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UCLA prof. analyzes Israel-Palestine conflict

By Ryan Spencer and Elianna Spitzer

Section: News

September 23, 2016

A UCLA professor said the Israel-Palestine conflict will not be resolved until Israel, Palestine and European nations admit responsibility. Placing sole blame on anyone is a narrow “two-dimensional way” of viewing the issue, he said, addressing at least 50 people on Sept. 20. 

“Anyone who regards Israel as singularly responsible for the conflict or, for that matter, anyone who regards the Palestinians as singularly responsible fails to understand how the Jews were placed in this situation,” Prof. David Myers said.

Myers put forth a compromise in which Palestine, Israel, European countries that marginalized Jews throughout history and the countries involved in the Polish Minorities Treaty would all admit blame. In this compromise, the latter three would provide political and financial support to solve the Palestinian refugee problem. Palestinians would recognize the right of Jews to their homeland. Israel would end their 50-year occupation and grant Palestinians either full rights of citizenship or the right to their own state. 

Myers admitted that these resolutions are a fantasy, particularly in a polarized situation. However, he urged that “stasis is the enemy of peace.” The only way to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to look at it in a new, three-dimensional way.

Myers used a three-dimensional model to attribute a shared responsibility in the Israel-Palestine conflict to Jews, Arabs and European nations.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Jews were viewed as separate from the dominant culture in Europe. Myers viewed an attempt to assimilate the Jewish population as a colonization effort on the part of European nations. “Zionism would never had arisen were it not for the deep structure of European anti-Semitism and colonialism,” Myers said.

The goal to create a Jewish state arose out of the need for a collective Jewish majority. Oppression left European Jews to assert “political dominance as a means of survival,” Myers said. This constitutes the European portion of the blame.

Myers highlighted the passing of the the Polish Minorities Treaty in the Paris Peace conference of 1919 following World War I as an event that “yielded devastating effects” in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The League of Nations treaty told countries to ensure protections for minority groups, but this only furthered their segregation as a minority group. However, minority groups could not present grievances to the League if they felt their protections were still being violated. 

This is part of why Zionists wanted their own nation, the root of their conflict with Palestine over land and control. 

European influence, however, does not absolve Israel of responsibility for its actions in the conflict, according to Myers. A Zionist push for an Israeli state resulted in a 1947 partition of the land, dividing it almost in half. The United Nations partition proposed settling the indigenous population on 45 percent of the land and created hostilities between Jewish settlers and the Arab population. “It doesn’t seem to me to defy logic to understand why that was not greeted with uniform enthusiasm on the Arab side,” Myers said.

In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Jewish and Israeli forces expelled around 700,000 Arabs from the region to secure sovereignty for the Zionist movement. “The Jews are both the victims of longstanding oppression and now oppressing other people,” Myers said.

Myers is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at University of California, Los Angeles.

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