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Sunday, May 01, 2011

Middle east fireworks

Attended a discussion about Israel this morning and of course it got very heated after the guest speaker made the usual argument that Israel and Israelis are great and Palestinians are stupid and they suck (why American Jews need to hear this over and over is kind of beyond me - talk about preaching to the choir) and then Brett, who shows up at everything and makes the same apparently outrageous argument every time, which is that the Palestinians are human beings too (the same argument presented so eloquently by Peter Beinart earlies this spring), but Brett doesn't wear and suit and tie so he immediately got shouted down by the group, one woman practically had a stroke. 

I said to several people afterwards that I thought it wasn't very constructive, or even very American, to tell someone we disagree with to Shut Up (I don't disagree, but they did).  I think the whole event would have been a lot more interesting if we'd actually engaged in a conversation about these issues instead of immediately started calling names like "self-hating Jew" (my personal favorite).  Makes me feel completely disgusted about my people.  We're so weak when we do this.  As I also pointed out to a couple of people - there are a wide variety of opinions in Israel and they talk about these issues all the time.  So tedious that we can't do the same here.  The guest's husband is speaking at a forum tomorrow night, so hopefully we can have a more civilized exchange, which allows a variety of viewpoints to be aired.

The other thing that really put me off was what the guest speaker said when she was challenged by Brett ~  "there's no such thing as Palestinians."  As soon as someone resorts to that, I pretty much lose all respect for them.  Besides being cruel and foolish, it's completely counterproductive.

It's also stupid - if you know anything about modern history, you know that many Arab nations were political creations of the 20th century, before and after WWII. Saying "there's no such thing as Palestinians" is as true as saying "there's no such thing as Jordanians, Syrians, Lebanese or Iraqis" . . . true, but not too useful. Most Americans don't know that there's no such thing as ethnic Iranians either - Iranians are Persians (not Arabs), and Iran as a country is another political creation. These are from Wikipedia~

With the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the League of Nations and the occupying powers chose to redraw the borders of the Eastern Mediterranean. The ensuing decisions, most notably the [SECRET] Sykes–Picot Agreement, gave birth to the French Mandate of Syria and British Mandate of Palestine. In September 1922, Transjordan was formally created from within the latter, after the League of Nations approved the British Transjordan memorandum which stated that the Mandate territories east of the River Jordan would be excluded from all the provisions dealing with Jewish settlement.  The country was under British supervision until after World War II. In 1946, the British requested that the United Nations approve an end to British Mandate rule in Transjordan. Following the British request, the Transjordanian Parliament proclaimed King Abdullah as the first ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. Abdullah I continued to rule until a Palestinian Arab assassinated him in 1951 as he was departing from the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the five provinces that comprise modern Lebanon were mandated to France. The French expanded the borders of Mount Lebanon, which was mostly populated by Maronite Catholics and Druze, to include more Muslims. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, and established a unique political system, known as confessionalism, a power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities - Riad El-Solh, who became Lebanon's first prime minister, is considered the founder of the modern Republic of Lebanon and a national hero for having led (and died for) the country's independence. French troops withdrew in 1946.

Iraq's modern borders were demarcated in 1920 by the League of Nations when the Ottoman Empire was divided by the Treaty of Sèvres. Iraq was placed under the authority of the United Kingdom as the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. A monarchy was established in 1921 and the Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from Britain in 1932. In 1958, the monarchy was overthrown and the Republic of Iraq was created.


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