Sunday, December 10, 2006

Israelis, Americans ignore Middle East's central issue

December 10, 2006

The nub of the problem in the Middle East is not Iraq, tragic as it is, nor Iran and Syria. It is the Arab-Israeli dispute.

Imagine what it would be like if on the way from New Smyrna Beach to Daytona Beach, you were stopped at checkpoints in Port Orange, South Daytona, and Daytona Beach before reaching your destination. This is the experience of the 4.5 million Palestinians each day. Then include the "off limits" for the thousands of Palestinians from reaching their fields or orchards because they are walled off by illegal Israeli settlements. (Illegal because the land was expropriated by Israeli settlers who decided the lands surrounding their villages were better used by themselves than by their rightful owners.)

It would be more understandable if the Arab lands, farms, and homes had been purchased by the Israelis (as the earliest Jewish settlers did in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries), so that they could live freely among their fellow countrymen without fear of attack or harm.

We don't seem to want to be reminded of the fact that the 1967 Six-Day War was the brilliant military success for the Israelis that has left a legacy of exploitation, intimidation, chicanery and apartheid practiced by the Israelis over their Palestinian neighbors.

Israel has the power, the unrelenting friendship of the United States, the means to wreak havoc upon their neighbors should they choose to release it, and so long as the United States does not require equal and fair treatment for the Palestinians by the Israelis, there will be no long-term settlement of the Middle East crisis or to the growing alienation between Christians and Muslims.

Terrorism has its roots in injustice, actual or perceived. If the land that was owned by generations of people is seized and no compensation given to the owners, what recourse is left to the previous owners?

Perhaps it is time for the Israeli government to undertake, together with the United States, either a return of the territories taken as conquered lands, or in creating an International Settlement bank to compensate those Palestinians who have lost their homes and lands similarly to what the German government did for the horrific plunder and killing of the millions of Jews by the Nazi regime during World War II. We are not likely to receive much support from our Arab friends and Muslim neighbors until this injustice has been rectified.

The alternative is the continuing mutual assassinations, periodic hostilities and exacerbating living conditions between two peoples who equally desire to live and raise their children to become all that they are capable of becoming.

Megnin, Ph.D., an author and retired professor of international politics, lives in New Smyrna Beach.

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