November 28, 2002 Opinion Editorials http://www.aljazeerah.info
Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints of the conflict
An Interactive Opinion Editorial*
By Hassan El-Najjar and Tony Lombardini**
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my letter of 26 Nov 02 (published in the letters section). Religion in America has been kept at arms length since our inception over 200 years ago. Separation of church and state is one of the cornerstone beliefs of our society. This certainly does not mean America is a God-less nation, quite the contrary. We hold that an individual's relationship with the Almighty is a personal issue and should not be forced. I cannot begin to guess the number of religious organizations operating freely in this country.
My understanding of Islam, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that there cannot be a separation of church and state. The recent "letter to America " from Osama bin Laden states that separation is one of the faults of our nation (in his opinion). The ruling class in Iran sentences a professor to death for stating an opinion which differs from their religious beliefs. Officials in Nigeria recommend a reporter be killed for writing an article that was found to be religiously offensive. This tidbit is coming from a country which is about to stone-to-death a woman for having a child out of wedlock (by the way, what is to become of the man who helped put her in that position?). You asked me not to mix religion and politics but I cannot see the distinction.
In discussion of Palestine, there seems to be more than enough blame to go around. Did the Israeli clampdown cause Palestinian homicide-bombers or was it the other way around? Both sides claim they are right based on actions dating back two thousand years. What are they prepared to do now ? If Arafat, as elected leader, has been unable to control his people as a first step toward a new nation , is it wrong for the Israelis to act in the interest of their own security? If Sharon is wrong then what is a better solution based on prior experience ? I do not see America having the blind support for Israel as stated in many Arab news sources. I do see a small democratic nation in a hostile region which has come under continuous attack since it's inception. The average American is going to be hard-pressed to side with individuals strapped with bombs claiming to be advancing their religion. If the American "road-map" to peace has become the laughing stock of the Arab world then what can the Arab nations offer except the elimination of the Israeli state?
In conclusion, I believe America is attempting to help a variety of groups and individuals around the world. I see billions of our tax dollars going to Egypt, Somalia, Ethiopia etc. If the world does not want our assistance then stop asking. We will save our time and money for more fruitful endeavors.
Your assertions about Islam are so inaccurate that I cannot respond to them here. Please read the Islam section and the links mentioned there to get you started. Briefly, Islam is a way of life. It has teachings that organize people's life in all aspects, political, economic, legal, family, etc. Religion should be understood as a whole. You cannot judge it by selecting bits and pieces that suit your argument. What we have today is not a contest between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The conflict is about land and resources. Israel occupies Palestinian and Arab territories, that is why there is resistance. It is not a war between Islam and Judaism. The United States is involved in war with many Arab and Muslim countries because it has sided with Israel and is attempting to control Middle Eastern oil. Other nations, Christians or otherwise, are not involved in the conflict. They are being coerced to do so by US-Israeli pressures.
The rest of your letter reflects the Israeli viewpoint of history and of the present conflict. Here are my reactions to some of the viewpoints you expressed above. Even if some of us don't like it, there are other sides of the truth that are not told. This is an attempt to show another side of the truth.
First, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not thousands of years old. It started in 1948, when Israelis took the property of the Palestinians and have not allowed to go back to their property or compensated for it.
Second, Present Palestinian resistance (Uprising) is a reaction to the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine. Palestinians do not occupy Israel. If Israelis end their occupation, resistance will stop automatically. Neither Arafat nor Sharon can stop resistance of the Israeli military occupation. The examples of resistance throughout history demonstrated that at the end freedom would win. By insisting on the continuation of the occupation, Zionists only lengthen the pain of the two peoples. Palestinian resistance aims at freedom from the Israeli occupation. It is not to advance any religious teaching. It is a human right.
Third, Sharon is not only wrong but a butcher and war criminal, who will be tried one day for his crimes against humanity, probably after leaving office. There is a case against him in a Belgian court for his role in the Sabra and Shatilla massacres of 1982, in Beirut.
Fourth, Israel is not a democracy. It is the last racist and oppressive regime on Earth. Five million Zionists took the property of seven million Palestinians (Muslims and Christians). They denied them citizenship and have been controlling them for the last 35 years. Probably, you can argue that was some democracy during the first 19 years of Israel's existence. Since 1967, Palestinians came under the Israeli direct rule but without any human or political rights.
Fifth, Palestinians know for sure that the Bush administration is not serious about implementing its own proposals, including the new one, "the road map." The evidence is in what happened to the previous ones: the Mitchel and Tennet plans. President Bush kept demanding that Sharon withdraw his troops outside Palestinian cities without any response from the latter. Actually, instead of pressuring Israel to withdraw, the Bush administration is about to give Sharon $14 billion to increase his chances to win the elections against the pro-peace candidate, Mitzna.
Finally, US foreign aid is mainly targeting Israel and its security. That is why Egypt has the second largest share of the US foreign aid, after Israel. The goal is keeping Egypt away from threatening the security of Israel. Outside Egypt and Israel, aid supplements American foreign policy. It is used mainly as inducements to countries which cooperate with the US war efforts. So far, the US foreign aid has been used to serve Israel and its interests. If Zionist Israel stops its aggression and ends its occupation, there will be no need to bribe other nations with foreign aid and American tax payers can save their dollars. But who in the US government dares to stop aid to Israel and its oppressive and non-democratic regime?
There is always another side for the truth. We should seek for it. Perhaps this may get us closer to more understanding.
* In interactive editorials, the editor of Al-Jazeerah answers questions and or responds to comments of readers, which are more general than readers' responses to specific articles or issues. It is an effective method of interaction in electronic journalism.
** Dr. Hassan A. El-Najjar is the editor of Al-Jazeerah. Mr. Tony Lombardini is a reader who preferred not to mention his full name. The proper name will be added if he provides it to Al-Jazeerah, in the future.
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