Until everyone understands what this eternal Middle-East arm-wrestling match is about, generations of kids will be brought up on cycles of hatred, engendering more violence.
As usual, in any international conflict or crisis, where to draw the line? We could draw it on October 7, 2023, in which case we start with a terrorist atrocity by Hamas. We could draw it beforehand, since Israel started occupying Palestinian territories, throwing Palestinians out of their homes, bulldozing cemeteries, razing olive groves and housing invaders in the stolen lands, in which case we see active resistance by Hamas, and see indeed that on October 7, they did exactly the same as Israel has done since, or did before. Yet nobody is calling Israel’s actions a terrorist atrocity, while nobody is calling Hamas’ actions “active resistance”.
Wherever we draw the line, the basis of international relations and governance at any level has to be respect for the law, and while this is very clear at the national level, in the absence of any organism with clout (the power to enforce it), international law is a) weak and b) relies on codes of acceptance which can change with the wind. Everyone pulls the coals under their sardine.
So if we draw the line under International Law, here we see that both sides are wrong and neither side is right. Under international law, Israel has the right to exist in Peace, so under international law, everyone has to recognise this. However, also under international law, Israel’s frontiers are those conceived in the original Resolution (181) by the UN General Assembly and so under international law, all the territories held by Israel outside those frontiers are illegally occupied. The bottom line is that Israel must leave the occupied territories, rehouse the illegal colonies inside Israel’s legally established frontiers and Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and all the other players must recognise Israel’s right to exist inside those frontiers.
That is what International Law states. The details about paying reparations for the illegally occupied land, both an indemnity for historic illegal occupation and interest on non-payment, plus a daily increment until the last illegal settler is rehoused inside Israel, are the devil in the detail.
This is the solution and it is a good one which works well for both sides. It is a win-win situation, in which Israel wins its right to live in peace and concentrate on building farms, inventing software, selling machinery, investing in its neighbours and the Palestinian cause finally wins back the lands that had been seized.
Until that happens, think about it. If someone took my home, what would I be supposed to do? Sit back and play the violin? I would act with every fibre of my body and mind to claim my home back and expel the invader, as anyone else would. The invader might claim the house is his for whatever reason but that does not make the home his. It is mine. I paid for it. So Hamas, or Hezbollah, or Islamic Jihad or whatever else appears later, are going to exist and resist until international law is restored and Israel disbands its illegal colonies. And tomorrow it will not be a raid across the frontier, it will be far worse and it will escalate, and escalate, and escalate, more generations will be brought up on hatred... is this what everyone wants?
It is difficult to comprehend Israel’s policy unless one begins to understand the psyche of the more extremist political groups inside Israel, who can draw their lines at the writing of the Pentateuch (who wrote it is under discussion but it was written between c.1500 BC to c.500 BC). These five books are the first five of the Jewish Bible, namely the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These books are accepted by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The interpretation of these books is where the problems arise. The more orthodox Jewish groups take the writings literally and this creates conflicts with what in fact constitutes the Jewish State, so some far-right political groups defend that all the territory in that area belongs to the Jewish people.
Enter frontstage left international law, which states oh no it doesn’t! And so ensues the crapstorm which we still see today. Just because someone says Hey a guy wrote three thousand years ago that your house is mine does not belong to the realms of the law, it belongs to a psychiatric unit.
That, in a nutshell, is the summary of thousands of years of conflict. Now let someone say something that we do not see in the international media. Not all Israelis are Jews and not all Jews believe and defend the same thing. In fact, they say you need two Jews to have three arguments and one of these is what is in fact the area belonging to the Jewish people and constituting their country. Some Israelis are Arabs and Islamic. And not all Jewish Israelis defend the creation of a Zionist State (greater Israel). There is a powerful group called Jews against Zionism. Many Israelis spend their free time observing their security forces and their treatment of Palestinians. Many Palestinians work inside Israel and have Israeli friends, both Jewish and Islamic. Many Jewish and Palestinian kids are friends. Some get married and create families.
Quite a few play soccer together, others enjoy hanging out sharing traditions and cultures and stories and gastronomies and music and poems and literature.
So much for the “us and them” approach. Bottom line, they are all people.
Now, start drawing the line where you want and if it is in a sensitive pace, all this friendship and bonhomie starts to fall apart, we get outside influences on both sides creating “sides”, we then get the sickening media circus caling one side savages and giving the other the right to “defend” itself. By murdering three thousand kids?
And where we get people thrown out of their homes to house a new settler, we are obviously going to have problems. It is not rocket science. Therefore one can question whether the Israeli policy, collectively, is in fact intelligent or whether the policymakers are as thick as pigshit?
Finally, let us approach these issues with an open mind. As António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, and an excellent one, said, this does not come in a vacuum... and he is totally right. For exery action, there is a reaction. These are the laws of physics. Let us not tar all Palestinians with the same brush, let us not tar all Israelis with the same brush and let us understand that if everyone respects the law, as if by magic, problems cease to exist.
At the end of the day, to conclude, as we get older (in my case 65 years of age) our own eventual mortality starts to appear on the horizon. In our sixties we think we are not exactly old, yet our grandchildren’s generation refer to us as “that old man”, and we draw the line of old age further and further ahead, exclaiming “Well (s)he wasn’t that old” when our family and friends start dropping by the wayside at, say, 74 and then our hobby becomes going to funerals, until there is nobody left. Then comes the day we go to meet the Boss.
And when we do so, we like to think we leave behind a world in which grandparents can teach their customs and traditions to their grandchildren, parents can see their families grow up and live happily, in the comfort of their homes, children can go to school and play without worrying about some coward dropping a bomb on them or hacking them to pieces.
Is that really asking too much? So, ball in Israel’s court, ball in Hamas’/Hezbollah/Islamic Jihad’s court. It takes two to Tango. Dance. And let the international community create the dance floor. If everyone grew a pair told Israel to follow the law and set up a two-state solution, instead of governments being terrified of the Jewish Lobbies, the first step would be taken.
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey can be contacted at [email protected]
Russian President Vladimir Putin got the West worried again by signing Decree No. 915. The news did not produce any public effect in Russia