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The New Puritans - Calculating the trajectory of the Middle East conflict

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Defined characteristics steer history to an eventual climax. Unless a dramatic intervention occurs, similar historical characteristics forecast similar results. If an earlier historical event has a narrative that is comparable with the narrative of the Middle East conflict, then the trajectory of that conflict can be predicted from the outcome of the earlier narrative; not exactly, but within a certain boundary. A corollary exists "" if a conclusion can be forecasted from an earlier event that exhibited closely similar conditions, changing the conditions by intervention can modify the directed result. Several conflicts have been compared to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Each narrative contained claims for land, clashes with indigenous peoples and a desire for separation due to fear and insecurity. Each conflict left a legacy that deserves consideration. Most prominently mentioned are:

Apartheid South Africa

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Colonial Algeria

(3) Northern Ireland conflict

(4) The American destiny

(5 ) The Puritan experience

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Which of these conflicts is most comparable with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Realizing that the contestants of the 21st century conflict are culturally advanced in comparison to the contestants engaged in the earlier century conflicts and accounting for different eras and different stages in civilization, the most relevant comparison is the Puritan experience. To substantiate this assertion, let's start with the principle characteristics that defined the Zionist agenda and its development into the Israeli state.

The Zionists at the end of the 19th century concluded Jewish populations, due to unique characteristics, would never find acceptance from Christian Europe. They would remain a persecuted minority if they did not assimilate and would lose their identity if they assimilated. In this no-win situation, Judaism and Jewish identity would eventually disappear. Relatively few Jews of that time agreed with or followed the Zionist agenda.

The Zionists sought a Promised Land, the same land that the Bible claimed God had awarded to the Hebrews. However, the pioneers did not arrive by invoking a phrase uttered by many later immigrants; "The land has been reserved for us by a promise from God." Gaining national identity and social redemption by social labor and communal life guided their purpose.

Hardship and failure describe many of the early missions. After near failure, a limited success enthused compatriots in the World War I aftermath, and immigration to Palestine greatly increased. As immigration increased, the original purpose of "achievement of national identity and social redemption by social labor and communal life," receded from the agenda.

The early Jewish immigrants to Palestine did not display an intention to replace the Palestinians. The land seemed sufficiently empty to accommodate a vast number of new immigrants without replacing the local populations. New agricultural and irrigation techniques would make the land more productive. However, some Palestinians, disturbed by the early intruders, others just bandits, attacked a number of settlements. After a few incidents, awareness that the Zionists could bring benefits - work and new technology "" encouraged Palestinians to gradual acceptance of the newcomers. In the 1920's the pioneering attitude changed and the welcoming attitude drastically changed.

In 1920, after the Zionist population had grown to 60,000 in a Palestine composed of 585,000 Arabs, a reporter noted that earlier settlers felt uncomfortable with the later immigrants.

"It may not be generally known, but a goodly number of the Jewish dwellers in the land are not anxious to see a large immigration into the country. This is partly due to the fear that the result of such immigration would be an overcrowding of the industrial and agricultural market; but a number of the more respectable older settlers have been disgusted by the recent arrivals in Palestine of their coreligionists, unhappy individuals from Russia and Romania brought in under the auspices of the Zionist Commission from the cities of Southeastern Europe, and neither able nor willing to work at agriculture or fruit-farming. "- Zionist Aspirations in Palestine, Anstruther Mackay, The Atlantic Monthly, July 1920.

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Israel's development did not proceed from a colonial mission. A search for a new land to practice a unique way of life for an alienated group propelled the adventure. After 1920, the new immigrants created an insatiable demand for land, for coast, for plain and for hill. Land sales dispossessed Palestinians who sensed continuous usurpation of their ancient lands and destruction of their livelihood. An initial mildly cooperative relationship between Zionists and Palestinians deteriorated to each wanting to be rid of the other. Soon, Palestine quaked with total war. The Zionists won the battle and the Palestinians were directly and indirectly forced to leave their ancient lands. The Israeli state continued to use fear and insecurity to rationalize separation and extend its territory to more secure boundaries. Even those Palestinians willing to cooperate have been marginalized. History records the Palestinian people reacting to dispossession and fighting to prevent a slow and unyielding destruction.

How does this narrative compare to other narratives?

South Africa
In 1651, the Dutch East India Company established a settlement as a base for its ships passing the Cape of Good Hope. An influx in 1687 of a community of Huguenots changed the purpose of the base camp. During the following 300+ years the Protestant colony, together with British and Dutch farmers evolved the white population.

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Dan Lieberman is the editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter. His website articles have been read in more than 150 nations, while articles written for other websites have appeared in online journals throughout the world(B 92, (more...)

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