The roots of the Palestine / Israel conflict are not religious
Many not so intelligent people in America and other countries have simplified the Palestine Israel conflict to a level comprehensible to a three year old. They feel that all Arabs & Muslims hate all Jews, and vice versa. I know thousands of Arabs and Jews and it is simply not so simple. The truth of the matter is that it was the Romans who destroyed Israel and removed many (not all) Jews from Israel roughly 1950 years ago. It was Muslims (Ottomans, not Arab Muslims) who were the first to invite Jews back to Jerusalem in the 1500’s. I am not a historian and am very fuzzy on exact dates by the way!
Additionally, Muslims rescued Jews from persecution in Spain during the Inquisition. Jews were given acceptance in all Muslim countries in the Mediterranean as a matter of fact. Most of the Islamic prophets are Jews as well, not to mention certain Jewish habits like wearing an enlarged Yarmulkah, and putting a cloth over their heads during prayer. Even their dietary restrictions have many parallels. There were no major conflicts between Arabs and Jews until the advent of Zionism in the 1930’s. The ideology of Zionism was that the land of Canaan (I’m being politically neutral using this word here which is almost synonymous to the word Palestine or Israel geographically, although not culturally.) should be reclaimed by Jews, and that everyone else would have to pack up and go. Not a very friendly ideology. A more friendly ideology might be that Jews should repopulate their traditional homeland, but without stepping on the toes of the other people who live there — unless absolutely necessary.
Since Muslims and Jews have lived as brothers for over one thousand years, and still do in France, Neve Shalom, Kerela, and Westwood, CA (well at least most parts of Westwood,) I think I have proven that there is no innate conflict between Muslims and Jews.The problem is essentially a Real Estate dispute that got nasty and has created generations of resentment due to systematic violence and other injustices that have accumulated over four generations. In the very beginning of post British Jewish life in Israel, there were raids on Jewish villages, and Jews retaliated with violence against Arabs, and kicking many of them off their land.
The history goes on and on with the major events being the massacre of Deir Yassin, and 700,000 Palestinians running for their lives who were then not allowed to return to their villages in 1948. There were many years of terrorism by extremists against Jews, and many years of Jews slowly and systematically moving in on Arab lands, including the establishment of an endless list of settlements on disputed land. Once again, I am not a historian, and you could write a book on the back and forth of violence and cruelty between Palestinians and Jews. But, that is not the point of what I am writing.
My point is that there are OTHER causes of the conflict which have nothing to do with religion that I feel are spiritual in nature. Let me elaborate. Let’s start by criticizing the Jews.
Criticizing Jews (in a nice way)
In Jewish culture, there is a tradition of excluding people who are not Jewish. Jews always complain about antisemitism which is sometimes used in false accusations, and sometimes a bloodthirsty reality. But, Jews, historically exclude those who are not of their faith which is anti-nonsemitism or anti-semitism in reverse. Chassidim (the ultra orthodox) will typically and by virtue of their customs not be willing to talk to any Goi (non Jew,) or even any Jew who is not Orthodox or part of their sect. Additionally, there are divisions between Chassidim of Hungarian, Ukrainian, Polish and Russian descent. It is divide and conquer with twelve children per family for these guys! Secular Jews with drive on Shabbat, go to gentile schools, not practice Judaism much if at all, and then exclude non Jews. Or worse, they will date a non Jew and then after they get close, tell that nice Shiksa that they can’t marry them because their parents would never approve. What a horrible way to double cross someone. If you have a culture that has been excluding and discriminating against people for thousands of years, that can make it easy to have a very unfriendly long lasting conflict!
My next criticism of Jews is modern in origin. When I meet Jews, and in particular Israelis, they are generally polite and friendly. You can talk with them about many interesting topics, and their points of view are regularly very intelligent. That is until I bring up my future trip to Dubai. “Dubai? But, those are Arabs!” The inherent bigotry in so many of them comes out of hiding the minute you talk about anything having to do with the Arab world. In real life, places like Dubai and Morrocco are extremely tolerant and have churches, synogogues, and peace between the religions. 99% of what Jews have to say about Arabs is negative. I am not saying that their statements are not true, but the statements tend to be biased on the side of negative.
Additionally, in Israel there has traditionally been a huge intolerance of “Eastern” culture which is a problem since roughly half of their population (before the Russians came) was Eastern in origin. There were Sephardim from Arabic and Turkish speaking countries, Arab Jews, Iranian, Iraqi, and Yemenite Jews. (Clarification, many misapply the label Sepharic to all Eastern Jews, but it rightfully only belongs to those with Spanish Jewish lineage which doesn’t apply to Iran, Yemen, from the best of my knowledge)
Criticizing Palestinians (in a bizarre way)
On the flip side, the Palestinians have an evern more interesting and disturbing brand of intolerance which has been breeding for milleniums. The Middle East traditionally has been a very inhospitable place. Yes, the bedouin and other nice people are known for their hospitality. But, even since the time of Abraham and before, if you try to move to a new place, you will need to wait for five or ten generations before people get used to you and welcome you. Jews accuse Palestinians of being “Just Arab.” Palestinians claim to be “A people,” and a unique people. The truth is that people who have lineage in British Palestine can call themselves Palestinians and in a sense they are a people due to some common shared geographic and political circumstances. Under the Ottomans there was no Palestine and was only Syria which included what is now called Palestine by Palestinians.
