East, deriding that involvement as the US meddling in internal affairs which are none of its business, but in this instance they’re all for meddling.”

    it’s also ironic (and more than a little hypocritical) that america’s “conservatives” (talk about a misnomer…) demand that we bomb and destroy random middle east countries for no good reason (and then they actually do just that), but when it comes to meddling in israel (to broker peace, no less), they (or at least some of them) take the stance that it’s “none of our business.”

    that the conservatives are more interested in destruction (or at least believe that’s the business they’re in,) than in creating and maintaining peace is a sad, sad thing.

  • Clavos

    america’s “conservatives” (talk about a misnomer…) demand that we bomb and destroy random middle east countries for no good reason (and then they actually do just that), but when it comes to meddling in israel (to broker peace, no less), they (or at least some of them) take the stance that it’s “none of our business.”

    When’s the last time you saw me advocate bombing or destroying any middle eastern country, zing?

    If I were inclined to destroy, I much prefer destruction from within — without the use of explosives.

  • zingzing

    “When’s the last time you saw me advocate bombing or destroying any middle eastern country, zing?”

    ah, so now you’re a conservative? i thought you weren’t. or was it republican? that you weren’t. aren’t. oh, i get so confused. your way of sloughing skins (you mexican who votes in american elections but is not american,) is a magnificent political ability, and only you are able to get away with it.

    if you are not a republican, but are a conservative, i think you’d find many conservatives that would find you not to be one. or maybe you’re a “real” conservative or a “classical” liberal.

    you exist in a murk, clavos, so consider yourself part of my qualifier in that bit you quote. but consider that many qualifiers are usually needed to describe an individual and the groups that you are grouped into are rarely homogeneous.

    you can’t say anything about “progressives” that can’t be thrown right back at “conservatives” because people are combined into these groups with a great amount of randomness.

    you probably believe many of the things i believe on a social level. we disagree on economics and this president. both of those things are very small when it comes to effecting your life. social stuff, however, can greatly affect your life. the shit americans (if you’ll consider yourself one for the moment) fight over is so small, yet we think it’s the most divisive thing ever. we just think the money should be spent differently. that’s about all it is. hopefully, money doesn’t run our lives.

    hrm. i’ll just let that ramble end there.

  • http://mekancatherine.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    Clavos – I just want to clarify one thing. Obama nor anyone else is talking about giving back any land to the Palestinians that “should” be Israeli. Under international law, and based on the recognition of countries around the world, the border of Israel is only recognized to be the 1967 boundaries (it actually may be the 1948 boundaries – I’m not sure on this point). But the point is, the land the Palestinians are asking for is NOT Israeli – not under international law, not by the recognition of world countries. The only land that could possibly be considered somehow “Israeli” is Jerusalem which is a HUGE point of contention within negotiations. Personally, I think Jerusalem should remain international territory which is what it is under international law right now. I don’t think a city as historically and religiously significant as Jerusalem should be cut in half – or ruled by one or the other party.

  • Clavos

    “…the land the Palestinians are asking for is NOT Israeli…”

    Reconquista.

  • Leroy

    IMO it will be several years before we even see the outlines of a solution, so we will have to persevere and try to survive as best possible.

  • http://mekancatherine.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    Reconquista? By Israel, yes they’re trying.

  • Clavos

    Reconquista? By Israel, yes they’re trying.

    Um, no. You have it backwards, but that’s OK, it’s a liberal trait, like knee jerks.

    Israel has already claimed (and now owns) the disputed land; it’s the Palestinians who are attempting to reclaim it.

  • Leroy

    Aren’t the Palestinians and Israelis alike trying to steal the land from the Semmites (or someone like that)?

  • http://mekancatherine.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    Nope I have it frontwards. And thank you for judging all of my thoughts and opinions on an assumption of my political preference.

    How exactly does one legally go about claiming and owning land? Because by international law – note the law part – Israel does not own that land. The settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal any which way you turn it – backwards, frontwards, upside down, and rightside up.

    Much of the land that the barrier Israel is erecting between Israel and the West Bank is mostly on privately owned Palestinian land. Isn’t belief in private property rights a conservative idea?

  • zingzing

    “Isn’t belief in private property rights a conservative idea?”

    israel has a way of turning politics upside-down. it’s weird how clavos can write that israel claimed the disputed land, without ever thinking that palestine ever claimed it (or ever stopped claiming it). and it’s weird how he’s all for the greatest example of western meddling in the middle east (what else is it, really?), yet now says it’s not our business to meddle in the middle east.

    israel is the world’s most amazing mindfuck. and we did it to ourselves.

  • Clavos

    Israel didn’t claim the land, they took it — just like the US did with all (yes all) of its land.

    So, if Israel should morally give back the land they took…

    La Raza are waiting…

  • Clavos

    thank you for judging all of my thoughts and opinions on an assumption of my political preference.

    Haven’t has to assume anything, you’ve made your “political preference” abundantly clear through your writing on this site, as have most (if not all) of us.

  • http://mekancatherine.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    Given the fact that I have written two articles and just a spattering of comments I find it hard to believe that you could have put together an accurate assessment of my line of political thought. My views on the Middle East come from nothing either party has to say on the subject as I think both of them just talk a lot of crap. My views come from studying the Middle East in university and living in the region.

    I never said anywhere that I supported Americans in the colonial period taking over this land either. My ancestors weren’t in America then so I’m not going to apologize for this, but just because America did something doesn’t make it right for another country to do the same thing.

    And as long as we’re on the subject, America did (eventually) sign a treaty with Native American tribes something Israel has yet to do. Another thing, the Native American population had vastly shrunk (yes, I recognize no thanks to settlers at the time) but the Palestinian one has not – in fact they have higher population growth than their Jewish Israeli counterparts. Not to mention the fact that there is the very large and not often discussed issue of Palestinian refugees. What is your proposal for them?

  • Leroy

    Maybe we can convince the Israelis to allow Palestinians to open gambling casinos on some fragments of Palestinian lands as a sop.