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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.
By Alexander Dawoody
I was born in Iraq and studied at Basra University before escaping Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime. I arrived in the United States as a refugee and later became a naturalized citizen. I completed my education in the United States and now teach and advise the Master of Public Administration program at Marywood University.
In Iraq’s centralized education system, I was taught that Israel was a pariah state that was created in 1948 by robbing Palestinians of their land and that Jews had no claim to that land. However, when I studied in the United States, I learned that Israelis had lived there since 1800 B.C. until the great Diaspora of 136 AD by the Roman Empire. I learned that the name Palestine was Phoenician and the Roman Emperor Hadrian, as a punishment for the Jewish revolts of 70, 113 and 135 AD, gave the name to the land of Israel.
I was also taught that the city of Jerusalem was an Arabic city known as Al-Quds. The part that was omitted from my education in Iraq is that this same ancient city was built by the Israelites in 1800 B.C. It later became the capital city of Israel under King David in 1010 B.C. Throughout the years the city became important to the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, representing peace and worship despite the turmoil that had plagued some of its history, from the Crusaders of the medieval era to post WWI and WWII conflicts.
The Jews had lived in Israel since 1800 B.C. as well as the Arabs who arrived in larger waves after the Islamic conquest in 638 AD. Both had claims to the land. In 1948, the United Nations (U.N.) decided to accommodate both sides by creating a Jewish state in the western part of the land and an Arab state in the eastern side (also known as the West Bank, due to its western flank to the Jordan River), as well as a southwestern strip known as the Gaza Strip. The city of Jerusalem was to remain under U.N. protection as an international city.
Iraq’s education system decried Jewish migration to Palestine after WWI and the acquisition of land through force in order to repopulate the area with Jews. This eventually led to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The system also has denounced Israel’s wars against its neighbors.
I did not know other factors were omitted from my learning, such as not all Palestinian land was acquired through force after WWI. Some land was taken by force by organizations such as Haganah. Some were also purchased from Palestinian farmers through legal consent and it was the Arab neighbors who attacked Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973 with the aim of Israel’s full destruction.
Because of Israel’s victory in these wars the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the city of Jerusalem came under its control. Yet, and after many losses of life on both sides, Israelis and Palestinians entered into peace process negotiations to create a two-state solution (as envisioned in 1948 by the United Nations). The West Bank and Gaza Strip were given to the Palestinians, headed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which established the Palestinian Authority. In 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) won elections in Gaza and formed its own form of government.
Today, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) governs the West Bank and Hamas governs the Gaza Strip. The PLO has acknowledged Israel’s right to exist and is periodically negotiating with Israel for a two-state solution, trying to resolve points of disagreement such as Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories, the status of Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees.
Hamas, on the other hand appears to be a radical organization committed to the destruction of Israel. Hamas is also connected with Hezbollah of Lebanon, the mullahs of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, which was recently kicked out of power in Egypt by the military, the petro-sheikhs of Qatar and the Islamist government of Erdogan in Turkey.
Since Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in 2006, it has engaged in many military confrontations with Israel. After each engagement, Hamas seeks cease-fire only to regroup and re-engage in yet another military confrontation with Israel. The continuation of such conflicts, coupled with an economic blockade against Gaza and the intimidation of local population by Hamas militia, is making life unbearable for the residents in Gaza. Often Hamas is manipulating the misery of the residents in Gaza and the civilian causality of its military adventures in an effort to justify its own existence and continuing a challenge to the Palestinian authority.
The recent escalation between Israel and Hamas should not lead to yet another empty cease-fire. The United Nations, the Palestinian authority, Israel, Egypt, and Jordan ought to work together in order to end such tragedy, help eradicate Hamas from Gaza and return that area to the Palestinian authority.
Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace and resolve their disputes through dialogue, not war. With radical elements such as Hamas out of the picture, this may be a possibility. The longer Hamas remains in the picture the longer instability, wars and conflicts remain. The United States must do all in its power to bring peace to the region that will support Israel’s security and right to exist as well as Palestinians’ rights for self-determination and statehood.
Many innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians have died. It is time to end the bloodshed and stop the suffering on both sides.
Given the manipulative and distortive educational and information systems that has existed and continues to exist in the Middle East, it is no wonder peace is so difficult to achieve.
The Israeli-Palestinian issue is more than a century old. However, the way to resolve it is not through the distortion of the truth, violence or humanizing one side at the expense of dehumanizing the other. Rather, this issue is best resolved through genuine, peaceful dialogue between those Israelis and Palestinian who are willing to reject violence of all sorts, build trust and accept each side’s right to exist in peace.
It is time for new education for all on this matter. One that is not based on distortion, but honesty and human rights.
Author: Alexander Dawoody, Ph.D. is an associate professor of administrative studies at Marywood University. He is also president of the Association for Middle Eastern Public Policy and Administration (AMEPPA). Dadwoody is the founder of the ASPA Section on Effective and Sound Administration in the Middle East (SESAME) and founder of the ASPA Section on Complexity and System Studies Network (CSN). He can be reached at [email protected].