Gaza-Israel Crisis in Context

Gaza currently has 1.5 million people running out of food, fuel, and water suitable for drinking. The region has been set ablaze with Israeli attacks, leaving hospitals unable treat the myriad of people in desperate need of care. As a recent editorial in The Nation pointed out, 75 percent Gaza is without electricity and their sewage systems are bordering ruin. Furthermore, the loss of a dozen Israeli deaths and just over a dozen injured, Gaza has been lost over 600, a quarter of them being civilian. To say that this is a mere crisis would be as grave an injustice as the conflict itself.

All of this has created a dividing line in the mainstream media punditocracy. Neo-conservatives, the Israel Lobby, Christian Zionists, J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Peace Now have engaged in some of the most vitriolic debate many have had the misfortune of seeing in a long while. 

The worst has been directed towards those seeking a just peace, questioning the actions of Israel and proposing actions, ranging from conventional to the extreme, in hope of bringing this age-old crisis. Neoconservative writer Andrew Sullivan has compared The Nation’s Eric Alterman to the authors of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He writes, “Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young has accused me of blaming Hitler’s victims for Palestinian misery.” Statements just as striking can be found (predictably) in publications such as Commentary and The Weekly Standard.

All of this couldn’t come at a worse time. America is in shambles, and our credibility in the Middle East has been squandered on account of eight years of belligerent foreign policy, unjust wars, wrongful imprisonment, torture, and the perception that the US works only in the best interest of Israel. Attempting to play a vital role as the “middle man” will be take an extraordinary amount of finesse, not to mention the need to send a strong and clear message to the world that we wish only for justice and peace in the region. 

This is easier said than done. The US has a long history of failure in the area of Middle East diplomacy, and this is particularly true in regard to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. More often than not, it is that the US and the international community lacks the resolve to implement and enforce agreements, while giving a wink and a pass to breaches of the agreements.

How, then, are we to overcome these obstacles? 

We must first begin with a change in perception. An example of such change would be US citizens overcoming the notion that Israel has for years been sacrificing land for peace. While it is true that land has been transferred, these plots are by no means sacrificial. The regions are settlements, having gone beyond it’s pre-1967 borders. In short, they are returning land that they confiscated and settled upon, forcing an outrageous number of Palestinians from their homes.

Doing this will force the US and the international community to hold both sides accountable for their former agreements. All sides endorsed UN Resolutions 424 and 338, the Oslo Accords of 1993, Bush’s “Road Map for Peace” in 2003, as well as those agreed upon at Annapolis. The only thing at play here is forcing both sides to be implement what was already agreed upon.

Secondly, the US must consistently apply their calls for democracy with the results of the democratic process of elections. The crusade for global democracy has resounded from Washington for some time, but leaders have been very selective when recognizing those democratically elected. If the goal is to have “the people” vote, and “the people” vote for a group that the US doesn’t particularly like (i.e. Hamas), the US must, if wishing to be consistent in their crusade for global democracy, recognize the decision of the people. To do otherwise is to be horribly inconsistent, fueling the Arab world’s impression that it isn’t so much democracy that we want, but rather to put leaders in power that have US interests and secular values at the forefront of their mind. 

It would do us well recognize the fact that without a resolve which favors a two-state solution and a complete (or almost complete) withdraw from illegal settlements, there will be further tension in other areas of the Middle East. Iran, al Qaeda, and Hezbollah have much to gain from a failed peace process. Recruitment will increase, policies will be justified, and alliances will be solidified.

The US must identify and condemn various actions committed by both sides. The difficulty in doing so rests, at least in part, with the fact that we are dealing with two radically different groups. 

Israel is a nation with a capitol, huge military and economic subsidies from the US, as well as a military force that rules the region like a colony, punishing a people collectively. As UN human rights representative of the territories has recently been quoted as saying, Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is a “crime against humanity.” Women, children, and the elderly have been victims of attacks from Israeli air strikes. Palestinians are required to carry color-coded IDs and travel permits. Civilians have had their homes demolished. One must also include the barricades, checkpoints, and settler-only roads. 

On the other hand, the Palestinians left with little more than guerrilla warriors and the unconventional tactics often accompanying them. As Hamas leader Khaled Meshal said to Alya Rea of CounterPunch, “Unfortunately the insistence on violent repression by or assailants leads to innocent blood on the streets. Since 1996, 12 years ago, we have proposed to exclude civilian targets from the conflict on both sides. Israel did not respond to that. When Israel insists on killing our kids, our elders and senior citizens and women, and bombarding houses with the gunships, F-16s and Apaches, when Israel continues these attacks, what is left for the Palestinians to do? They are defending themselves with whatever they have.”

None of this is to say that targeting civilians is ethically permissible. All that is meant here is to put the situation into context. One country with a capitol, subsidized military and economy, the ownership of nuclear weaponry and a state of the art military over against a colonized people with little more than Qassam missiles, outdated artillery, and individuals willing to be human bombs in order to settle a score. 

