Seeing how the previous thread on this subject got trolled to it's early grave, starting this one was a really good idea. Kudos.
Being a very non-political person myself (really, each elections I vote for an ultra-liberal hackey party that's mainly about legalizing marijuana and never makes it to parliament), debating on this issue is not very attractive to me. On the other hand, being an Israeli (Jew) I can't help but having detailed views on the subject, and Skid's questions got me going, so...
West bank settlements. Are they crowding the Palestinians out of their native land?
Absolutely. The settlements in the occupied territories were started - and are still perpetrated - to achieve just that, and are run by right-wing extremists who see it as the will of God, no less (and what God wants, God gets). Being roughly 15% of the population, they have strong lobbies and loud supporters, and bully each and every government since the seventies into a certain amount of support. Even the genesis of the whole settlement enterprise was in partially misleading the leftist government of the time into approving a single settlement as a small religious center. What basically allows this to go on and on is the fundamental perception, which is very common with the Jewish population here, that stating a "biblical right" to the ancient land of Israel justifies any means of exercising this right, which derives the whole world view of military occupation of a civilian population that has no rights and no real government of it's own being fine and dandy. Which makes any consideration of said occupied population being perceived as foolish, which allows settlements to exist and expand.
Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak (leader of the leftist (!!!)
party in the government and not a big settlements supporter) approves of new construction in the west bank, contrary to agreements with US government:http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1154876.html
Are unguided rocket launches and suicide bombers valid tactics for the Palestinians to use?
Valid? who's to say?. You can get sound, articulate explanations as to why this is their birthright as an occupied population, and similar explanations as to why this makes them bloodthirsty barbarians, both based on a subjective view of morals and a social bias (i.e. pretty much what you see in the news). Ultimately, this does their cause - and the whole situation - waaaaay more harm than good, and stems from the fact that being an occupied population for 40 years, the rule of the land, for them, is decreed by weapon-wielding forces, and society is a lawless mess controlled by violent gangsters and preyed upon by fundamental religious zealots recruiting as much destitute and desperate people as they can to their evil ends. Hence rocket launches and suicide bombers that target civilian population (war crimes). Hence the democratic election of said violent gangsters, the Iran-supported-and-funded Hamas, in a landslide (the whole democratic elections campaign there can be attributed to Bush administration stupidity). The same Hamas who later violently ejected Fatah members (Palestinian party who governs the west bank and opposes Hamas), during a violent Hamas-Fatah clash, out of the Gaza strip, murdering dozens of them including family members and infants (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_Rimal_neighborhood_shootings#March_to_December
, all incidents cites news articles as sources).
Israeli military operations. Are "civilian" casualties justified? Are they really as high as Palestinians claim? As low as Israelis claim?
Justified? who's to say?. You can get sound, articulate explanations as to why this is their birthright as a nation under constant war, and similar explanations as to why this makes them bloodthirsty barbarians, both based on a subjective view of morals and a social bias (i.e. pretty much what you see in the news).
I personally (at least partially) mistrust any report from either the IDF or the Palestinian authority. Having served in the IDF, I know exactly what an insensitive-uncaring-monster-machine this organization is to anyone
, including it's own soldiers and country's population. Having lived the entirety of my life in the middle east, I know exactly how Arab governments and media, erm... "manipulate" the truth to their own insensitive, uncaring ends. Neither is to be trusted and we all better realize that we can never know for sure who is right about what.
As for Israeli military operations, they do their cause - and the whole situation - waaaaay more harm than good, and stem from the fact that being a small nation that has been persecuted and harmed through history and lives in a hostile neighborhood where the neighbors repeatedly try to get rid of them, the overall collective-mental state is one of constant paranoia and aggressiveness, which drives the public support of the use of pretty much any amount of force, which amounts to pretty much any amount of casualties, be they eight, thirty eight or eighty years old, wielding an AK-47, a rock, or a white flag. Anything to feel "secure". Opposing voices from within or from abroad are immediately silenced and disregarded as "antisemitism".
