Friday, August 24, 2007

Middle East Conflict - The Saga Continues

In a span of about two months, I have read in a succession of three books all of them were related to the topic of Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Each of these three books looked at the situation in a different angle and each presented a valid viewpoint from that particular outlook. As I always believe, there is no good or bad, it is a matter of perspective.

The first book with Ariel Sharon, a former Prime Minister of Israel, as a centerpiece, chronicled his military and political career. Sharon was a controversial figure while on his political stage. Much of his childhood experience biased against Palestinian people has set the tone of how he went about setting the Israeli Administration in West Bank and Gaza Strip trying to systematically and deliberately limit, humble and humiliate Palestinian people's existence. There are curfews, road blocks, separation walls and check points that Palestinian people need to endure every day. In the occupied territory, Palestinian people are treated as sub-human, living in a submissive condition constantly harassed by Israeli's police. The policy under Sharon is that of rapid expansion of Israeli settlement. The goal is to drive Palestinian people to leave the territory out of despondence.

The next book I read is "One Country" by Ali Abuniman, a Palestinian-America. The interesting point is that he proposed a quite radical approach on the problem. Instead of maintaining two states, he proposed one country housing Palestinian and Israeli under one central administration with ample autonomy and equal rights for both camp. I think the idea is good, but it will take a
government with very enlightened top officials and cabinet members to devise policies and procedures equitably to benefit all people. The hurdle is likely to be from decades old of prejudice and cultural conditioning that has become ingrained as part of social fabrics of both people. Apart from Language and cultural difference, we have a formidable religious barrier to contend with. Throughout history, religion is one of the causes of obsession, oppression and aggression of blood shedding and conflict sustaining painful dramas played out in many regions of the world. If we put religious aspect in that Palestinian-Israeli melting pot, we may as well introduce an explosive time bomb in the already delicate and volatile situation. From my humble opinion, the idea is sound and good, but it is decades or may be century ahead of its time.

I thought this book should have caused an uproar if not a mass demonstration on the part of Palestinian people. "My Enemy, My Self" was written in Hebrew by an Israeli journalist and later was translated to English. In order to better understand how Arabs managed to live in the looming shadow of Israeli's tight control, Yoram Binur disguised himself as a lowly Arabic cheap laborer in occupied territories. The book revealed the first hand moccasin walking experience of being an Arab subject to the whim and oppression of his Israeli employer. Throughout the years of occupation, Israeli confiscated most of Palestinian people's properties and its livelihood therefore most of the Palestinians have to make their living employed by Israeli as unskilled cheap labor grossly underpaid and overworked. The Israeli's exploitation of Palestinian people is pervasive and humiliating. I was quite taken aback by his wrenching experience. You have to read the book to fully realize why Intifada uprising was a natural course of action of Palestinian people. It was an outcry of their many years debilitating frustration dealing with Israeli authority. They simply weren't given any chance of dignified living.

I can't help but reiterating the old cliche of "History tends to repeat itself". From the Biblical time, the land of Israel fell under the ruling of many other empires and regions. Particularly, the Roman Empire implemented a systematic and large-scale expulsion of Jews. There was a time that Jews were under the control and conquest of Muslims. Yes, Jewish State of Israeli did not come into its existence easily. It was a cornerstone in human history that through third party intervention a State of Israel was declared of legitimate existence. Now that table is turned in the twentieth century that Israel has become economically prosperous and has superior military presence in the middle east. Now it is their turn to oppress Muslims in the name of survival. How little have we learned from our bloody history!

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