Yasser Arafat and Sitting
Bull: Palestinians and Indians, Israelis and White Americans


Leonard Zwelling

         No one can fail to be disturbed by the latest developments
in the Middle East. As if the crises in Iraq and in Syria were not sufficiently
upsetting, the kidnapping and killing of both Israeli and Palestinian young
people have once again heightened the tension between the factions in a very
small piece of land.  For years the
arguments and justifications have gone on. It even spilled onto the streets of Houston
this weekend with a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli demonstration on Wesleyan and
Richmond. My sources tell me there was a car window broken by the protesters
because the vehicle bore a Jewish star.

think all can agree things are moving in the wrong direction.

         There are many reasons for this latest escalation in
hostility but in the end it always comes back to one issue. Land. Two parties
that at one time co-existed as neighbors prior to the Second World War, Zionist
Israelis and native Palestinians, eventually went to war over the land between
the Jordan and the Mediterranean and the Israelis won. Period. Since then, it
has been the same war fought over and over with pretty much the same result.
The Israelis seem to be expanding their hold on more land and the Palestinians
want the land they believe is theirs back.

         In the 19th century, white America conclusively
ended any pretense about who was going to run the much larger territory between
the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, north of Mexico and south of Canada. It would
not be the Native American peoples known as Indians who populated the area for
the vast majority of recorded time. The white man won every bit as much as the
European Israelis who fled to the land that would become Israel did in 1948.
The winners took the land from the losers. That’s pretty much the way it
usually goes.

         So before going crazy about how awful the modern Israelis
are about bombing the Gaza Strip and killing innocent civilians, which is
absolutely true, consider what might happen if rockets started to fall from the
skies on the civilian population of St. Paul or areas of Louisiana and New
Mexico having been fired from Indian reservations in the surrounding
countryside. It is pretty likely that the President of the United States would
send troops into the reservation and end the shelling of his constituent
population. That’s pretty much what Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing and is likely
to continue to do. And before you call those folks in Gaza innocent, remember
they elected a terrorist organization, Hamas, to lead them in a legitimate
election. What did they think would happen when they put the bomb makers in

         I am not justifying Israeli cruelty for surely some exists.
I am not dismissing the complaints of the Palestinians whose land was taken
from them in 1948 either by purchase or the point of a gun. (Please read Ari
Shavit’s My Promised Land). I am not going to use the “Chosen People” argument
that would justify the Jewish state’s hold over these lands nor the shadow of
the Holocaust or the success of the modern economic miracle that is Israel’s
technological revolution. All I can say is that if the same circumstances
occurred here as is occurring in southern Israel, the response would be swifter
and more definitive than anything the current Israeli leadership perpetrated on
the citizens of Gaza.

         And the worst part is that if the people of Gaza do not
replace their current leadership with leaders with cooler heads and fewer
terror connections, the Israeli restraint may be gone and no one wants to see
that. At least I don’t.

         I really do get it, I believe. The situation may be
intractable, but it can be intractable with spilled blood or intractable with harsh
words only. I prefer door number 2. We need to get back there. I am not sure we
can if Hamas is in charge of Gaza and has a significant role in the government
of the West Bank. Hamas wants Israel to end. Israel cannot negotiate with a
partner who wants them dead. That’s not a negotiation.

         It is said that if Israel stops arming, the war intensifies.
If the Palestinians stop arming, the war ends. I am not sure of any of this.
The more I read, the more confused I get because the very nature of the dilemma
is so seemingly unresolvable for the two peoples seem unable to occupy the same
land. Yet, they used to. Is the two-state solution the answer? It seems farther
apart than ever as it seems to lock in war and is thus no solution at all. A
one-state solution may be even worse as it will yield Palestinian apartheid
within the borders of a Jewish democracy.

have no glib answer other than the certainty that it will be those on the
ground in the Holy Land that determine whether a solution will occur and what
it will look like.

         The solution arrived at by Indians and white Americans has
been awful for the Indians for a host of reasons. Hopefully, the
Palestinian-Israeli solution can go better than that one did. And it can as
long as the rockets stop flying from the Palestinian reservation on the
Mediterranean drawing a dreadfully lethal response from the people who built
the reservation in the first place.

         And if the rockets were coming from the Pine Ridge
reservation in South Dakota, consider what the governor of South Dakota would
request of President Obama. Am I stretching an analogy? I will leave that for
you to decide.


  1. The difference is the US didn't 'win' period- in the usual way- as regards American Indians. They ignored and continue to ignore hundreds of treaties. See the new book-Pen and Ink Witchcraft: Treaties and Treaty Making in American Indian History
    "Indian peoples made some four hundred treaties with the United States between the American Revolution and 1871, when Congress prohibited them. They signed nine treaties with the Confederacy, as well as countless others over the centuries with Spain, France, Britain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, Canada, and even Russia, not to mention individual colonies and states. In retrospect, the treaties seem like well-ordered steps on the path of dispossession and empire. The reality was far more complicated."

    1. Margaret: I assume this is you and you are, of course, correct. I would never argue with you over anything having to do with Indians. Nonetheless, the analogy holds in that a people who believe their land was taken from them are owed something by the takers. The Indians, as you have taught me, are owed a host of support and services which they are not getting and the Palestinians deserve some homeland and some peace. Neither is getting what they believe they are owed and have taken much different routes to try to get what they believe to be theirs. The tragedy in both cases is significant.

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