Tonight, during a wine tasting event, I chatted with a guy about the dismal state of national and international politics.
Opposing positions have gotten absurdly extreme. Republicans have almost nothing in common with Democrats. Israelis have almost nothing in common with Palestinians. With such little common ground, there's no room for two parties at odds with each other to negotiate a mutually acceptable deal.
We talked about how both Jewish Israelis and Muslim Palestinians have an absurd belief that the territory Israel occupied in the 1967 war is "holy" or a "promised land." Absurd, because these religious claims are based on Jewish and Muslim dogmas.
So the supposed truth that Jews are entitled to ownership of the "Holy Land" is founded on statements in a Jewish holy book. Ditto with Palestinian claims to their own holy places, though these don't seem as extreme to me as hard line Israeli faith-based political positions.
There seems to be no end to the haggling over whether, or how, Palestinian statehood should be accomplished. Tomorrow it looks like the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, will ask the U.N. General Assembly for recognition.
That request likely won't succeed, partly because the United States has tied itself so tightly to Israel (every president lusts after Jewish votes and political contributions), it isn't possible for this country to forcefully push for the "two state" solution reasonable people recognize as the only fair way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
My wine-tasting companion and I agreed that religion makes the problem much worse. Jews and Christians feel that the "Holy Land" has to stay in the hands of Israel, because this is what the Bible demands, or at least strongly implies.
Where, then, is the wiggle-room for negotiating land swaps with the Palestinian Authority, if fundamentalist Jewish and Christian organizations are convinced that Israel is doing God's will by holding on to land that supposedly is a divine promise to the Jews?
I don't get it when people say, "Religion is a force for good, not for harm."
Just look at Israel and Palestine. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have taken over sixty years, and coiunting, to resolve their conflicts if religious dogma wasn't making both sides feel that their position is divinely inspired.
John Lennon got it right.
Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace