Sunday, November 7, 2010

An article on Israelis and Palestinians from a different point of view

Every so often friends send me articles on Israel and the Palestinians. I am very glad they do, I would not be able to keep up with everything that is going on in that part of the world if they did not. I can always go over to the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and read one-sided information. And some of that is helpful, but it is one-sided and sometimes because of the complex issues untrue.

One article that was sent me was a pleasure to read. It told two sides, but also it is engaging because of its descriptive language, the author’s obvious love of people and his sense of integrity toward the people he writes about. He does not give out information that would put people in harm’s way. The article is “Lattes, beach barbecues (and dodging missiles) in the world's biggest prison camp.”

The author, Peter Hitchens, has written the article for Mail Online. Here are some excerpts from the article. The first is about how complicated the issues are:

There are dispiriting slums that should have been cleared decades ago, people living on the edge of subsistence. There is danger. And most of the people cannot get out.

But it is a lot more complicated, and a lot more interesting, than that. In fact, the true state of the Gaza Strip, and of the West Bank of the Jordan, is so full of paradoxes and surprises that most news coverage of the Middle East finds it easier to concentrate on the obvious, and leave out the awkward bits.

Which is why, in my view, politicians and public alike have been herded down a dead end that serves only propagandists and cynics, and leaves the people of this beautiful, important part of the world suffering needlessly.

For instance, our Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently fawned on his Islamist hosts in Turkey by stating Gaza was a 'prison camp'. This phrase is the official line of the well-funded Arab and Muslim lobby, who want to make sure Israel is seen by the world as a villainous oppressor.

Well, Israeli soldiers can and do act with crude brutality. Israeli settlers can and do steal Arab water and drive Arabs off their land. Israeli politicians are often coarse and insensitive.

The treatment of Israel's Arab citizens is one of the great missed opportunities of history, needlessly mean and short-sighted. The seizure of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 were blunders, made worse by later folly.

But if you think Israel is the only problem, or that Israelis are the only oppressors hereabouts, think again. Realise, for a start, that Israel no longer rules Gaza. Its settlements are ruins.

No Israelis can be found inside its borders. And, before you say 'but Israel controls the Gaza border', look at a map. The strip's southern frontier – almost as hard to cross as the Israeli boundary – is with Egypt. And Cairo is as anxious as Israel to seal in the Muslim militants of Hamas.

Gaza was bombed on the day I arrived in retaliation for a series of rocket strikes on Israel, made by Arab militants. Those militants knew this would happen, but they launched their rockets anyway. Many Gazans hate them for this.

And then there is this about the refuges:

What about Gaza's 'refugee camps'. The expression is misleading. Most of those who live in them are not refugees, but the children and grandchildren of those who fled Israel in the war of 1948.

All the other refugees from that era – in India and Pakistan, the Germans driven from Poland and the Czech lands, not to mention the Jews expelled from the Arab world – were long ago resettled.

Unbelievably, these people are still stuck in insanitary townships, hostages in a vast struggle kept going by politicians who claim to care about them. These places are not much different from the poorer urban districts of Cairo, about which nobody, in the Arab world or the West, has much to say.

It is not idle to say that these 'camps' should have been pulled down years ago, and their inhabitants rehoused. It can be done. The United Arab Emirates, to their lasting credit, have paid for a smart new housing estate with a view of the Mediterranean.

It shows what could happen if the Arab world cared as much as it says it does about Gaza. Everyone in Gaza could live in such places, at a cost that would be no more than small change in the oil-rich Arab world's pocket.

But the propagandists, who insist that one day the refugees will return to their lost homes, regard such improvements as acceptance that Israel is permanent – and so they prefer the squalor, for other people.

And just one more thing about Christians:

One – which I feel all of us should be aware of – is the plight of Christian Arabs under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. More than once I heard them say: 'Life was better for us under Israeli rule.'

One young man, lamenting the refusal of the Muslim-dominated courts to help him in a property dispute with squatters, burst out: 'We are so alone! All of us Christians feel so lonely in this country.'

This conversation took place about a mile from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where tourists are given the impression that the Christian religion is respected. Not really.

I was told, in whispers, of the unprintable desecration of this shrine by Palestinian gunmen when they seized the church in 2002 – 'world opinion' was exclusively directed against Israel. I will not name the people who told me these things.

I have also decided not to name another leading Christian Arab who told me of how his efforts to maintain Christian culture in the West Bank had met with official thuggery and intimidation.

Oh and the descriptive language:

Human beings will always strive for some sort of normal life. They do this even when bombs are falling and demagogues raging. Even when, as in Gaza, there is no way out and morality patrols sweep through restaurants in search of illicit beer and women smoking in public or otherwise affronting the 14th Century values of Hamas.

So I won't give the name of the rather pleasant establishment where young women, Islamic butterflies mocking the fanatics' strict dress code with bright make-up and colourful silken hijabs, chattered as they inhaled apple-scented smoke from their water-pipes.

Their menfolk, nearby, watched football on huge, flat-screen televisions. Nor will I say where I saw the Gazan young gathering for beach barbecues beneath palm-leaf umbrellas.

This is an excellent article with pictures and map—please read the rest: “Lattes, beach barbecues (and dodging missiles) in the world's biggest prison camp.”

Hat Tip to Drs KC & DW

3 comments:

Walter L. Taylor said...

Viola,
Wonderful article. Peter Hitchens is the brother to Christopher Hitchens, the famous atheist scientist. Peter, however, is a practicing Christian, who has written an interesting book, "The Rage Against God" (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010). Well worth the read...
Walter Taylor, Oak Island, NC

reformedpastor said...

Thank you very much for posting this, Viola. Hitchens strikes exactly the right reality-based note.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Viola Larson said...

Walter, I did not know that. I just knew that I really liked the article. Thanks for the information. Now I know why it is so even handed.

David,
I agree, I hope others will take note.