Recently, I was engaged in a conversation with a gentleman, who received his education in an ivy league college, a writer, and who actively participated in the civil rights movement of the 60’s.
A man of some stature and morality, or so I assumed.
I was having an informal conversation when the subject drifted to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. All of a sudden his nostrils flared and there was an anger in his voice.
Note: I do not consider myself pro Palestinian, I simply want justice to be done.
Here are some of the arguments presented by the gentleman. Some of which I responded to at the moment and some which I let go, but nonetheless would like to provide an answer to in this blog.
Gentleman: “These aren’t even the historical Palestinians to begin with, they settled later”
This argument is particularly weak. If we were to accept that this group of Palestinians have absolutely no relation to historical Palestinians- not even a single one of them, the fact is, this “new group” of Palestinians have lived in this area for atleast 700 years. The historicity doesn’t matter as much as the logic of the argument in this case.
Now, what was suggested is because these people weren’t the original inhabitants it became ok to expel them. As it did happen in 1948 in order to form a Jewish state. There is no “if” in this argument, the Palestinians were expelled. Former Israeli foreign Minister Shola Ben-Ami accepts this view.
Argument now hinges on whether this qualified as ethnic cleansing.
Well, if this policy of expelling people who weren’t historical inhabitants is made into a standard. Then following the argument the Native American population has the right to expel by force all Non Native Americans living today in America even though they personally had nothing to do with settling America in the 16th and 17th century.
Gentleman: “Israel and Jordan are the only countries to allow Palestinians into their country in the region”
Setting aside the fact that there wouldn’t be any Palestinian refugees if they wouldn’t have been chased from their homes by Israel to begin with. Israel “lovingly” taking in Palestinians, has nothing to do with the central question i.e. whether Palestinians have a right to form a state.
Early in the conversation on a separate topic the Gentleman stated, “History is written by the victors of war. I am an old school historian I like to go to the ground level and find facts”.
Later on, while talking about the Palestinian issue I said, “the world court has ruled that Palestinians are under occupation and my position is in alignment with that ruling”. To this his response was, with a wry smile, “the powerful and victors”.
To which my riposte was, ” how are the Palestinians victors in this equation of yours” I did not get a response.
Gentleman: ” You know they deny the holocaust and want Israel wiped off the map”
Who is they, Hamas, Iran, Hizbullah, Arab states or all of the above?
I asserted, not me. I want to see Israel exist and prosper. But I added, taking the rhetoric of countries in the region and Hamas does not give Israel the right to hinder the right of Palestinians to form a state.
And what does denying the holocaust have to do with anything? If the Palestinians want to deny the holocaust ever happened (not that they were involved in conducting it) it does not give Israel the right to occupy Palestine. How does the argument progress, you deny the holocaust ever happened, well this means we must continue our occupation? It is rather shameful to suggest because the Jews suffered and Palestinians deny it, it gives the state of Israel a right to inflict suffering on the Palestinians. Like it or not they are entitled to their opinion.
Now compare the facts with rhetoric. Israel is the only country with nuclear weapons in the region. Therefore, in reality Israel is the only country in the region with real capability to wipe off a country from the map. Furthermore, Israel is currently occupying Palestinian land and actively works to make sure Palestine, as a state, does not exist on a map. Ironic isn’t it given Israels repeated claims that they fear being wiped off from the map.
This conversation was an eye opening moment for me personally. This is a man who stood shoulder to shoulder with African Americans for their rights. This was a man educated in one of the best institutions in the world. But when it came to something that he was emotionally attached to all logical arguments seemed as anti Jewish and anti Israel.
I got a deeper understanding into what biases do to the human mind and how it is extremely difficult to be sound and reasonable when something is so close to the heart is at stake.