The critical element of the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1948 is that it is the shape of the world before the invention of peace in the 18th Century. Conflict is endemic to animal life, and the artificial construct that declares that lions can lay with lambs creates a false sense that the pleasant imagery is achievable.
There are political and economic arguments for continuing conflict that are easily inflamed into religious rhetoric. Islam, an evangelical Abrahamic ideology, insists that the land belongs to those of their faith, though the faith itself is two millennia younger than Judaism, a non-evangelical Abrahamic ideology that was thriving in the area about three thousand years before the founding of the city of Mecca. Economically, Israel is capable of producing five times the luxury goods per capita of all their neighbors combined, engendering accusations of economic destitution among their neighbors that are caused by unfair trading practices, anti-non-Jew discrimination and uneven “opportunities” for Jews over those of any other faith. Since the partition of Israel many states, individuals and organizations has treated the conflict there as litmus tests for democracy, anti-Semitism, and support of the United States. Those that support Israel are thought to be supporters of the US and its institutions; those who do not, in the popular imagination, don’t.
Conflicts in the Middle East are cycles of low-level asymmetrical, socio-economic and diplomatic warfare, occasionally breaking into outright fighting on a small scale between the military and security forces of Israel and dozens of other states and various “liberation” guerrilla groups. Irregularly, large and spectacular attacks are staged, including
- The El Al hijacking in 1968;
- Munich and the campaign of violence afterwards that hunted down the planners in 1972;
- Lodz airport in 1974;
- The Air France hijacking in 1976;
- The Osirak reactor bombing in 1981.
These noteworthy attacks are interspersed with repeated waves of intifadas and other general disruptions, civil wars, bombings, and riots. Internationally, boycotts, and propaganda maneuvers are punctuated by “conferences” that are little more than photo opportunities, with “frameworks” designed by diplomats to describe a “peace process” that has not yielded more than a few months of relative calm in the region in nearly sixty years of trying.
Israel had been the subject of more UN sanction motions for alleged human rights abuses than all other member states combined. States on the UN’s Human Rights Subcommittee when many of these sanctions were voted on have included Cambodia, Cuba and Libya. Zionism, a loose term for Jewish self-determination, has been equated with ethnic cleansing, genocide and racism by states including the former Soviet Union, China and Haiti.
Four times since 1948 the conflict has broken out into conventional warfare: 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1981. The proxy nature of the conflict is readily apparent:
- The 1956 conflict coincided with Egyptian attempts to nationalize the Suez Canal after a coup that deposed Egypt’s king and Egypt’s subsequent recognition of the People’s Republic of China over Western objections;
- The 1967 conflict was in part occasioned by the Soviet Union recognizing the United Arab Republic, Gamal Nasser’s attempt at a pan-Arab Egypt/Syria/Jordan union (curiously, “Arab” here excluded Saudi Arabia);
- The low-mid-level “war of attrition” from 1969 to 1970, when artillery barrages, commando raids and air attacks were conducted every day;
- The 1981 Israeli invasion of Lebanon coincided with increasing tensions between the Soviet bloc and the West occasioned by the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran in 1978.
There seems to be no real resolution to the conflict, and there seems to be little desire for either “side” to live and coexist together in anything approaching stable harmony. As long as ideologues can drive their followers to deeds of barbarity, there shall be a conflict in the eastern Mediterranean.