Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Current Events Update

I am by no means an expert regarding the grand scale of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but what I can inform you about (as a current resident of Jerusalem) is not only what I see with my eyes, but also, what I hear with my ears amidst classroom chatter and the surrounding daily news that infiltrates our media.

Border violence (Ha'aretz News)

You may get just a small headline on the corner of your daily newspaper informing you of the newest updates in the Middle East, but I can tell you that here, unending headlines decorate the daily news websites and papers on a seemingly constant basis. In sum, there has been a lot going on here.

Palestinian protesters on Nakba Day 2011 (J-Post News)
For starters, you are all likely aware (and if you're not, I'm not sure what rock you've been hiding under) of the uprising across the Middle East and northern Africa that have led rioters to overturn arguably corrupt regimes from Tunisia to Egypt, inspiring neighboring Arab nations to action. And inspire it did to neighboring Palestinians who created multiple online pages (most prominently on facebook) with upwards of 3.5 million supporters for the initiation of the 3rd Intifada, set to being May 15, 2011. For those of you who have no idea what an "Intifada" is, it refers to the Palestinian uprising or rebellion against Israeli occupation (most prominently in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). So, you know all those bus explosions you remembering seeing on the news every other day in Israel during 1987-1993 and from 2000-2005? Yes, those years refer to time periods of the 1st and 2nd Intifada, respectively. Thus, you can understand why such a massive influx of "like's" to such a page on facebook would result in hysteria.

Protesters burn a symbolic Israeli flag on Nakba Day (J-Post News)
Add to this the recent killing of bin Laden and you stir in a whole new slew of threatened retaliation. On top of this, you may or may not have heard of the recent armistice between the two strongest (and previously opposing) Palestinian parties. This was a very big deal, but probably not something that made the headlines back home, though I cannot speak for all. This union between the Gaza Strip's Hamas and the West Bank's Fatah is considered one of the deadliest blows in recent history to the Middle East peace process. Reason being that Hamas denies Israel's existence and advocates the demolition of Israel. With this united Palestinian armistice, how can peace ever be sought from a stronghold who refuses to even acknowledge the existence of a country in of itself? 

Border violence at the Israeli-Syrian border (Ha'aretz News)
In mid-September 2011, the newly united Palestinian factions will head to the UN for a historic meeting in which they will request a bid for unilateral statehood. As of now, it already looks like 60 of the 70 states in the UN are in favor of the establishment of a Palestinian state. Thus, Israel has a massive and devastating issue on its hands. It's not that Israel doesn't advocate a Palestinian state. That's not the issue at all. They will need to convince those 60 states that favoring a Palestinian state at this time and under these terms will be a devastating blow to the peace process; because, I ask again, how can you ever hope to achieve peace with a political force who doesn't want peace? How can you work with a country who has turned down proposition after proposition and who refuses to negotiate; whose only goal is to demolish the state of Israel? As far as I remember in my conflict resolution classes, there must always be a compromise....which Israel has always attempted to do, but in vain. If you go look at the history, you would be shocked to see the massive offers Israel has made to the Palestinian people; all of which have been swiftly rejected.

Palestinian protesters in Ramallah (J-Post News)
Palestinian protesters holding an injured man (Ha'aretz News)

And so, to bring you up to date, we recently passed by May 15, 2011 which was likely just another day in your neck of the woods. But, here in the Middle East, it was the annual commemoration of Nakba Day, which translates into the Palestinian's day of mourning or "catastrophe day" when 700,000 Palestinians (who are now millions of Palestinians) were displaced from their land 63 years ago following the 1948 war that established the state of Israel. [Now, when I say "their land", of course this is the crux of the entire conflict. Whose land is it really? Israelis will tell you it is theirs, historically, dating back to the beginning of time when the ancient Canaanites from whom they descended lived there. Throughout history, many different groups lived here, including Byzantines, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and of course, Arabs. So to say it is their land is the unending debate around which the conflict circulates.]

