The Palestinian problem

Is the Nov. 29 U.N. vote recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state a step in the right direction for peace in the Middle East?

By Leroy Seat

Some things never seem to end. This month there has, once again, been serious military action between Palestinians and Israelis. There has been intermittent fighting between Palestine and modern Israel since November 1947.

Sixty-five years ago yesterday, on Nov. 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for Palestine to be partitioned between Arabs and Jews, and allowing for the formation of the Jewish state of Israel.

The following day there were protests by Arabs throughout the country, so 11/30/47 was the beginning of “civil war” in Palestine. That led to what is called the First Arab-Israel War, which began in May 1948 and ended in March of the following year.

The story of the struggle between the Palestinians and the Jews, both seeking a secure place to live, is engagingly told in The Lemon Tree (2006) by Sandy Tolan, an American journalist, teacher and documentary radio producer.

Tolan’s book is a fascinating true story about the Khaira family who lived in the Palestinian city of al-Ramla and who had a lemon tree in the back yard of their home. In May 1948, though, Bashir Khaira, who was 6 years old, and his family had to leave their home, for it was then considered to be Israeli territory.

Six months later the Eshkenzai family, Jews who had been living in Bulgaria, arrived in Palestine and subsequently moved into the former home of the Khairas.

Nineteen years later, in 1967 when he was 25, Bashir went back to al-Ramla and met Dalia Eshkenzai, who was born just three days after the November 1947 decision by the United Nations and who had been living with her family in Bashir’s former house since 1948. Dalia and Bashir begin discussions which have now lasted for 45 years.

The Palestinian man and Jewish woman were respectful of each other and actively sought to understand each other’s point of view. But to the end of the book there seemed to be no good solution to the problem that resulted from the 1947 U.N. decision -- and the subsequent fighting between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

At the very end of the book, though, after the old lemon tree had died, some Palestinian and Jewish young people met in the back yard of the Khaira/Eshkenzai home, and together they planted a new lemon tree. So maybe there is hope for the distant future. But the immediate future still looks bleak.

While not unsympathetic with the plight of the Jews, who were treated so brutally in Europe during the 1930s and early 1940s, I have long thought the Palestinians have been grossly mistreated since 1947. My thinking this way was strengthened by reading Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006). I highly recommend his book.

Carter is probably right when he says that the “two state solution” is the only realistic path to peace and security for Israel and the Palestinians -- but that solution is becoming more and more difficult because of the Israelis occupying more and more of the territory.

Earlier this month Carter lamented that Israel seems to have abandoned the two-state solution. “Their policy now is to confiscate Palestinian territory,” he said.

So, the Palestinian problem remains dire, especially for the Palestinians. But it is also serious for the Israelis as they are frequent targets of various violent acts of desperation by the beleaguered people of Palestine.

Let’s hope and pray that there will be peace and justice in Palestine soon. Maybe yesterday’s U.N. decision is a step in the right direction.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.