Monday, August 11, 2014

Practical Solutions to the Middle East Conflict





Charles Mercieca, Ph.D.
President
International Association of Educators for World Peace
Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education,
Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament
Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University

The best way to solve problems properly and effectively is to go straight to their source. This way adequate solutions could be provided in the best interest of all those involved. All people in the Middle East area share one great desire, namely, to live at peace with each other while enjoying their children grow healthy as much as possible. In spite of this, there has been continuous wars with thousands of innocent people left dead or maimed for life. These consist mostly of women, children, the elderly and the sick.

Creation of Israel and Palestine

            In 1967, the Middle East was split into two segments, which came to be known as Israel and Palestine. Of course, many people on both sides were not completely satisfied. Several in Israel viewed virtually the entire Middle East as their de facto territory, while many in the Palestine looked at the newly formed Israel as still an integral part of Palestine. Needless to say, such feelings led to conflicts and wars. This episode proved to be very unfortunate and really sad. The two segments could have developed well their respective economies.

            They could have developed a mutually agreeable collaboration where all people on both sides could have lived peacefully and productively. What sounds curious lies in the fact that while Israel was recognized by the United Nations as a full-fledged nation from the outset, Palestine never received this same recognition to this day. There had been something wrong in this regard since when Israel was officially formed a clear-cut boundary was defined with Palestine and accepted by the world body of nations.

            Almost from the very beginning, Israel confiscated a large Palestinian territory and annexed it to Israel. Slowly but surely it began to build plenty of settlements for the Jewish people on Palestinian territory. It also tried to control all of the Palestinian land the best it could. In fact, a blockade was built to the extent that the Palestinians were not free to develop their own economy in conjunction with other well-developed nations.

            This Middle East conflict has now been going for about 50 years. This tragic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians could be traced to lack of mutual trust. This lack of mutual trust did not stem from the ordinary people but mainly from groups of local fanatics who seemed bent to control the other side for apparently different reasons. For a long time, the Israelis believed that God had viewed Israel many centuries ago as the homeland of all Jewish people who always tried to guide themselves by the Holy Bible.

Source of Initial Conflict

            On the other hand, since the first century A.D. the Jewish people did not have any say on this Middle East territory, commonly known then as Palestine. For almost 2,000 years the Palestinians always viewed Palestine as their own territory. When the United Nations transformed the eastern part of Palestine into Israel, the Palestinians felt very much offended. As many remarked, the Palestinians should have been consulted, at least for the sake of courtesy. Some of the active groups thought of taking drastic steps to remedy the situation.

            When the war eventually broke out, Israel which was armed to the teeth, finished the conflict in just one week, taking virtually all of Palestine under its control. During the decades that followed, the Palestinian people were completely subdued like prisoners. In the meantime, many countries, including the United States, kept on talking on the need of having two separate and independent nations, while doing virtually nothing to make sure this noble and important goal is eventually achieved.

            The Palestinian Authority revealed readiness to make compromises with the Israeli government as to make the concept of the two states living side by side in peace a reality. At the same time, the Israeli government was constantly reluctant to do anything constructive. When members of the Palestinian government in Gaza took drastic steps to liberate the Palestinians from the Israeli-imposed siege, they were referred to as Hamas. This meant that they were viewed as dangerous since their goal seemed to be the destruction of Israel.

            The questions that need to be raised here are these? What constitutes Hamas?  What is their philosophy? Are they politicians? Are they members of the military? Do they have a unanimous goal and objective? Israel views Hamas as a terrorist organization whose one sole purpose and goal is the destruction of Israel. Let us assume Israel is right in its judgment. In this case, how should Israel deal with Hamas? This question can never be answered intelligently if Israel labels as Hamas anyone that tries to do anything harmful to the Israelis. This episode has been explored by UN NGOs in recent years.

            For those who may not know, UN stands for United Nations and NGOs stands for Non-Governmental Organizations. During the Iraqi war some of the NGOs went to both Iraq and Gaza to talk with young children ranging from the ages of 9 to 12. Their objective was to explore ways on how they can help such children concentrate on spending their lifetime working whole-heartedly for the promotion of world peace. Members of this humanitarian group asked these children the question: “What would you plan to do when you grow up?”

Feelings of Palestinian Children

            To their surprise, the answer of such children in both Iraq and Gaza was virtually unanimous. They said determinedly: “Killing Americans… killing Americans.” These same members of the said humanitarian group asked calmly: “Why do you want to do this?” The quick answers given were along the same lines: “Because the Americans killed my father and now I have no father, they killed my mother and now I have no mother, they killed or maimed my brothers and sisters; also, they destroyed our homes and now we are homeless as well as our schools and groceries, which left us without food.

            The Jewish government in Israel views the entire Old Testament as the word of God which they should follow literally, even though when the promised Messiah came, He told the Jews emphatically: “The God you know is not the God I know. The God you know talks of the “eye for an eye and the tooth for a tooth; but the God I know is a God of love and mercy; He is not a God of hatred and revenge. When you are stricken on the face, you do not retaliate but rather turn the other cheek. Do to others what you would like others to do to you.”

