Israeli-Palestinian conflict awash in war of words

Much has been said of late -- and in the case of Helen Thomas, regretted -- about escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To most Americans, the Middle East is a remote, never-visited, exotic land teeming with hostile nationalists, warring factions, and danger on every street corner. Americans are more interested in the new season of "Jersey Shore" than in a place they can't locate on a map.

With so little people on this side of the globe paying close attention, competing sound bites, U.N. resolutions, demonstrations, and popular sentiment cloud reality in a mad bid to muster support for two opposing factions locked in a battle of public relations.

By all accounts, both are losing the war.

In this corner sits Israel, invader, occupier, aggressor, you name it, Israel has been maligned by it. Yet, despite two expulsions and repeated subjugation by foreign conquerors, Jews have maintained a continuous presence in the land known as Israel since the parting of the Red Sea.

And in this corner sits Palestine, a mixture of ethnic and religious people, generally comprised of Arabs, Bedouins and Druze, who sold and abandoned the land known as Palestine until 1948. Palestine was never a sovereign nation per se, but a name assigned by foreign occupiers, much the same way Transjordan became a figment of sovereignty under the guise of the British Mandate.

I don't want to get into a lengthy history about the region, the Ottoman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Macedonian Empire and the like. Of the many different People who have lived in this hotly contested strip of real estate -- other than citizens of foreign conquerors -- none have enjoyed the pleasure of self rule since the days of antiquity. Identifying the occupiers and oppressed thus becomes a complicated exercise in futility. It really comes down to your source of information.

That and who rouses more sympathy.

Take for instance, this valiant but flawed attempt to present an unbiased history of the region. Sadly, it glosses over pivotal events of 1967, as well as land for peace deals brokered in the aftermath.

It also fails to mention that the duly elected Palestinian leadership, specifically Hamas, never amended that portion of its charter calling for Israel's total destruction.

Nor does it discuss sanctioned hatred of Israel perpetuated in the school system. You want to see chilling? Get a load of these images.

Most egregiously, it completely ignores Bill Clinton's success in bringing Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin to the negotiating table for a final peace agreement. Rabin - not Arafat - lost his life over the historic White House handshake. But for the fallout at Camp David, the never-ending conflict might have gone the way of the Model T.

It all comes down to whether people locked in conflict for more than sixty years truly want to live side by side in peace and harmony. If Palestinians want a peaceful two-state solution, why have they not made necessary changes to demonstrate their sincerity? Amend the charter. Renounce the hate. Stop instigating military reprisals. They could do all these things and more.

Not surprisingly, they have not. The true objective of Hamas leadership, those Palestinians seeking world condemnation of recent Israeli security measures, is not peace. They tell the world one thing and their people something else. The Palestinians will not be satisfied until they have wiped Israel off the face of the earth.

Back in college, when I was young and impressionable, my Jewish roommate was in love with a Palestinian boy from the Middle East who had come to America on a student visa. The three of us were dining together. He spoke of family forced to abandon luxurious olive groves in the wake of the Six-Day War, and how family land had been passed down from father to son for umpteen generations.

I asked why his family didn't stay and become citizens of the Israeli government. Years later, I can only paraphrase his response. Who would want that, he shot back with alarming candor, to be subservient to the will of Jews? I looked at him and at the face of my roommate thinking it was only a matter of time until they parted company.

Again, the devil is in the narrator. Facts are whitewashed, memories embellished, truth turns to fiction, and the propaganda machine rolls on.

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