It’s time to take an objective look at the middle-east to properly understand the present crisis.

We should begin with a proper mental picture of the geography.  The West Bank and Gaza strip are separated by Israel with Gaza to the west and West Bank to the east.  The Gaza Strip, bordered on its west by the Mediterranean Sea’s east shore has a small shared southern boundary with Egypt and a longer eastern boundary with Israel.  Gaza is less than 1/20th Jamaica’s size but with a 1.7 million population.  The landlocked West Bank, bordered to its east by the Jordan River’s west bank (then by Jordan itself), is, otherwise, surrounded by Israel.  It’s one-half Jamaica’s size with 2.8 million people.

Can you see the geography of the problem now?

A lonely soul was I without direction.                                                                 I didn’t know which way that I had to go.                                                            I sought the clues to life’s unanswered questions.                                               My mind’s heart had to know.

So the Israeli nation state survives amongst its natural Arab enemies Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon and must also contend with these smaller irritants Gaza and the West Bank hard up against its borders.  Much ado has been made, in a negative way, of the Zionist “capture” of the lands now known as Israel (which helped to over-populate both tiny “neighbours”) but two historical facts must be taken into account.

  1. It’s located on the sites (give or take) of the original kingdoms (B.C.) of Israel and Judah. It’s the birthplace of the Hebrew language and of ancient religions whose evolution can be traced to both Judaism and Christianity.  It contains Jewish (and Christian) sacred sites with a predominately Jewish population until the Roman occupation when the Jews were, in the main, outnumbered except in Galilee.  Then came Jesus and the region gradually became Christian and then Muslim by Arab conquest in the 7th Century.  So, nationhood by conquest (both Roman and, more recently, Muslim) isn’t foreign to the land now known as modern Israel and at least the Jews have a more concrete historical claim to the lands than anybody else;
  2. The “modern” creation of a separate Jewish State (Israel) was sanctioned by a United Nations Resolution that mandated the British (Palestine was, effectively, part of the British Empire) to evacuate “an area situated in the territory of the Jewish State, including a seaport and hinterland adequate to provide facilities for a substantial immigration” no later than February 1, 1948.  This was against the background of The Holocaust (yes, there was a holocaust) and the urgent need for a place for displaced Jews to reside.  In testifying before a British enquiry regarding Jewish migration in 1937, Chaim Weizmann, president of the British Zionist Federation who had been promoting Zionist objectives from within Palestine for 20 years said “There are in Europe 6,000,000 people … for whom the world is divided into places where they cannot live and places where they cannot enter.”

I heard You call while wandering through the darkness.                              I’d walk a million miles to find that endless voice                                       that speaks to me when I’m in temptation                                                           echoing my choice.

So the creation of the modern Israeli Nation is neither a simplistic act of Zionist aggression to be deplored nor is it a clear-cut re-occupation of territory to which the Jews were entitled.  It’s complicated.  Also, it’s not as if land acquisition by conquest was invented by the Jews.  There’s historical and legal foundation for it.  Jewish migration from Europe to the “promised land” began in the late 19th century but intensified after the Holocaust.  A devastated people needed a home.  Eventually an international resolution was, in theory, achieved.

Then You said: Seek ye shall find                                                                        I’ve been with you through all time                                                           And if you’re thirsty I will quench you, (with my love)                                 And if you’re hungry I will feed you, (with my word)                                     And all I ask of you is that you love as I do.

So, however it came about, it is what it is.  And it’s been that for over 60 years.  So, if Palestinians have been treated with “love as I do” what’s behind the continued conflict?  Just as European Jews felt unsafe in Europe and needed a place to live that they considered theirs so too did the “evacuated” Muslims displaced by the 1948 militarization of the Arab/Israeli conflict, the British having done nothing to implement the U.N. evacuation resolution and washed their hands of the area.  These Muslims fled to the strip and joined Palestinians already resident since birth.  Gaza itself is one of the region’s oldest cities tracing its existence to centuries B.C.

Ever since, hostility has been the watchword between occupier and occupied; trust non-existent.  Love thy neighbour has taken on an entirely different meaning.

And if you lose your way I’ll lead you (to my love)                                               From a sinful life I’ll cleanse you (in my love)                                                     for creation bears a witness of my love.

