Home / Negotiating Middle East Peace and an almost four-year-old

Negotiating Middle East Peace and an almost four-year-old

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People might wonder what those two things have in common: an almost four-year-old child and the ongoing Middle East peace negotiations in Israel.

Well, surprisingly, they have a whole lot. Both are under some assumption that their promises are believable, their actions are without consequences and repetition of poor behavior will be rewarded.

I have grown weary of headlines like “Suicide bomber blasts market in Gaza Strip, five killed, 20 more injured,” and “Israeli forces barrel through occupied territory blasting homes and refugee camps.”

In fact, I am fucking sick of it. Not because it isn’t newsworthy or tragic, but because of its exercise in futility. At what point will either side say “Man, what a damn waste of time this has turned out to be? I wonder what would happen if we actually DID what we SAID we’d do?”

Take Lily for example. I might say to Lily, “Sweetheart, if you throw your toys they might break, or I might take them away.” Lily says, “Okay Mommy, I promise I will NEVER do that again.”

Approximately five minutes later, toy thrown, toy broken, mom mad, toy taken away and ten more minutes of lectures. Lather, rinse, repeat until you die.

Israel says, “Okay Palestinians we are going to pull out of occupied territories and lift restrictions, but you have to promise not to blow us up and act like dicks. Okay?”

Palestinians say, “Okay Israel, we promise.”

Five minutes later more eviscerated remains mixed and mingled on the streets. Again and again and again, and so on and so forth.

I heard a rather insightful commentary about this asswipish display on the radio today, “In summary, both sides spend more time pointing out the failures of the other party than looking internally and focusing on what THEY can do to further the peace process.”

Well damn, no shit, is that right? But then I thought about it. We all do that. I spend twenty minutes complaining about what Lily has done, might do, is contemplating doing and other wastes of energy, rather than focusing on what I CAN DO. Which is to improve the situation from my perspective, like perhaps just ignoring this behavior and watching her get bored with the lack of confrontation and then eventually coming to me and asking what GOOD thing she can do to get my attention, toy, snack, piece of land, joy, love, liberty, whatever.

While certainly we can’t expect the Israeli’s to IGNORE the Palestinians brutish and terrorists acts anymore than we as individuals can ignore specifics actions against us, WHAT we can do is set an example of what is acceptable behavior and sticking with it NO MATTER WHAT.

If the Israelis want peace, and I believe above all people they do, then they must not lower themselves to the contemptible standards of those who oppose them, they must remain neutral and indifferent – exercising their natural tendencies towards peace and keep extending the olive branch – while keeping their anger and retaliation intact. This isn’t Iraq and the Palestinians are nothing more than immature and petulant children who need to be given a firm but gentle hand into the world of civilized behavior.

At least is makes sense to me anyway.

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About Dawn Olsen

  • Eric Olsen

    Tremendous post Dawn: well-written, insightful, draws an important analogy. Bravo!

  • debbie

    Do you not punish your child when she does wrong? Do you just ignore what ever she does? If she took a steak knife out of the drawer and was throwing that would you ignore it? If she decided that she wanted to play with her dolls in the middle of the street….ignore it? I don’t think so.

    The Palestinians are not playing with toys, their behavior is not just “trying”, and it is not just “toys” getting broken. How you can compare your reaction to broken toys and their reaction to “dead people” is beyond me.

    It is not taking the low road to try to protect your citizens and to bring to justice the instigators of these crimes. How do you just ignore suicide bombers blowing up your citizens? Isreal has exercised GREAT restraint in dealing with the Palestinians, they continue to negotiate with them time and time again even after the Palestinians continue to make demands and them not honor their end of the deal. Isreal has ok’d most of everything Palestinians have asked for…how can anyone question whether they want peace or not.

  • By looking at the facts. BOTH sides are at fault. And Israel is not Palestine’s parent, merely (and most unfortunately) its master.

  • Israel could ultimately just completely annihilate the Palestinians – and perhaps that’s what they should do.

    BUT, I guess what I am suggesting, and I really thought I was clear here, that they take a unique and significantly different approach.

    If I were to beat the living daylights out my child everytime they behaved poorly and they continued to behave poorly – who is at fault? I am for not having the sense enough to know that I am not improving the situation but teaching this particular cause and effect. These are people who don’t care about dying. So killing them is rather pointless as a lesson in how to behave.

    Was my analogy that obscure?

    I was thinking more along the lines of what Ghandi did and Martin Luther King did, perhaps the Israelis could challenging the Palestinians to raise their moral standards a little.

    I didn’t say it wasn’t an oversimplification, but is what they are doing now working? Nope. As far as I can tell, they are not setting an example for the Palestinians, they are playing a game of one-upsmanship – and both are losing.

    Look, I find the Palestinians who engage in these deadly acts nothing more than brainwashed vermin, but I know for a FACT, that the Israeli’s do there fair share of antagonizing them with various “in your face” manuevers.

