First off, before we start, I want you to know that I do believe in The Peace Process. I even believe in a chance for two separate states. But I also realize the inherent dangers that lie in that realization, and it’s not just the physical dangers of people losing their lives. It is the danger of losing our identity.
Let me back up.
There is all of this talk about going back to 1967 boundaries today. To many people, that may not seem like a big deal. To Jews, that is a tremendous deal. Losing some of the territories is not such a big deal, but East Jerusalem is. Before The Six Day War, Jerusalem was partitioned in much the same way that Berlin was until 1989. Many of the Holy Sites that Jews have the liberty to visit today, such as the Western Wall, they did not have access to until after the war ended. Were a Palestinian State to arise today, what is to stop them from cutting off access to these Holy Sites from Jews and Christians alike?
How would you feel if you were able to visit a place you held dear to you, and all of a sudden you could no longer visit this place? It would bother you, wouldn’t it? This is what many Jews feel when they fear giving back Eastern Jerusalem. If it could be ensured that free travel for all would be available, then by all means. Otherwise, I am not sure that a two state solution is possible at this time.
Many people think this all stems from the November 1947 United Nations vote, and they are partially correct. Some people think it comes from when the British promised Jews a home in Palestine in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration. However, the problem is much older than that. Jews and Arabs have been at each other’s throats since who knows when. Some pin-point the date to the crusade era. I am not a scholar, so I will not even guess at the exact origin. I can only talk about current events. After all, who cares why the Hatfields and McCoys started their feud that went on for decades. Do they even know?
What I do know, and what many people keep forgetting is that there would still be a Palestinian State if Israel had not come under constant attack. Most don’t even know that Jerusalem wasn’t even part of the original plan for the Israeli partition. Israeli Soldiers had to fight to make it part of their home. Many good men and women died to make Western Jerusalem their Capital. The Israelis call this “War for Independence.” The Arabs call it “The Disaster.” Israel defeated their enemies with inferior weapons, fewer weapons, fewer fighters. AND WON! Many a fighter, (notice here I do not say “men” because Israel’s army was the first co-ed army in many decades) died with a homemade weapon in their hands. Molotov cocktails, scatter guns, all hidden from the British inquisitors, many made on the kibbitzim to defend themselves. All of these people, men, women, children, yes even children were graduates of the death camps. They had been bullied and pushed to beyond any natural human endurance. Many of the children had never seen skies without barbed wire. Can you imagine your whole life spent behind razor and barbed wire, guarded by men holding guns? First by the Nazis then the British, who were holding you in a displaced persons camp? How many of us, Christian, Muslim or otherwise would do the same thing if faced with similar adversity?
Shortly after the British Mandate ended on 14 May 1948, the troops of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia invaded Palestine. Alongside the Palestinians, they attacked the newfound country. There was no miracle. By pure will, The Israelis fought back the invading armies. After the war, close to 700,000 Arabs were expelled, and unable to return home. They landed in the surrounded countries and the area that became The Gaza Strip.
The war of 1956 was important, but not for this article, so I’ll skip ahead to 1967. The war was fought between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. It is true that Israel made a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, but this was not an act of aggression. They were not doing it to start a war. Israel believed that they were already in a war. Both sides had been building up their troops for quite some time. In many ways, this mirrored the conflict between the United States and Japan in 1941, except oil wasn’t involved, but water.
In 1964, Israel began drawing its water from the Jordan River. The following year, Jordan began construction of the Headwater Diversion Plan, which reduce Israel’s water supply by 35%. There was conflict over this, naturally. In 1966, Egypt and Syria signed a pact with each other that they would go the other’s defense if the other were attacked. The same year, Syria sponsored Palestinian raids into Israel.
During this entire time, Israel was building up its military to defend against its enemies, just as Egypt, Syria, and Jordan were doing. On 5 June 1967, Israel made the first strike into Egypt, taking out the Egyptian Air Force. I’ll spare you the boring details of the rest of the war, except to say that Israel captured a great deal of land, including East Jerusalem.
At the end of the war, The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 242. It was accepted by Jordan and Egypt after the war, and “conditionally” accepted by Syria in 1972. This called for “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” This was a major concession from the original proposal, when Russia had insisted upon the original wording of “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from all of the territories occupied in the recent conflict.” Those three little words would have meant that the wars would probably be ongoing today, worse than they are.
Every American President in my lifetime has tried to come up with a peace process, to get these two peoples to unite. Usually it is toward the end of their term, as a last ditch effort. President Obama has done it at the beginning of his term, hoping to give it more time. In this, I applaud his effort, though I feel it is without any real chance at success. America is not the country to make these choices for others. I cannot look at two total strangers, or even two friends, and tell them that they have to make peace with each other. It’s just not done in the real world. The only way that Israel and Palestine will ever make true peace is if they do it themselves.