The 1949 Israel-Egyot Armistice Agreement declared that the demarcation line between The Gaza Strip (which continued to be occupied by Egypt) and Egypt/Israel was not to be an international border.  It was crucial to both middle-east powers that this little “settlement” not be considered a nation state. At first it was officially administered by the All-Palestine Government, established by the Arab League in 1948 but, after its dissolution in 1959, the Gaza Strip was administered, as a colony, until 1967 by an Egyptian military governor.  It was captured in and occupied by Israel since 1967.

Similarly, The West Bank, a predominantly Muslim area, was captured by Jordan in 1948/9 and then by Israel in 1967.  Israel has been unable to maintain de facto control over these areas which are now ruled by Fatah (West Bank) and Hamas (Gaza Strip).  About 10% of West Bank residents live in Israeli settlements.

Historical sparring aside, the root of the new millennium conflict is the discriminatory way that Israel treats Palestinian residents of Gaza/West Bank vis a vis its treatment of Israeli nationals.  This discrimination involves freedom of movement; restriction on availability of goods and services and Palestinian economic activity generally. In the West Bank, a physical “barrier” has been erected which cuts off tens of thousands of Palestinians restricting movement and opportunities to obtain work in Israel.  Landlocked West Bank, treated by Israel as a necessary acquisition of “a defensible border” fortified by the imposition of Israeli settlements, hasn’t the military leverage of Gaza where Hamas has taken a more belligerent approach.  But, since 2005, Fatah and Hamas (previously allied), have done more shooting at each other than at Israel.  In 2007, Hamas was uprooted from the West Bank as Fatah formed a separate government.

Please Father, please, this world we live has faltered.                                        Deliver us from all this evil and pain.                                                                 God Bless the heart that loves unto his brother                                                  praising out Your name.

Every story has three sides but the Israelis have one repetitious argument which is that these restrictions are to promote Israeli safety from terrorist attacks.  The truth is only a minority of Palestinians are involved in what Israel calls terrorism.  The majority are simple folk seeking the Palestinian equivalent of the American or Israeli dream, to earn a living and make a better life for their children.  An independent look at the way in which Gaza and the West Bank has been carved up and restricted would remind that observer of apartheid South Africa with its townships and banning areas.

It’s popular western propaganda to blame the current upsurge in violence on politico-religious ideology and to paint it as part of the international struggle against terrorism.  This is not entirely untrue.  But, despite the endless, reciprocal finger-pointing to specific acts of hostility and the need for retaliation, much of the problem arises from simple economic frustration and discontent regarding human rights violations perpetrated by Israel against ordinary Palestinian citizens in the Holy name of the war against terror.

So, the West Bank now supports Gaza.  Fatah has been quietly fuming at the pummelling Israel handed out to Gaza.  On November 19, Fatah and Hamas officially ended their infighting and announced unity at a mass rally in Ramallah’s Manara Square which became a sea of Palestinian flags as the crowd chanted “Unity!” and “Hit, hit Tel Aviv” – appealing to Hamas militants who’d fired multiple rockets at the coastal city in less than a week.  Obviously, it won’t be long before Israel finds itself having to defend attacks on two borders.  Escalation will be welcomed by other Arab elements dying for an excuse to attack Israel.  To borrow from a George Nooks special, remember, Iran is standing by.

You know that you should know it’s time for the world to                                        (try Jah love).                                                                                                   The only love that can bring peace is                                                                  (Jah, Jah love)                                                                                                           So won’t you try, try, try , try, try,                                                                        try Jah love.

These world class lyrics every Jamaican recalls from the Third World hit recording were written by Stevie Wonder and Melody A. McCully.

Who’ll introduce moderation to all sides?  The shocker of the year has been the peacemaker role played by new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the statesmanlike way he’s gone about it.  He could be the 21st Century’s Anwar Sadat.  Don’t be too concerned about his apparently despotic recent decrees aimed at the Egyptian courts.  He’s no despot.  Based on his actions, he’s actually trying to introduce a new element into Arab/Israeli relations – reason.  The courts against which he’s just fired off a broadside aren’t made up of independent judiciary such as we’re accustomed in this hemisphere.  They’re military controlled, Brotherhood backed ideologues who want to introduce Islamist Law to Egypt and extend and deepen the Mubarak style of leadership.  The Brotherhood thought Morsi was their man but he turned out to be his own man and nobody’s boy.  Believe it or not, he’s rapidly emerging as the region’s best hope for peace.

So, Egypt has played its part.  Which independent, powerful “outsider” will insist Israel treat ordinary Palestinian “citizens” like fellow human beings?  Barack, this could be your legacy issue.  Try an unconventional approach.  Try Jah love.

Peace and Love


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