Can Israelis and Palestinians co-exist?

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

Even though it does not affect the Philippines directly, the conflict in Palestine and Israel has worldwide consequences. The violence caused by this conflict has begun to escalate way beyond the borders of Gaza and Israel. For example, the Houthi rebels in southern Yemen have begun to send missiles to all ships passing through the Red Sea. This has forced shipping between Asia and Europe to avoid the Red Sea and Suez Canal and take the longer route passing around the tip of Africa.

The story of the conflict between the Palestinian Arabs and the Jewish settlers really started after the Second World War. It was then that most of the Western world were supporting the idea of establishing a Jewish homeland for all the predominantly European Jews who had been subject to persecution by the Nazis of Germany.

Like many others in Europe, the Americas and even Asia, I was personally sympathetic to the establishment of a Jewish homeland. I realize now that a lot of the sympathy was the result of Western propaganda. The book that really influenced me was the historical novel “Exodus” written by Leon Uris. It is basically the story of the war of independence in 1948 when the waves of Jewish migrants coming from Europe were able to drive out the Palestinian Arabs from Palestine.

At that time, Uris portrayed in his book the “birth of a new nation in the midst of enemies.” The Palestinian Arabs were portrayed as enemies rather than as a people that were actually the inhabitants of that land.

The Jewish migrants anchored their claim on the biblical story that they were the original inhabitants of this land called Israel. A new emerging story, however, is that the Western world believed that the only solution to racial prejudice against Jews was to help them establish their own homeland. This was successfully accomplished, except that it was done by driving away Palestinian Arabs who had settled there for centuries.

It is understandable why the Palestinian Arabs believed that the land belonged to them. The result of this conflict was that there were two very different peoples residing virtually next to each other – but not as equals. The Jews retained all the power and the Palestinians had very little economic and political power.

This apartheid situation could not exist forever. There is a story how Moshe Dayan, who was chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, foretold the impossibility of this situation.

It was said that in April 1956, Dayan visited a Jewish settlement near the border of Gaza to attend the funeral of 21-year-old Roi Rotberg who had been murdered the previous morning by Palestinians while he was patrolling the fields. The result was nationwide shock and agony. In his eulogy, Dayan did not attack the horrible cruelty of Rotberg’s killers.

The eulogy of Dayan was remarkably sympathetic towards the Palestinian perpetrators. He said: “Let us not cast blame on the murderers. For eight years, they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza and before their eyes, we have been transforming the lands and the villages where they and their fathers dwelt into our estate.” Dayan was not a supporter of the Palestinian cause. However, it was said that he realized that the Palestinians would never forget the 1948 war where the majority of Palestinian Arabs were driven into exile by the victory of the Jews. Many of the Palestinian Arabs were forcibly relocated to Gaza, including residents of communities that eventually became Jewish towns and villages.

Dayan also said in his eulogy that the Palestinians would never stop dreaming of returning to their homes. He said, “Let us not be deterred from seeing the loathing that is inflaming and filling the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs living around us.”

These words seem to foretell the conflict that has led to thousands of civilians, including children and babies, to suffer horrible death and deprivation.

Today, this conflict has been exacerbated by the fact that the Israel government is led by Netanyahu, whose extreme rightist government believes that Israel can thrive without addressing the Palestinian issue. For Netanyahu, who was facing trial, the conflict in Gaza has given him reason to avoid any election where he is forecast to lose.

The current debate, aside from the ongoing war, is what is the final solution to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict to ensure lasting peace. The American solution is for two states, both independent and existing side by side peacefully without any conflict. This so-called two-state solution assumes that the two peoples can still manage to co-exist peacefully. The other assumption is that the Jews will still be able to stop encroaching on Arab land, and the Palestinian Arabs will give up all their hopes of returning to their homeland.

The Israelis should learn from the warning of Moshe Dayan and stop being deaf to new suggestions of peace.

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Write with us this summer! The annual Creative Writing Workshop of Write Things is scheduled on May 20, 22, 24, 27, 29, 31 from 3-5 pm. It will be a six-day hybrid workshop for kids and teens at Fully Booked BGC and via Zoom. For inquiries: [email protected]

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