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Claiming the moral high ground

By Nahum Ayliffe - posted Wednesday, 19 July 2006


This article will almost certainly not be published. And if it is, there will doubtless be scores of people who will wish to argue with me as to why I am both naïve, and patently wrong on my reading of the Israel-Palestine problem.

There is a certain weariness that descends upon me whenever I read the latest reports of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, but particularly between Israel and Palestine. Most recently, on June 28, Israeli troops entered the southern Gaza strip, three days after Palestinian militants seized a young Israeli soldier, making several ransom demands.

This is the latest in a struggle which has lasted over the past six decades. After the Arab Israeli War of 1948-49, there was an armistice agreement declaring a Jewish statehood, which the Arab countries initially refused to recognise. What followed was a series of bloody wars, and territory concessions, from both sides, in 1956 (Suez), 1967 (Six Day War) and 1973. And this sequence of climactic conflicts has been stained with blood lost in ongoing conflict.

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I am tired of arguments over who is right and who is wrong. If we are interested in breaking the cycle of perpetual violence in this region, the old arguments must be cast aside. It is nearly 60 years since these arguments were first voiced in contemporary political debate, and we are still no closer to peace.

What is almost certainly worse is that each side still claims the moral high ground, and neither accepts any responsibility for the continued conflict. When will there be peace? When the suicide bombings cease, says one. When the Palestinian state is declared, and Israel pulls its highly advanced armed forces out of Palestinian territory, returns the other. And so the arguments go on.

And until recently with the death of Yasser Arafat, and the incapacitation of Ariel Sharon, the political personalities had remained static for about four decades. So the development of the conflict, and any diplomacy, was restricted to any personal growth possible in hardened, idealistic old men.

In the west, our increasing litigiousness is symptomatic of a society which tries to avoid accepting responsibility. The lack of ownership of this conflict is just one more manifestation of a blame-shifting, adolescent western tradition. It's not only juvenile, it is anti-intellectual and devolutionary. What separates humans from animals is our ability to adapt, but there is a distinct lack of adaptation evident in the perpetual struggle between two petulant propagandarists.

The great tragedy evident in this conflict is the vested interests bolstered by the continued conflict. Israel has a better infrastructure for perpetual militarism than the US. And their army is vastly better trained and resourced relative to the size of their population. Every young person must serve in the army and, as a result, they are all schooled in the legitimate, but redundant arguments of Israel's rationale for conflict.

The Palestinians are no better, although their infrastructure for conflict is restricted to a subversive, but organised militia. They are continually spurred on by the injustices perpetrated by retaliations and incursions orchestrated by the vastly superior, yet surprisingly inaccurate armed forces of the Israelis. Recent reports of civilian deaths are symptomatic of the guerilla-terrorist warfare waged by the Palestinians.

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The victims are the citizens of both Israel and Palestine. Due to the ridiculous amounts of money designated to defence, Israel's government spending is held hostage to its militarism. Schools, universities, hospitals, research, technology are starved to pay for its futile war.

Palestine, poorer because it lacks the stream of finance from diaspora cousins, still manages to starve its citizens of the basic necessities. Furthermore, the citizens remain the unintended victims of Israeli aggression towards Palestinian militants, by virtue of the nature of Palestinian subversive operations. And then there is the civilian and aggressor body count from every suicide bomber, or Israeli Army bombing sortee.

It's time for the stupidity to stop. Egos must be put aside and ideologies must be questioned. The most devastating implication of a continual struggle is that neither side actually wants peace. For if they really, really wanted peace, surely they would have tried means other than military of achieving it.

For this insanity to stop, surely the citizens of these two countries need to speak out. The civilian cannon fodder must reject the well-rehearsed arguments of aggression, and stand up to its stupid governments. Or I fear we will be reading about this struggle in another 60 years' time, after countless more civilians have needlessly perished.

My Christian name is Jewish, and I used to make a joke about there being two definitions, one for Jews, and one for Palestinians. The joke was the opening line of an amateur comedy routine that I performed for about six months in Melbourne. However, the joke has ceased to be funny for me. On reflection, perhaps it never was funny.

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About the Author

Nahum Ayliffe gets paid as a Youth and Family Worker with the Uniting Church in Victoria, and writes for thrills. He has been a Federal election candidate twice, and a small business operator once. He has a degree in Commerce, is studying theology and is a religion and politics junkie.

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