The people who lived in Palestine in 1945 were not very different from the people who lived in Oklahoma at that same time. It was largely an agrarian culture, but no more backward than say, Oklahoma, Nevada, Idaho or many places on this small blue planet.
In the aftermath of World War II and the absolute horror of the German attempt to exterminate the jewish population of Europe, many surviving members of the Jewish faith decided the time had come to create the Jewish State. It’s too bad that those folks didn’t demand that the Jewish State be created in land to be ceded by a defeated and repentant German state. A Jewish state of Israel established in lands ceded by the people who engaged in the extermination of the Jewish people would have had an element of justice that was missing when the Jewish state took root in the environs of Jerusalem at the cost of the Palestinian people who thought their claim to the lands and way of life was subject to all the protections that they could muster through their self defense and the potential protection of a body like the United Nations.
I understand that Jewish people had a connection to Jerusalem, but to paraphrase Black Elk when he spoke about the center of the universe in the Black Hills, truly, the center of the universe is in the geography of the heart.
Sadly, the protections for the indigenous people of Palestine were woefully insufficient and the Palestinian people have been systematically terrorized, killed, and pushed off their lands over the past 60 years. The The Palestinian people are now exiles or prisoners in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank. The recent invasion of Gaza by the Israeli military is simply the most recent atrocity committed against the Palestinian people. The Palestinians have committed their share of crimes and atrocities over the past 60 years in reaction to the loss of their lands and way of life, but to review the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people without considering the Palestinian right of return on an equal basis with Israel’s right of self-defense is to engage in sophistry that only guarantees more violence.
It is possible to talk about the state of Israel because Israel has the contours of a state, a political and geographic aspect that we can recognize as a state, but it is not possible to speak of Palestine in the same way. There is no Palestine, there are only the Palestinian people in exile or held captive in dissected lands that do not have the contours of a political or geographic state. No peace settlement is likely to succeed if it does not address the need of the Palestinian people for a homeland.
Certainly, the United States with its history of oppression and extermination of the indigenous people of Turtle Island cannot truly claim any moral high ground, but it is a shameful thing to see the US backing the extermination of the Palestinian people and the theft of that people’s land and way of life.
If Barack Obama wants to see change in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people he is going to have to speak about the Palestinian right of return or compensation for their land and he will have to work with the Palestinian people, and especially the most popular political element of the Palestinian people, Hamas, to help the Palestinian people reclaim an area that can become a viable state to be known as Palestine.