Chapter 1. Introduction
There is no more compelling and dramatic story with more profound international ramifications than the conflict raging in the Land of Canaan. A movement for gathering Jews from all over the world to the Holy Land was accompanied by dispossession of native Palestinian Christians and Muslims. This was followed by decades of conflicts. How did Zionism translate into a nation state for all Jews? How did such a state succeed to be established in a land already inhabited? How did religious and geopolitical factors help create one of the most emotional and heated conflicts still unresolved today? These and other questions received tremendous coverage in the media and in thousands of books published over the past 100 years. This is a story that seems to generate more news internationally and more heated debate than any other story.
My purpose in this book is to take the reader through the major issues that surround the conflict in order to propose a rational solution. There are many books on the conflict that deal in detail with each of the issues I raise: refugees, Jerusalem, terrorism, human rights etc. I examine the conflict as a whole, giving suggested readings on the different topics for those wanting more details. This lays out the groundwork, despite the difficulties on all sides, for a human solution proposed in the last chapter. After so much bloodshed, people of different religions and persuasions are only now arriving at this revolutionary yet simple and logical conclusion. Myths prevent what many now know is the proper solution to this man-made catastrophe sometimes referred to as the "Middle East situation". In this book, we will also examine historical research that helps dispel accumulated myths which stood in the way of the most obvious and logical conclusion: a durable peace is possible and in fact inevitable based on sharing and equality rather than separation and walls.
The citations I provide as sources published in paper form or on websites are those I consider important. I have not tried to reference everything stated except in cases where I have directly quoted someone else’s work, or when I have thought it useful. However, I do provide at the end of each chapter some recommended readings for those who want more in depth discussion of the issues raised. My aims include exploring buried documents and historical facts that relate to how a solution might be found in human rights. Unusual findings in my research include how and why the British Empire pushed for Jewish settlement in Palestine as early as the 1840's. We will see how and why this Empire's actions included the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the decades of colonization of Palestine that followed. We will see how and why Herzl and other European Jews thought a Jewish state was the best solution to the "Jewish problem". We will see why there was major Jewish opposition to Zionism and we will examine offered but failed solutions culminating in Oslo and the so-called road map to peace. We will see why Israel's "security" wall snaking through the West Bank will bring neither security nor peace. We will see why Israeli and Palestinian societies are evolving towards a post-Zionist era both within and outside the cease fire line of 1949. We will see why this line, called the "green line," or lines drawn with 20 foot walls built by the Israeli government will never become borders between two sovereign states. We will see why nihilistic ideas from any side will succeed in subjugating the "other" or tearing the small land of Canaan into pieces.
Like other struggles, superpowers attempted to dictate the fate of natives without their consultation. Like other struggles, individuals were willing to kill and be killed in the name of nationalism or religion. Like other struggles, it is a story of cold war rivalries using populations as part of a chess game of rivalry and domination. But unlike other struggles, it is a story with unusual angles involving world religions and a story with global impact. The events of September 11, 2001 and the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq are but examples of shock waves of this struggle going beyond its local borders. Despite the agony, there are still many hopeful signs to a solution involving integration and coexistence.
No other part of the world has had as much of an impact (positive and negative) on global affairs as the Land of Canaan. Here evolved a rich history of innovation, culture, religion, and dominant civilizations. It is here that dramatic and fascinating cave drawings and stone tools of hunter-gatherers were first discovered. Here hunter-gatherers settled into agriculture, build city-states, and later developed prosperous Empires that included centers of poetry, agriculture, trading, and science. In an area later called the Fertile Crescent, the area of what is now Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine, humans first cultivated wheat and barley and domesticated animals. It is where they first learned to use an alphabet and drafted civil laws. In short, this is where civilizations first took root. The series of ancient civilizations was not a clean-cut temporal succession but a mixed mosaic of intermingling cultures, dynasties, languages, and religions. This rich mosaic included some of the most successful traders (e.g. Phoenicians), farmers of arid lands (e.g. Nabataean Arabs), great architects (e.g. Assyrians, Jebusites,), and those who developed incredibly influential laws and religions (Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Arabs). This truly multiethnic and multicultural area oscillated between periods of war and prosperity. In the past 100 years, it has been an era of displacement and violence and oppression.
While a rich and complex history is reduced to sound-bites on television, six million Palestinian Christians and Muslims are refugees or displaced people. A political and economic conflict has been occasionally reduced to simplified statements about religion, violence, and ethnic slurs. Some have argued that this is one of the most complicated and difficult conflicts to resolve. They cite the conflicts supposed long history, sometimes claiming it goes back thousands of years. They cite religious involvement and other supposedly complicating factors. They sometimes arrive at the conclusion that this conflict cannot be solved but merely "managed" or at best solved by an apartheid solution already tried and failed in South Africa. This book will review data that suggest a logical way forward.
Britain and France fought many wars including the 100 Years' War (which actually lasted over 120 years). Both now share a tunnel with free movement of people and ideas and it would be unthinkable to imagine a resurgence of conflict in Western Europe between those two great powers. The Berlin Wall tumbled and Apartheid in South Africa was dismantled. The 100 years of conflict in the Middle East remains as a galvanizing force in 21st century. This is a conflict that is both simple to understand and yet made complicated by claims and counter-claims, propaganda, power politics, and unimaginable violence and suffering. Five of the eight million Palestinians in the world remain refugees or displaced people. Israel, established to provide a safe haven for Jews across the globe, is ironically the only place where Jews remain endangered and subject to violence. This is a book intended to provide a vision for peace based on human rights supported by international law. The vision is one of a pluralistic society for all its citizens with justice and equality as cornerstones. Such a vision has many detractors. It may seem unrealistic to many including those uninitiated and those who have acquired their knowledge through mainstream Western media. Therefore, I believe it important to begin by discussing history in order to address some of the myths usually used to argue against integration and coexistence.