    Let’s face it, the Israelis are smarter, more advanced and further along on the evolution chain morally, they can surely come up with a better way than endless rounds of retalitation, don’t you think?

  • Farther along on the evolution ground, morally?

    I don’t believe that for an instant. The presumption that Israel is better than Palestine is one I find offensive. Bigger and richer and helped by having the US in its pocket (or rather, filling its pockets), but not better, not superior. Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying Palestine is better. I love both equally. The problem is not completely or mostly the making of the Palestinian people. Both sides are at fault. The responsibility to fix things belongs equally to both.

  • debbie

    How do you suggest they deal with it?
    Maybe they should have “sit-ins” or “tea parties” and as long as they invite the Palestinians to play, they won’t continue to blow up their citizens. Maybe that’s all that is needed. Isreal has to play nice – oh but wait, Palestinians don’t want to play with Isreal, they don’t even want them to “exist”! How do you raise “moral” standards of people who’s
    “morals” not only allow but praise people that deliberately (this means on purpose) blow up women and children at shopping malls, bus stations…. What morals do they have to raise????

    What can Isreal do on their part to end the conflict? They’ve already promised the moon to Palestinians, they’ve released terrorist from jail, (not good enough), they’ve agreed to split up their state to create a Palestinian state (not good enough)…. it will never be good enough until Isreal does not exist, that is their ultimate goal. It’s been stated over and over (by them)….not believeing it does not make it go away….

  • debbie

    “The responsibility to fix things belongs equally to both.”

    What have the Palestinians done to fix things? What concessions have they agreed to in the peace talks? What have they agreed to? This was reported from the Associated Press in June of this year:

    A high-level delegation of Egyptian security officials planned to arrive in Gaza on Sunday to meet with Hamas officials to discuss a possible end to attacks.


    check out the above site, it is the CRS Issue Brief for Congress that describes the peace talks.

    However, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who broke off cease-fire talks with the Palestinian leaderhsip a week ago, said Saturday they had no plans to halt attacks on Israel.

    “The word cease-fire is not in our dictionary,” said Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a hard-line Hamas leader. “Resistance will continue until we uproot them from our homeland.”

  • JR

    Since this conflict is over land, perhaps Isreal should stop grabbing more of it.

  • debbie

    If they were left alone they wouldn’t…

    If they weren’t attacked they wouldn’t “grab any more of it”

  • JR


  • JR

    Settlements have continued throughout the cease-fires. This is a great example of what she was talking about in the original post. Israel promises to “be good” if the Palestinians don’t attack them, then Israelis turn around a grab more land.

  • Dawn

    I am sorry to disagree with you Natalie, but Israel is superior in every single possible way over the Palestinian “govt”.

    As a people they may or may not be superior, but as a ruling and governing body they sure as heck are.

    THAT IS THE CRUX OF MY ARGUMENT. Debbie is assuming that I think Israel should offer cookies and ice cream to the Palestinians, which is as ridiculous a characterization of my original idea, as anyone who assumes that all Palestinians want to blow things up.

    Think about this from a diplomatic standpoint, and not from your own personal biases: haven’t we, they, them, everyone TRIED every possible course of action to bring these two parties to peace?

    HELL YES. Israel has made numerous concessions, but they stand with their finger on the “attack” button just waiting for these suicide bombers to bust a move, and a move they will bust.

    So, for all intents and purposes Israel has two options – destroy all Palestinian life that moves – something any peace-loving person who abhor – or go in a totally different direction.

    I stand by my petulant child analysis, this is not an evolved “group mind” of people we are dealing with, but a very limited in scope mentality, one that can only be changed through extreme measures, such as utter destruction – or unilateral peace above and beyond all else. What choice would the Palestinians have but to cease violence if they were met with calm and peaceful understanding. AGAIN, I AM NOT SAYING THAT ISRAEL SHOULD ALLOW THEMSELVES TO BE BLOWN UP. But eventually the higher ground would have to be given to the Israelis and the world court of opinion would crush the PLO and their terrorist organizations with a severe and mighty fist.

    Turn the other cheek doesn’t mean “allow ourselves to be destroyed at all costs” it mean teach through example and offer forgiveness.

    Natalie – I guess there are a few pearls of wisdom in the bible afterall 😉

  • I found a nice paper from an Anglican priest on this very topic, and I don’t think I am taking anything out of context when I post this excerpt (also, check out the “turn the other cheek” really means):

    I am saying that the teachings of Jesus-rather than being dismissed as helplessly naïve – can be of immense help to us in this moment. In order to “up the ante” on what we consider to be the most atrocious and unacceptable behaviors of others we need to understand their own values. In order to respond to them in ways which will cause them shame, cause them to reconsider, and help them to realize that if they continue there will
    be consequences for them that they had not taken into account, we need to know a great deal more than we do now, and we need to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak, as regards our faith. This may be a time when the truths of the things we have chosen to believe will be put to the test, and we must not flinch.


