Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Both the Israelis and Palestinians Are At Fault

Written by johnleemk on 1:58:44 pm Apr 15, 2007.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is one that has captivated the interest of the world for ages. This has especially been so in the West, which has generally favoured Israel, and in the Muslim-majority or -dominated countries where Palestine is seen as the wounded party.

One remarkable thing about this issue is how polarising it is. Centrist viewpoints, or those which acknowledge that both sides have their faults, are very difficult to find. Most people come down hard on one side or the other.

In countries like the United States, the thinking goes like this. Israel is simply a peaceful country which has been trying to secure its sovereignty and right to the exist. The Palestinians have been unfairly launching attacks on Israel, backed by extremist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

This is just the normal view, of course. There are extremists who believe that the Palestinians have no right to exist themselves. A number also believe that the United Nations has been unfairly putting down Israel for alleged human rights abuses, while other countries get away scot free. (This latter view is actually not without justification.)

As for many other parts of the world, the thinking is diametrically opposite. From this point of view, the Israelis have unjustly settled themselves in what is rightful Palestinian territory. Making matters worse, they have treated those who assume Israeli nationality as second-class citizens, while further discriminating against Palestinians who agitate for their own state, sometimes repressing them with inhumane measures.

Of course, there are even more extreme points of view. Sometimes the pro-Palestinian camp will recognise Israel's right to exist, and call for a two-state solution, but quite often, they seem to hold the opinion that Israel should not even be there in the first place. Many also endorse terrorist activities aimed at Israel — while they of course denounce Israel for its own human rights abuses. (A similar hypocrisy can be found in extremists of the pro-Israeli persuasion.)

It seems to me that there are not many people who think logically about the problems of the Middle East. There is usually an immediate and visceral kneejerk reaction against one side or the other, because people have become so biased that they are unable to see the issues objectively.

The fact is, both Israel and Palestine are wrong. It is questionable whether Israel ever had the right to be where it is in the first place. I do believe that they had a valid claim, but that they went about making their claim in a horridly repressive way — but anyhow, this is an academic question. Historical questions about who was right or wrong matter little to the suffering Israelis and Palestinians of today.

The point is, today, the Israelis go about mistreating the Palestinian people. This is pretty much an undeniable fact. They raid the homes of families of suicide bombers, punishing the sons for the sins of the fathers. They erect barriers to keep the Palestinian people out of territory which may not even be theirs. They murder Palestinian people, all in the name of security.

And yet, the Palestinian people too have been causing almost as much terror to the Israelis. Entering the wrong cafe, waiting at the wrong bus stop, can simply spell doom for you. The Palestinians may not have the conventional means of warfare available to the Israelis, but the deaths they cause are no less real.

It makes no sense to decide that one side is entirely wrong or that only one side should be forced to make sacrifices to end this conflict. Both parties have more than a few atrocities to their name, and both sides have contributed to the cycle of violence which has marked this conflict.

If you want to try Israel's leaders for crimes against humanity, you'd better try the leaders of groups like Hamas as well. And if you want to raid the homes of Palestinian suicide bombers, you'd better support raids on those responsible for atrocities against the Palestinian people.

But blaming people is not going to solve anything. What good would it do to try Israel's leaders for crimes against humanity? We might feel good; justice might be served; but the Palestinian people and the Israeli people will still be suffering. The cycle of violence is not going to stop just like that. It has to be cut off at its source, whatever that source may be.

It's highly unlikely that the source of the violence is the Israeli or Palestinian leadership. These people and their actions are symptoms of the problem, not the cause, because they are both reacting to perceived injustices. If you destroyed the entire Israeli government, it would be replaced by one with similar policies and priorities. The same goes for groups like Hamas,

So what is this root cause? That is a subject for another time. Whatever the root cause is, it is this that must be addressed. Blaming and attacking one side or the other might feel good, but it does not seem to be too accurate (considering the behaviour of both parties), and at any rate, it does not help the true victims of the conflict.

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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

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