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The ethics of a just solution of the 'Palestinian/Israeli' conflict

securityby George Salzman

The most essential realization in trying to come to grips with this terribly convoluted situation centered in the Middle East is that there is no possibility of a totally just resolution. Historical developments have made the entire world into an almost overwhelming tragedy, including the incendiary Mid-East focal point. The best that is now possible is to minimize the injustice, and to do so without any further bloodshed or cruelty and with maximum compassion for all people, in a way that abandons any idea of punishment or vengeance. I have enclosed Palestinian/Israeli in quotes in the title of this article because that Middle East hotspot is symbolic of the truly global conflict. Focusing only on a local conflagration without considering the larger context cannot lead to a solution. A dual focus — one that considers both local and global aspects of the conflict — is needed.

Consequently the struggle against censorship and disinformation — the struggle to raise peoples’ comprehension of the unifying global nature of the “enemy” — the universal hyper-capitalist class and its dominant ideology — should be a top-priority effort. Billions of ordinary people must understand contemporary social-political reality in order to figure out how to change it. We are opposed by almost all nation-states and the privileged classes that control them, all of whom want to prevent knowledge of their misdeeds from becoming known, and which therefore try to maintain massive ignorance through censorship.

Particularly aggressive in pushing censorship at this time are, among the pseudo-democracies, the United States, Great Britain, Israel, and Canada. The groundbreaking work of Julian Assange and the many people who work with his Wikileaks project are in the forefront of the struggle against censorship. Thus, for example, we should not be surprised to find the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) critical of Wikileaks, because the WSJ opposes revelations harmful to the U.S. ruling class. On 21 October 2010 the WSJ had a report, “WikiLeaks Prompts U.S. Alert to Iraqis” which began “A Pentagon team has been reviewing copies of Iraq war documents the website WikiLeaks may release in coming days and plans to notify Iraqis named in the documents in an effort to minimize potential damage from the security breach, defense officials said.” The WSJ naturally supports the U.S. government in this contest of censorship vs. truth, arguing for censorship on the false grounds that it is needed to maintain “security”. The WSJ article.

A summary statement of my viewpoint on the overall situation follows.

1. Birth of the Age of Global Information. With the advent of instant unmediated open communication via the global internet available to millions of ordinary people, immediate unprecedented massive world-wide protests took place during this decade. People screamed, on three notable occasions, “We don’t want war! We don’t want murder! We want peace!” This happened — in chronological order

      a. First, at the U.S. attack on Iraq (March 20, 2003). Massive protest demonstrations, extending to every continent, were held, involving of the order of 12 million people.

      b. Second, at the U.S.-backed murderous Israeli attack on Gaza (27 Dec 2008), world-wide protests involving millions of people erupted.

      c. Third, at the U.S.-backed Israeli massacre of civilians in the premeditated attack on the humanitarian aid ship in international waters bringing relief supplies to Gaza (31 May 2010), again global outrage was expressed by millions, condemning the murders.

Never before has there been almost instantaneous global awareness of major social-political events. We are living in an age absolutely without precedent. The three events above serve as markers for this abrupt change. For the first time in human history, and three times in just over seven years, almost the total world population with access to news stood instantly united in its abhorrence at the actions of a nation-state.

2. Those instant global revulsions at the actions of mass murderers (who still hold an armory of lethal weaponry) marks the start of the true “information age”, and with it the birth of growing global consciousness that the still-dominant system is unspeakably, brutally destructive and that we, the billions of ordinary people, in order to gain control of our own lives, will have to totally change the way societies are structured.

3. My view of the situation in the “Greater Middle East”, by which I mean to include far more than the inadequately-named “Israel/Palestine conflict”, hinges on the joint U.S.-Israeli (British-assisted) colonial imperial campaign to eradicate Palestine. The entire project to take the land of Palestine for a Jewish state was illegitimate from the start. This project is at the core of Zionism. Being “nice” to the Palestinians, as I’m certain many good and decent (but misguided) Jewish people favor, simply is not a cure for the cancer of conquest. The same for all conquests — of the Americas by Europeans and so on.

The northern European/American project to retake the Ottoman Empire needs to be scrapped, completely given up. Jewish would-be conquerors of Palestine should be peacefully forced to leave and be assisted to live elsewhere, as discussed below. Conquest is ALWAYS wrong, immoral, unethical and must be rejected. Great Britain was, throughout its imperial dominance, a leading curse of humanity, whose criminal history leaves a terrible legacy. Our task ought to be to clean it up as soon as possible. And of course the other European powers should leave Africa, probably the most despoiled population group in the world. What world-class monsters we so-called Whites have been, imposing “our” anti-civilization on the world!

