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Wednesday, 6 December, 2000, 11:15 GMT
Is the violence in the Middle East out of control?

The cycle of violence in the Middle East goes on with increasing brutality and loss of life.

As the death toll mounts, Israeli and Palestinian attitudes have hardened and the options for negotiation seem to diminish every day.

The US and the UN appear unable to broker any dialogue and Israel's neighbours are taking a tougher stance.

Is the situation spiralling out of control? How can the violence be stopped? How can dialogue be restarted?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


It is time to say stop the killing and stop the violence

Khaled, Jordan
I think the whole problem is in the fact that the world is watching Israel's violence with cold blood, watching the killing and the bombing of the Palestinian cities as they watch any Hollywood action films. It is time to say stop the killing and stop the violence.
Khaled, Jordan

Everyone advises the Israelis to give the Arabs everything they ask for without any guarantee that the Arabs will reciprocate with peace. No other country would foolishly do such a thing. The idea that if the Israelis relinquish control of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem unilaterally they will have peace is ridiculous. They did that in Lebanon and what did it get them? Daily harassment and the kidnapping of their people. Appeasement never works. The Israelis are learning that it merely encourages more outrageous demands by autocrats.
Mike, USA

Jerusalem was meant to be an international centre, yet Israel has chosen to keep the city for itself. The Palestinians are rightly upset about this. From the way events have gone it would seem that neither side in this conflict will be happy until the other side has been annihilated. All because the West, in its wisdom chose to give Arab land to the Jews when Israel was formed.
Joe, Great Britain


Condemnation of Israel is not the answer

Israel Yonah, Canada
Condemnation of Israel is not the answer. Perhaps a review of the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 1930's would be instructive. My friends who criticise Israel do so with no recollection of the different phases of the conflict throughout time. It would be folly for Israel to give in to territorial demands without guarantees of security and freedom from attack. Regardless of who has a legal, historical or other right to Jerusalem, in the present circumstances it would be folly for Israel to surrender control over East Jerusalem. In the absence of an effective Palestinian government who is there to negotiate with?
Israel Yonah, Canada

The Palestinians have to realise that they cannot win. They should accept all they can get and stop the fighting once and for all.
KD, Ghana

Arafat claims that the Temple Mount is not sacred to Jews and yet is to Muslims. He seems to neglect the fact that it is mentioned several times in the Bible as a holy site, but not even once in the Koran. How very political of him!
Joshua, UK

Arafat is too concerned with his own political survival and his own place in history to make any kind of peace deal that might anger the Arab world. He is essentially powerless because he has not yet realized that the Arab world believes the Palestinians are expendable in Islam's great Jihad against the Jews. Barak and the Knesset are first focused on the security of their state, and secondly on their individual political survival. What the Jews refuse to see is that any peace deal with Arafat is not binding on the greater Arab world, and once they do conclude a deal with Arafat, their troubles will only shift to another tinpot dictator in another Islamic country.
Dale R. Smith, USA

It's time to be equal about it, the world wont get any bigger so you may as well accept it, as no one will tolerate either side being wiped out any more.
John Hyde, UK/US


What has 50 years of terrorism achieved?

Peter Nixon, England
I lived twenty years in the Middle East and learned that there are four groups involved in the "troubles". One, the political activists; two, the displaced; three, the Islamic Fundamentalists; and four, those paid to cause trouble. Peace can only come when the first two are placated by representation and by justice, the third by education and the fourth when they lose a gunfight with the security forces. What has 50 years of terrorism achieved? Not a lot. The Palestinians have been tarred as a nation by the actions of a few, even their "friends" in the Gulf view many of them with distrust.
Peter Nixon, England

When Israeli supporters call for the Palestinians to stop the violence, they should consider where it is taking place - on Palestinian land. The Palestinians are defending themselves in their own homes against an occupying and repressive army. When people talk about Barak's generous offers at Camp David, they should remember he offered not one inch of Israeli territory but the Palestinians' own land - and even then only a fraction. The media should not succumb to Israel's masterful spin doctoring.
Raquib, UK