However, Palestinians in my opinion are not a people, and are not Arabs either. Palestinians are a patchwork of various tribes of completely different origins who have been in-breeding for hundreds and thousands of years. The largest ancestry of Palestinians is from the ancient Jews (they will deny this, but let’s talk after the DNA test results are disclosed please.) The next most common ancestry is from Jordanian groups like the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites. I am not sure if those entities are collections of tribes, names of historic empires, or what, because I am not a historian. The Greek islanders created a huge presense in Western Palestine near Gaza. There were tribes with ancestors from the Persians, Canaanites, Crusaders, Arabians, and even Romans. Wow! One point here is that Palestinians traditionally would not marry even with those from next door villages. They had very tight knit clans. To me, I consider this behavior to be discrimination, but that is because I grew up in American, and in America we thrive on accusing others of discrimination — part of our culture.
The next issue with Palestinians is the “us only” phenomenon. It is common for ethnic groups to be ethno-centric, but Palestinian ethno-centrism goes to the level of a sickness. It is common (how common, I don’t know, but I have heard many accounts of this) for Palestinians and Lebanese to exclude 2nd and 3rd generation Arab-Americans. It is common for them to tell their own children and grandchildren, “You don’t belong with us.” One fair-skinned Lebanese American went to Lebanon, and they called him “Ajnabi” the whole time which means foreigner. This is amazingly sick and abusive behavior. It is shameful, and yet goes on. One Arab-American girl took an interest in her heritage and tried to speak Arabic to someone from Palestine who had been living in American for thirty years. The Palestinians had only insulting things to say about why is this stupid girl trying to speak Arabic — she is American and should just stick to English. As abusive as Israel is, at least when American Jews learn Hebrew, they are welcomed, and no door is slammed in their face! If you are an Arab-American of mixed ancestry, and the father is not Arabic, then you are ensured to face a life of brutal exclusion and heartless discrimination for no reason other than pure intolerance.
My point is…
With two cultures so deeply entrenched in a tradition of discrimination and cruelty, it doesn’t seem like they can possibly get along as peoples. They can sign as many peace treaties as they like, and have as many peace process dialogues as they like. But, without coming to terms with the deep-set inhumane and cruel tendencies that both groups have with has its roots in disrespect — there can be no peace.
The Arabs and Jews don’t need a peace treaty — they just need to be peaceful.
On a brighter note, there are communities where Arabs and Jews live together, respect each other, and have peace. Neve Shalom / Wahat al Salaam is one such example. Westwood, California is another. France has had a few synagogue bombings, but for the most part the large Muslim minority and the Jewish community live together without killing each other. The City of Cochin in Kerela (Cochin means pig which is not Kosher) has a large population of Indian Jews (or used to until most went to Israel,) and a huge Muslim population. I visited there, and they basically live in the same several block area in peace and happiness simply because they are all nice people.
The road to peace
The road to peace is not paved with contracts. After all, California and Nevada do not have a peace treaty. If you have peace, you don’t need a peace treaty in the first place. The Arabs and Jews keep dishonoring peace treaties, and then keep making new ones. Newsflash — a peace treaty is a piece of paper, nothing more. Without the good intentions to back it up, it is worthless. If people can learn to respect others as human beings and care about others, there would be peace. It would be hard for a caring human being to pull the trigger and murder someone even if that other person had wronged him multiple times. Think about it. When you respect people as humans, it doesn’t matter what religion they are — they are human. And a respectful person would respect animals and trees too which might prevent deforestation and animal cruelty as well. That might not matter to you, but Mrs. Meao says it matters to her (she told me in cat language.)
The next aspect of the road to peace is that peace is about sharing. When there is a shortage of land, water or other resources, it is hard to have peace when you don’t share them in a way that seems fair to all people. Forget what the Torah says, and focus on what seems fair to all people. The All for me and none for you mentality in the Middle East is a primary reason why there isn’t peace. If people there would create a culture and momentum of at least trying to be fair — although fairness is interpreted differently among different people — then, a mutual sense of respect would grow. If someone treats me fairly from what their point of view of fairness is, at least they are trying, and they would gain at least some respect from me even if I felt somewhat shortchanged!
From a spiritual slant
Four of out of five gurus surveyed say that peace comes from within. If you have inner turbulence in your soul, you will not have inner peace. And those who have turmoil within are the first to grab a gun and go shooting. Doing your spiritual work and working on inner peace is a long road. It can take decades if done correctly. Sure, that is a long time, but much preferable from never gaining inner peace. The peace you create within can be taken into your next incarnation — your other possessions can’t! Do the math!