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A New Beginning: Separate But Equal

In the winter of 2002, I met with my Republican Congressman to discuss several issues that concerned me and my listeners at WCUR. My Congressman at the time was a member of the Armed Forces Committee and bragged about his foreign policy knowledge. I asked him if America should be involved in trying to create peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people. He told me that it wasn’t America’s concern and that they can handle their own problems. Two weeks later, the Israeli and Palestinian conflict exploded to front page news on almost every newspaper in the world and it continued to grab the headlines for the months that followed. This conflict is still the central conflict in the so called “war on terror.”

There is no doubt that Al Qaeda gets a large amount of recruiting mileage out of claims of hardship and struggle suffered by the Palestinian people at the hands of “evil Israeli oppressors.” And so the stage was set for Barack Obama’s big Cairo speech on Thursday. After listening to his hour long speech, I understood what he was doing. Obama’s speech was an attack on Osama bin Laden and sought to seriously limit the ability of Al Qaeda to recruit more foot soldiers. In fact, Obama’s speech may even cause some of the current members of Al Qaeda to loose faith in the Al Qaeda mission and to defect (possibly providing us with valuable intelligence).

In that context, it was a good speech. I however had wished that he had mentioned other religious aside from the Abrahamic faiths when talking about diversity. It would have also been nice if he had talked about those who don’t hold faith-based beliefs. And while I am glad that our President quoted from the Treaty of Tripoli, I wish he would have reiterated what he said in Turkey about how America is not a Christian nation.  Instead, it seemed from Obama’s speech that America is a Christian nation, Israel is Jewish nation, and the people of the Middle East are Muslims. This perception only reinforces the Crusade mentality which we are trying hard to dismiss.

But my biggest issue with Obama’s speech was this continued insistence to “stay the course” with the “two state solution.” When I first heard about the two-state solution plan, it seemed reasonable enough, but after much conversation with those in and out of the military and a great deal of though on the topic, it became clear that such a solution would only escalate the problem after a short respite. Instead of a conflict, we would be setting the stage for a war between two nation-states.

When two groups of people have such hate and distrust for each other, separating them out for anything less than a brief cease-fire only serves to foster distrust and hate. Only with a one state solution in which the Israeli and Palestinian people are forced to live side by side as neighbors will they be able to get to know each other as people who have the same hopes and needs as they do. Such a bold plan would certainly be more difficult, but it would also have a more long lasting effect which would create stability in the region and in the world.

Another aspect of this conflict that Obama failed to approach is that there are lots of people in the world that don’t want there to be peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people. There are religious fanatics in the world who believe that war between these two parties is a sign of the End of Days. And while most reasonable people might see the end of the world as a bad thing, these religious extremists on both sides see it as a glorious day in which their savior (Jesus or Mohammad) will return to take all the “real” Muslims or “real” Christians to Heaven. Osama bin Laden is one of those extremists and so he does not want peace. Al Qaeda does not want peace and neither did the Bush Administration.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/itsahicke Her3tiK

    Can someone explain to me why we still care about Israel’s well being? If they didn’t turn into assholes as soon as they moved there I doubt we’d have problems of this magnitude. If we were really interested in peace, we’d tell Israel to get back within its original borders and stop harassing their neighbors. And then stop giving them our weapons.
    I’m honestly surprised nobody’s threatened to flatten them for the atrocities they’ve committed. Aside from the defenseless Palestinians, at least.

  • Tomkinson

    Her3tik knows absolutely nothing about this issue

    Obama’s speech was factually incorrect, intellectually dishonest, patronizing, hypocritical in the EXTREME, self-serving and stupid. I would expect nothing less from the man. But it was conciliatory and respectful so I ask you this Staks:

    Why do you take issue with atheists who approach Christianity in the same way if you liked Obama’s speech? In other words by your rationale Obama should have said “You are all a bunch fucking idiots that believe in an invisible man in the sky, quit persisting in your primitive delusions so we can get on with world peace and prosperity” Even I was disgusted by the level of express religiosity in his speech how can you honestly find anything redeeming about it?

