Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Palestinian/Israel Situation, Simplified

I believe the media's coverage of the Israel/Palestinian conflict has been unfairly biased against Israel.

In a small effort to provide balance, I'm planning to produce a three-minute video that will enable viewers to feel what it's like to be an Israeli. I'll then ask, "Now, if you were the president of the United Nations, would you pass a pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian initiative?"

Here's a draft outline the video and would welcome your feedback:

What Would You Do?

Imagine that scary people broke into your apartment and systemically, horrifically murdered everyone in your family because of your ethnicity except you, destroying your home in the process.

You had called 911 for help but they ignored you--they didn't believe such a thing could happen. So, afterwards, partly out of guilt, the government gives you and others who were similarly persecuted, a new home, free of charge.

The problem is that the homes are in the desert and many of the people in all the surrounding communities, for thousands of years, have hated the people of your ethnicity. But with the scars of your family's murder vivid in your mind, a thirst for a safe haven of your own set aside for your people, and with reassurances from the government that it will protect you, you accept.

Residents of the surrounding communities relentlessly threaten to kill you and the people of your ethnic group, and one day, when many of them, carrying guns, line up near your back door, you surprise them with your own machine gun and kill a number of them whereupon they retreat. In the process, you and your ethnic brethren take over a small part of one of the surrounding communities to use as a security buffer. When you receive the surrounding communities' governments' assurances of your safety, you leave that area.

Alas, soon after, members of the surrounding communities start shooting bullets through your windows again. They send terrorists to blow up your cafes, your religious ceremonies, your buses. You suffer few casualties but you live in terror. The attacks get more accurate and stronger.

Then a neighboring community elects a government sworn to destroy you.

Then members of the all the neighboring communities attend to a prestigious meeting calling your people the worst in the world.

Now, one of those communities has acquired a weapon that could blow up your house, those of your ethnic brethen, and kill you all instantly.

What would you do?

That is the situation the Israelis are facing:

After the Holocaust, the United Nations encouraged the Jews to create a safe-haven homeland in Israel, an area containing mostly Jews and some low-income Palestinian farmers. The latter could stay under Israeli rule or try to resettle in any of the surrounding Muslim nations but none of those nations would accept the Palestinians.

Israel was threatened again and again by the Muslim nations and by the Muslims within Israel. The Muslims are a very religious people and their bible, the Koran, in 20 places, demands that Muslims kill the Jews (and Christians.). Muslim leaders and schools today routinely call for the killing of Jews

In 1967, when Egyptian and Syrian armies mounted their armies on the Israeli border, the Israeli army preempted them and took over the Gaza Strip, a security buffer between Egypt and Israel.

When international assurances of Israel's security were given, Israel withdrew its troops.

Through the years and accelerating, terrorist organizations supported by Iran--Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad--sent ever stronger bombs into Israel.

In 2006, the Palestinians elected the terrorist group Hamas as its official government. Hamas is committed to the destruction of the Jews.

Iran is putting finishing touches on a nuclear bomb and its president, a Holocaust denier, has said he wants "Israel wiped off the face of the earth."

If you were an Israeli citizen, how would you feel? What would you want your leaders to do? If you were the head of the United Nations, what would you do?

Viewers could then comment on YouTube and/or The Israel Project website.

So dear readers of this blog, do you think such a video would be effective in helping people appreciate Israel's situation? Care to offer a suggestion for improvement or even an entirely different approach?


Anonymous said...

Jewish settlement in Palestine, at the time controlled by Britain following WWI, was favored by the Balfour declaration, which long predates WWII.

It states:

"His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

The Brits were clearly aware that there were in fact Palestinians. Indeed, much of what israel currently does - granting citizenship on the basis of religion, but only to adherents of one religion, for instance - is clearly not consistent with the idea of not treating Palestinians prejudicially.

Marty Nemko said...

Non-Jews are, of course, allowed to be Israeli citizens. For example, 20% of Israel citizens are Muslim Arabs. (Source:

Of course, Israel, like no country is perfect. But its detractors insist it live to a higher standard of behavior than any other country that is so threatened, so attacked, and so isolated as a sliver in the desert surrounded by and infiltrated by enormous numbers of enemies, including terrorists who are utterly amoral, willing to deliberately kill innocent women and children.

