On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The first rule for evaluating views of the Israel-Palestine conflict: never take anyone seriously who doesn’t grasp the simple truth that both Israelis and Palestinians have various and competing claims — historical, cultural and legal — to the same chunk of sun-baked earth. To suggest otherwise is not only historic revisionism, itâ€™s also a serious obstacle to peace.
Gold star to Joshua Holland! That’s what he said in his Alternet piece, What if Helen Thomas Had Emulated Powerful Right-Wingers and Said Palestinians Don’t Exist?. Please read the entire thing for a history of Palestinian identity and the recent(-ish) roots of the current conflict.
And I think that’s where the Zionist view of Israel as a spiritual, fated-by-God homeland goes head-to-head and toe-to-toe with the political and day-to-day reality of territorial expansion.
The tension, I think, is between the political ideology of a Jewish state (or the right of Israel to exist as a secular state if it was one) and the religious-driven sense of entitlement that many settlers — and here I mean people who emigrated to Israel under the country’s “Law of Return,” and also those building on disputed land in the West Bank and Gaza — have towards the land. As theologian Karen Armstrong put it,
But “religious” wars, no matter how modern the tools, always begin as political ones. I think this is as true for many Zionists (not all Israelis or all Jews are Zionists) as it is for Palestinians.
That said, I agree with Paul Jay’s opinion of Helen Thomas’ comments. In fact, this is exactly how I interpreted her words. From Jay’s piece:
Thomas was not talking about Jews that lived in the region from Roman times. If she had been given more of a chance to explain herself, rather than the 30-second sound bite traveling around the web, she might have made it clear that she also wasn’t referring to the thousands of Jews who lived in Palestine prior to 1948.
What Thomas clearly did say she was talking about was Jews that had come from Germany, Poland and America. Now it’s likely that most of the Jewish refugees that came to Palestine from Europe just after the War, did so not because they “belong to the land of Israel”, but due to fact that the American, Canadian and British governments wouldn’t drop their anti-Jewish quotas even after the horrors of the genocide were fully exposed (let’s talk about some real anti-Semites).
I don’t know of any opinion polls taken at the time, but if those refugees had a real choice to go to some impoverished potentially war-filled land in the Middle East or join the Jewish community in New York, I know what I would have chosen.
The American Zionist organizations at the time did not fight for a more open immigration policy to allow Jews into America; they lobbied furiously for the Jewish refugees to go to Palestine as part of a move towards the founding of a Jewish state.
Again: the political realities of Israel as a state are in tension with the religious claim to Israel.