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July 24, 2024

Viewpoint: Too late to forgive?

Israel Gaza
Gaza war Image by Hosny Salah from Pixabay
January 8, 2024

It’s time for Israelis and Palestinians to talk, to find a way to reconcile and finally learn live side by side

By Michael O’Looney

I think I resent the Israelis and Hamas and their unending feud with one another. Mainly because I don’t know who to blame. But maybe blame is irrelevant.

Initially, I blamed Hamas for its cowardly, savage attack and murder of nearly 1,500 innocent civilians. A while later I blamed the Israelis for slaughtering 20,000 Palestinian women, children, even people unsupportive of Hamas, then writing it off as collateral damage. Then I blamed Hamas for not releasing the hostages and thereby allowing the killing of their countrymen to continue. But then I decided, once and for all, to blame Israel for failing to settle the conflict between these two factions by accepting a two-state resolution. Then I blamed Hamas because they refused to discuss anything but the destruction of the Israeli people.

The history of these two people started long before the 1947 U.N. partition that divided the land into two territories. In A.D. 638 the Arabs coming into Palestine defeated the Jews then living there but for the next 1,300 years Jews and Arabs lived side by side, oftentimes even intermarrying.

Things changed in 1947. The U.N. recognized the right of Jews and Palestinians to become independent nations and proposed a two-state resolution. Israel agreed but the Palestinians would have none of it. A year later an Arab alliance of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria invaded Israel. The result: Israel won the war but retained some of the land that had been designated as part of a free Palestinian state.

Blame the Israelis for not ceding the land back to the Arabs. Blame the Arabs for their ruthless, unprovoked attack against a new fledgling nation that was still shell-shocked from a world war that decimated the Jewish population of Western Europe by 60%.

And so the conflict began. If you review a timeline of the events from that point on you will discern a pattern of nonstop bloodshed and retribution.

Palestinian infiltrators bombed Israeli civilians. Israelis countered the violence with brutal payback. For nearly 75 years, there were dozens of hijackings, suicide bombings, rocket attacks, car bombs, children killed in school buses, assassinations of political leaders, airline hijackings.

And of course we remember the Six-Day War in 1967, when Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. Who can forget the murder of 11 Israeli Olympians by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich? And the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when an Arab coalition unleashed a surprise attack on Israel during the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur and the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. And the 21 passengers killed by Palestinian gunmen on Pan American Flight 73. And so on.

So much blame. So much hatred. So much violence. So much to atone for. Both people claim to be the rightful heirs to a patch of arid land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Both have an ancestral historic connection to the land where so much blood has been spilled. Both people claim their origins come from the biblical Abraham. Many Arabs in the region even have Jewish DNA.

In 1995, South Africa ended its era of racial hatred and violence with something called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The idea was to provide an open platform for perpetrators of violence and the victims to tell their stories. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was charged with restoring the victims’ dignity, granting amnesty to violators of human rights and making proposals for restitution. It successfully helped that nation make its transition from an oppressive racist society to a democracy.

The blame game does not work. The pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian signs on opposite sides of the street do little but deepen the animus, deepen the divide, deepen the outrage. It’s time for leaders to urge the parties in conflict to reconcile, for the perpetrators and victims of violence to speak truthfully to one another about their hurt, the cruelty they endured or inflicted, their loss so they can forgive and heal and finally learn to live as two people, two sovereign states in one land.

Michael O’Looney lives in Talent.

Picture of Jim

Jim

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