Problems in Eden
Problems in Eden

It is with growing despair and sadness that I read, listen and even see the news everyday. The despair arises from a foreboding for the future: the future of the Middle East, Europe and America.

The Middle East best illustrates why I am—we should all be—worried. The West decided it would be best if every country should be and would want to be democratic with zealously guarded and guaranteed human rights that subsume society’s rights to those of the individual. Many outside the West consider it a deeply flawed system. There certainly are many, many problems in the West, ranging from rampant crime, violence, child prostitution and, it seems, a system of government that is not working. The early strengths of Western democracy seem lost. There is little or no balance. And most worrisome, the electorate is not sufficiently informed to correct the direction or choose good leaders.

The early strengths of Western democracy seem lost. There is little or no balance. And most worrisome, the electorate is not sufficiently informed to correct the direction or choose good leaders.
Nowhere is the ignorance more telling than most people’s understanding—or I should say complete lack of understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite many opportunities to end the conflict, the Palestinian Arabs choose not to. Whether it is corruption, self-interest of the leadership, a clash of civilizations, or obstinacy born out of a poor understanding of the modern world I do not know. Yet, they have managed to convince many—especially in the West—that they are the victims in a struggle to develop a state.

The Palestinian Authority barely functions, with factions fighting for control and corruption rife. They have made no attempt to honor the Oslo Accords that with Israel’s help and the support of the world would have led to the viable State of Palestine they claim to want. From the very beginning, the education system was not changed—you cannot nor could you ever find a map that showed two states in a Palestinian Arab office or schoolbook, hardly a show of good will and desire to reach statehood by accommodation. If you teach children to hate and glorify martyrdom, then they will hate and strive to be martyrs.

In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority as it exists has no program of human rights, women are treated miserably, there hasn’t been an election in over 10 years, and the "country" is divided between the "West Bank" and Hamas-ruled Gaza. Gaza, despite a unilateral withdrawal of Israeli forces, has declared and waged war on Israel. They are not embarrassed to state that they want to kill Israelis—men, women, children, old, young—it doesn’t matter.

Even worse, many in the West cannot tell the difference between good and evil in the two societies.

On one hand there is, incredible for advanced Western societies, great sympathy for a society that oppresses its people, does not guarantee or prescribe any human rights, educates children to become martyrs for a cause which could have been resolved more than twenty years ago had there been a will to do so.

On the other hand, there is Israel: A democratic society that guarantees human rights to all citizens, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Bahai, protects religious sites and has made many good faith attempts to reach an agreement with the Palestinians.

Israel is a good citizen of the world contributing to technology, agriculture, and cultural development that improve life in many countries. It offers without solicitation or advertisement emergency-disaster assistance all over the world for example to Haiti, Nepal, Turkey, Chile—even offering earthquake aid to Iran to help people suffering devastation (it was refused by the Iranian Government). Israel accepted and helped settle Vietnamese boat people, refugees from Ethiopia, Soviet Union, South America, all the Arab countries, and of late from Europe. No such humanitarian programs by the Palestinians exist.

Quite the contrary, the Palestinian Authority claims sympathy by a continual drumbeat of accusations. The "settlements" are accused of negating the chance for peace—yet there was no peace before the "settlements" nor would the "settlements" prevent formation of a Palestinian Arab state.

Israel is guilty of war crimes? That has to be the most ridiculous claim ever. When Palestinians, using the cover of civilians, fire rockets from hospitals, apartments, schools, or mosques, no one should be surprised when fire is returned. It is the epitome of ignorance, willful or otherwise, that assumes that Israel should not react and cries war crimes. No professional military person could agree that Israel's reaction is a war crime.

The Palestinian Arabs claim sympathy maintaining that the "occupation" is onerous. There are several accurate responses: first, it is not an "occupation," as only about 2% of the Palestinian Arabs are under Israeli rule since Oslo and the area was not recognized as part of another country before Israel came in in 1967; second, it was not always so, but if you want freedom, do not incite or start attacks on Israel that necessitate restricting freedom of movement. And certainly do not glorify murder and teach children to be martyrs. Do not make final settlement negotiations a career occupation.

I look to the West and am discouraged. Why do supposedly educated and enlightened people not ask the Palestinians “why do you not settle this already? Why are you and your friends getting rich while your people continue to suffer? Do you not want to create a better life for your people? Why do you choose to travel the world whining about the "settlements", "occupation", encouraging hatred and boycotts when it can be ended quickly? Why does not Palestine have any human rights programs? Why is there no democracy? When will women be treated as equals?”

A Palestinian State could have been established 20 years ago at Camp David through the good offices of President Clinton. It could have been established at Taba. It could have been established by talks with four different Israeli prime ministers.

Why do people in the West not see this? Why do you not demand that the Palestinians end the conflict and care for their people?

Richard D Small received his PhD from Rutgers University. He has worked in several scientific disciplines, likes to build cabinets, cooks and writes. He currently lives in Metula