Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Palestine? You mean like, Pakistan?"

I remember when I decided to stop having the endless, frustrating, and unfocused debates about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Ironically, it was at an event called 'Solidarity Day' in the Diag, which was hosted by a pro-Palestinian organization. I had a clear shot of a table that had been set up in the center of the Diag next to our beloved 'M'. It was interesting that the 'M' brought them together, but it seemed like that is where their similarities ended. On one side, members of the pro-Palestinian community, on the other side, many members of the pro-Israel community; only this time, they were separated by a table, not the 20ft apartheid wall in Palestine. Anyway, there they were, shouting and screaming at each other. I approached the table and heard someone say, "It's called the IDF! Israeli DEFENSE Forces. That's the only thing they do: defend Israel!" I was perplexed by his statement, and replied, "That's like saying the Patriot Act is the PATRIOT Act. It's about patriotism, not racism and racial profiling." He looked at me and said, "You're stupid and don't make any sense." With that, I walked away from the public and unfacilitated conversations regarding the issue. Apparently, I was far too "stupid" for this debate.

I have tried to avoid the senseless conversations on facebook and have aimed my energy at dialogue with those that want to listen. I have learned a lot from having these conversations, and I hope to continue to have them. I tend to ignore ridiculous statements made on both sides, but today, I couldn't help but comment. I came across someone's blog and their entry was titled, "Don't Give Up the Golan!"; they claimed that Israel shouldn't give up the Golan Heights because it is "integral to the security of the State of Israel." That was the sum of the argument. I was pissed for a couple reasons: 1) I completely disagree with the logic and as you will see below, have my own opinions about this and other Israeli occupied territories, and 2) I believe that the writer of the blog spent 2 paragraphs making an argument that he thought would go uncontested. I think that a lot of people who blindly support the state of Israel don't realize that there is a valid and considerable alternative way of seeing things. I am not sure they have heard it articulated, and I don't think they are used to people saying, "No. I think you are wrong. I see things this way..."

It is for this reason that I sometimes do voice my opinion. I do not think that I will convince the people who already have their minds made up. I do think, however, that I may show them that another valid argument exists. In the United States, the Palestinian or Arab side is often censored and more often than not, dehumanized and villainized. To many people, I am a human and far from a villain. Maybe my opinion will have someone think twice about an issue that seems very black and white. Maybe not. What do I have to lose? (Now that I think about it, maybe a lot, but eh. My last name sealed it for me. My political career was over before it started.) Anyway, I commented on this individual's blog. I encourage you to read it, and let me know if you want to discuss it some more. This is it:

Sirene said...

I am not sure I understand your logic. Because it is in Israel's best interest to occupy the Golan Heights, then it has a right to do so? Clearly, you realize how destructive this ideology is if every state adopted it, don't you?

I don't think it would make much sense for me to sit here and discuss the legality of the occupation. I would rather defer to UN Security Council Resolution 497 (December 17, 1981), which condemned Israel’s decision to “impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights” as “null and void and without international legal effect.” The acquisition of territory by force goes against the very principles of the UN Charter and international law. But hey, it's just the UN, right? It's interesting how pro-Israelis site the UN as one of their reasons to exist, but disregard this resolution as well as 237, 252, 446, 1559, and the other SIXTY-odd ones they are in violation of.

Recently, Defense Minister Amir Peretz has suggested that Israel begin negotiations with Syria. On May 7, National Security Council Chairmen Ilan Mizrahi said that “Syria’s call for dialogue with Israel is authentic.” This statement was met with some reluctance from the Israeli government.

Well, look at the International Crisis Group’s April 10, 2007 report, particularly the sentence that relates directly to lingering security concerns you have with Syria: “Officials in Damascus provided their clearest indication to date both that they would resume negotiations without any precondition and that the country’s regional posture and relationship with Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran inevitably would change following a peace deal."