Blueski said...

The problem with your analogy is that the Jewish settlers were not given unowned land in the middle of the desert. From my understanding, that land belonged to Palestinian families and had for generations. Whether or not those families had legal title to that land or not, they most surely had homesteaded it and the British government violated their property rights by giving it to Jewish settlers. There's also plenty of evidence showing that Jews lived side by side with Palestinians and other Arabs both in Palestine as well as other parts of the Mideast for thousands of years. So this notion that Arabs have always hated Jews I think is a bit of an exaggeration.

I also inferred from the map you posted that you feel that Israel is just a tiny strip of land in the vast region of "Arabia" and all those "Arabs" that happened to have been roaming about in Palestine in 1948 could have just as easily set up camp in any other part of the region. The reality is that these people had lived in Palestine for generations, and I believe were more than just nomads. Sure, they were poor and subsistence farmers, but that's still no excuse to evict them from their land without compensation.

Anonymous said...

Yes, if you are an Arab who did not flee in 1948, you are able to be a citizen.

If you are an Arab who wishes to immigrate now, or if you are a Palestinian wishing to return to your ancestral home - many Palestinians still hold the deeds to their homes - your chances are, shall we say, not good.

By contrast, if you are Jewish and wish to immigrate, you are granted citizenship by virtue of your religion.

Unless, of course, you are a Jew who the ruling groups in Israel disfavor, so Messianic Jews are not Jews for the purposes of the Law of Return. The interesting part is that you don't need to be ethnically Jewish to qualify - converts and spouses qualify (if their conversions pass muster with the religious courts) - and you can be disqualified even if you are an upstanding person of Jewish ethnicity who has converted to another faith.

I know of no countries outside of the Middle East where a religious test is applied for citizenship. It is distasteful to put it mildly when the most fundamental element of membership in society can be determined by a religious test, and when that society declares itself democratic, in need of great assistance from its allies, and unwilling to coooperate with them beyond accepting assistance.

Marty Nemko said...

Israel was given a sliver of desert following relentless attempts at genocide. Their behavior, relative to that of the surrounding nations is far superior, for example, its treatment of women. Yet the Left insists that Israel adhere to a far higher standard than any surrounding country, indeed a higher standard than any other country could be expected to adhere to under such long-standing and continuing attack.

Josef said...

I think it is a good idea to present the conflict this way. But there is a major problem that makes me doubt the video would be very effective if not tackled in a right way.

Many viewers would be suspicious of the unexplained hatred of the attackers (Arabs). They can not believe that this extreme hatred is without any reason. So they try to explain it by Jewish or Israeli wrongdoings: alleged steal of land, massacres and expulsion.

So the video would have to correct the myth of Israeli/Jewish unforgivable wrongdoings and explain that anti-Semitism is the the core of the conflict (in spite of any mistake Israel has done). Is it possible to do that in a satisfying way in less than three minutes?

@ Blueski

I am talking about people like you.
The Jews bought a lot of land. It was only after they had bought all of the available uncultivated land that they began to purchase cultivated land. Many Arabs were willing to sell because of the migration to coastal towns and because they needed money to invest in the citrus industry. Those who sold land included the mayors of Gaza, Jerusalem and Jaffa. As’ad el­Shuqeiri, a Muslim religious scholar and father of PLO chairman Ahmed Shuqeiri, took Jewish money for his land. Even King Abdullah leased land to the Jews. In fact, many leaders of the Arab nationalist movement, including members of the Muslim Supreme Council, sold land to Jews.

So the land was not just "given" to them.

"So this notion that Arabs have always hated Jews I think is a bit of an exaggeration."

There is a long history of Arab/Muslim anti-Semitism. Peaceful coexistence between the Jews and Muslims involved the subordination and degradation of the Jews. But still there was violence against them. Take the Hebron massacre of 1929 as an example - well before Israel's existence.

Marty Nemko said...

I appreciate the commenters, both the supporters and detractors--very informed, thoughtful, and well-intentioned. As you can see, I have made revisions in the video outline as a result.

I do believe that this is a good use of blogging: as a wiki: to forward an idea and then ask the wisdom of the blogosphere to improve it.

I welcome additional comments.