  • My understanding of “turn the other cheek” is indeed what is spoken of in that document. That is why I have spent the vast majority of my life involved in nonviolent civil-disobedience (as Gandhi and King advocated). The idea is not to roll over and do nothing in the face of violence and injustice. I have been stunned when people accused me of being cowardly. No, pacifism is quite the opposite — many believe it is more courageous than being warlike.

    The idea behind TTOC is to do everything you can — without violence — to up the ante, to ensure consequences. For example, if you continue to discriminate against me (IOW to humiliate and dehumanize me), I turn the other cheek — do a nonviolent (which includes word, thought, and deed) public picket or sit-in or whatever that will ensure negative publicity or some other consequence for those who insist upon discriminating. The hope is they will stop their bad behavior. If not, we raise the ante as far as it goes. We never stoop to violence, but if raising the ante gets me killed, they have to deal with the consequences of that.

    My childhood pastor and beloved friend, the Rev. Monsignor Henry Francis Zerhusen — we laid him to rest earlier today — always counseled me that when one is faced with a difficult situation, be it a personal one or something on the level of 9/11, ask yourself what Jesus would do. Then do that. Sounds trite in this time of WWJD bracelets and such, I know, but it works for me. When I put myself at risk while “upping the ante,” I always feel Jesus is linking arms with me and loving all of us, we peaceniks and those who oppose us and those who ever find war acceptable.

    Jesus, I believe, Messiah or no, was the progressive activist.

  • So, this is what you guys were doing the moment I went into the garden to grab some rest? Badmouthing Israel, Jesus, Ghandi… Shame on you!
    Now to be serious: Dawn dear your analogy is clear, yet the relationship is not as between mother and child but as between siblings.
    No, as an Israeli I cannot annoint myself with superior qualities – both Israeli and Palestinians are names of people, and people tend to be non-uniform groups of quite different and unique individuals, who, unless manipulated, all they wish for and dream about is to live in peace and relative well being.
    It is much easier to fight the other when you accept the dictum that you are the superior and hence the other is thy inferior.
    Come and visit Dawn, and I promise to introduce you to some of these mature individuals from both communities.
    Israel is now teeming with activist groups of Israeli and Palestinians who attempt in various ways, to keep the light on. We have extremists here and there, but the majority, the growing majority here and there is all for peace.
    It’s hard to realize this from far away.
    so I’m going to post a manifest written by a group of Holocaust survivors.

  • But what about it Islam? It’s the ONLY religion I know of that sanctions killing just for being of another religion and not converting. Plus in “Palestine,” is Islam not a state religion or if not, won’t they make it that way once they have “their” state?

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    I’m sorry to tell you that your analogy would not work. In fact, if adopted, it would be the most arrogant and foolish of mistakes. This very attitude has been the attitude of much of (but not all of) the “peace” camp and it has led us to the terrible state we are in now.

    To have a better understanding of what goes on here, you would need to visit, as Corinne Hasoferet suggested to you four years ago. But even that window of opportunity may be closing soon.

    Soon a terrible war will occur here that will significantly modify the realities on the ground – how I dare not presume to predict.

  • zingzing

    briana: “[Islam is] the ONLY religion I know of that sanctions killing just for being of another religion and not converting.”

    do you even know what “jihad” means? and have you read up on religion much? it’s history has always been violent, and the christians are no exceptions (just what do you think the inquisition was? the crusades?)

  • Dawn says: If the Israelis want peace, and I believe above all people they do, then they must not lower themselves to the contemptible standards of those who oppose them.

    Ruvy replies: I’m sorry to tell you that your analogy would not work. In fact, if adopted, it would be the most arrogant and foolish of mistakes.

    No further comment necessary

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Mr. West,

    You left out the important part of my comment. I’ll re-add it back so I can rub your nose in reality.

    This very attitude has been the attitude of much of (but not all of) the “peace” camp and it has led us to the terrible state we are in now.

    The peace camp, Mr. West. The kind of people that Corrine haSoferet represented when she wrote here. These are the kind of people who thought it was important to understand the “Palestinian narrative” and to ignore our own; the kind of people who pulled out of South Lebanon and Gaza, who push for a Jew-free Hebron; the kind of people who call observant Jews a cancer in Israel, who call those of us who live in Judea and Samaria a cancer. And what have they brought us to?

    They have brought us to military defeat on the field, a situation where the IDF cannot even afford to go into Gaza because it lacks sufficient ammunition and food. They have brught us within range of missiles from Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, missiles that will destroy hundreds of buildings and kill thousands of people when launched.

    The peace camp that you admire so will bring on death and destruction and tremendous human suffering because of its arrogance and its treason. The “peace camp” will bring us nothing but the peace of the grave.

    No further comment necessary.