Hm, I wonder what Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza and the West Bank would look like had they taken them up on their offer. This leads to the obvious question, if Israel wants peace for itself then why not promote the peace of the territories surrounding it and give up land that they are unjustly occupying?

Let the comments and replies roll in. I can't see myself replying because I know what this is going to be become: "Ya, but Oslo...", "Don't forget that in '67...", "But during the Ottoman Empire they.." And so on and so forth...My entry was trying to shed light on the alternative side. I am not interested in debating the Arab-Israeli conflict here.


I know I haven't convinced most people of anything, but at least they know that their arguments can and will be contested.

Also, I know that somehow I pissed off members from both communities with this post. Never fails. What else is new?


Shaza said...

"You're stupid and don't make any sense." -- that's hilarious. I like your points.
And I like that when you decide to make points in an argument, you demonstrate them in a respectable manner. :)

Ramzi said...

This is why I'm proud to call her my sister.... BUT this is also what i live with. So it's quite easy for me to laugh at his words of
"your stupid and dont make any sense" because for anyone that wants to piss Sirene off..thats all you have to say.
Good Day

Jared said...

Hey Sirene:

I saw your post over at Justin's blog, and then I saw your own post on your blog. I thought I might put my response here as well.

I discovered a LONG time ago that arguing back and forth over the Arab-Israeli conflict in a tit-for-tat manner is an incredible waste of time.

Between then and now, I read a lot more and my opinions changed, in some areas slightly, in other ways significantly.

In that time, I've received hate-mail (or more specifically hate-email in this new techy world) from both sides.

Last summer, when I wrote in my column about the war in Lebanon, I suggested Israel should negotiate with Hezbollah and that it did not have the right to indiscriminately bomb the country, in effect killing scores of civilians. I also said that Hezbollah sucks and that they're a an anti-semitic organization.

It was a minority view; you either had to support the complete destruction of Lebanon or you had to be a member of Hezbollah. And I received hate-email indicating such. I had email saying that I was a self-loathing Jew, and I had email saying Hezbollah was akin to the ANC or the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising resistance groups.

I don't know if this is the kind of flak you've received, but I've been convinced that in our constant rallying, we've become too polarized.

You may or may not agree with what I have just written, or what I post below. That's fine. But, these opinions are based on a rudimentary theory: the Middle East, specifically the people living there, aren't going anywhere. Peace is not only possible, it's the only option.

Anyway, sorry for the long banter. If you wish, you could put a link to my blog on your blog, and I put one for yours on mine. Here's my response to Justin:


Some important things to note: while you're certainly right about Syrian attacks upon Israeli territory prior to 1967 and possibly about the credibility of the word of Bashar Assad, Sirene makes some good points as well.

International law (which, some might argue, would go against Israel's security interests) is pretty clear about the Golan Heights: it belongs to Syria and Israel can't impose its laws on it. Sirene is dead on here.

However, while legally the Golan is occupied, I would argue that the occupation of it is certainly different than the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

My own opinion: Israel should engage Assad and begin negotiations. If Israel is worried about possible attacks from Syria if the Golan is returned, then it needs to address concerns in negotiations and in international forums.

These are, legitimate concerns. So while I may argue for the return of the Golan so that Israel can respect international law, it must be noted that it was the Syrian government's aggression, under Bashar's predecessor and father, that caused Israel to think it would be ok to take the Golan.

But another interesting point: if international law is cut-and-dry, why have negotiations at all? Why not just take the point that Israel must return the land unconditionally?

The truth is that there is a principle higher than the return of occupied territory that most UN resolutions since 1967 have been based on. Land-for-peace.

Thus, the whole premise of international law here, and possibly with regard to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, is not the unconditional return of occupied territory but rather a return of occupied territory in exchange for peace treaties.

To make a long story short, while I agree with Sirene in that the end goal is for Israel to return the Golan, I also agree with you, Justin, in that Israel's security concerns need to be addressed as a part of this deal."