It's amazing how the West only comes into action when it's convenient for them to do so. If only UN sanction 242 that was imposed on Israel ages ago was as effective as the one imposed on Iraq, the Palestinians would have back their home state.
Mark, New Zealand


Palestinians and other Arabs have nothing against Jews

Rasha, Egypt
Palestinians and other Arabs have nothing against Jews - Judaism is a religion which is to be respected but it is not a nationality. Exactly as Islam is a religion and not a nationality. Palestinians and Arabs do, however, have something against Zionist Israelis, who are an occupying force with perhaps one of the worst human rights abuse records in history (a fact that is conveniently glossed over in the Western media). The Israelis are doing now to the Palestinians what Hitler and the Nazis did to them in World War II - and of all people, they should know better. Shame on you.
Rasha, Egypt

The conflict in the Middle East between the Palestinians and the Jews has been waging for the past three thousand years, except that David and Goliath have switched sides in the present conflict.
Jaleel, Australia


Israel will defend itself at all costs

Sean Abenstein, Canada
Israel will defend itself at all costs. It has done so for 50 years, defending itself from Arab attacks. The only way Palestinians will have peace is by putting down their stones, stopping their protests and resuming negotiations. It is no secret; violent protest, terrorist bombs and confrontation with settlements will not get them any closer to peace.
Sean Abenstein, Canada

If the United Nations took the same course of action with Israel as it did with Serbia then we would not witness the Palestinians being placed on the endangered list with the world proclaiming them a protected species.
S. Arnold, Australia

I believe that the real accelerator of the recent violence and its continuance is the media. The violence was a godsend to some TV channels and newspapers in sleepy uneventful pre-election September. I cannot ignore the feeling that the Palestinians would have been reluctant to send their youth to provoke the Israeli security forces if no one was watching.
Ian, London, UK


Where are NATO and the Big Powers?

Manaf, UK
Is the situation in the Middle East different from Kosovo and Sierra Leone? If not then where are NATO and the Big Powers? Don't they have any more peacekeeping forces? Don't they consider the innocent people murdered daily as human beings??
Manaf, UK

What I don't understand is that there is already a Palestinian State. Palestine was split into 2 parts - Israel and Jordan with the Jordanian side being for Arabs who didn't wish to live in a Jewish state. Then the Arabs attack Israel with the aim to destroy it. Israel wins, takes large amounts of Arab land and builds settlements on it. Israel would never have occupied the West Bank or Gaza Strip if it hadn't been attacked, so why should it give the land back? Would Arabs have given Israel back to the Jews if they had won the wars? Obviously not.
Adam Talbot, France

The promise that was given to the Palestinians 52 years ago by the League of Nations, now the United Nations, needs to be implemented. International peacekeeping troops are needed to stand between the Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories.
Huda Mukbil, Yemen


Talk, compromise and accept the reality of the situation

John Timms, Switzerland

The problem with all such situations like this with regard to who is right and who is wrong, really depends how far you want to go back. The reality is that both factions occupy Jerusalem due to strong religious and historical factors. Nothing is going to change this! There is only one answer and that is to talk, compromise and accept the reality of the situation. As frustrated as the Palestinians are, throwing rocks at armed troops is both foolish & self-defeating. In any military conflict the Israelis will come out on top. Arafat should be replaced with someone new who is not afraid to compromise and I feel sure that the Israelis will respond positively. The last fifty years have proved that violence and hatred simply will not settle this problem.
John Timms, Switzerland

The Palestinians seem a hard bunch to please. Barak offered them the withdrawal of settlers and the West Bank as a land to form their own country on, omitting only the Dome of the Rock, and his proposal was met by riots and terrorism which only carry the Palestinians further from their goal of statehood. How much further towards that goal might they be if they 1. showed popular support for cohabitation and 2. protested in the streets with signs and slogans rather than rocks and guns? Of course, how much closer to peace might Israel be if it would stop using its attack helicopters to threaten? Defending civilians from rioters who want Jewish deaths is one thing, but unnecessarily carrying out displays of force at a risk to Palestinian civilian lives is quite another.
Zev, Texas, USA