Nakba Day protests at the dividing wall in East Jerusalem (J-Post News)
Regardless, every year on May 15, protests are common as Palestinian Arabs express their sorrow and upset over their lost land, threatening that they will return home one day. [Keep in mind that the Israeli government has offered an abundance of peace propositions over the years, which would return a  great portion of the land back to Palestinian hands. They have never accepted a single offer. Which brings me back to the past statement of how is it possible to negotiate peace with people who don't want to negotiate?] Anyhow, this year, as a result of the accumulation of recent worldwide protests and with the threat of the 3rd Intifada (which was threatened to begin on May 15) this year's Nakba Day was reportedly more violent than any year in recent memory. 

Border threat at the Syrian-Israeli border (J-Post News)
Israeli soldiers defending their borders (J-Post News)

You may have read the headlines or you may not have seen them at all. But here, headlines were splashing across the country every other minute. Thousands of angry protesters lined up at the "big 4 borders including the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. Cocktail molotovs were thrown at buildings near civilians. Rocks were hurled toward Israeli soldiers. Hundreds stormed illegally through the Syrian border into Israeli land. A terrorist attack in Tel Aviv left one man dead and nearly two dozen injured. And the list goes on. Often, the news you will hear back home portrays Israel in a bad light as having shot and killed protesters - yet, that is only half the story. What is left out are the warning shots that the Israeli soldiers fired to caution protesters and the tear gas that was sent out as a second warning. With multiple warnings ignored, hundreds mobbed the Syrian border and Israeli soldiers had no other option but to defend and shoot. So, you can choose your side, but you likely cannot argue that every side has a viewpoint. What would you do if hundreds of threatening mobsters hurled themselves onto your property? Wouldn't you want to defend your home? As with anything in life, when you go looking for trouble, chances are...you'll find it.

Arab protesters storming the Syrian-Israeli border (Ha'aretz News)
Aerial view of Israeli-Syrian border on Nakba Day (Ha'aretz News)
In the meantime, Israel has lodged a formal complaint to the UN regarding the border violence it was threatened with on Nakba Day. And so, both sides sit and wait (impatiently) to see what will result from the mid-September meeting when the joint Palestinian parties approach the UN for their request for statehood recognition. Someone once told me that Israel is likely the only country in the world that you can say say these two sentences about: "In 50 years from now, it may still exist"....or...."In 50 years from now, it may no longer exist". Quite a scary notion.  And a very real one. If you ask me, Palestinians ought to be on their very best behavior until mid-September if they want unilateral support. Only time will tell. 

Tel Aviv attack on Nakba Day (Ha'aretz News)

Suspected terrorist attack on Nakba Day
Again, I do not consider myself an expert on the issue, though I hope this has shed a little light on the current events in this region of the world. Depending on what goes on here, we either may or may not be spending our next year in Israel, which is a scary notion. The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) fear that this is only a precursor for what may be coming in September. I have always hoped for women to step into office in hopes that it would issue a spirit of constructive negotiation worldwide in lieu of the war and terrorism that seem to go nowhere but in circles. And just as in any relationship, here too I advocate a little give and take to achieve the peace that is so wishfully desired.....however.....you know it takes two to tango.


  1. This is a great article you wrote Erin. I am very sad for the state of Israel for those things. It is sad to think that the place that is the fabric of Judaism, Islam and Christianity may cease to exist. It is a place I have always wanted to visit and it's sad to think that I might never make it. I actually sat here and tried to imagine myself in 50 years hearing the news about Isreal's fate... and it makes me sad to think that peace may never come.

    Stay safe my friend! Stay safe! We are still hoping to be going abroad... probably would be in November. If we do and you're still in Israel, you must come visit!

  2. I really hope you DO make it over here, and vice versa our door is always open. It's weird living through history over here and we're very curious to see what's gonna happen. So excited that you're coming to Europe, what an adventure it's gonna be!


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