Israel, Palestine, and Southwest Washington

Krist Novoselic's column runs every Tuesday on the Daily Weekly.
Our world is connected as never before. People from all corners of the planet share culture and commerce at the click of a mouse. In contrast to this great convergence of humanity, Israel is building tall concrete walls while Palestinians fire rockets over them. There's a shared recent history between these people, and I think there could be a shared future that's more in tune with what's going on with our ever-connected universe.

But right now, the Israeli/Palestinian relationship is a dysfunctional mess that has been dragging on with what seems like forever. With all of the US action in the Iraq, it seemed like the Palestinian/Israeli conflict took a back seat in the public's mind. But there are signs that our leaders--even those in Washington state--are attempting to resolve these complex issues.

I live in Washington's 3rd Congressional District, which is represented by Brian Baird. Rep. Baird recently traveled to Gaza to take a good look at the damage after Israel's withdrawal. Surveying the massive destruction, Baird said, "What went on here, and what is continuing to go on, is shocking and troubling beyond words."

There have been others from Washington's 3rd district who have wanted to see things in Gaza themselves. The most notable was Rachel Corrie from Olympia. Corrie was protesting Israeli operations in Gaza in 2003 and was fatally run over by an army bulldozer. Rep. Baird submitted a resolution to Congress calling for an investigation in the death of his constituent, but the House took no action.

Corrie's death is another terrible event in a greater tragedy. There's no doubt that Gaza is a disaster, but that's exactly what the relationship between the Israeli and Palestinian people is! The extent of Israel's action in Gaza should be no surprise. It's a clear case of a state dispensing collective punishment. But the state of Israel shouldn't be the only party held responsible for the rubble of Gaza. Hamas and others there that conduct violent action also need to be held accountable. The homemade rockets fired into Israel are only inviting trouble because the fact is that violence begets violence.

Hamas' policy of not recognizing Israel is another dead end. All our lives are a result of the course of history. In other words, one thing leads to another, and our circumstances bring us to where we are. Israel has been a state for over 50 years, and has grown to seven million citizens. Furthermore, Israel is an inclusive democracy with universal human rights. In fact, Arab Israelis, like all its citizens, can vote for parties who hold seats in the Knesset, the national legislature.

However, if there is to be recognition of the course of history, we cannot forget the demographic changes the idea of Israel has created over 50 years. The influx of people into Israel--mostly Europeans--has displaced some four million Palestinians. You can give any anecdote you want about how small Israel is in comparison to the rest of the Middle East but the sentiment is still there--Palestinians feel that their land was taken away.

The region is host to the convergence of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. It's where these religions started, and the region's extensive history draws from all three of these Abrahamic faiths. Radicals hold eschatological beliefs that, if manifested, could set off a major religious conflict in the region and world. You have to credit modern Israel for keeping a lid on this dynamic while at the same time granting religious freedom.

As we've seen with other conflicts, things do and can change. The "troubles" in Northern Ireland were a result of events a century ago, and after a proactive effort, peace has taken hold. Yugoslavia was another 19th-century idea that when put into practice caused much controversy and conflict. Today we find the south Slavs working to come together in the European Union. In both these cases, a resolution of the conflict was buttressed by the promise of the stability needed for prosperity to happen.

Baird's trip to Gaza was the first by members of Congress since 2000. The devastation is real and he called it like it is. I can only hope there will be continued attention paid and efforts to finding a resolution to the conflict.

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