Are we being hypocrites in this Middle East conflict?
A woman from neighboring San Rafael called up furious at Ray for his suggestion. She laid into him and told him it was outrageous that we have a group of people taking over the lands of another group of people and we should be ashamed of supporting such an atrocity. She said we should do everything in our power to correct this egregious wrong. The Palestinians have a right to their land they have been there for centuries.
What they're asking is for today's Americans to uphold their end of the bargain. That includes funding Indian services at whatever level is required.
But what if we decided to abrogate the treaties? We no longer give the Indians anything and they get their land back. Is that a possible solution?
Assuming we could negotiate the endless details, I wouldn't have a problem with this. I don't presume that a tribal government is worse than our federal or state governments. As long as my rights were protected, I don't think I'd care who "governed" me.
What is our responsibility?
The treaties were perhaps the best of a bad lot of remedies. Because of them, I don't think we have to give the land back.
But I don't think they absolved America of its moral crimes either. We forced most of these treaties on the Indians and then we broke them. As it says below, we're still guilty of land grabs and other legal and moral crimes.
As for the inevitable argument that today's Americans aren't to blame for the acts of their predecessors, see above about our responsibility. Today's Americans vote for today's government, so they're ultimately responsible for upholding the treaties and righting the wrongs.
If you don't like this responsibility, move to another country. Go somewhere where the conquerors haven't signed treaties with the conquered. While you're a US citizen, you own a small share of this nation's rights and its responsibilities.
Give up our "comfortable spots"?
Actually, we should think about giving up our "comfortable spots" in huge suburban tracts because the sprawl is using up our finite land and resources. We should think about living in high-density, mixed-use communities and leave the land as untouched as possible. But that's a topic for another day.
Returning to the Middle East conflict for a minute, Israel's land grab after the 1967 war has never been okay. The Palestinians have never signed a treaty giving up their territorial rights. The conflict is recent enough that no one can claim it's too late to "reverse the wrongs."
For all these reasons, the two cases are different. It's not inconsistent to say Israel should give back the land it took but America doesn't have to.
Just about everyone thinks the Israelis and Palestinians should negotiate a land-for-peace agreement. This kind of solution might've worked after the American theft of Indian lands, too. Instead we signed land-for-benefits treaties and now they're the status quo.
For more on the subject, see The Indian-Palestinian Connection.
Below: A stylized version of the wall that keeps Palestinians "on the reservation."