The conflict between Israel and Palestinians has heated up quite a bit lately due to the attack on the “aid” flotilla sent to Gaza. This has left many wondering, “Can there ever be peace between Israel and the Palestinians?” Some Jews (and supporters of Israel) think that peace can only be found when the Palestinians leave Israel. Alternatively, many Palestinians (and supporters of Palestinians) believe peace can only be found when the Jews leave ‘Palestine’ (hat tip to Helen Thomas). The fact is, neither option is tenable or humane.
For the Jews, Israel holds significance for two reasons. First, it is their ancestral homeland. Their history centers around what occurred in Jerusalem, so much so that for 2,000 years Jews would always say, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Jerusalem was their home, given to them (in their minds) by God. While they faced various wars and occupations during their reign in Jerusalem, they at least had a home. After the Roman Empire expelled the Jews from Jerusalem in 70AD, they were on their own. Wherever they went they faced persecution. When the German princes, Italian provinces, French government, and Spanish inquisitors punished the Jews, the Jews went east and settled in Prussia and Hungary. How ironic that a few hundred years later, a population of over 7 million Jews in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia was reduced to a population of just over 6,000 in the modern day (not all died in the Holocaust, many fled to other countries). This points out the second reason why Israel holds significance for the Jews – it ensures that they are free from persecution.
The Jews have learned the hardway that just because a nation is friendly to them today does not mean they will be friendly tomorrow. As I pointed out above, the Polish government was friendly to the Jews, but eventually turned on them. Even the various German provinces under the Holy Roman Empire in the 16th century were friendly to Jews, but turned on them when financial crises hit or when plague hit. America has traditionally been friendly to the Jews, but there’s no guarantee that America won’t turn on them tomorrow. For the Jews, to have a homeland of their own is of vital importance; to have it on their ancestral grounds is even better.
In all of this, however, the Palestinians cannot be ignored. In Israeli society they have been treated as second-class citizens. They are not allowed to vote, not allowed to serve in the military, and so on. Granted, these measures are taken to keep a Jewish majority in the government and military, but it is still unfair to the Palestinians. Likewise, Israel’s neighbors of Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria have been quite unwilling to allow Palestinians to integrate into their respective societies. This leaves the Palestinian without a place to call home.