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by William H. Benson

March 28, 2002

     The daily news repells and disgusts us.  Israeli soldiers stomp into people’s homes and arrest whomever.  Suicide bombers blow themselves to bits on a crowded bus, killing innocent people.  Shattered and bloody bodies are drug through the streets.  All of this has become the end game for Ariel Sharon, the Israeli warrior, and Yassir Arafat, the Palestinian freedom fighter.

     The fight is about differences in religion, race, culture, and economic advantages, but above all else, it is a land fight over who will ultimately own and control the territory.  Both Jew and Palestinian want to own and live on what has been called the Holy Land, but I think a better term might be a Thirsty Land, thirsty for the blood of its martyrs who are willing to die to posess it.

     Ernest Renan once wrote, “A nation is a group of people united by a mistaken view about the past and a hatred of its neighbors.”

     The Israelis point to the Bible and to God’s promise to Abraham as their right and justification to own the land.  And the Israelis believe that in 1947 they did not push the Palestinians out of their homes.  Those people just simply left on their own, without any undo force.  However, Benny Morris, the Israeli journalist, argues otherwise, that they were driven out deliberately.

     On the other hand, the Palestinians still hold on to their dream “to return to their homeland” and establish their nation from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, and in the process drive the Israelis into the Sea.  Neither side wishes to give up their myth and their dream of total ownership and face life in the normal world.

     In September 2000 then President Clinton was working hard with both sides at Camp David to hammer out a peace accord, and he was close to getting an agreement.  But then it fell apart, and Round 2 of the Intifada erupted.  Clinton afterwords privately blamed Arafat, and yet last Sunday’s New York Times suggested that it was actually Sharon who deliberately scuttled the peace talks when he visited a site considered holy by both sides accompanied by 200 police officers, knowing full well that chaos would result from his antagonistic act.

     What does Sharon want?  In his book Warrior, Sharon wrote, “We must say very clearly that our concern for our own survival does not permit the establishment of a second Palestinian state on the West Bank.”  It appears that the idea of two peaceful nations is at this moment a fiction.

     Politicians rave; soldiers learn the truth.  Soldiers die quickly; war dies hard.  But other wars have died, and peace has broken out in hate-filled places like Kosovo, Bosnia, Kuwait, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Korea, in the Pacific, in Europe, and even in our own country 140 years ago.  We dare not forget places like Shiloh, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.

     Consider Sherman’s March to the Sea.  Historians see that his purpose was to destroy and annihilate the South’s very will to fight any further.  In this he was larger than both Grant or Lincoln.  The South’s capacity and will to make war posed a legitimate threat and a target; the sooner he smashed them, the sooner peace would come.  Thinking of his own children he devoted himself to that ideal–peace.  He attacked the very mind of the South, crippling the Confederacy’s will to fight.  He did his nastiest work, the South boiled in helpless rage, and they quit fighting.

     Ariel Sharon has been quoted saying, “The aim is to increase the number of losses on the other side.  Only after they’ve been battered, will we be able to conduct talks.”  Strangely, Arafat and the other Palestinian freedom fighters carry a similar thought.  And so the violence escalates.

     Peace will happen, and it will happen when one side overpowers the other, or when one side gives up, or when new and more responsive leaders agree to stop fighting, give up their mistaken myths, and choose peace.  They must see other options, rather than the path of violence.

     Palm Sunday is behind us.  Easter approaches.  It was a Passion Play then (as it is today) with the betrayal of friends, accusations, arrests, speedy trials, and government-ordered executions–a frightening and bewildering and chaotic existence.  Both the Palestinian and the Jew deserve better, much better.  They deserve their own land.  They deserve peace.  It will happen.