    To Her3tik: What atrocities are you talking about? You obviously know NOTHING about Israel. I don’t have the time to educate your feeble mind but I’ll ask you a question. Why is there only only a Palestinian refugee problem in the Middle East and not a Jewish one?

    • http://www.myspace.com/itsahicke Her3tiK

      Sounds like someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed…

      I’m not sure what you’re definition of an atrocity is, but I’d say the 1967 war/imperialistic land grab was rather uncalled for. Never mind the fact they’ve been ignoring a UN sanction (cuz we’ve never done that…) demanding that they return the land the unjustly conquered from the Palestinians to their rightful owners.
      The use of white phosphorus against civilian targets is classified as a war crime, so I guess that could be what I’m referring to as well. As is denying much needed aid to the Gaza Strip, responding to a few poorly aimed rocket attacks with a horrific assault that ever so conveniently happened to end the day before Bush was officially removed from power, further encroaching on Palestinian land via settlements while still calling them the insurgents, the overall brutal treatment of said Palestinians on a daily basis, and so on. Am I missing something or does none of this manage to constitute your definition of an atrocity?

      • Tomkinson

        The white phosphorus incident is a well known canard. Apparently not well known enough to make retard awareness. But just for the sake of argument; how many were killed by this “atrocity” vs what it was a response to?

        Denying Aid!? Do you know last year the U.S. and its allies wasted nearly 900 million on these people, did Israel block them? Israel blocked U.S. aid, really?!

        You never answered my original question but I’ll ask another anyway for fun.:

        In 2000 Israel offered ALL of Gaza, 96% of the West Bank plus land in Israel that was mostly Arab to make up for the 4% heavily settled by Jews, Right of return for ALL Palestinians that could make an even semi-verifiable claim to land in Israel, Jerusalem as their capitol,oh and 30 Billion in compensation for refugees. Why didn’t Arafat accept this offer even though he was enthusiastically pressured to do so by Saudi Arabia? I can’t wait to hear your excuse

        Oh and Staks please respond to my evisceration of you in the “discrimination” thread

        • http://www.myspace.com/itsahicke Her3tiK

          Is there a reason you need to resort to juvenile insults? It makes responding to you seem rather pointless; like debating evolution with a fundie. Similar reaction too. Not that that discredits images and reports of chemical burns in the hospitals at all.

          You mean the aid given to Gaza after Israel’s uncalled for retaliation? I’d imagine it went unblocked because the US happens to supply Israel with obscene amounts of weapons, and thus they don’t want to piss of their arms donor, but I’m not the one making the decisions for either government. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that living conditions in Gaza are rather atrocious in general, even before the war.

          Well, given what exactly was offered (a four part Palestinian nation, separated from Gaza, and largely connected via roads through Israel that could be closed by anything deemed by Israel to be an “emergency”), I’d be rather slow to accept such a proposal as well. Allowing your (rather unfriendly) neighbor to cut you off from other parts of your country isn’t something most people would be to pleased about now, is it? It is also to my understanding that Arafat’s term was coming to an end, so perhaps he preferred to leave the decision to his replacement.
          All in all, you’d be surprised what over thirty years of oppression does to your desire to cooperate with someone.

          In response to your original question; The region in question is considered holy by both peoples, given to them by their respective gods. Thus, we have one group of people, Israel, who moved in and took said “holy land” from the Palestinians, who now refuse to move because A) it was kinda their land first, regardless of which deity gave it to whom, and B) they insist their deity gave it to them. Jewish migrants/refugees from the region have a place their more than willing to go to rebuild their lives, whereas the Palestinians refuse to leave and would rather continue the ancient religious/cultural war between Jews and Muslims.

    • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

      I’m sorry, where did I say that I “take issue with atheists who approach Christianity in the same way if you liked Obama’s speech?” I think you have me confused with someone else. I wrote two blogs where go back to back about the good cop/bad cop approaches from Christians and atheists. I suggest you read it again. I do think a bad cop mentality would help in the middle east and I fully support someone giving such a speech. Obama is not that person. But it would be great if he would have at least acknowledged that some people don’t believe. That would a least have set the stage for bad cop atheists to give that perspective. I do find it interesting that you seem o hate everything Obama says and does simply because he says and does them. You will no doubt claim that either I love everything he says or does or that I hated everything Bush said and did. But such claims would not be accurate since there are plenty of occasions where I have criticized Obama (including in this blog entry) and a few occasions where I praised something that Bush said or did (although admittedly not many).
      -Staks

    • existential blues

      Do you think Israel has ever done a single wrong thing, and that every last complaint of the Palestinians is utterly baseless? That there are no issues at all, in any way, with the settlements? that if a deal was put on the table 9 years ago, and the other side walked away, that it marks the end of negotiations forever after, even though the guy who was on the other side is now dead?

      > “You are all a bunch fucking idiots that believe in an invisible man in the sky, quit persisting in your primitive delusions so we can get on with world peace and prosperity”

      Obama claims to be a Christian. Do you think he’s lying? In any case, his job is to make political progress, not rhetorical points.

  • Tomkinson

    To answer the third person first:

    “Do you think Israel has ever done a single wrong thing, and that every last complaint of the Palestinians is utterly baseless?”

    No, I, like Obama, think expansion of the settlements on the West Bank is unwise and Israel has made other missteps but I’d say its easily 80-20 for Israel. There are at least 3 other factors at work that put me strongly in Israel’s camp.

    1. When Israel or, more typically, Israelis, do something terrible, e.g. Deir Yassin, it is roundly condemned and Israel takes steps to prevent future occurrences. Palestinians honor the slaughter of Jewish innocents. Find me a single Israeli newspaper, TV station etc. that praised Baruch Goldstein.

    2. Most of the overreactions by Israel are the EXPECTED outcome of actions undertaken by the Palestinians or Arab states that deliberately provoke Israel into its aggression just so they can play on the sympathies of naive outsiders who know little of the situation.

    3. Do we really want yet another Muslim State in the region? Isn’t it good that Israel is secular and respects the rights of gays, women, religious and ethnic minorities UNLIKE EVERY OTHER MUSLIM STATE?

    “Obama claims to be a Christian. Do you think he’s lying? In any case, his job is to make political progress, not rhetorical points.”

    I hope Obama is lying at least I hope he doesn’t believe the Afrocentric mythology taught at his Church, like the “fact” Africans settled America first. He was an agnostic until his political opportunism made him join a Mega-Church so you tell me.

    As for political progress that’s just a joke ALL OBAMA EVER DOES IS MAKE RHETORICAL POINTS!!!!!!!!!! If he was concerned about political progress he wouldn’t have humored the Saudis and their subordination of their people or Egypt which is sliding further and further into autocracy all the while Obama is CUTTING funding to pro-democracy groups in these areas and completely ignoring the efforts of genuine responsible activists who aim to improve the provincial court systems so even if they are ruled by autocrats, at a local level there will be some semblance of freedom.

    “I do find it interesting that you seem o hate everything Obama says and does simply because he says and does them.”

    I don’t hate everything Obama does but he has for the most part been a disaster, although to be fair no President, certainly in my lifetime, has had to deal with anything close to what he’s had to deal with. The things he’s done that I like are most often contrary to his campaign promises and are things Clinton/McCain/Romney would have done leaving me in the uncomfortable position of having to praise someone for lying. I was appalled by his keynote speech in 2004 and I am still getting over the shock that this phony clown is President. Bush was a bad president and a bad speaker, Obama is a bad president but a good speaker which is infinitely more dangerous.

    As for your proposed solution Staks, assuming its not tongue in cheek, it would be an untenable disaster. First of all we already have an example of a binational state in the region, Lebanon. That’s Chomsky’s example when he makes your proposal, is Lebanon really a success? Second The issue NOBODY talks about is that Hamas is at war with Fatah, there’s been thousands of casualties and NO signs of rapprochement between the 2 groups. Fatah, the saner of the 2 organizations yet none the less still pledged to the destruction of Israel, even gave Israel targeting info during this winter’s operations in Gaza. Is Fatah then complicit in these alleged atrocities??

