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Why ARE Palestinians So Angry At Israel?

Reader comment on item: Polls, Palestinians and the Path to Peace

Submitted by Ralph Winstanley (United States), Feb 18, 2003 at 13:23

Daniel:

Why indeed are Palestinians so angry at Israel? Is it simple anger at certain Israeli policies? Is it loathing for unbelieving foreigners who rule their cities and towns with overwhelming military force? Or is it mortal fear?

I would suggest that it is a combination of all of the above.

Your analysis is, as usual, cogent so far as it goes. It asks what are Palestinian intentions vis-à-vis Israel and bases policy recommendations on the answer to that question. But you don't consider the question, What are Israeli intentions vis-à-vis the Palestinians? What does Israel look like to them?

You suggest that if the Palestinians were to accept Israel's right to exist, policy issues such as the construction of cities (read: settlements) on the West Bank and in Judea could be resolved amicably. Could they? Will Israel dismantle settlements already established and withdraw to 1967 borders? Not very likely. Will Israel under any circumstances freeze settlements where they are and refrain from annexing property to build new ones? One wonders. Doesn't that depend on what Israel's intentions for those territories are? One possible reading of Israel's settlement policy is as reflective of an ultimate intention to annex the West Bank and Judea. Where would Palestinians fit in this picture? The question from the Palestinian side can legitimately be posed, Does Israel recognize the Palestinians' right to exist, and, if so, as what? The question of national, or even communal, existence is posed. It becomes a question of life or death. Mortal fear is an understandable response.

I have no idea what the ultimate outcome will be but I am certain that a policy of military repression will not lead to good results; indeed, it might have consequences which would be as morally unacceptable as they would be futile. Nor would it be wise for the United States Government to adopt a policy of total identification with Israeli interests. No reading of American interests suggests the desirability of such a position. The question must finally be posed as one of finding a way for two communities to coexist in what ultimately will be one polity. Thus, mutual respect of the right to exist is essential, not unilateral assurance for one side only.

Ralph Winstanley
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