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Conflicts


Israel and Palestine: Who is the real barbarian?

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Nelson Alcantara  Mar 18, 2008

“Have you ever been to a big forest without trees and animals?
Have you ever seen black rain coming through the blue skies?”

These are the first two verses of Tolga Dirican’s song called “This Is Our World.” (click on the YouTube video link below to preview the song.) They may seem a bit simplistic but during these times where the world is plagued by uncertainties such as climate change and conflicts, one looks at the simplest explanation for inspiration to gain perspective, even, perhaps, clarity. This song does it for me.

Mother of all conflicts
Two sets of deaths—on March 6, Israeli armed forces conducted an incursion that killed 126 Palestinians, then, on March 8, a Palestinian man blew himself up killing 8 Israeli youths. Whose deaths are you lamenting? Who is more barbaric? How about both?

Thousands of years of human existence and in the age of technological advancements, no one can seem figure out a way out of the Israel-Palestine conflict. We have figured out such complex science issues such as the law of relativity and interactions in subatomic world, and yet Israelis and Palestinians can’t figure out something as basic as how to be neighborly with each other. Amid the shadow of a never-ending peace process, the two sides always manage to revert to the barbaric act of trying to obliterate each other, as though the act of coexisting is unprecedented. Israelis and Palestinians are killing each other. It is unfortunate but there really is no other apt description to the very sad state of these two neighbors’ affairs. It is as if both suffer from an inordinate desire to kill the other. It is a conflict that represents the worse case scenario, a manifestation of the ultimate conflict and the failure of humanity. It is an amalgamation of all sorts of disputes—it is about land, about water, about religion, about power, yadaa, yadaa, yadaa.

Where does the world stand?
Indifference is a terrible thing. So, even though US President George W. Bush condemning the attack on Israel youths may have been interest based, his comments are rightfully taken into account. According to reports, President Bush told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the United States stands with Israel in the face of a gunman's attack on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem.

"I condemn in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attack in Jerusalem that targeted innocent students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva," Bush said in a statement released at the White House after he spoke with Olmert on the phone. "This barbaric and vicious attack on innocent civilians deserves the condemnation of every nation."

But, just as important as Bush’s statement is the United Nations’ stance. The United Nations Human Rights Council on March 6 labeled Israel’s response to recent rocket attacks from Gaza a war crime and “collective punishment against the civilian population” in a resolution that also called for an end to such military actions and to the “firing of crude rockets by Palestinian combatants.”

According to the UN, the resolution, submitted by Pakistan, received 33 votes in favor and one against (Canada), with 13 abstentions. The vote followed a general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, which was preceded by statements from High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, as well as representatives of Israel, Palestine and Syria.

“I am deeply alarmed about the death of civilians,” Ms. Arbour said, repeating her condemnation of rocket attacks by Palestinians as well as what she called Israel’s disproportionate use of force.

The UN official urged all parties to conduct law-based, independent, transparent and accessible investigations into the killings of civilians, to make the findings public and to hold any perpetrators accountable. “All human rights are equal for all human beings and no party can claim that, in defending its own population, it is allowed to disavow the rights of others,” Ms. Arbour stressed. “On the contrary, all parties have obligations not only towards the rights of their own people, but for the rights of all.”

Independent of who you may side with or whose deaths you are more mortified by, the deaths have only served to fuel even more animosity between Israelis and Palestinians. The Israel government following the deaths of the eight youths, however, needs to be commended for exercising restraint and for rightfully taking a “deep breath.” Something an Israel official has said that they’ve learned from the late Ariel Sharon.

According to reports, Ala Abu Dhaim, the 25-year-old Palestinian who blew himself up killing eight Israeli youths, may have not been associated with any terror groups. As much as how the world may want to pin the Palestinian suicide bomber to a terror organization, he may have been acting out of sheer desperation for the current state of affairs between the two countries. The family of the 25-year-old Palestinian man, who was from east Jerusalem, said he had been distraught over this week's carnage in the Gaza Strip.

No peace, no tourism
Tourism cannot exist without peace, as so vividly demonstrated by Kenya recently. Tourism is suffering in both Israel and Palestine. Bethlehem, for instance, is the birthplace of Jesus Christ and yet it is so often ignored because of security issues and because it isn’t accessible. One then cannot feel but dismayed how numerous historical, archeological and various other tourist sites in Israel and Palestine remain unexplored and not afforded the same treatment as every tourist attraction in the world.

No matter which death you lament more, or even if you lament neither, the situation in the Middle East has become a staple in the news. There is despair from every possible angle. From the viewpoint of tourism, there can never be business as usual because under the Israel-Palestine circumstances, “usual” means a whole lot different from how the rest of the world would define it. Usual, to these unfortunate tourism partners, means bombings and deaths.

The war that never ends
Now, as the recent deaths are lamented and soon fade as distant memories, fresh new contentions are arising—Israel is being scrutinized for planning to build housing units in a West Bank settlement. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said Israel’s decision conflicts with "Israel's obligation under the road map" for Middle East peace.

The fighting never ends, does it?

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Israel and Palestine:  Who is the real barbarian?



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