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Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Some Musings on Palestine, Israel, Northern Cyprus and More

A Case Where Reader Comments Are More Interesting Than The Article

I read an article in the Economist's November 5, 2011 issue called  "One side gets even lonelier." http://www.economist.com/node/21536644 The article itself was not all that illuminating, focusing in pretty standard fashion on the opposition to Israeli PM Netanyahu's actions in the West Bank.  What I found fascinating was the high volume of comments (170 as I write this) posted by readers on the Economist's comment site for the article. Many of these were as I would expect, ranging from ranting diatribes against Israel to fervent defenses of Israel and much of the range in between.  

One of these comments, though, made it worth scanning the other 169. This was an analysis posted by a reader named "equilibrium."  I know nothing about him or her, but "equilibrium"'s comment really made me stop and reassess my position on the Israeli-Palestinean situation.

The main point of the comment is not the legitimacy of Israel's position in the West Bank or Palestine's legitimacy in calls for statehood. It is not about Palestine's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist or Israel's refusal to recognize Palestine until such a right to exist is provided. It says nothing about Jerusalem, about UNESCO's recognition of Palestine, about the illegality of new settlements and so forth.  It never addresses the Hamas and Fatah factions within Palestine or the divisions within Israel regarding Israeli PM Netanyahu's policies. In short, it says little of substance about the main issues.

North Cypriot flag
Palestinean flag
What the comment from "equilibrium" DOES provide, though, is a well-thought-out, neutrally-written comparison between the situation in Northern Cyprus and in Palestine. The comparison is apt in my opinion (though no two situations are the same by any means). What "equilibrium" then asks is why so little focus settles on the Northern Cyprus situation and why so much focus settles on Palestine.

"Equilibrium's Comment"

I would like to hear your comments on what "equilibrium" wrote, which is as follows:

"The reason why I like to analyze the the Cyprus issue is because I think it is a valid litmus test in order to determine whether those who condemn Israel are impartial or anti-Semitic.

Both cases are very similar. A war involving Greece, Cyprus and Turkey breaks out in 1974 resulting in Turkey illegally occupying part of Cyprus resulting in large numbers of Greek-Cypriots fleeing the north. Over the next 35-40 years tens of thousands of Turks settle occupied northern Cyprus illegally with many Greek Cypriots claiming that their land is being confiscated. In addition, Turkey built a wall separating the island in two.

In my opinion, it makes no sense why there is an intense worldwide focus on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank while there is much less intensity on the Turkish occupation of Cyprus even though both cases are similar. One way to explain it is that in today's world it is no longer acceptable for countries to make anti-Semitic laws so the only way for certain individuals to vent their anti-Semitism is to find reasons to condemn Israel. While I don't consider objective criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic, it is peculiar that those who condemn Israel for the settlements, the West bank wall etc, don't even care about the Turkish settlements and the separation wall in Cyprus.

One possible answer is an anti-Semitic excuse to bash Jews."


My Thoughts

Playing the X Card  

I am often hesitant when anyone plays the "X" card, whether that be the "racism card" or the "sexism" or -- as in this case -- the "anti-Semitism" card. It tends usually to shift the focus of the conversation from the point at hand to one of defensiveness. Instead of hearing what is or is not valid in a position, playing the "X" card ends up having the response devolve into cries of "I'm not a racist!"or  "I support women's rights!" or "Lots of my friends are Jews!" This is the "How dare you!" response.
The Comparison of Northern Cyprus to Palestine: How Valid Is It? 

