The Wholly Holey and Holy

The crux of the crisis in Palestine is fear on both sides that the process is not one of peace and reconciliation, but of continuing a war of total conquest. The only position clear enough to dispel the doubts is a return to the pre-1967 borders:

– Stalling and settling on the West Bank signals the intent to expand and occupy by armed force.

– Borders for Palestine enclaves like holes in swiss cheese, are a terrific provocation – the ‘Holey Palestine’ option. No people in history ever stooped to accept such a deal. It’s less a peace offer than a declaration of war on the ground – the Israeli settlements are in violation of peace agreements.

– Israel has an unbroken record of military victories, an awesome arsenal and the unshaking backing of the tip-top American war machine. She can easily afford to play for double-or-nothing and step back with the assurance that if there is a next time, she could take even more. Since everyone on the West Bank knows it, this underlines the aggressive nature of the Israeli occupation. Peace and aggression don’t mix.

So the only Wholly viable option is to return the whole lot of land booty from 1967. The other Whole options are, of course, for the two parties to try to push each other into the sea or the desert. But these are no real options for the Arabs, nor for the world community.

Then why does Israel feel so insecure? Maybe partly because there is a catch to the right of Israel to exist. As with any other people, the right of the Jewish people to exist is absolute in natural law. After the Nazi Holocaust even Christendom had to admit to it (as Islam and the Koran always have). But a right to a Jewish state in Palestine? Call it a privilege, an agreed status, or an accident of World War power politics, but it is not an overriding, inalienable right. This itself is reason enough for Israel to agree on half a loaf.

The Holy problem is that this land, especially Jerusalem, is holy to three faiths, not only one, and religious feelings are too strong to let any one of them rule the city alone. The best solution would be to let the inhabitants of the Holy City have their own autonomous, neutral entity, free of influence from turbulent political bodies outside it.

Too many Jews are intolerant of the later, and larger, faiths in the family of religions. They cry foul if they are not respected, yet indulge in inflammatory profanity over Jesus and Mohammed – knowing full well that Christianity and Islam revere the Hebrew prophets. With such unecumenical attitudes, Israelis will not succeed as administrators of interfaith holy places.

What could be the root of this behavior? 5000 years ago, monotheism was the revolutionary innovation the Jews gave to religion. Later, though, Judaism remained essentially a tribal religion. Today, our planet – not to mention Jerusalem – is too small for bigotry. Sure, tribalistic thought and talk is the same everywhere the world round: “God is Ours, WE ARE the human beings, the others are subhumans” – but when it is a weapon speaking …

A big part of the Middle East problem is the West’s own ignorance and contempt of the world of Islam. Some would try to wipe Palestine off the map by flatly denying it ever existed – although the Bible faithfully records how the Hebrews arrived in a Promised Land replete with milk, honey, and – Philistines, as the people of Palestine still call themselves today. There was no problem with the tiny Jewish communities that have been there for ages. But there is one huge hole in the Zionist argument.

Just think about it for a second. How likely is it that people who show up 2,000 years after their ancestors supposedly left a place really have 1. any claim at all to the land or 2. any significant degree of ancestral descent from the ancient inhabitants, in this case, the Hebrews? Of course, the people living there before Zionism – Muslims, Christians, Oriental Jews – are descended from the Canaanites, Philistines, Hebrews, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, and so on who lived here over the millenia.

Likewise, those who landed from Europe in 1947 – after nearly a hundred generations there – have got to be descended mainly from Caucasian stock. For one thing, during the early middle ages, Judaism converted entire new groups in Central Asia and Europe, to bolster its numbers against competing religions.

So the Zionist state is a paradox: European colonialism perpetrated by Caucasian Jews against the true heirs of the Hebrews!? Stranger things have happened. David’s descendants once again wielding slingshots at an unbelieving Goliath, on TV news…

It gets all the more confusing if you label this idea as anti-Semitic, because the Arabs are the main Semitic people, while I just said European Jewry look to be mostly Caucasian…

To perfect the tragic plot, the Zionists themselves were victims of persecution in Europe, while the children of ancient Judea pay the price for it!

Be that as it may, we are all spectators to the playing out of the cruelest of jokes. The Germans didn’t want Jews, nor did the Slavs, French, English or Americans. But the Zionists wanted Palestine. It was too tempting, and so expedient to humor them and Lo, the state of Israel came to be. As if police threw you out of your family home, and your country, at gunpoint, gave your house to squatters, and told them it would all be arranged somehow later. As a sop to their consciences, the great powers then promised to defend the Zionist Daniel in the Palestinian den… For sure you’d see red if it happened to you.

IF THE JEWS AND PALESTINIANS REALIZED THAT TOGETHER THEY SHARE NOT ONLY A STRIP OF LAND BUT THE BUTT OF ONE OF HISTORY’S CRUEL HOAXES, COULD THAT BE A START ON THE ROAD TO RECONCILIATION AND PEACE? For two generations now, they’re trapped like two gladiators tossed in a pit, sparring to the death in a sadistic Roman circus. Perhaps some are too vain or fanatical to open their eyes to this mirror view? But they may be doomed if they don’t – and it could be the dawn of reason if they would.

Of course, even if European Jews were of 100% Hebrew extraction, that wouldn’t create a right to evict a soul – just because your great-great once lived somewhere, you can’t go knock their door down. But taking it from the more diluted viewpoint could help to cool some of the fanaticism about geography. If I were Barak, I might be working on a hyper-expedient contingency plan to buy a big empty island in the Bahamas, name it New Zion – and put an end to fights with the neighbors.

Still, pogrom is not a Semitic word for terror but a Russian one, because no such thing ever existed in Arabia, where Muslims and Jews lived together peacefully for 1400 years. Surely it would have been better if the new Jews had come not as terrorists, but in peace, humility and neighborliness, as guests, and not as invaders. The deep-rooted desert tradition of hospitality always required the Arab to extend protection to refugees from persecution, long before it was enjoined by the Koran.

It’s too late to prove this now. But clear it is, that the way out for Israel now is to take one step down and give back its gains from the last war, if there is to be a peace.

If Israel can not return the other guy’s half loaf, then Arabia’s youth will start to hit the technical universities instead of the streets, and learn the technologies they need to catch up enough in arms capability to have at least a credible negotiating position. The options for Arab governments may be to raise oil prices, or to try the China card in weapons procurement. The Afghan war showed you don’t need the best weapons to win, if you have enough heart and cunning. But you do need more than rocks.

A Muslim has two Jihads. The Lesser one is fighting for Islam, in self-defense, as the youth are dying to show at Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Greater Jihad is the struggle against one’s own prideful self. The name Islam itself means peace and humility. But at the limit where humility turns to degradation you must fight back – modern Jews know that as well as anyone! And because it is way below that limit – too low for any people to go – there has never been a “Hole-y Land” on this earth. That is wholly asking for holy war.

Yes, a higher oil price will hurt my business, too – but then, is blood getting cheaper now? America, my country! You sold out the Palestinians, sold the red and the black man. When will you learn that not everything in this world is for sale?

Or maybe we are still fighting the last war again? Like the Crusades, maybe? Well, c’mon, catch up, wake up! It’s high time. It’s OUR money and guns that have kept two whole generations, 53 years, rotting in refugee camps!

Mr. John-Paul Leonard is a free-lance writer and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)