The Middle East is steeped in history, colonialism, hatred, oil and three religions borne out of the seed of Abraham—two branches of Islam (Sunni and Shia), three major branches of Christianity (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox) and three branches of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative and Reform).
With the confluence of competing religious sanctity, the West’s desire for oil, and a prime geographic location linking trading routes to Asia, Europe and Africa there is little wonder the Middle East is such a hot bed of conflict.
Western interference in the region began in 1882 when Great Britain invaded and occupied Egypt, soon followed by France then Russia and finally the United States.
Today these countries continue to court allies in the Middle East and still routinely and unwisely insert themselves into wars and regime changes.
In 1939, Cuba, the United States and then Canada turned away a ship carrying 907 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. From 1933 to 1945 the Canadian Government severely restricted Jewish immigration as it heeded the majority’s anti-Semitic sentiment of the day – “none is too many”.
Anti-Semitism was alive and well, not just in Germany. The Allies didn’t want Jewish refugees flocking to their shores. The solution, create the state of Israel.
In 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish sectors, with the greater Jerusalem area to be under international control.
The UN failed to provide a national force to implement the resolution and the British, who had controlled Palestine, just withdrew with no orderly transfer of power.
The Jews and Arabs were left to fight it out. David Ben-Gurion immediately proclaimed Israel’s statehood to become its first Prime Minister and seven hundred thousand Palestinians became homeless overnight.
Seventy years later, a million and a half Palestinians, 50 per cent under the age of 18, are held captive in a strip of land totalling 140 square miles.
Unemployment is high, few are allowed to leave the Gaza strip, electricity and clean water are sporadic at best and a humanitarian crisis rages on as the embargo of goods, medical supplies and even toys continues unabated. Conditions sure to create angry, young men and women.
In 1998, British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, with the help of President Bill Clinton as an impartial broker, completed the Good Friday Agreement.
This agreement stopped the Catholic/Protestant war that had been raging in Northern Ireland for decades and had spilled into the streets of London.
During and after the negotiations, Blair was roundly criticized, “how can you sit down with murderers?” But that was the key to bringing peace to Northern Ireland.
Many Westerners argue, “you can’t negotiate with people who say Israel doesn’t have a right to exist”. Blair proved otherwise.
Pro-Israeli countries must come to the table with those that represent Palestinians, including Hamas, and acknowledge it was never the choice of the Palestinian people to become stateless in 1947.
Further, it is imperative to understand that Palestinians have a legitimate reason to hate a people who were given their homeland and to whom they’ve been subservient to for decades. Return respect builds only when the loss of the defeated is recognized and some restorative justice and amends are offered.
The United Nations, Britain, Egypt and the United States owe the Palestinians a two-state solution.
The United Nations also needs to return to their original commitment that Jerusalem be operated under international control.
All three religions from the seed of Abraham have historical and religious connections to Jerusalem and true peace will only come when all have access to the Holy City.