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August 18, 2005

Dispossession and bitter legacies ....

Watching the removal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza "settlements", I felt some of the hurt these settlers must be feeling - and some of the anger as well. The propagandists for the Arab/Palestinian cause would have us believe that these settlements have all been built without the conivance of both the Israeli government and the various Palestinian regimes, that the settlements are built on land "seized" from Palestinains without compensation and without legal process. They would have us believe that this land has been in some way "stolen" - and feed the Western media (ever anti-Israel, anyway!) with the mantra that the Israeli occupation of Gaza is "illegal".

Having left one country for another I can sympathise with the upheaval it causes. I left voluntarily, although, among many reasons, one was because I felt that my children's heritage and their right as citizens in a country that my forebears had created out of wilderness, was about to be stripped from them. As it turned out, this happened in Zimbabwe, but not so far, in South Africa. Be that as it may, much of what my forebears - and I in my small way - built in terms of infrastructures, roads, culture and history has all been demeaned, stripped or destroyed. So I can identify with the Israeli's who are being dispossessed of everything they have built - perfectly legitimately - in Gaza.

The land they have built on was purchased, contrary to popular myth, for legitimately agreed prices and without coercion or force. The structures, infrastructures and even the flourishing gardens have been painstakingly built and nurtured by the Jewish settlers. Prior to their arrival there was nothing like this there. That is the primary difference between the Jewish settlers and their Arab neighbours, the Jews are industrious and hard working. They accept hard work in order to improve their lives and their surroundings - and having done it, they have every right to expect to be able to enjoy it.

The settlements should not have been allowed in the first place, yet politicians on both sides saw them as bargaining chips in the struggle to wrest land from each other. Yes, there are the hardliners among the settlers who have made religion and Biblical "proofs" the justification for being there, but the real culprits are the politicians on both sides who have used this as a lever in the corridors of power. Ariel Sharon will not be popular, and I would not be surprised if and when he is assassinated, but he is at least tackling the first steps necessary to try and reach a peaceful settlement!

It will not be easy, and it does require some sacrifices on both sides. For those being dispossessed of the fruits of their labours for the last 20 years or so, it is deeply hurtful, and they will probably never fully replace what has been lost. For the Palestinians, it will seem like a triumph - they have regained land they sold legitimately at no cost to themselves, and it has been redeveloped and converted from desert to flourishing settlement for them. I hope they take better care of it than I have seen them and their cousins do elsewhere in the Middle East!

The Israelis are often criticised, and the Jewish people are currently under attack again by those who use the discredited "Blood Libels" as a weapon in spreading their filthy propaganda, but this is the opportunity for the world to recognise that there is an opening for peace. Will the Arab nations take it? Somehow I doubt it, because they are all sworn - and their press reflects this with its vile portrayal of all Jews as "liars, thieves, and perjurors who practice infamous rituals and are sexually debased" (I quote an article by a Muslim "Cleric" based in Egypt!). They have one objective - the destruction of the Israeli State.

Those who criticise the Jews in Israel would do well to remember that the world has demanded more sacrifices in the last 2,000 years from this people than from any other. They have been dispossessed more than once, and they have still managed to survive. Doesn't this tell us something? Doesn't this sound a warning somewhere? Surely they have given enough, now it is time for the other parties in this dispute to give a little in return.

Israel is the ONLY democratic state in the region. "Palestinians" who live there have a vote and roughly a third of the seats in the Knesset are filled by Muslims. Show me another Middle Eastern State where Jews or Christians have a similar standing. It is all very well arguing that the land was "stolen" from the Arabs in 1947 - the British must accept responsibility for that myth, having promised the Jews a homeland, they reneged and then tried to hand it over to a hostile Arab population who had publically announced their intention of "driving every Jew into the sea!" Having survived the European holocaust the Jews decided it was not happening again - and the land is theirs.

Perhaps attitudes in Europe and the West would be different if we had a similar history of dispossession, but we don't. The resident population of Europe has lived here undisturbed for the last 1,000 odd years, they having, in turn, dispossed the Gauls, the Franks, and the Celts. I wonder how the Celts felt when the Anglo Saxons moved in and moved them on? I wonder how the multi-culturalists will feel when they find that they are being dispossessed and disadvantaged in their own land - as will surely happen to us if current trends continue unchecked.

I feel for those who have been required to make the sacrifices in Gaza, and I feel for those Palestinians who have been dispossessed by the actions the Israelis have felt necessary to defend the heartland of their State. It is now time - and it is easy for me to say this at this distance from the tensions, the politics, and the intractable enmities - for the politicians on both sides to stop posturing and using the people as pawns. It is time to let peace have a chance, but it is also time to gag the preachers of the hatred that permeates the Middle East. It is time to stop the lies the Muslim clerics perpetrate in the name of religion, and to stop vilifying the Jews.

They do have a right to exist; they do have a right to a homeland. It is also the right of the Jews and the Palestinians not to have their existence used as the pawns in a game of power and landgrabbing by their neighbours in the Arab world. Remember that the last three wars in this region have all been initiated against Israel by their Arab neighbours. The occupation of Gaza began after the abortive attempt by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria to overwhelm the Israelis in 1967. They lost that war, and they lost again in 1973 when they attacked sneakily on a Jewish Holy Day. They do not seem to have given up, though, and the inflammatory rhetoric in every mosque in the region bears testimony to this. If there is another war it will be the Arab nations that will start it again. The world needs to be mindful of this - and to ensure that it does not happen!

The Jewish settlers and their investments have been sacrificed to the goal of peace - let's hope it is not a chimera and that it does lead to a proper and lasting settlement.

Posted by The Gray Monk at August 18, 2005 11:08 AM