Notes From Babel

Totten on The Mother of All Quagmires

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Michael Totten has this article on the state of the Middle East and the possibility of a two-state solution. The prognosis is bleak. However, I believe there is some work that has to start in the realm of our ideas and attitudes about the problem. Any hope of solution seems to require at least one necessary condition (aside from the one that Palestinians be capable of creating and maintaining their own nation): that they not be hell-bent on Israel’s destruction.

I’ve heard both points of view articulated: on the one hand, some folks believe that too many Palestinians are determined to fight the smell of Israel to the last breath. On the other hand, others believe that, at bottom, there is no reason that a two-state solution cannot work, no reason that Palestinians and Israelis have to be such bitter enemies. Instead, a great enmity was created by the establishment of Israel, and theexile of Palestinians from their homelands. Subsequent ill-considered wars worsened the problem, prompted increased American support, and resulted in a sour-grapes mentality of epic proportions. Lord knows there was enough historical, geographical, and religious tinder to add to the fire. In short, our support for Israel, however morally necessary, and the wrath it has incurred, proved that it was indeed our historical lack of colonial interests in the Middle East that had previously garnered pro-American sentiment there.

I suppose I believe in the latter position: I do not think that Palestinians are, by nature, hate-mongers or subhuman in some way. Their attitudes and actions are influenced by environment just as anyone else. The line of Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, with the bitter memory of theirexile have, for one reason or another, just not been able to “get over it.” I tend to believe that this is at the root of the Palestinian ‘s refusal to recognize Israel, and the desire to obliterate it. Of course, whatever errors or insensitivities may have been committed, this sentiment is unacceptable. And whatever the merits of our decisions a half century ago, we cannot just walk away now.

I don’t offer any suggestions for how to fix it. But I am always struck by folks who seem to believe that Palestinians are a different kind of animal, untethered to the causal network of ideas and stimuli that act upon the human belief system which shapes world views and defines actions and attitudes. Simply because some among them may act reprehensibly does not excuse us from seeking to understand why they do so, and why those around them seem to tolerate it. We did not do this with the people of Nazi Germany; why should we start here?

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Written by Tim Kowal

February 4, 2009 at 6:45 am

Posted in Middle East, Politics

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