Hezbollah fakes pictures of destruction in Lebanon (2006 war)http://www.truthtube.tv/play.php?vid=1888
Israeli army and government strains hard to refute allegations of war crimes (which, in turn, are also riddled with lies and exaggeration):http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=168519
Does Israel's government unfairly discriminate against people for their beliefs or nationality?
Yes. I get tired at the mere thought of having to explicit how and why and give examples (please forgive). What we basically have here is a situation where two different populations live in the land while separating themselves willingly from one another, and having profound, reflexive animosities towards each other, animosities which are lovingly nurtured by a near-century of bloody dispute. Jews are being treated badly in Arab communities and vise versa. Arabs are being discriminated against by Jewish authoritarians and vise versa. As any kind of governance is being executed by the population (at least the ones being given the authority to do so), discrimination is inevitable in this situation. This is sometimes considered by the discriminator as being of the greater interest of his side of the population. It is true that we ride on the same buses, shop at the same markets, learn at the same institutions and vote for the same parliament, but even if we are all given equal rights, the aforementioned situation causes us to be mean to each other very often. Hence discrimination, in all levels, shapes and forms.
Israeli-Arab creator of Oscar nominated film denounces representation of Israel (after close family members suffer police brutality, which frequent the Arab population of Jaffa):http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1154628.html
Is the prevention of suicide bombings enough to justify the existence of the West Bank barrier?
Justified? who's to say? yada yada yada yada yada (i.e. yada yada). The whole idea of treating the situation where suicide bombers attempt to infiltrate Israel and bomb civilians with any kind of barrier is like treating cancer with an aspirin (not to equate anyone to cancer. The situation is the cancer. Not the people). The main problem is that people want to hurt each other
, and given that the reason they want to do so isn't treated, they will always find means to this end (e.g. rocket launches). A wall does not stop animosity and bloodshed. It only divides, separates and desensitizes both populations to the "others" being beyond that wall. If the said wall was built on a mutually agreed border line, it would only have been an ugly attempt at border control (which still divides, separates and desensitizes). Being built wherever-they-see-fit, it's another oppression and landgrab, supported by the same state of mind described at answer #1
A wall blocks peace:http://www.columbiaspectator.com/2010/03/02/israel-peace-not-apartheid
Do we get an undistorted image of the Israeli/Palistinian conflict from Western media sources?
Har-dee-har-har. What you get is a circus show aimed at receiving the most ratings and selling the most products, from the biased mainstream media, and double-moral-ed, one-sided, biased misinformation from the lobbyists and fanboys of each side. If you really want to know what it's like, come live here.
Israel being the victim of bias and misinformation:http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/israel-a-handy-whipping-boy-for-the-left-2091270.html
Palestinians being the victim of bias and misinformation:http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/palestinians-painted-as-animals-while-israel-goes-scotfree-20100304-plog.html
Man, am I depressed right now. To counter that, I usually think at how some things in life are just F-ed Up Beyond All Recognition, and how a mortal man is powerless against that, no matter how much self-delusion is involved - and that at the end, what is bound to happen just happens on it's own accord. To me, what-is-bound-to-happen here is a slow realization of both parties that the other is here to stay, and not only so, is one's neighbor and partner in fate. If any side suffers the other will too, same thing for succeeding. This realization, coupled with a faster proliferation of the Arab population than that of the Jewish one, will bring forth a political situation where the land is ruled (probably badly, to judge from what happens now) equally by and for both nationalities, the land and it's government is no longer defined as "Jewish" and belongs to all nationalities equally, all occupied population is given equal rights, and the two main nations slowly fuse into one. There is no other alternative, nor is there any other logical path for things to go down except total annihilation of the area in a nuclear war or something. Sadly, I believe that this slow fusing will be too slow for us to behold it's results in our lifetime.
I need a drink.
Reasons for pessimism about what-is-bound-to-happen (but not in our lifetime):http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1154886.htmlhttp://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=120040§ionid=351020202
(edited to actually contain news & articles...)