President Obama has a tough road ahead, both on the home-front and internationally. But he must have the courage and wisdom to confront this age-old controversy in a way and with a resolve that former presidents have not. Unless he begins seeing the bigger picture, with all its complexities (i.e. religious, ethnic, economic, and militaristic), he will follow the same path as those who went before him. A path covered as much with the inhumane and unjust as much as it is with the blood and tears of the innocent.


Dr. Matthew Wion Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 9:53:00 PM CST  

Well Spoken! I have been blogging on this very issue recently and posting links - and -

The situation is very dire. The Palenstinians live in apartheid conditions and are constantly under military blockade and assault! It's nice to see other bloggers taking up this issue and being honest with the facts. The American media comes no where near the devasting truth about this occupation.

Keep up the posting!

Anonymous,  Monday, January 26, 2009 at 6:54:00 AM CST  

What does this post have to do with distributism? Don't you have another blog for this sort of thing?

Richard Aleman Monday, January 26, 2009 at 7:22:00 AM CST  

Dear rjp,

The economic, moral, and political conditions of nations should not be discussed on a site about a political economic viewpoint?

Certainly it should. After all, the early movement both in G.K.'s Weekly and in other literature, entered into the arena of world events.

Paleocrat Monday, January 26, 2009 at 11:58:00 AM CST  


I readily admit that this particular post does not have a direct correlation with distributism. It is for this reason, as well as others, that I was so tentative about posting it. After consulting others, I decided to post this piece.

The reason being that Distributism is the embodiment of Catholic Social Teaching. CST, though, does not confine itself to matters of the land and labor. As distributists, dedicated first and foremost to the holistic teaching of the Magisterium, we ought to feel free to discuss matters such as these. This shouldn't be foreign ground to us. It sure isn't to those who oppose us.

Lastly, let me echo Mr. Aleman here. This post deals with the economic, moral, and political ramifications of this particular world event. As distributists, we ought to have our ideas out there with the other schools of thought that are more than willing to be vocal on these matters. We may be underdogs, but that doesn't mean we should remain silent. In fact, I think that expressing ideas such as these on forums such as these would do our cause well, displaying how well-rounded and just our philosophy just so happens to be.

NOTE: My next post should appease you.

John Médaille Monday, January 26, 2009 at 1:46:00 PM CST  

The Distributist Review is a Review, that is, it is supposed to address the issues of the day, including international affairs, culture, movies, The various contributors to this review may disagree on any number of these items, but that's just fine. Like G. K. and Hillaire, we are not aloof from day to day issues, but involved as citizens in the life of our Republic. And the Review reflects that fact.

LVTfan Monday, January 26, 2009 at 2:55:00 PM CST  

I was hoping that John Medaille would comment on this post. It seems to me that land value taxation might have extremely important effects on solving these problems.

Anonymous,  Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 6:24:00 AM CST  

I stand corrected. It is, after all, your blog and you can discuss whatever you want. I am simple-minded enough to think that the Distributist Review had something to do with issues of distributism. I hadn't realized during my 30 or 40 years I've followed a distributist position we had to solve the 5,000 year conflict in the Middle East before we could become subsistence farmers, or buy our food from local farmers, or even plant a tomato plant in a window box. Perhaps that paragon of Catholic Social Teaching Warren Buffet has some appropriate advice?

Paleocrat Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 7:50:00 AM CST  


Catholic Social Teaching, something you have apparently been following for many years now, is, in our estimation, best embodied within the school of thought known as distributism. While many distributists may be content talking about only a few of the many aspects Catholic Social Teaching touches upon, that is their choice. But to sarcastically chide a man, or a site, for talking about current events in light of distributive justice doesn't do anyone, much less the cause, much good.

More prominent schools of thought both in the US and abroad deal with a wide array of issues, and rightly so. But they do so in a manner that is, they hope, consistent with their most basic assumptions and ruling principles. Whether it concerns the land, money, taxation, labor, war, advertisement, etc., they provide alternative positions that reflect their core principles. As Catholic distributists, being faithful to the Magisterium's social teaching, we ought to feel at at ease when doing the same.

Let me say, though, that a distributist, whether there is agreement with my assessment of not, can find ample opportunity for demonstrating how various aspects of distributism apply to this particular situation. Why not look into way to distribute the land amongst the palestinians? Why not discuss the treacherous land-grabbing of settlers. Why not discuss Israel's taking land that was of great benefit to the Palestinian people? With over 50% of their land being taken, this would be a great angle! Or why not discuss whether or not Palestine is fertile ground for distributist principles, being very much a blank slate. The list could go one, but I believe readers get the point.

Lastly, I don't believe that my opinion is the "only" answer for this age-old struggle. But I have faith that if those in the Church, those most faithful to Her social teaching, put their minds together and their feet in action, they would help to provide the world with the best answer to an awfully difficult matter.

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