West Bank Settlements
In many respects, the comparison of Northern Cyprus to Israeli settlements in the West Bank of Palestine that "equilibrium" suggests is accurate. Both situations are largely viewed as illegal by most of world opinion. Both cases resulted in significant refugee populations.  Both cases involve divisions of culture, language and religion. Both cases remain difficult to settle because of the backing of countries outside of the disputed areas. And both cases have been around for a long time (1988 with the declaration of an independent Palestine by the PLO;  1983 with the claims of an independent Northern Cyprus).
Divided Cyprus
In many respects, the comparison of Northern Cyprus to Israeli settlements in the West Bank of Palestine is, however, not parallel. Aside from Turkey, no nation recognizes Northern Cyprus' right to exist; by contrast, 127 nations already formally recognize Palestine as a state and even Israel itself recognizes the need for recognition of a Palestinean state. Relatedly, Northern Cyprus recognizes Southern Cyprus' right to exist. Indeed, under the Annan Plan referendum of 2004, 64.9% of Turkish Cypriots voted to reunite with Southern Cyprus in a federal state (along the lines of Canada or Belgium) while 75% of Greek Cypriots in the south refused any such compromise. This is quite the opposite of the Israeli-Palestinean situation in which Palestine officially does not recognize Israel's right to exist, constituting a major stumbling block in negotiations. Moreover, while relations between the two Cypruses are far from good, there is little ongoing terrorism from Northern Cyprus against Southern Cyprus, while the acts of terrorism from not only the West Bank but from Gaza against Israeli civilians are very frequent and cause an ongoing (and justifiable) distrust. Finally, whereas the border between Turkish and Greek Cyprus is unfriendly and armed, that border is stable. By contrast, Jewish settlements into Palestine are ongoing and represent a continual force of instability in what a final border might actually be were negotiations ever to succeed.

Why Is There So Much Relative Attention on the Palestine-Israel Conflict?

The issue raised by "equilibrium"'s post, therefore, legitimately does raise the question: why does world opinion focus so intently on the Palestinean situation and so little on the Cypriot situation?  Both are in the same region of the Eastern Mediterranean. Both are intractable. Both have caused considerable hardship for refugees and both have resulted in open conflict.

Disputed Western Sahara
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Flag
The case for "equilibrium"'s claims of something else involved -- perhaps, in truth, anti-Semitism --becomes even more likely when one considers the lack of world response to many other similarly disputed nationality disputes. For example,  the UN sees the occupation of the former Spanish Sahara by Morocco illegal and the UN still officially categorizes the region as a non-self-governing territory of Spain, even though Morocco has occupied it since 1975. Although with nowhere the same level of force as in Palestine or Northern Cyprus, the UN has tried to intervene through negotiated settlements-- as have several European nations and the United States --without success. Morocco has faced an ongoing intifadah from the Polisario Front since then with ongoing bloodshed. The Polisario Front declared independence in 1976, and since then 81 nations (as well as the African Union) recognized the territory as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Yet there is no world attention.  
Taiwan flag

Kosovo flag

One can make a similar case for several other disputed countries with varying levels of recognition. These would include the Republic of Kosovo (recognized by 85 countries) and Taiwan (officially recognized by only 23 nations, though many non-recognizing states such as the US are its allies). In both cases, a powerful nation opposes the existence of each country: Kosovo is strongly opposed by Russia and Taiwan is strongly opposed by the People's Republic of China. Yet even with nations as powerful as Russia and China in the mix, neither Kosovo nor Taiwan regularly receives the world's attention in anywhere near that of the Palestine. 
Abkhazia flag

South Ossetia flag
Even when the legitimacy of the countries involved are considerably more disputed, world attention seems oddly absent relative to that of the Israel-Palestine dispute. Here one could point to the statuses Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Chechnya, Transistria and Tibet. Where is the comparable attention to Abkhazia and South Ossetia? Both have considerable levels of violence and both of which are recognized -- and hotly disputed -- by several foreign countries. One could make a case for the lack of world attention regarding Chechnya or Transnistria as well, although these are countries with no external recognition. Indeed, it seems that the only one of the disputed nations just described that has anything close to the attention of Palestine would be Tibet, although the demands are China are minimal compared to the demands on Israel in this situation, so I am not sure that is so accurate a claim.

Is the Focus on Israel a Form of Anti-Semitism? Is "Equilibrium" Right?

I certainly don't believe that all criticism of Israel even remotely constitutes anti-Semitism. The policies of Israel are hotly contested within Israel and it seems unlikely that Israelis themselves would be motivated by anti-Semitism.

That said, personally, I think "equilibrium" is onto something in his "possible answer" of a more acceptable "excuse to bash Jews." I am not positive of that but I willing to give it considerable thought.

So those are my thoughts. What are yours?

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