I discussed our goals of going to Palestine in our initial blog. We feel this has been a great trip and we have accomplished our goals. We set out to help individual Palestinians with their medical care, share our knowledge with providers there (this was a two-way street), for father and son to work together for maybe the first and last time, learn about the Palestinian people and Islam, and finally gain insight into the Israel-Palestine conflict.
I also think it has been of value knowing we have some friends following us (over 1200 views in 6 countries) and maybe passing on some of our new insight into the plight of the Palestinians. It is hard to live with them for two weeks and not empathize with their cause. This hotbed will affect all of us, that I am sure. The more we can learn about the middle east the better.
I would like to give a short primer (very condensed version) on my current understanding of the situation of specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I would first start with a disclaimer this is not comprehensive and I am not even close to an expert.
One always has to start with history. Zionism is the concept of a Jewish homeland that Jews all over the world can move to and be safe. There was some writing to make it somewhere else than Palestine. This began in the 1850’s and then clearly defined by an author named Theodor Herzl in 1896. He is very honored in Israel. As we know from biblical history Abraham first settled in this area, moving from I think Ur in current Iraq about 1700 BC. Because of drought he moved to Egypt where the Jews were eventually enslaved and centuries later Moses led them back to the “promised land”. First Nebuchadnezzar then the Romans dispersed the Jewish people to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. After centuries of persecution that only got worse in 19th century Europe and Russian programs (think Fiddler on the Roof) Zionism was born. At first there was a trickle of emigration to this area with buying of land in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. This became a torrent with the worsening persecution in Europe leading up to WWII and eventually the horrors of the holocaust. The Jewish people clearly needed a place to call home and live in peace. Unfortunately there was already someone living there. Britain which controlled most of the middle east at this time had made promises through various documents to both the Jews and Arabs. It started to get quite violent as Britain, Jews, Muslims, fought and WWII raged. Post WWII the newly formed United Nations gave the Jews the right to have their own land which lead to the first Israeli-Arab war. This was a fight by Israel for their existence and they won and annexed much of what was Palestine, forcing many of the Palestinians off their land to make room for the Zionists. Israel was born. Since then more territory was won in the 1967 war (West Bank and Gaza where we were), and in 1973 (Golan). The Palestinians fought back with terror, bombing cafe’s, public buses, weddings with suicide bombers and lobbing missiles into residential areas from Gaza, West Bank and Lebanon. Israel reacted. This lead to the state they are in now basically a lock down.
Unfortunately Zionism continues and all talk of peace has broken down, and new internationally illegal settlements are being built every year in the West Bank and Golan and pushing the Palestinians into ever smaller areas with more and more restrictions. The politics in Israel is very complicated as well with ultra orthodox jews to secular nationalist Zionists that believe all of the current West Bank, Golan, and Gaza is part of Gods “promised land” and want to annex it into Israel. Israel is protecting its citizens but when an incident happens they react very violently and it’s always the innocent that suffer. The last war in 2014 took the life of 2100 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, of which 495 were children and 250 women. Most of the survivors were treated at the hospital we were at in Gaza.
The USA role in the middle east has been nothing short of disastrous. Supporting many ruthless dictators if they were anti-Soviet,(we helped Saddam Hussein, Sadat and Mubarak in Egypt, the Shaw), invading Iraq, financial aid (over 237 billion alone to Israel since 1948), blocking enforcing United Nation resolutions against Israel, and supplying weapons to Israel and other Arab states. The tear gas canisters used to disperse the Arab spring protestors actually said Made in USA on them and our weapons were what was used on the Gazans. Our government is not popular, a stream of broken promises. We have supported Israel in all confrontations except for Eisenhower once in 1956 Suez Canal war.
The conflict between the Palestinians and Israeli is not really a religious war although god is invoked often. It is war over land. It is Israel pushing the Palestinians off the land they have been living on for centuries and treating them as criminals. It is like our manifest destiny against our natives and the current situation President Carter (and I agree) likens to Apartheid in South Africa.
So what is the answer? One state, two states, keep the current situation(not sustainable)? I really don’t know but it is stalemated at present as Israel has the upper hand and is getting more right-winged. It is getting more and more dangerous everywhere in the middle east as religion is becoming radicalized and important in politics in all the Muslim world and in Israel, and if you think about it even in the US. I do think the Palestinians will need outside help from the United Nations and not individual meddling by individual countries but as long as the US, France, Britain, Russia, and China has veto power over all UN sanctions that body will remain impotent.
And this is only one flash point in the middle east. Think Syria and ISIS, and all the Arab spring nations.
The least we can do is hold our government accountable for its actions. Get informed. Interestingly the candidate speaking out the most against Israel’s actions and against the concept of Zionism is Bernie Sanders who is Jewish.
Anyway it is nice to be home. We are still jet lagged.
Spring is here. Wood ducks on my pond. Cacophony of peepers to put me to sleep. Thank you for reading and sharing our experience. I will check from time to time for any feedback but this will be it for my brief writing career. Peace.