Jews and Muslims have Not been Fighting for Thousands of Years

People tend to categorize this as an exclusively religious conflict. Yes, in 1948 during the creation of Israel religious ideological elements were in motion, such as Zionism, and what led to the creation of Israel was due very much in part to the horrible discrimination and persecution The Jewish People faced solely for their religion. Though the conflict is religiously based, things are much different today than they were in 1948. Currently on a basic day-to-day level, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is very much centered around the rights to land and resources like water, all encroaching upon human rights.

We’ve all heard something along the lines of “Oh, those Jews and Arabs have been fighting each other for thousands of years”. But they haven’t. Until 1929, Jews and Palestinians living in Palestine would babysit each other’s children (documentary Occupation 101). Jews and Arabs living together elsewhere, like Morocco, were also neighbors and got along very well. Seems fictitious, but they’ve gotten along just fine and even thrived together until recent history.

The tension between Palestinians and Jews only started approximately 80 years ago, around 1929, after growing tides of anti-Semitism in Europe and the promise of a homeland drove Jewish communities to Palestine. In 1877 and 1912, 3% and 5% of the Palestinians were Jewish, respectively (link). By 1925, that number tripled to 15% of the population. In addition, from 1915-1930, the British and French rivalry unintentionally pitted the Jews and Palestinians against each other (from A Line in the Sand by James Barr).

My point is that when I discuss and criticize governmental policy, I am not commenting on religion or the citizens of Israel. I am commenting on the lack of human rights. Policies must be criticized, not citizens.

If an American or Brit or whoever disagrees with Obama’s policies, it does not mean they are disagreeing or making a stand on Obama’s Christian faith or America’s faith.When people accuse someone of being anti-Semitic for talking about Palestine or bringing awareness to Palestinian human rights, it is an inaccurate accusation. By all means, call someone out if they are racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, or anti-something if they are, but don’t say someone is anti-Semitic just because they are talking about Palestine.

 If someone criticizes the Israeli governmental policy on land rights and human rights, they are just contributing to a discussion and debate about policy in which all democracies should be subject. Americans critique our government and other governments all day long on the news and in our homes. This strengthens democracy.

“Israel is heading in the wrong direction”, says Dror Moreh (director of The Gatekeepers), and the only way to put them on a track towards peace is to start an honest critical discussion about their policies (Huffington Post). At the 16:30 minute mark, he comments on American feelings toward Israel that capture the essence of why there is such an American stigma against criticizing Israel. He says the American Jewish community thinks they have “to support Israel no matter what. But this is a mistake, because then they are damaging the state of Israel… By not criticizing Israel and accepting everything it does, politically and especially towards the conflict, they are damaging their own goal, to protect the state of Israel as a safe haven”.

I agree with Moreh’s view (Huffington Post, 25 seconds in) that we must challenge Israeli policy for it to be pro-human rights and promote peace in the long-run, and how Americans have to change how we blindly support Israel. Americans don’t blindly support our own government. We criticize and debate it everyday in society. This is good. Constructively criticizing Israeli policy means you care about the future Israel and Palestine and want each side to live in peace.

Talking about both sides of the story is the only way to help both sides out in the long run.  Secretary of State John Kerry has somewhat jump-started this American discussion on Palestine, in everything from its people and politics to its economy (World Economic Forum). Being aware of Palestinian human rights issues is a pro-peace stance, and since peace will sustain Palestine and Israel’s future, being aware of Palestine is actually pro-Israel’s future. If we ignore Palestine, Israel’s long-term peace can’t exist. If we ignore Israel, Palestine’s long-term peace can’t exist.

In my opinion, that is why being pro-peace means you support peace for both Palestine and Israel, because peace won’t occur if one side is ignored. Ultimately, being pro-peace just means you are pro-people. Constructively criticizing Israeli policy will hopefully lead to the Israeli government realizing they must treat the Palestinians better and grant them self-autonomy if they are to maintain their own state in the long-term. Israeli security can be achieved if they guarantee human rights and land for Palestinians. This is pro-Israel and pro-Palestine because it is a scenario in which both peoples can be secure within their own respective borders,  living in dignity and peace.

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