As events continue to demonstrate there can be no durable peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, so long as the Israelis fail to recognise such violence is, and shall always be, the inevitable outcome of occupation. Though I deeply regret the loss of life, I wholeheartedly applaud the Palestinian resistance, which alone has become the repository of Palestinian national aspirations. The willingness of ordinary Palestinians to pit themselves against the military might of the Israelis, the funding of their American overlords, and the nonchalance of the EU and the rest of the world, patently demonstrates what has become an almost undisputed truth: the quest for justice, dignity, and self-determination will never be fully quelled by military might or repression. Let the history of the colonial powers be a cautionary tale to Israel.
Charles Robert Davidson, Cairo, Egypt/USA


It is being controlled carefully by the instigators on either side

Ushi Guruk, UK
No - the violence is not getting out of control. It is being controlled carefully by the instigators on either side. Palestinians know it is the only way to achieve their goals and Israel will always retaliate with force. It could be stopped if only both sides agree to implement existing UN resolutions - why go over old ground and make new agreements when the existing resolutions have not been adhered to? The UN must either enforce their resolutions (which we know only ever happens when it's in the interests of the USA) or be put to rest for once and for all.
Ushi Guruk, UK

What is profoundly surprising is the way the media has covered these events, in which the Israeli Army has been called the "aggressor" simply because of it's strength. People must remember that just because the Israeli Army is stronger (which then inevitably leads to more casualties on the Palestinian side) does not make them the wrong party. Has there yet been an attack by Israel on a Palestinian school bus full of children in Gaza? The international community cannot accept terrorism (which many of the Arab factions use) as a means to reach peace. It is apparent that only through diplomacy and not Arabs inciting violence can true peace be achieved.
Michael, New York, USA

The violence seems to have subsided during the past couple of days. Another terrorist bombing will cause it to escalate however. With the Barak's government in danger of toppling now, we will see him make a concerted effort to reach out to the Palestinians and resume peace negotiations, I believe. Polls show that over 60% of the Israeli public still want a peace agreement, despite the current violence. If elections are called and Barak reaches some type of interim agreement with the Palestinians, Israelis will vote for it in the elections.
Louise Shalev, Israel

A great deal of effort has been expended to have peace in the Middle East. But BOTH sides need to calm down, stop the escalation of violence, and return to the table with serious goals in mind.
Israel: the Palestinians aren't going to go away, and you can't build a wall to separate your two states. So figure out how to live with a sizeable Palestinian population within your borders, and how not to have this population be hostile to your existence as a nation.
Arafat, et al: Like you, Israel has the right to exist. And the state isn't going to go away. Three wars with Arab allies haven't done it- another Intifada won't, either. So figure out how to live with this and how best to educate and find work for your citizenry.
Dave Presuhn, USA

If we stop treating Israel like a spoiled child and hold them responsible for UN resolutions, as in case of Iraq and Yugoslavia, then Israel will come in term for a real honourable peace with Palestinians. Until then Israel does not see any reason to withdraw from occupied land and peace will not prevail.
Ladan, USA


It's not out of control by any measure

William Robertson, South Africa
It's not out of control by any measure and it's going to take a lot more before Israel is serious about negotiating. That point doesn't seem near. Yet.
William Robertson, South Africa

Having lived in Israel for a period of time, I have a certain empathy for Israelis who have, in the last few generations, had to live in fear. Yet the Israeli public lacks the obsessive violent hatred which the Palestinians appear to have. The fact is that Israel is stronger. The fact is the Palestinians don't have a chance in hell of open confrontation. So what they should do is appeal to the sensibilities of the Israeli public and come up with some sensible answers to this crisis, not antagonise them. The Palestinians should learn to use their brains rather than their guts.
Pim Kemasingki, Thailand