4. Humanity needs to recognize the right of each person to live with dignity and an unchallenged sense of his or her own autonomy — a free and equal human being. Individual people, each and every one of us, are the basis on which a true civilization must rest. Even the youngest child needs to be respected as a full, though not yet mature, person. Probably the most important contribution we adults can make to shaping a humane social order is to love and respect — to nurture — the very young who are entering their formative years. It is these years of early childhood during which their cultural values are largely shaped. They must learn from us — from our day-to-day behavior — that we are creatures of love, devoid of personal hatreds. Then they will act towards other people as they see us act. This daily, unremitting “lesson of love” will not be easy for us to provide, because we ourselves, most of us, have grown up and absorbed personal hatreds of all varieties. So we will need to struggle with ourselves.

5. In addition to struggling against our own personal hatreds we need to overcome the contemptuous disrespect for cultures ethnically different from our own, disrespect that is quite common. It is reasonable to think of each of us as indigenous, because everyone is born into and raised in a particular culture, a culture with its own ethnic identity, which has shaped our patterns of thought and behavior. As used by the self-recognized modern, advanced Westernized people, “indigenous people” often connotes quaint, exotic peoples, out of touch with contemporary reality, relics of the past who perhaps it would be nice to have as reminders of times past, but not models of viable and healthy “lifestyles”. Somewhat like living “museum pieces”.

6. We, with our self-designated “modern, Western, advanced, technologically sophisticated” cultures, are numerically a small minority of the world’s peoples. Because of the globe-shaking power that technology has led to — primarily through the ability to manipulate energy — and the widespread contempt for misnamed “underdeveloped cultures” we self-appointed elite “Westernized people” wield grossly disproportionate control of the global social order. The concept that we oh-so-clever people can manipulate, literally engineer, the natural world has taken hold of the thinking of so-called sophisticated thinkers in the “developed world”. If you think that’s an overstatement, there are several examples of this contemporary hubris in my essay here.

7. It is beyond question that the largely Arab population living both in the geographical area of Palestine and in the diaspora into which many of them were forced by Israel are the rightful inhabitants of Palestine — they and their immediate descendents. It is also beyond question that the deliberate forceful expulsion of the non-Jewish population has been, from the start of the occupation, the basic source of conflict and pain to the indigenous Arabs. Justice is beyond reach. Many people have been killed or are irrecoverably injured. All that is conceivable at this time is to attempt to bring an end to the ongoing harm. I think this will require that the Zionists accept the dissolution of the State of Israel. Most of them — probably almost all of them — will respond in anger and defiance, maintaining that Israel is their nation, rightfully, and refusing to give it up. Nevertheless, their occupation of another peoples’ land, their conquest, is at the core of all the terrible injustices the Palestinians are suffering. It must be ended, and this should be done as painlessly and compassionately as possible.

There must be no acts of vengeance. Only by forgoing the transient satisfaction of vengeance can we rationally hope to mend the world. In practical terms we must abandon punishment. Thus the people leaving Israel under these conditions should be helped in various ways — financially and possibly with direct material aid — to emigrate to locations where they will not be forcefully displacing other people and where they will be welcomed by their new neighbors. Not lavish but adequate help, and certainly not with greater consideration and assistance than is made available to the Palestinians who were forced to leave and/or suffered other grevious losses.

To many people, immersed as all of us have been in cultures of conflict, cruelty and coercion, the idea of solving the Zionist-Palestinian conflict in a win-win mode, without violence to anyone, as I believe is possible, will be dismissed as utopian dreaming, not to be given a moment’s consideration. But the truth is, as more and more people are coming to realize, that the alternative, continuing in the current mode, would be fatal to billions (if not all) of us. In truth it isn’t a matter of singling out “The Jews” but of coming suddenly to the realization that human society cannot continue along the same lethal path. Israel, like almost every nation-state, is a detestable centralized power structure rife with corruption, deceit and murder, impervious to morality and common decency. Control of the world by nation-states, primary tools of global capitalism, should be ended. They, along with all the institutions of capitalism, should be recognized as destructive of human well-being, and done away with. Thus, it’s not just Israel. Israel should be simply the first to go in the needed transformation of global human society.

What would this mean for the current Jewish inhabitants of Palestinian territory? In particular, those who are not in the group of intentional colonial invaders and presumably would not be forced to leave. Like every human being, they deserve the autonomy of deciding where they wish to live, provided that a. in choosing a locale they not force the displacement of a current inhabitant, and b. that they are welcome by the current inhabitants of that local neighbor-hood. Obviously there are Jewish people who will both want to remain where they are and who the Palestinians in their neighborhood will be glad to have as part of their commuities. Broadly speaking, the realignment should be aimed at cementing friendships, avoiding the idea of punishment or revenge, and constructing true communal relationships in each local neighborhood.

8. Conclusion:

We should make of life a celebration. The birth of the “information age” became possible because of the explosion of information technology, and the very human desire to understand reality. Thus, in spite of the undeniably tragic times through which humanity is living, I believe the emergence of the true “information age” is the counter development that will make it possible not only for our species to survive but to finally evolve into a truly civilized society. That is my hope and the source of my optimism for the future. If we can pull it off, it will be due to the young people, who want to live.

George Salzman is a former American Jew living in Oaxaca, Mexico, an Emeritus Prof of Physics, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston.

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