Thursday, June 3, 2010

Middle eastern intransigence--here's why

The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer wrote an op-ed piece justifying the Israeli's raid on the blockade-buster flotilla headed towards Gaza from Turkish-occupied Cyprus (a bit of unintentional irony there, to be sure).

My reaction, after a thousand frenzied responses:

pleaseshutup wrote:

Jews and Arabs lived together peacefully prior to their bloody take over of Palestinian LAND


This is true--in exactly the same way that Southern Whites and Blacks “lived together peacefully” from 1865 through the 1970s.

You see, the Islamic world classifies Christians and Jews as “dhimmis,” with a long list of laws and customs regulating their existence in Muslim lands. These laws are pretty much the same as the South’s Jim Crow laws were: dhimmis were accepted unless they got “uppity.” Though lynchings and pogroms occurred fairly frequently, for roughly the same range of reasons that they occurred fairly regularly in the South.

This is hard for Americans to understand because it’s so different from traditional American stereotypes about Jews—and from the way the European Jews who settled in what is now Israel felt.

Imagine the reaction a group of sophisticated, educated, armed American Blacks from Harlem in the 1950s would get if they moved to, say, Huntsville Alabama in that era. Imagine the sort of culture clash you’d get.

This is exactly the situation from the Arabs’ point of view. These uppity SERVANTS dare to march around on our land with their noses in the air, acting as if they’re as good as us—even better than us. Insufferable!

On the other hand, the European Jews mostly didn’t know about their dhimmi status, and just saw a bunch of illiterate camel jockeys—i.e., people fit at best to be servants—acting all uppity towards them. I'm not justifying their attitude, just trying to put myself in their shoes. (Not to mention the fact that Hitler killed all the gentle, sensitive Jews he could get his hands on. Guess what kind of person survives concentration camps? The tough one.)

So for each side, each was each other’s uppity servant class acting above their station.

How’s that for a forumula for mutual misunderstanding and hostility?

Augmenting this mutual hostility was the appearance of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab lands, ethnically cleaned from Morocco to Iraq in response to Israel’s declaration of independence. They arrived stripped of their lands and goods, often with horror stories of themselves and neighbors abused or even murdered—and the Israelis’ attitudes congealed. These people and their descendants account for around 40% of Israelis.

As did the other side, when the Arabs who left their lands—or were run off them—arrived in the refugee camps with their own stories.

The difference being that the Arabs who now represent one out of five Israelis chose to stay and were allowed to, while almost none of the Arab countries’ Jews were given that choice, whether they wanted to stay or not. Arab apologists claim that all 750,000 or so Jews left their ancestral homes in Arab countries voluntarily. I find that improbable in the extreme.

None of this justifies either sides’ deeds or misdeeds. But it does help explain the intransigence of both sides, and both sides’ absolute belief in their historical grievance-narrative.

And if Americans want to help the goal of peace in the Middle East, the worst thing they can do is swallow either side’s “we’re 100% right—they’re 100% wrong” narrative. Yet over 80% of the comments here do just that.

It doesn’t help the Israelis to write op-ed pieces like this that justify anything and everything Israelis do. Nobody’s perfect. But in my book it’s even worse to adopt the Arab grievance narrative, because it has American leftists acting like Southern Whites from the 1950s—even though they think they’re being the exact opposite.

Pretty ironic.

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