The Arab-Israeli Miscommunication

Spearhead Analysis – 23.01.2017

By Hira A. Shafi
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research

“They are attracted by the motto over its portals:-‘Let nothing human be alien to me.”

The universal declaration maintains its promising visions of equality, brotherhood, freedom , right to life, liberty and security and forbids discrimination based on race, color, gender or religion. But, 2016 like several former years has been a tormented journey for the Palestinians.

Hundreds of civilians recorded dead, thousands injured, homes destroyed, construction limited and denied,  people forcefully displaced,their movement restricted- constantly under a watchful eye; medical care, right to education and economic activities denied–All under the pretext of ‘security’

Several Arab ‘refugees’ reside within the territories of Israel, West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem , while more than 8 million registered refugees are spread worldwide.

To make matters worse-Those who stayed within territories under Israel, are not only denied the inalienable rights but also viewed as ‘traitors’ by others, while those who tried to assimilate elsewhere are viewed as an economic burden and a social threat.

The tales of unimaginable horror, massacres and extreme violations of human dignity are embedded in a painful journey from Carthage to Europe as well— also under the pretext of ‘security’.

The humiliating, persecutions of the innocent downtrodden masses which took place back then- to silence those who demand their basic human rights- cannot be justified.

Similarly, the persecutions of the innocent in this day cannot be justified either, because they are also demanding basic human rights.

These similarities of painful journeys should create a natural sympathy and a fair assimilation/treatment of the displaced should be carried out in their rightful home.

The issues surrounding this conflict are multifarious, but they seem to fall under three broad categories 1. Religious Sentiments 2. Political differences and misunderstandings 3. Geopolitical significance.

Due to the sensitivities revolving around this specific region , clear dialogue on core issues is often hindered. Though everyone remains firm on their standings , the moral of a  largely agreed upon event is often overlooked—The damned fate of the fallen one because of pride—But, this occurrence also draws a line and highlights the fate of someone who is anti-human. Identifying that line and then acknowledging the importance of humanity,  may resolve several issues.

Subjective historical interpretations:

Contemporary history too, often gathers convoluted views, maybe because it is viewed too up close and the wounds are relatively fresh.

Consolidating nationalism- even amongst those who have shared a very common path can surface discrepancies in views. In the case of a ‘Jewish’ national identity, the matter gains more confusion, regarding who thinks what, because it deals with the unification of highly diverse and disparate people.

The Arab Jews are an old story, who have more or less co-existed peacefully with the other groups.

Some minor, scattered incidents of persecutions do exist. But,such incidents exist till date, even amongst those sharing the same faith, nationality etc and they cannot be regarded as purposed mass persecutions.

Records also state that life in Muslim regions was viewed as a much safer choice than elsewhere.

The misunderstandings and communication gaps appear to widen with the growing influx of European & Russian Jews and the changing political structures in the Middle East and around the world.

It is at this point ,where it becomes imperative to view religious differences and political/social issues in two different lights in order to reach peaceful outcomes.

Zionism gained momentum in the 19th century ; which contrary to a commonly held notion- is not a defining pillar of Judaism- in fact assembling all Jews in a new region was viewed by several  prominent religious and secular Jewish authorities as the utmost form of antisemitism and/or against God’s plan and several key propagators of the movement were non-Jews.

The ongoing class conflicts and rampant uprisings in Europe and Russia in 19th and 20th century, alongside leveled up the recurrent wrath unleashed on the downtrodden masses and especially Jews. Thus, surging up the search of a new land even amongst the Jewish community.

However, where this new land would be remained debated from early 19th century well into the early 20th century.  Propositions included small towns in North America, Uganda, Angola, Far East Russia, Crimea, Madagascar and Guyana. Till finally in 1948  Palestine was ‘established’ as the new home.

The religious affiliation towards this contested land existed, but it is also noted that the areas under the rule of Ottomans (and even Seljuks) became a safe haven for several asylum seekers in the backdrop of on going persecutions elsewhere, as they were largely  well-treated here.

The first and the second aliyah witnessed successful assimilation of Jews from Russia , East and central Europe; these periods lasted from approximately 1881-1914.  Palestine in that era was under the direct rule of the ottomans ,which opened its doors; in several areas including: Jerusalem,Haifa,Hebron and gaza.

But, the so called disturbances between Arabs and Jews appear to first surface from the period of 3 aliyah (1919) on wards which started after WWI.

In this time frame; the Middle East region was also preparing itself for drastic changes, great empires were on the verge of crumbling,nationalism was on the rise,  social and political unrest was rampant- skirmishes with the new refugees was just one of the several disputes that had broken out regionally.

The persecutions across Europe took a very ugly turn, causing an increase in outflow, with limited migration options.

By 1917,  the Balfour agreement conferred British support for a Jewish state in Palestine ; and alongside, by 1919 Emir Faisal and his buddy T.E Lawrence had also cut a deal with the crown and Chaim Weizmann: to assimilate the Jewish refugees within the region -“if” the British promised Arab independence in exchange for the uprising against the Ottomans.   

The promises were not kept by the crown. Eventually, the Ottomans fell; Palestine fell under the British mandate,and by 1929 , this brewing social skirmish consolidated itself as a ‘Jewish-Arab’ problem- as a backlash of broken promises.

Political misunderstandings left each party with their respective ‘translation of deal’ placing them on the front line against each other, while the local residents of the land got caught in the crossfire; and matters worsened in the time frame of WWII.