All indications are pointing towards further escalation of the conflict. Since neither side can't restrain themselves from provoking violence, the preliminary step that should be done to diffuse the current level of tension is to allow the deployment of a UN peacekeping force.
Jonathan Abe, Philippines

The spiralling violence in Israel and the occupied territories seems like a tragic inevitability these days, and please let no one pretend that one side wants it more than the other. The extremists on both sides have hardened even the most liberal Israelis and Palestinians, and both camps are equally to blame. Israel has been saying that it wants, although somewhat toothless, a Palestine, but at least it is not denying that such a state should be founded at all. Let's get on with it then, and fine-tune the details after it is established. Fiery tempers on both sides in that region are destroying any fragile hopes of peace that once were there.
Paul, UK


Each party is supported by a larger body that can't be harmed

Domini Connor, UK
Whatever the rights and wrongs, neither side can ever 'win'. In this low density war, each party is supported by a larger body that can't be harmed. Israel is supported by the US, which the Palestinians simply cannot destroy, and the Palestinians are backed by Arab nations which although weaker than the US cannot be conquered by Israel. Ultimately peace will only come when one side gets dropped by its backer.
Domini Connor, UK

Of course it will escalate, then subside, then start up again. Two quotes sum up my views. "If you keep on doing whatever you've been doing, you will keep on getting whatever you've been getting" and "There can be no peace without justice" What on earth do the Israelis expect the Palestinians to do ? Because of their religious faith they are not going to retire to their reservations and drink themselves into oblivion like the native inhabitants of America, Australia and New Zealand.
Don Conway, UK

As a British Jew, I have been very troubled over the whole nightmare that has been the Middle East for the last two months. Although there has been FAR too many casualties on both sides, I do thank the IDF for showing the restraint and control it has over the last few weeks. Without the IDF the death toll on both sides would of been a lot higher as the region dissolved into anarchy. Although the Israeli's have all the might and strength, they also have the training and control. IF the Israeli's had been as out of control as the militant 'Fatah' Palestinians have been then the death count would not been in hundreds but thousands or tens of thousands. I for one salute the Israeli resolve and hope that we will soon get to a position on both sides where lives are not being lost.
Jon Belinfante, UK

It's clear that many Israelis yearn for peaceful coexistence. There is an active peace movement in Israel, and many community-level initiatives to bring Arab and Jew together are started by ordinary citizens. At government level, Barak went far further than any previous negotiator in his offers to Arafat in the summer. However the same is not true of the Palestinians. There is no peace movement and the people do not support the idea of coexistence. Until ordinary people want peace it cannot happen.
Aron Landy, UK

Since you have been asking essentially the same questions about the Middle East for about ten years, I guess a rational person would conclude that nothing much has changed, or is likely to.
Jon Livesey, USA


Both of them seem to have legitimate claims on the peace-process.

Jose Fernandez, Netherlands
I don't know anymore what to think. Both of them seem to be the Bad guy in this but at the same time, both of them seem to have legitimate claims on the peace-process. It would be so easy if we could just shut our eyes to all of this, but we in the West have a duty to make them go back to the negotiating-table.
Jose Fernandez, Netherlands

Israel is acting childishly. A state with as much power as Israel has should have the foresight to stop the retributions and stop perpetuating the cycle of violence. They need to grow up.
Jim Moores, UK


Though there are decent, peace minded groups on both sides of the Arab Jewish conflict, but I don't see much room for optimism right now

John Ellis, USA
Though there are decent, peace minded groups on both sides of the Arab Jewish conflict, but I don't see much room for optimism right now. Extremists like Sharon and Hamas are gaining more and more power. Just last week, Sharon was in Chicago USA whipping up support from American Jewish groups. Should anyone be surprised if the Muslim extremists attempt the same from growing Muslim communities in USA, Europe or the UK? This ethnic/religious conflict is spreading out of control and we have to be careful that it doesn't spread into our communities.
John Ellis, USA

