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What’s our responsibility?

Eric Collier

Who is legally, morally, theologically entitled to the land of Israel/Palestine?

No thoughtful person who reviews the long, tortured history of the region can find the answer to that question easy. But not much rational thought gets applied to it. Palestinians and Jews each believe it was given them by God.

Both are willing to kill and die for that proposition. The entire Arab and Muslim world backs the Palestinians; the U.S. backs Israel. Both for reasons more emotional and political than moral or logical.

The rest of the world is more conflicted. Our closest friends and allies believe that we have been too biased in favor of Israel. I suggest they are right.

Consider this, from “A Crash Course in Jewish History,” by Rabbi Ken Spiro: “The Jewish people base their claim on God’s promise. It is a moral claim because God is God and God is by definition truth and morality.

“God gave the Jewish people the Land of Israel. Without that, the only claim the modern state of Israel can make is it is stronger and was able to take the land from the Arabs.” The American evangelical right agrees, and has weighed in, with its usual shrill wisdom, in support of Israel. And no Republican administration can fail to factor that into its foreign policy.

“Manifest Destiny,” “White Man’s Burden,” “Dieu le veult!” – we’ve heard these obscene catch-phrases before. Is the world to be subjected to further war because of the ugly intrusion of ethnocentrism and religion into affairs of state?

Israel excites our natural admiration as a vigorous democracy in a region of backward and authoritarian duck soup. But that doesn’t justify its apartheid-like treatment of a minority. The Palestinians seem to have entered a mode where keeping the struggle alive is more important than making social progress. But they are understandably bewildered that a land they had come to think of as theirs, by right of long and relatively peaceful occupation, could be simply mandated out from under them by remote foreign powers, and that they now find themselves third-class citizens in that land.

They hit back, often in ways we find repugnant. They might score more propaganda or sympathy points by passively rolling over for the humiliations they endure. But is that what you would do?

The situation in Palestine should be approached more critically and even-handedly. We should move forward with a plan for the creation of a Palestinian state, with the security of both it and Israel guaranteed, if necessary, by foreign peacekeepers.

Another flashpoint with the Arabs is the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia, which they consider a desecration of sacred soil. I don’t think much of the concept of “sacredness,” but it doesn’t matter what I, or you, think. This is a local sensitivity which must be respected. The troops seem to be there for three reasons: to prop up the Saudi royal family – which is decadent, corrupt and detested by the Saudi people; to secure the flow of Saudi oil – which wouldn’t be so imperiled if we weren’t so reviled for being there; and to await the order to attack Iraq – an untenable and hare-brained scheme anyway. We should begin a withdrawal.

There’s nothing simple or risk-free about any of this, and it may not yield us everything I hope. The situation may now be so far gone it’s too late for anyone to do the right or rational thing. Surely with the status quo as the alternative we have to try something. As long as America takes the kind of simplistic and intrusive view of things it traditionally has, it will continue to be the object of international disdain and radical rage. And both sentiments are clearly on the rise.

Eric Collier is a former marine officer and proletarian-philosopher, currently living in Wildernest.

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