A  Matter of Basic Human Rights, Dignity and Respect for Life

As the people of the world watch, feel, suffer, die and comment on the events occurring in Palestine/Israel, for those wishing to understand, we cannot understand without placing todays actions in a historical context of Israeli/Palestinian relations and also and much more importantly, within the larger context of those things people do and have always done to each other.

The historical context is well provided by the Jews themselves in their books. There we find the story of a nation born out of and around certain spiritual beliefs. This nation then was not formed in the way of some ancient civilizations which grew to power and in size due to commanding personalities who tapped into certain natural resources such as rivers, floodplains, mountains, forests or the seas. The Israelites were formed around commanding personalities who provided a unifying dialogue that spoke to the people of what we call religious matters. The Israelites were a faith-based nomadic nation that decided to put its roots down in the land of Canaan which happened to be already occupied by other tribes, the Jebusites and Philistinians. These tribes were Pagan tribes as were many of the world’s tribes at this time which served in the Israelite mind as justification for the conquest of this land and these people.

My point is not to give the historical run-down of this on-going battle over this land. That information is readily available in many books and presented by writers much more educated on the subject than I. We can however be enlightened by the historical context that is provided in this line of events that stretches back thousands of years and which has provided the world with three major religions (and hundreds of off-shoots) that all grew from the original Abrahamic spiritual concepts and ideas concerning faith in and the nature of a certain monotheistic creator of the universe and in particular the relationship between the God of those people who live in it.

My point is that we can be even more enlightened, honest, and effective in our call for peace by simply advancing in our own minds and in the minds of peace activists world-wide by remembering, exploring and promoting what we know about the basic concepts of social justice and human rights. Although narratives that have formed around the story of these battling nations, from their conquests to their captivities, and because of the religious significance that many hold to these stories and the events they describe, we have come to place a particularly skewed, disproportionate and strangely unrealistic set of perspectives, ideas and explanations to our understanding of this conflict. However complex some would like to make of the understanding of this matter, regardless of the duration of this conflict and the religious overtones of past and present prophetic announcements made to describe the conflict, in truth what we have here is nothing more than your basic struggle over power, over land and questions of dominion. This I believe is why in today’s world where religion is being reconsidered by so many, that the battles fought over Palestinian land are now being seen less as religious conflicts and more through the eyes of social justice and basic human rights. The struggle between Israel and Palestine then is really not much different than the struggles, battles and wars that happen and have happened around the world, between all nations and throughout history.

The conquests of the Americas, of course, quickly come to mind as an example of a similar situation and series of events. A number of Europeans who felt that they needed more room to grow and more freedom for their ideas, wandered across the sea to a new land that was not their own and began to settle in. When they found that it was already occupied by others, that news brought out their European papers and spoken words from those they themselves considered authorities on the matter and declared through The Doctrine of Discovery, handed down by European religious personalities (popes) which stated that because the indigenous people were Pagan that the invading Europeans, being Christians, had a God-given right to the entire continent. This conquest was approved by kings, queens and popes and was to be carried out either by force or conversion but it was to be carried out one way or the other. Such sentiments as these, though they persist both openly and in the shadows, would in today’s world, bring out much criticism and condemnation even from the descendants of those Europeans themselves. It might be said, and gladly by some, that we are evolving away from religious justifications for the abuse of basic human rights.

What we are moving towards then is the possibility for a world that honors basic human rights over religious prejudice and the terrible destruction that has been dealt out and recorded throughout our history in the name of religion. Taking away the religious narratives surrounding the Palestinian/Israeli conflict frees us from ideas that might lead some to hate one whole group and love another regardless of the facts of the actions in the conflict and puts those actions into the lens of individuals who are either for or against basic human rights, basic human decency and a basic respect for the lives and welfare of other human beings.

We do not need to condemn all Jews for the actions of Netanyahu’s government or all Arabs for the actions of the Saudi Royal family or all US citizens for the actions of the US government. We are free then to condemn and perhaps influence or stop those who violate human rights and perpetuate war no matter who they are, from where they come or for whatever religion they claim. This being a much more realistic understanding of these events and the individuals who commit these atrocities we are made free from our own prejudices where we might more honestly confront the matter of hostilities, oppression and war.