Friday, March 7, 2008

A Tragic Mistake (Dennis)

Israel has not been the safe haven it was meant to be; it is a prison of never ending violence for both Arabs and Jews.

Let's forget for a moment who was right and who was wrong. Let''s not get into a tiresome endless argument about which side started it all and who should be the one to end it. Let's instead go back to the original point of creating a Jewish homeland in Israel. The intent at the time was certainly noble on the part of the West and the Jews who were settling in Palestine. In the face of the unspeakable horrors of the Nazi Germany and the milder but still intolerable discrimination in Europe and America, there was a very strong case to be made that Jews needed a place of their own away from their European tormentors.

Now, however, it seems laughable that Jews would go to Israel to escape violence against them for being Jewish. True, the government is firmly in their corner, but more Jews are killed in Israel because of their ethnicity and their religion than anywhere else in the world. Israelis live under the constant threat of suicide terrorist strikes like the one we saw this week, and of foreign invasions and attacks like the one we saw two summers ago. Things are so terrible, that the Israelis, an extremely tolerant and liberal citizenry, are forced to choose between oppressing and mistreating another tragically oppressed people and maintaining their own safety. Unsurprisingly and justifiably, they have chosen the latter.

This can't be what they had in mind, those architects of Israel. Through secularism, anti-semitism in the United States and other western countries has all but disappeared. At the very least, the emerging reality of multi-ethnic states without a religious majority has made being Jewish a much less perilous proposition in the 21st century. But in Israel they are still fighting the old fights about which ethnic group get what land and what resources.

Everyone has their own opinion about how we got here. Some say that Israelis have been imperialistic and chauvinistic for wanting a state dominated by a single ethnic group in land formerly possessed by others. Others say that it is the fault of the Palestinians and Arabs for not being tolerant of a Jewish population in their midst. I think there is some truth in both, but I would say that the true blame lay at the feet of the Western countries, who pit two disadvantaged peoples against each other and made the Palestinians pay the cost of establishing a Jewish homeland, rather than taking the cost upon themselves.

In any event, do “fault” and “blame” really matter? It may make us feel good to win an argument, but at the end of the day the result of the establishment of Israel has been constant war and struggle for sixty years and the terrorizing of two peoples. It would have been much wiser and much more generous if Britain and the United States had guaranteed in their own countries a place for oppressed Jews everywhere, rather than forcing them to fend for themselves in the Middle East.

But perhaps such a solution was unrealistic, and perhaps the decision to found Israel was pretty inevitable given the limited options available. Still, I think it's useful to realize that Israelis have not gained much freedom from gaining their own country. However laudable their goals are, and no matter how noble the Israelis themselves are, they are still caught fighting for their own race against others. They are rightly afraid that if they do not do so, they will be subjugated by their enemies. Their new horrible oppression is in their inescapable roles as oppressors.

From this sad lesson we can learn that true freedom does not come when you throw up walls and give each group their own slice of land. It comes through the hard work, over many years, of building a society where different races and ethnicities can live together and be loyal citizens of the same country.

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