10 things you didn’t know about the Israeli-Arab conflict
As a tour guide in Israel I talk about history, religion, the desert, and everything else Israel has to offer. But there is always a big elephant in the room – the Israeli-Arab conflict. Sometimes I think this topic is more interesting than any other. Here I’ve tried to summarize the most important insights I’ve gained from hundreds of discussions about this issue.
The Israeli-Arab conflict is smaller than you might think
If you try to complete the sentence “The Israeli – Arab conflict is important because…”, you’ll discover that you don’t have an answer. The conflict is one of the smallest in the world. Israel is a tiny country without any strategic importance. There is no oil in Israel or in any country surrounding Israel. The only reason you hear about Israel is because enough people decided that it is important, but there’s no objective reason. Every moment you deal with this conflict is a moment you’re not dealing with the really big and important problems, such as China, a dictatorship with over a billion people that also has the largest economy in the world; the bloody and seemingly intractable conflict in Syria; and the genocide occurring in Sudan.
The world media is obsessed with Israel
The medium is the message. Normally, the closer and the more dramatic the event, the higher the chances you will hear about it in the media. This rule doesn’t apply to the Israeli-Arab conflict. The smallest incident in Israel immediately becomes headline news all other the world. Here’s one important fact to keep in mind: In more than 100 years of conflict, about 25,000 Palestinians have lost their lives. In the Arab world more than 15,000,000 people have lost their lives in the last 50 years alone. You hear much less about them, or the millions that are killed in Africa (or the some 80 percent of the world population that lives under totalitarian regimes). One of the reasons for this is that it’s very easy to work in Israel as a foreign correspondent. There is a modern infrastructure, freedom of speech, and journalists feel safe. The Palestinians also feel safe. Notice that the Palestinians never speak anonymously or cover their faces like people do when they fear the authorities. Israel, like all countries, is not perfect, but it is very important to remember that even the right to complain against the government is a privilege that only a few people in our world enjoy.
It is absurd, but the European media cover Israel more than Europe’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here is an interesting example. In 2011, the British newspaper The Guardian mentioned Israel over 1,000 times. In that year 115 Palestinians died, most of them terrorists. Iraq was mentioned 504 times although more than 4,000 Iraqis were killed, many of them in incidents involving British soldiers.
This obsession is also prevalent in the academic world. Today there are more courses, seminars, books, and forums about this conflict than any other conflict.
The conditions of Palestinians are good
Many well-known people criticize Israel. José Saramago, the Nobel Prize winner; Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd; and other famous people have compared what the Israelis are doing to what the Nazis did. Here are some facts that prove otherwise. The life expectancy in the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 (the year Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza) was 48 years. Today it is over 75 years – higher than all the Arab countries around Israel. In 1967 the infant mortality rate was higher than 150 out of 1,000 births. Today it is less than 19. The Palestinians are the most educated Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa. In 1967 there were no universities on the West Bank. Today there are 11 universities and 13 colleges. In 1967 only 4 Arab settlements had running water. Today there are more than 640 that do. (In Amman, the capital of Jordan, only tens of kilometers away, there is running water only one day a week). According to the World Bank, the Palestinians have received four times more aid than Europe did from the Marshall Plan after World War II. Every participant of my tours knew that the United States supports Israel. But none of them knew that the Palestinians get more aid from the United States, the European Union, Japan, the Arab countries, and the United Nations than any other people in the world.
The State of Israel wasn’t established as compensation because of the Holocaust
The notion that the world was so shocked by the Holocaust that it gave the Jews a country is naïve. That’s not the way world politics work. At the time of World War II there were already half a million Jews with a national consciousness, and with all the institutions that a country has – education, health, political systems, and so on. The establishment of Israel, like the establishment of dozens of countries, had more to do with World War II itself. After every world war there is a new world order. After World War I, a number of countries were established – such as Yugoslavia (1918), Poland (1918), Czechoslovakia (1918), Finland (1917), and Turkey (1923). After World War II, many countries were established – such as Jordan (1946), Syria (1946), India (1947), Pakistan (1947), Israel (1948), and Korea (1948). After the Cold War, which played out around the world, many countries were also established – such as Croatia (1991), Georgia (1991), Estonia (1991), and Moldova (1991).
Israel was established in the wave of countries that were established after World War II. Most of the Middle East countries were established on French and British territories that they lost after the war.
Israel wasn’t established on stolen Palestinian soil
Many think that there was a Palestinian territory and then the Jews came and took their land. This is not so. The name Palestine originates from the word “Pleshet,” which, according to the Hebrew Bible, is an ancient people that probably came from the Greek island of Crete and settled
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