The on going gaps and misunderstandings:

The union of strong headed tribal ways and oppressed/rebellious people started off on an element of ‘mistrust’ and the deepening suspicions has only worsened matters. poor human management, has surged up: out of context religious sentiments, disputes over water, land ,food and other security concerns.

To make matters worse- the lack of inter region trust and dialogue has left everyone at the mercy of other powers— in hopes of defending their nationhood.

In the so called international best seller ‘Mossad” by Michael Bar Zohar, tales of the security adventurism are described in a rather self-glorifying manner. But, in between the lines, a unique foolishness also surfaces:

It appears that right from the start Israel involved itself in  conflicts which may have not even been directed towards it ; acting purely on the basis of suspicion against the already quarreling Arabs.

The dividing policies, covertly implemented across the Arab world should serve as self answering to why so several ongoing crises have surfaced. However, the most shocking of all accounts remain:

1. Conveniently glorying the journey of war torn, broken down, young European Jewish boys , who- adamant to claim their basic human rights picked up arms, ready to fight anything that stood in the way of establishing their own secular nationhood. Several of these ‘lions of Judah, carrying knives between their teeth’-  such a Meir Dagan (former Mossad director) grew up to be prominent players in state security… How then, are the actions of young- war torn Palestinian boys any different?–The Palestinians youth was pushed to resort to ‘violent’ uprisings well into the 80s( 1st intifada)

2. Acknowledging that the Iranian nuclear program was never directed towards Israel, post revolution Iran halted its program- condemning it as ‘Satanic’ and only resumed this agenda after the Iran-Iraq conflicts , because it viewed “Iraq” as a threat.– but Mossad decided to carry out espionage against the program,viewing it as a “potential” threat to their national security , and by 2011 on wards had not only penetrated deep into the Iranian program, but also assassinated several key scientists and sold them faulty equipment via bogus companies which led to several blasts ,site destructions and casualties . Putting the obvious violations aside– Iran today has more or less surrendered its nuclear program, and yet that doesn’t appear to be enough ; the ongoing suspicions persist…thus creating actual security concerns .

3. Implanting the ‘great spy’ Eli Cohen in the heart of the Syrian military establishment, who stirred up anti-Israel sentiments and pushed the Syrian regime to engage in an offense -(who prior to the 6 day war ,were enhancing defense capabilities but not really against Israel) – along with others while,providing Israel with a justification to halt Syrian water works,as the water issue ‘may’ have posed a threat to its security in the future…ironically. the consequences of this breach of trust- which was later discovered -appears to have become a bigger security problem.

4.Praising the fact  that Israel maintains ‘security’ in the Middle East on behalf of major global players- who in turn view Israel’s security  as crucial … was the state declared to protect the interests of others?

In the light of the last statement; Israel’s founding principle states : “It will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations”. A true adherence to these claims would be self-sufficient to guarantee ‘protection’ without the need to be nurtured for serving someone else’s security interests.

A total land area of nearly 27,000km2, Is housing approximately 6.4million Jews, 1.7million Muslims and several other groups. By 2035, the Jewish population is expected to rise by 40% whereas the Muslim by 60%. Water, food and land crisis/disputes would worsen if such tensions persist.

Recent polls suggest that there has been a significant rise in- not only the Muslim but also the Jewish population in favor of the two-state solution.

It is however, imperative to realize that since 1946 till today, what is to be called ‘Palestine’ is not much but scattered and distant areas which are further weakened due to clashes between Hamas and Fatah – forming their own authorities in Gaza and west bank.

This two state solution of what is to be Israel and Palestine, calls for a very delicate carving of regions within regions; which are highly interconnected. In such a fragile situation, peace and acceptance would have to precede, for the solution to show success.

The use of force will always produce some form of a reaction, a constant back and forth retaliation leaves no one feeling secure.

The new settlements around West Bank and East Jerusalem keep increasing and so does the number of those internally displaced. The Israeli government’s defense budget in the span of 10 years has drastically increased, the publicly known defense spending accounts for more than 36 percent of the total spending. The construction, de-construction  costs appear to be another waste.

Resetting mindsets:

The Israel-US alliance has stood firm over the years, however in the midst of heightened tensions – the new administration has stirred up a sensitive religious element to this political dispute by identifying Jerusalem as the ‘eternal capital of Jews’.Some Muslim countries are engaged in working relations with Israel , The dangerous consequences of such statements- needs to be thought through, keeping in view the geographical realities.

Certain Israeli analysts too, are encouraging diversification of alliances, especially with Asian and Russian centers, as it stands at the edge of a key route.Several countries including Iran , are in need of technological upgrades– another opportunity to collaborate stands.

Internally, the Middle East region is embroiled in political tensions,several countries are in ruins ; further paving way for religious-political fanaticism; which is a result of  deplorable socio-economic conditions that have risen from constant regional backstabbing and suspicions —

This attitude needs a change, because masses- may it be Palestinians,Syrians or whoever- pay the price.

The spheres of external influences cut right through the middle east, but at this point, new forces are enhancing efforts to gain traction, some regional players are seeking to broaden alliances since economic development is also a common goal; this provides everyone with a chance to realign relations and form a coherent and common regional security goal because the current direction places every country in the region on a mutually destructive and self destructive path, sustainable security cannot be attained at the cost of someone next door.

And it appears that since the end of WWI honest peaceful coexistence in Middle East has never been given a chance.

Clearing out such communication gaps and increasing regional inter dependency is also a prerequisite in creating a fair and peaceful co existence of the two nations of Palestine and Israel.

The conditions of South Asia are also more or less following a similar trend. Here too, careful approaches -based on common goals need to be carved out.