The Palestinian-Israeli War: Why do they keep fighting?
Those who know the feeling of hatred for another human being or for a whole race or group of individuals can probably be satisfied with using “hate” for a reason when it comes to the ongoing battle between themselves and whoever is on the other side.
Those who have been put down, locked out, emasculated or simply minimized for whatever reason, in front of their peers, their enemies, or the whole world, can understand the quest for finally gaining and using whatever power they have at hand.
Anyone who has ever heard of the Hatfields and the McCoys can probably understand the notion that once a war between two factions is in full swing, it might be handed down to the next generation on “general principles” and might go on and on and never end. Their ongoing animosity for each other, and by consequence, for all the assorted and diverse relatives, including those by marriage — and of course, all the innocent children born to either side along the way — has become symbolic of that kind of just-can’t-stop-it fighting that goes nowhere. Thankfully, the Hatfields and the McCoys did come to a peaceful signed agreement somewhere along the way, and that dreadful and useless fighting has come to an end.
Would that the two sides in this dreadful and hateful fighting could do as much.
The news about another attack, another killing, in that “holy” part of the world may be just news to some people, but it’s quite another thing to realize you were there just a few short months ago, in the very area that is under attack once again. While visiting what we refer to as the Holy Land, which is smack dab in the middle of all this conflict and contention, everywhere we went people would say — not just to me, but to each other — “Pray for peace.”
It did not seem strange that Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, all of whom strangely enough share the thread of religion attached to God — by whatever name they may call him or whatever personality they may ascribe to him — would want the same thing: peace.
One cannot sell the idea of peace with a gun in one’s hand or an implement of war behind one’s back. One cannot buy the notion of peace if one is subjected to every kind of degradation or inhumanity that does not accept you as a human being, deserving of your place to live, your right to work, worship and wander freely about your surrounding hills and valleys and towns. One cannot pretend to have peace in one’s pocket when all that is ever offered to one’s neighbor is the barest facade of tolerance that may turn into overt hostility at the drop of a hat.
Why ever wars — even those that just flare up “now and then” and are not even called wars — may have started, it is more important to face why they continue.
Wouldn’t it be far easier to reach that elusive goal of Peace if everyone could actually know that everyone else also wanted peace? If all those who want peace could stand on one side of the land, leaving on the other side all those who choose to keep fighting, no matter the reason (they enjoy fighting, they can’t let go of their hatred, they feel the need to be victorious by conquest to “prove” that they are right, etc.), those on the side of peace would far outnumber those who choose war.
As they look across at each other, they would see far more than human targets or human weapons. There would be all those children’s faces with that unspoken question in their eyes: Will we ever have a normal life without feeling that we or our parents might be killed today? There would be pregnant women, wondering if they should even bring their unborn child into the nightmare that they had prayed would turn back into their dream, and praying every hour that when their time comes, their baby can at least be born into a moment of peace.
There would be friends and neighbors of differing faiths and beliefs who have all come to the realization that everyone needs a home and basic rights, including that of being able to worship as one chooses–and that your neighbor’s worship does not and should not cancel out your own.
There would be those who might be “the enemy” by label or name or background, but who choose to see each other as human beings, worthy of loving their families and raising their children and praying in their own way.
And there would be those on that other side who cannot see past the hatred in their hearts (“justified” or not) and the dedication that they have taken on
to be victorious at all costs, including that of losing their own loved ones in their ongoing quest to “win.”
It may seem like an easy decision to make: Peace or ongoing animosity and war? Those who are so dedicated to their “just” cause cannot see it ending till they have been vindicated and are triumphant. But perhaps by that time, everything they hoped to gain will have been destroyed. The beauty that I saw in Jerusalem and throughout Israel — the landmarks and “holy places” that still exist today to some extent, even having been exposed to the ravages of time and man — may one day be all but desecrated by acts of destruction in some form or another to make a point that already goes without saying.
Looking back on my trip there in late March and early April of this year, I realize that I put myself in danger without realizing it. At one point during our tour, when I was near the Western Wall (commonly referred to as the Wailing Wall by non-Jews), I wandered away (it wasn’t forbidden on our particular tour) to explore a place that got my attention. I walked up many stairs, and went through an unmarked door.
As I was wandering through the darkish corridors made of stone, first this way and then that way, going further into this labyrinth of the unknown, I felt I should have asked someone to go with me, what with my being able to even get lost in Las Vegas. Although not deserted, there were few people there; an occasional child running about with a friend, and some men (only) in various room-like openings in the stones here and there.
As I wandered along, not even knowing where I was going and not passing any other visitors even remotely like myself, but so enthralled by the strangeness of it all, I ran into a few people sitting on the ground, perhaps begging or meditating. But when I came to the end of one of the long corridors, there were soldiers standing there, several of them, with rifles over their shoulders, and nobody else around but me.
They could easily have assumed I was the “enemy,” if they wanted to do so — wandering into their territory for who knows what or why, as it were — but on my side of this awkward situation, I chose to go for the easiest answer to my own question, “What do I do now?” and just assumed that even soldiers in such a strange and remote place might understand English, so I simply asked them to please tell me the way out, since I had gotten lost. I was then pointed in the right direction (I hoped, since I still needed three more hard-to-come-by sets of directions, which fortunately I was able to get from both Jewish and Muslim men willing and able to tell me how to actually get out of there!).
The Holy Land is beautiful and it felt so good to be there, but in many ways I can see why one could experience the hatefulness more than the holiness when one lives there today. It’s the old “us” against “them,” or “our cause” vs. “their cause.” It’s the Hatfields and the McCoys all over again, without the peace treaty.
Some maps do not even acknowledge Palestine or the Palestinian area of Israel. Does that mean that Palestinians do not exist? When I lived in Kuwait, I had a Palestinian driver who was the epitome of kindness. He always wished me peace and blessed me, in my or his comings and goings. Does that mean that all Palestinians are like him? Hardly. But the one thing we do know is that all people share the same humanity.
We needn’t all think alike, dress alike, worship alike or be uniform in any way. We needn’t even like each other, if we have reason not to. That would totally cancel out anyone’s free will.
So in what then can we ever find unity? How about in wanting world peace?
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She
writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.