Friday, November 30, 2012

The Palestinian Problem

Some things never seem to end. This month there has, once again, been serious military action between Palestinians and Israelis. There has been intermittent fighting between Palestine and modern Israel since November 1947.
Sixty-five years ago, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for Palestine to be partitioned between Arabs and Jews and allowing for the formation of the Jewish state of Israel.
The following day there were protests by Arabs throughout the country, so 11/30/47 was the beginning of “civil war” in Palestine. That led to what is called the First Arab-Israel War, which began in May 1948 and ended in March of the following year.
The story of the struggle the Palestinians and the Jews, both seeking a secure place to live, is engagingly told in The Lemon Tree (2006) by Sandy Tolan, an American journalist, teacher, and documentary radio producer.
Tolan’s book is a fascinating true story about the Khaira family who lived in the Palestinian city of al-Ramla and who had a lemon tree in the back yard of their home. In May 1948, though, Bashir Khaira, who was six years old, and his family had to leave their home, for it was then considered to be Israeli territory.
Six months later the Eshkenzai family, Jews who had been living in Bulgaria, arrived in Palestine and subsequently moved into the former home of the Khairas.
Nineteen years later, in 1967 when he was 25, Bashir went back to al-Ramla and met Dalia Eshkenzai, who was born just three days after the November 1947 decision by the United Nations and who had been living with her family in Bashir’s former house since 1948. Dalia and Bashir begin discussions which have lasted for 45 years now.
Dalia & Bashir
The Palestinian man and Jewish woman were respectful of each other and actively sought to understand each other’s point of view. But to the end of the book there seemed to be no good solution to the problem that resulted from the 1947 U.N. decision—and the subsequent fighting between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
At the very end of the book, though, after the old lemon tree had died, some Palestinian and Jewish young people met in the back yard of the Khaira/Eshkenzai home, and together they planted a new lemon tree. So maybe there is hope for the distant future. But the immediate future still looks bleak.
While not unsympathetic with the plight of the Jews, who were treated so brutally in Europe during the 1930s and early 1940s, I have long thought the Palestinians have been grossly mistreated since 1947. My thinking this way was strengthened by reading Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006). I highly recommend his book.
Carter is probably right when he says that the “two state solution” is the only realistic path to peace and security for Israel and the Palestinians—but that solution is becoming more and more difficult because of the Israelis occupying more and more of the territory.
(The current land area held by the Palestinians is considerably less than what was proposed by the U.N. in 1947, as indicated by the accompanying maps.)
Earlier this month Carter lamented that Israel seems to have abandoned the two-state solution. “Their policy now is to confiscate Palestinian territory,” he said.

So, the Palestinian problem remains dire, especially for the Palestinians. But it is also serious for the Israelis as they are frequent targets of various violent acts of desperation by the beleaguered people of Palestine.

Let’s hope and pray that there will be peace and justice in Palestine soon. Maybe the 11/29/12 U.N. decision was a step in the right direction.


  1. Sadly, I see no viable solutions, especially with the developing chaos in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon. Another major Arab/Israeli war may be on the horizon even if there were 2 states. Still, I continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

    Salaam/Shalom (words much stronger than "peace")

  2. The following comments were received by e-mail from Thinking Friend Glen Davis (and good personal friend), and I post them here with his permission:

    "Thank you for this comment on what is perhaps the most intractable problem for territorial peace and justice in the world today.

    "As a Canadian, I was disappointed but not at all surprised that our gutless Canadian government followed in lock step with the USA in voting against the UN resolution. Furthermore, our government hinted yesterday that there will be consequences for this move by the Palestinians, and we fear that Canada will now cut back on its humanitarian aid to Palestine.

    "Canada and the USA give lip service to a two-state solution but only after Israel gets to approve the meaning of 'statehood' for Palestine. Both of our countries have caved in to Israeli pressure and the pressure of Jewish lobbyists on this issue. I had expected better from human rights-committed President Obama, despite the way his hands are tied by a right wing Congress.

    "But I had no reason to expect better from our Conservative government in Canada. Human rights are 'way down at the bottom of our list of priorities right now, just above the environment! (Witness our shameless courting of China for economic profit.)

    "One point you did not mention was the ill-conceived firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas which only serves to weaken the cause of the long-suffering Palestinian people.

    "Yours for justice and peace."

    1. Glen, I didn't mention Hamas specifically, but in the next to last paragraph I referred to "various violent acts of desperation by the beleaguered people of Palestine."

      Still, the causalities are predominantly of Palestinians. According to the 11/23 issue of "The Guardian," this month there were five Israelis killed by Palestinians, but there were 150 Palestinians killed by Israel.

    2. Good article Leroy. Happy fig Sunday remember those with AIDS?HIV, may we have compassion on all who suffer.

  3. I just finished reading my Sunday school lesson for today, the chapter on the death of Josiah and the destruction of the state of Judah in "The Bible Unearthed" by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. It reminds me of how many times the Jewish people have endured devastating destruction during the history of Israel.

    So, moving on from Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and Crusaders, what can we expect for today's Israel? I fear another horrific ending, for both Israelis and Palestinians. Indeed, the ramifications of such a disaster would be worldwide. Just as ancient Jews leaned at various times on Egyptians and Persians, so today they lean on Americans. Can an overextended United States do any better than there ancient allies?

    Think of Israel as a sociological volcano, prone to periodic eruptions. The geology looks favorable for another one soon. If Josiah could come back today, what would he tell his descendants?

  4. I have just received (by e-mail) the following comments from my esteemed Thinking Friend in Kentucky:

    "I agree with your point of view, Leroy. We lived in the West Bank in 1976. It struck me that the Israelis treat the Palestinians much as Jews have been treated at times. Palestinians need their own state without Jewish settlements.

    "Too many conservative Christians want Israel to possess all of the Holy Land so that Jesus will return! It's absurd."

  5. Doing some housekeeping and rediscovered this email. I have three thoughts:

    1. I've asked this of some indiscriminately pro-Israel sorts. How would you feel if the U.N. dropped a foreign power on top of your home? And, that you were declared "foreigners" by the new power? And this, after being treated like dirt by the British and neighboring Arab states?

    The most "logical/ethical" response I've gotten is "Palestinians did not have nation status - therefore they have no say in the matter!!"

    Say what!?

    2. What about the Palestinian Christian community? I read in Sojourners in the '70s that their communities were the first to be shelled by the Israeli army in any time of tension. The writers were shelled, during a worship service, and I suppose that added to their motivation to write.

    I have learned, through one of my Lutheran pastor-friends that - even though the largest single Christian Palestinian group is/was? Lutheran - the Christian community has been largely pushed out. The good old religion card being played....

    3. The vast ignorance of the American Indiscriminately Pro-Israel pac: A perfect illustration was about ten years ago when Roberta Coombs, then president of the Christian Coalition, was on a tour of that region.

    The group had stopped at a Philistine town archaeological site. She asked their guide, "These Philistines; were they of Christian, Jewish, or Muslim ancestory?"

    What!? In roughly 1000BCE, there WERE NO such people! (Even Judaism wasn't "invented" until centuries later.)

    With that blindingly stupendous ignorance - of the Bible itself for God's sake!! - What wonder the lunatic politics that is funded by American evangelicalism!

    Yes Virginia! Sometimes I DO a little spleen venting!

    Hope that helps!