Yesterday, upon a stair
I saw a man
Who was not there.
He was not there
I wish, I wish he’d go away.
Sometimes misunderstandings lead to stress and further lead to violence. Studies of Psycholinguistics often demonstrates how complex language might be in relationships. Writer Deborah Tannen shows how fights erupt through language. Sometimes words and phrases can result in stress. While words may be mightier than swords, rockets may speak action. Their language may be unclear. Israel and Gaza are under stress and few understand the words, meanings, and motivations.
When you witness, according to the media, the wage of war between Israel and Gaza, stress comes to mind of all the involved players. Let’s discuss some background history behind the Israel/Gaza conflict.
Since 2007 when, as a peace effort, Gaza was partitioned for independence. Hamas, the elected ruling party, didn’t hunger to create a Palestinian country. Its hunger would only be satisfied by annoying Israel with rockets. Ironically, Hamas doesn’t recognize Israel. Satisfying stress by firing rockets at a non-entity is a waste of energy and only produces more stress. Stress is involved in forming alliances and in waging war. Unfortunately, the invisibility of Israel becomes very visible when it answers Hamas’ call.
We could be grateful to the Greek Septuagint, an early Greek translation of the Old Testament when Greece ruled the middle-East (before it was the middle-East). Greece came up with the name Palestine. A derivitave of the name “Palestine” first appears in Greek literature in the 5th Century BCE when the historian Herodotus called the area “Palaistinē”. After a Jewish revolt against Rome, some 700 years later, the land of Judea was renamed Palaestina in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel. When Turkey dominated the area, for 400 years, from 1517 to 1917, the term Palestine was used as a general term to describe the land south of Syria; it was not an official designation. In fact, many Ottomans and Arabs who lived in Palestine during this time period referred to the area as “Southern Syria” and not as “Palestine.”
Translating ancient Hebrew, the Greeks often made some errors. The term Palestine may have been the Philistines, an Aegean people who, in the 12th Century B.C., settled along the Mediterranean coastal plain of what is now Israel and the Gaza Strip. The Bible refers to the Philistines as enemies of the Israelites.
After Saladin conquered the Crusades, he allowed Jews to re-enter the areas where Rome had forbidden. Large communities were reestablished in Jerusalem and Tiberias by the ninth century. In the 11th century, Jewish communities grew in Rafah, Gaza, Ashkelon, Jaffa and Caesarea. Very few Arabs lived in those areas until the past 70 years or so. That area of western Israel has been populated by Jews for at least 1,000 years.
Gaza does have a claim to fame under Saladin who conquered the Crusades in the 12th century. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 designated a mandate for a Jewish area in what Britain referred as Palestine. As, under the Turks, that meant the land South of Syria and including part of what is now Jordan. Since 1948, when the Arabs fought United Nations mandated Israel and lost, Palestine was now being recognized by Arabs. For over 400 years, it was the land south of Syria and few Arabs were attracted to it. If we follow the Greek mistake, are the Palestinians actually Israel’s legendary enemy reborn? Are they the Philistines?
Stress is a state of living. If there is no stress, there is death. Where stress becomes chronic, it becomes conflict. Conflicts breed alliances or wars. For the Gazans and Israelis living near Gaza, the stress is basic.
Scientist, Hans Selye, made Stress as a concept of being vey popular. Dr. Selye’s initial discovery of the stress syndrome was based on the demonstration that the body nonspecifically responded in virtually the same way to various innocuous stimuli or stressors. Dr. Selye advanced the theory that stress plays a role in every disease, and that failure to cope with or adapt to stressors can produce “diseases of adaptation”, including ulcers, high blood pressure and heart attacks. He called his theory the “General Adaptation Syndrome.” This adaptation uses energy and the stress of that energy to adapt leads to exhaustion. After exhaustion, the cycle repeats itself.
In basic, stress can be seen as a hunger. If a primitive sought food but the food was beyond reach, he would seek an ally to help get the food. That’s an alliance that alleviates the stress from hunger. If someone decided to hoard all the food in exchange for forced work, that would be a conflict. Conflict resolution and conflict management strategies are devices that people use to suppress stress and resolve conflicts within relationships. When conflicts can’t be resolved, unsatisfied hunger becomes war. Fight for right! Or is it fight or flight?
The problem is that most individuals don’t do well in fight or flight situations. Living under threats of bombing attacks may be adaptable but are also very stressful.
When you are a Gazan or an Israeli family, there are daily hungers waiting to be satisfied. Buy food and clothing for family. Send kids to school, do necessary work, and live from one day to another. When a rocket from Gaza hits your home, it’s a stress inducing experience. Likewise when Israel bombs Gaza, people suffer stress. Severe stress.
Is one side correct in the Gaza-Israel conflict? If Hamas would cease shooting hundreds or thousands of rockets into Israel as its main strategy and policy to rule and create Gaza, a response is inevitable. Israel is responding with more rockets, and stronger rockets.
Much of this come from errors by host keepers of peace, the United States and Russia. The influencers are to arm each country to keep the peace. It’s good for economics through weapon sales and the belief that arms are defensive and not offensive.
So all Arab nations have rockets and some provide Gaza with them. What does Israel do?
The middle-east is a powder keg of stress that is exploding. There’s Egypt, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Perhaps the quietest of the bunch is Iran. It may have yet another weapon gestating that might even be deadlier.
While stress is part of life, constant and unpredictable stress may prove fatal. The consequences of war, among soldiers and among civilians, result in enduring stress and many personal conflicts. Sometimes you need to quench stress by its roots.
Peace is a nice idea and is like Selye’s concept of exhaustion. Yet, it’s a never-ending cycle. Fight or flight is about survival of the fittest. Peace through survival comes at heavy prices. Fighting and bearing the costs are, in some cases, the only things that net value.
Israel and Gaza may be dreaming of unreachable stress. That stress is here and its coming. Unlike other wars, we can only hope that adaptation loses to eventual resolve. Peace is the prize.
In the conflicts and stress we confront each day and the tensions of reshaping lifestyles, the fight is always the most enduring. I really wish it’d go away but it’s no illusion. The solution may be a delusion. The Philistines may have risen and the ancient wars return anew. Do the world, the people, the soldiers understand the language?