Why is it that when the victims are Muslims in any conflict the west do not even condemn the aggressors or even try to help them. But when the Muslims have the upper-hand on any matters, you swiftly help the otherside (i.e. Israel is killing children every minute of the day and you even refuse to condemn...but when the conflict happened in the Timor you quickly helped then and even recognise their rights within 2 weeks but Palestine struggle in going for 52 years...where is your human rights activists western democracy..
Noorita, Yugoslavia

With so many major religions claiming a single city as "their holy land" and alleging they have an automatic "right" to ownership because they regard it as holy there will never be peace. A single nuclear warhead will ensure there is no Jerusalem for them to fight over.
John B, UK

As Golda Meir once said - when the Arabs start to love their children more than they hate us (i.e. the Jews) there will be peace.
Wayne Birnbaum, UK

I believe the US has got to take a back seat and hand over any negotiations to the United Nations. The US is not seen as an impartial assessor but as an ally of Israel. Israel is going to have to remove its 'settlers' from Gaza and most of the West Bank if it is really serious about peace.
Chris, UK


The deafening silence of the powerful western nations, who so eloquently spoke out against Saddam and Slobadon is most surprising

Mohansingh, India
The deafening silence of the powerful western nations, who so eloquently spoke out against Saddam and Slobadon, and indeed, unleashed their military forces against Iraq and Yugoslavia is most surprising.
Mohansingh, India

With so many major religions claiming a single city as "their holy land" and alleging they have an automatic "right" to ownership because they regard it as holy there will never be peace. A single nuclear warhead will ensure there is no Jerusalem for them to fight over.
John B, UK

First of all, the violence we are seeing is occurring in the West Bank and Gaza, not in the whole of the Middle East, which is an enormous geographical area. Second, to expect anything other than violence when millions of subjugated people are living under an apartheid style occupation that treats them like a lower form of humanity. The problem may seem complex, but the solution is simple - if Israel is serious and sincere about peace then let it stop occupying Arab land and respect UN resolutions calling for it to respect Palestinian rights. The people of Palestine, the indigenous owners of the land have suffered at the hands of their occupiers for long enough. They deserve the same rights as people everywhere. Deny them that and violence is inevitable.
Suhail Shafi, Malta

If the Israelis think they can achieve peace through the threat of terrorism, I think they are clearly out of their minds. I think that they should look to their own history of repression and figure out that the Palestinians will not easily forget these crimes against humanity.
Shane Gallagher, Ireland


The first step HAS to be the deployment of UN observers and peacekeeping troops to the area

Doris Abdel Messieh, Egypt
The first step HAS to be the deployment of UN observers and peacekeeping troops to the area -- a measure that Yasser Arafat has continued to ask for but one that has been to date ignored. As the Palestinian permanent observer to the Security Council said, Israel is an occupying power, therefore its approval of the UN mission should not be a prerequisite. Perhaps that could bring an end to the violence, which would in turn allow for the resumption of talks.
Doris Abdel Messieh, Egypt

Violence begets violence. Occupation begets resistance. It is as simple as that to begin, as it is to end.
Zuhair Thaer, Lebanon


At the moment there is a seemingly perpetuating system being observed with regards to the actions of the Palestinians and Israelis

Somi, UK
At the moment there is a seemingly perpetuating system being observed with regards to the actions of the Palestinians and Israelis. The very basis of which is the fact that with the biggest mis-match in military armament in modern times, we have seen a continuance of grossly cruel tactics, used by the Israelis for a tit for tat style retribution. But clearly, the Palestinians are defenceless, it is high time the Israelis GOT OUT, STAY OUT and maybe then we will see a so-called STOP to violence. Its simple everyone, LISTEN!
Somi, UK

Yasser Arafat seems to have no control over his people and for each death they have, their beliefs seek revenge. The Israelis have control over their people and for each death they have their beliefs seek revenge. Well, I can see the anomaly.
Colin, Netherlands

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