By: Alex Hale ~Staff Writer~
Over Christmas break, I had the great privilege of spending two weeks in Israel to study. While we were over there, a lot of news came about the United Nations stating that Israel had no right to continue settling in Palestinian territory in the West Bank. United States Secretary of State John Kerry even came out and said that if Israel rejects the two state solution, it can “be either Jewish or democratic,” not both. This resulted in a strong response from Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu against the actions of the UN and the U.S. Netanyahu and the current Israeli government want to control all of the land from the ancient state of Israel for two reasons: either they were there first or God had promised the Jews the land. However, it is more complicated than that. Jerusalem was invaded by King David when the Canaanites (Arabs) were in control initially. On the other hand, in the Bible God promised the land to all of the descendants of Abraham, which does not exclude Arabs, as descendants of Ishmael. However, it is hard to say the Israeli’s actions are completely unjustified because, though there is supposed to be a two state solution, Israel is surrounded by unfriendly neighbors who would be happy if it would disappear from the map.
Everything in Israel has a vibe of security. There is compulsory military service for all Israeli citizens (excluding Arabs) for two years. There is a surplus of Israeli soldiers walking around with loaded AR-15s. And of course, there are the well-known checkpoints in the West Bank. Some may say that this security is unnecessary, but the day after we left, there was a terrorist attack in Jerusalem that killed four soldiers.
Back on the other side though, the Palestinians abandoned their homes when Israel was established out of fear that there were worse things coming their way. They ran toward the West Bank while Israelis moved into their old homes. They felt like refugees, yet they kept their keys to their homes, hoping that one day they would be able to return to that home. Meanwhile, the new Israelis moving in were refugees as well. They had just survived the Holocaust and lost many of their loved ones to the rule of Nazi Germany.
After the Six Day War, when Israel began its occupation of the West Bank, many religious extremists became unauthorized settlers of this new territory, where they maintained their Israeli citizenship yet technically lived outside of the borders. These religious extremists were able to make it possible for the government to start providing tax incentives for settlers to move in. Now, many people who don’t have the same hard line religious ideas are moving into the settlements for the sake of affordable living, good schools, proximity to Jerusalem and other various non-political / religious reasons. These settlements have now become well established communities, woven into Palestinian land, has become home to two different groups of people living under two different rules of law. As more settlements are established, it becomes increasingly difficult to establish a solid two state solution. Now, this is an opinion piece. I’ve managed to not really leave a strong opinion so far, and that’s for a good reason.
Maybe the answer is more nuanced than choosing to support Israel or Palestine. Maybe instead, the answer is to keep working with both sides on what can unite them. The issue is a form of polarization, where both sides talk past each other and no one listens to where the other is coming from. When they begin to attempt to, some sort of violence never ceases to get in the way of preventing peace. Maybe one day there will be peace, but that day will only come when both sides realize that they are both children of Abraham and are both loved by God.