Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Holy Land -- The No State Solution

Gadfly

by Mort Malkin

The Holy Land – The No State Solution

Hereafter, it will be called the Holy Land, not Palestine, not Israel . The name change is necessary to bring about the only possible solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict – the No State Solution.

Before there were Jews and Muslims, before there was a Yahweh, the Near East was well settled by different peoples. The Sumerians, having migrated from Central Asia, settled in Mesopotamia . Bedouins from the desert were accepted into their midst. Earlier, population centers had developed at Catal Huyuk in central Anatolia ( Turkey ) and at Jericho in the Levant some 9,000 years ago. Different races (by skull type) apparently got along together. On the Mediterranean coast only a little later, cities developed at Byblos , Sidon , and Tyre . Many people and many peoples cultivated crops and herded animals in the Near East . They became craftsmen using materials found in the earth. Trade existed from earliest times in the Neolithic. Obsidian and pottery are but two examples.

In these ancient times, most folks worshipped many gods: Utu (Samas) the sun god, Nanna (Sin) the moon god, Ea the god of sweet water, Enlil the god of air and wind, Ninhursag (Nintu) the goddess of the earth, and scores more. You could call upon Innana the goddess of love, but after Sumerian times, it was a little trickier as she became Istar, who was in charge of both love and war. Perhaps that’s when Nanshe the goddess of morality stepped up to keep some balance among mortals.

Around 1900 BCE, a Semite named Abram, who lived in the city of Ur on the Euphrates , had a vision and made a covenant with a God who said He was in charge of everything. Abe changed his name from Abram to Abraham and set off for Canaan on the Western Sea . Abraham had some major doubt when this new God asked him to sacrifice his #2 son. When the request was rescinded at the last moment, Abraham kept his half of the deal. God, over the following generations performed a few tricks (miracles) to convince the skeptical who still had favorites among the other gods. Soon, or maybe not so soon, monotheism among the Semites became established. There followed a few centuries of wandering around the Near East – once a nomad it’s hard to cleanse your blood of the inclination – before three major branches of monotheism grew: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The denominations of each will wait till later.

Today, there is great animosity between Jews and Muslims, especially between Israelis and Arabs. Some pundits say the conflict has always existed and never will be resolved. But, past history tells us otherwise and professional seers say the future isn’t writ is stone. Here’s the story.

At the western end of the Mediterranean, the Moors converted to Islam and established their rule in southern Spain . In Andalusia, the city of Cordoba became the pre-eminent center of intellectual activity: science, medicine, mathematics, literature, and philosophy. Scholars were attracted from the entire world of the time. Jews were tolerated and even served in high posts in government. Some change occurred from one caliphate to the next, but Islamic rule began in the 8th century and lasted almost 800 years. The great Jewish philosopher-physician-rabbi Maimonides lived under Islamic rule in Spain , Morocco, and Egypt during this time (12th century).

At the eastern end of the Mediterranean, Jews and Muslims had lived together peaceably in the Levant for centuries. When Pope Urban launched the First Crusade and his forces captured Jerusalem (1099), Jews and Muslims were slaughtered with equal fervor. Fighting over political and economic power makes for strange friends and enemies – strange to us today.

Let us go back further to Sumerian times in Mesopotamia – many Bedouins from the Arabian desert settled in and around the Sumerian city-states of the Fertile Crescent and a few integrated with the urban populations. By 2300 BCE, Sargon, a descendant of these nomadic tribes, took power and embarked on a series of military adventures by which he established the Akkad empire. War became an established way of doing business thereafter. Before Akkad rule, the city-states – Ur , Uruk, Kish , Babylon , Larsa, Eridu, and others – were each ruled by a king. But one city, Nippur , was considered neutral ground. It was a holy city under the protection of the great god Enlil and respected by all. When kings of different cities would send their ministers to Nippur to confer (or confront), they were not allowed to bring warriors with weapons. Agreement was easier without spears and swords for distraction. Archeologists have found many documents in clay (hard copy, then) stamped with seals of several cities in common agreement.

Nippur is a fine model for a no-state solution for Israel and Palestine . Jews and Muslims can start integrating the cities one after another: Jericho, Jerusalem, Gaza, Askalon, and Hebron – all the oldest cities first. They would live side by side and even welcome Christians and Pagans. Integration of the countryside would follow in short order. Arabs and Jews working in the olive groves and raising figs and pomegranates – the deserts would bloom. Muslims and Jews have a common tradition. They both speak of Abraham as their common Patriarch. Their dietary habits are similar to this day. In the Levant , many Israeli Jews speak Arabic and Israeli Arabs all speak Hebrew. We know opposites attract and can expect there to be a few who fall in loveand marry. The Holy Land will be the new land of man & womankind. The Holy Land currency will be written in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. The tradition of Isaiah will attract diplomats, negotiators, and conciliators – enemies elsewhere around the world will become only adversaries, and then it’s just a short thought to collaboration. Jerusalem , in the spirit of Solomon, will be the place for resolving world conflicts peacefully. What work could be more holy?

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