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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a war of religion, not territory

The conflict is a clash of ideologies, and such a conflict can’t be solved by drawing lines on a map.

By Aryeh Eldad –

Anyone who has ever suffered from a sore throat and fever and didn’t get well within two days surely went to see a doctor. The doctor took a light and tongue depressor, saw a pair of red, swollen tonsils with white dots, and concluded that the patient had a throat infection. And even though such infections are usually viral rather than bacterial, the doctor prescribed antibiotics to be on the safe side. The patient took them (or didn’t), and usually got well in a few days.

If not, the doctor could try a different antibiotic, and then a third and a fourth, until the patient died of old age. But any reasonable doctor would stop and ask himself: What’s wrong here? Why is the patient not getting any better despite my wonderful treatment?

The answer is logical: a mistaken diagnosis. That would explain the lack of response to the treatment, and the frustration.

I wouldn’t have bothered you with this introduction about bacterial throat infections (somewhat anachronistic, I know, since nowadays there are throat cultures) if we didn’t find ourselves in this very situation in the diplomatic sphere. The war between Jews and Arabs in the Land of Israel has been going on for more than 100 years, and most onlookers, analysts and mediators are convinced that it’s a territorial conflict: Jews and Arabs are fighting over the same piece of land, so the logical solution is to divide the land.

This is a reasonable assumption, and therefore (and also for other colonialist reasons), Churchill came to the Land of Israel/Palestine in 1922 and divided the land. He gave the three-fourths of it east of the Jordan River to the Arabs, while the rest remained a British Mandate for establishing a Jewish national home.

The Arabs weren’t enthusiastic, and their response has gone down in history as the 1929 Arab riots. After that, the British sent additional committees that proposed additional divisions of the land, based on various maps. But every effort ended in a bloodbath: waves of terrorism, “incidents” (aka riots), wars and intifadas. Some 23,000 Jews were killed and more than 100,000 Arabs, but no statesman ever stopped and asked himself why every attempt at dividing the land merely increased the war and bloodshed. The answer, of course, is a mistaken diagnosis.

The conflict isn’t territorial (even though it has many territorial symptoms, and we fight over every acre and every house), but a war of religion, a clash of ideologies. And such a conflict can’t be solved by drawing lines on a map. To Muslims, the Land of Israel will forever be waqf land – land that is part of a Muslim religious trust. And even David Ben-Gurion, who wasn’t “religious,” appeared before the Peel Commission in 1937 and brandished a Bible as the source of our absolute right to the Land of Israel.

But despite this, all the “peacemakers” among us keep prescribing the same medicine of “dividing the land” for the wrong disease. Even today, the only diplomatic plan on the table is negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, yet this is the one that has failed time and again.

Next week, a plan called “Two states for two peoples on two sides of the Jordan – is this alternative feasible?” will be placed on the negotiating table. Granted, this will happen only at a conference organized by Professors for a Strong Israel, which will take place at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. But the conference will hold an in-depth discussion on the following topic: When the “Arab Spring” reaches Jordan, that country will become a Palestinian nation-state. Thus even if the conflict isn’t solved, at least a new factor will have entered the diplomatic equation, which is currently stuck in a blind alley.

If not, the doctor could try a different antibiotic, and then a third and a fourth, until the patient died of old age. But any reasonable doctor would stop and ask himself: What’s wrong here? Why is the patient not getting any better despite my wonderful treatment?

The answer is logical: a mistaken diagnosis. That would explain the lack of response to the treatment, and the frustration.

I wouldn’t have bothered you with this introduction about bacterial throat infections (somewhat anachronistic, I know, since nowadays there are throat cultures) if we didn’t find ourselves in this very situation in the diplomatic sphere. The war between Jews and Arabs in the Land of Israel has been going on for more than 100 years, and most onlookers, analysts and mediators are convinced that it’s a territorial conflict: Jews and Arabs are fighting over the same piece of land, so the logical solution is to divide the land.

This is a reasonable assumption, and therefore (and also for other colonialist reasons), Churchill came to the Land of Israel/Palestine in 1922 and divided the land. He gave the three-fourths of it east of the Jordan River to the Arabs, while the rest remained a British Mandate for establishing a Jewish national home.

The Arabs weren’t enthusiastic, and their response has gone down in history as the 1929 Arab riots. After that, the British sent additional committees that proposed additional divisions of the land, based on various maps. But every effort ended in a bloodbath: waves of terrorism, “incidents” (aka riots), wars and intifadas. Some 23,000 Jews were killed and more than 100,000 Arabs, but no statesman ever stopped and asked himself why every attempt at dividing the land merely increased the war and bloodshed. The answer, of course, is a mistaken diagnosis.

The conflict isn’t territorial (even though it has many territorial symptoms, and we fight over every acre and every house), but a war of religion, a clash of ideologies. And such a conflict can’t be solved by drawing lines on a map. To Muslims, the Land of Israel will forever be waqf land – land that is part of a Muslim religious trust. And even David Ben-Gurion, who wasn’t “religious,” appeared before the Peel Commission in 1937 and brandished a Bible as the source of our absolute right to the Land of Israel.

But despite this, all the “peacemakers” among us keep prescribing the same medicine of “dividing the land” for the wrong disease. Even today, the only diplomatic plan on the table is negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, yet this is the one that has failed time and again.

Next week, a plan called “Two states for two peoples on two sides of the Jordan – is this alternative feasible?” will be placed on the negotiating table. Granted, this will happen only at a conference organized by Professors for a Strong Israel, which will take place at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. But the conference will hold an in-depth discussion on the following topic: When the “Arab Spring” reaches Jordan, that country will become a Palestinian nation-state. Thus even if the conflict isn’t solved, at least a new factor will have entered the diplomatic equation, which is currently stuck in a blind alley.

About the author: A former member of the Knesset, Dr. Arieh Eldad is a plastic surgeon who headed the burns unit at Hadassah hospital for twenty years; including, at the height of the Intifada. He has personally treated Arab-“Palestinian” suicide bombers, only to see them come back after their treatment with bombs strapped to their chests to blow themselves up in the very hospital that saved their lives. One of the key principles Dr. Eldad applies to his Middle East analysis is that, “When states have missions that are bigger than life, they are not obeying the basic rules of logic that Western civilization obeys.” In regard to Iran, that translates to: “The world should know that we will be ready to destroy the nuclear infrastructure of Iran at whatever the cost it takes.”

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Posted by on August 22, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.