            Judged by their actions the members of the Israeli government, who claim openly belief in Yaweh, that is, in God the creator of heaven and earth, follow God’s apparent instructions only if they agree with Him. If they happen to disagree, then they go to extremes. As the world has observed recently and in several instances before as well, the Old Testament “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth,” was changed by Israel into “100 eyes for one eye and 100 teeth for one tooth!” This has been revealed clearly in the present Middle East conflict.

            Whereas the Palestinians in Gaza killed some dozen Israeli civilians, the Israelis killed at least 1,500 Palestinian civilians and wounded about 5,000 mostly children, women, the elderly and the sick. Besides, the infrastructure of various areas of Gaza was obliterated. The real problem for a permanent peace in the Middle East stems from the fact that the Israeli government does not seem to realize that these innocent Palestinian children are faced with no choice when they grow up except for devising ways to avenge the cruelty they had received.

            The United Nations must assume the responsibility of solving the Middle East conflict permanently. The most logical solution lies in the establishment of two states, with Palestine becoming a full-fledged member of the United Nations. We need to establish an approach that should completely eliminate every sort of paranoia from the Israeli government that may stem from the possibility that the Palestinians may attack Israel at some time in the future. In this case, the Palestinian nation should be fully demilitarized. The money that would have been spent on the military could be spent on health care and education.

Development of Palestinian Economy

            Moreover, Palestine could concentrate on the development of its economy starting by inviting some leading economic industries to have a base in Palestine. Such industries may be from a variety of nations that may include, Russia, China, India, Germany, United States, France, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, and Japan, in addition to others. Any nation that would like to contribute to the development of Palestine may contribute with the building of some of the best hospitals and schools in the world, with no military equipment of any kind.

            A brief study of history reveals that any country that stopped relying on military power but instead tried to develop reliance on health care, education  and strong economy, ended up eliminating poverty completely from its surface. In addition, its people were provided with the opportunity to develop the maximum of their full potential and to experience the joy and satisfaction of living in peace and prosperity within a relatively very short period. Needless to say, a developed Palestinian state would eventually benefit Israel immensely.

            Over the past few decades, when nations spoke of the establishment of two Middle East States living in peace and harmony side by side, they all referred to the 1967 original boundaries. Although this may sound to be theoretically sound, in practice it may not turn out to be politically logical. We have to admit that some of the actions taken by Israel over the past few decades need to be fully well addressed. Among such actions we find the building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, the annexation of East Jerusalem to Israel, and the complete isolation of Palestine from virtually the rest of the world.

            The tremendous psychological harm that has been inflicted on the people in the Middle East cannot be taken lightly. Forgiving and forgetting would be a very sound philosophy. Considering that the 1967 war was practically initiated by Palestinians and considering also that the Israelis drastic reaction went too far as far as the safeguard of thousands of innocent lives were concerned, some kind of fair compromise should be expected if needed.

            First of all, the creation of a two-state solution must proceed under the auspices of the United Nations by all means. Here is what the Israeli government and the Palestinian government should be fully prepared to do in the best interest of a permanent peace by eliminating all kind of litigation if possible. The ultimate goal of the two-state solution is that both Israel and Palestine feel 100% safe by viewing each other as beneficial neighbors. Here is what the United Nations would be expected to do with full cooperation of both parties.

Eventual Roles of Israel and Palestine

            The Palestinian government should be fully in control of all Palestinian territory as was designated by the 1967 boarder with some modification. All the Israeli settlements built by Israel on Palestinian territory should become under the full control of the Palestinian government. The Israeli people within such confines ought to be fully respected. They should be given by Palestine permanent residency and even Palestinian citizenship, thus enjoying having two citizenships. All of the Israeli military forces should leave Palestinian territory.

            This means no more blockades for Palestine, which should be free to establish diplomatic relations with all the nations of the world. In due time, a corridor should be established between Gaza and the West Bank so that Palestinians could move freely within their own territory by all means. Most importantly, Palestine, from the outset, should be a fully demilitarized nation. This should make Israel feel perfectly safe with no excuses of creating sieges around Palestinian boundaries.

            Besides, it would help strengthen the political relations of both nations if Palestine were to let Israel keep East Jerusalem as to have eventually a fully united traditionally sacred city. If Palestine were to concentrate fully on the development of the national economy, the provision of a good health care as well as a good educational system, the Palestinian people are bound to experience positive and constructive results before they even know it. The creation of a functional two-state system should not be viewed as a form of apartheid.

            The Israelis need to be free to live where they wish, in Israel or Palestine. At the same time, the Palestinians also should be free to live where they wish in Palestine or Israel. In other words, the people of these two nations should begin to view each other merely as human beings who share the same needs and aspirations for themselves, their children and posterity. Above all, Palestine may play a leading role for a permanent peace in the Middles East by showing to the surrounding Arab nations that being demilitarized is bound to bring plenty of blessings to their respective populations.