    Imagine if New Jersey and Ohio contained warring factions of people both lead by groups pledged to the destruction of Pennsylvania, routinely rocketing and conducting suicide bombings in Pennsylvania and who were allied with New York, Delaware, and Virginia all of whom vowed wipe Pennsylvania off the map and repeatedly attempted to do so. Would it make any sense for PA to unify with NJ and OH?

    To Her3tik I’ll refrain from juvenile insults, I’m deeply offended when people expound upon important subjects they know nothing about. It is clear from the vague generalities of your comments you are not that familiar with this issue. I would suggest you start by reading the history of the region and disabuse yourself of the idea that Jews simply moved in and “took” the holy land. You need to study the history of Israel but a few quick points:

    1. The aliyahs began LONG, LONG before Hitler came to power.

    2. There where either plurality or majority Jewish cities in Israel that had been there since antiquity including Tiberias, Hebron, Safad oh yeah and Jerusalem. Most other modern Israeli cities were founded on empty land in modern times like Tel Aviv in 1909.

    3. The modern State of Israel was founded by secular Jews like David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann not religious nutjobs.

    4. The original modern Israel was majority Jewish when it was ceded by the Brits in part for Jewish allegiance in WWI and WWII (yes I know about the Irgun).The Palestinians, including Arafat’s uncle still honored uncle, the Grand Mufti, fought for Hitler and the Ottomans.

    5. In contrast to Israel there NEVER has been a State or Kingdom called Palestine. The VAST majority of land that constitutes modern Israel, that was not already heavily settled by Jews was legally purchased from absentee Arab landlords. In fact Palestinians began flocking to the new Jewish settlements because of things like jobs, schools, markets etc. Before the modern Jewish state “Palestine” was British territory, before that Ottoman, before that it was controlled by Christian Crusaders, before that Sultanate rule, before that Caliphate rule, before that Byzantine then Roman then Greek then Persian then Hebrew. I’ve of course glossed over a few niceties (e.g. the brief Egyptian period) but there was NOTHING ever like a Palestinian kingdom in the region.

    6. The post 1967 territories like the West Bank and Gaza have repeatedly been offered back to their home countries in return for peace which was the original justification (along with the fact that they provide buffer zones against future attacks) for taking them. But Jordan refuses to accept the West Bank, which was originally Transjordan, mainly because the ruling Hashemite dynasty doesn’t want any further cultural dilution. Palestinians are about 65% of the Jordanian population. Egypt doesn’t want Gaza back, even still in 2005 Israel forcibly removed all Israeli residents from Gaza and what did it get them other than rocket attacks?

    “I’d be rather slow to accept such a proposal as well. Allowing your (rather unfriendly) neighbor to cut you off from other parts of your country isn’t something most people would be to pleased about now, is it?”

    This is just gross ignorance. As I mentioned Israel isn’t cutting anybody off, there was NO Palestine. The Home countries don’t want those lands. Palestinians in Israel proper are full citizens and serve in the Knesset. True a Palestinian State would not be contiguous but neither is The U.S. Israel offered to help build transit systems to fully connect those areas anyway.

    “It is also to my understanding that Arafat’s term was coming to an end, so perhaps he preferred to leave the decision to his replacement.”

    This is ridiculous, Arafat was president until he died which wasn’t for another 4 years. But the most telling thing about Arafat’s refusal was that he offered NO counter-proposal. Second it was Barak’s term that was coming to an end meaning Arafat would have to deal with the hard-liner Sharon. This is one reason why the Egyptians and Saudis told Arafat he was stupid not to take that deal. Refusing to cooperate and offering no counter-proposals left Israel in a position where they had to leave the occupied territories in limbo intermittently responding to Palestinian terrorism with force.

    Finally the answer to my original question was during the upheaval in the first half of the 20th century that lead to the creation of Israel, Jews were invariably slaughtered when Arabs invaded their villages, Palestinians were allowed to flee that’s why we have a Palestinian and not a Jewish refugee problem. I’ll close with Hamas TV for kids: If you loved Fafur the suicide bombing Mickey Moouse and Nahoul the cat-torturing bee, you love Assud the Jew-eating rabbit.