- - Friday, August 14, 2015

In between two flights on which I watched the “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy (Israel is far away, people!), I spent a week meeting with many businessmen, lawyers, and diplomats in Israel and Palestine. Here are five things I learned about life, pirates and an issue that needs to be resolved.

Part 1 of 3

• As Jack astutely points out in “At World’s End,” politics is madness. I met people who think that a one-state solution will never work and people who think that it’s the only option. I met Israelis who think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a bigger worry than Hamas and Palestinians who think the opposite. And I met a young, energetic diplomat, Geoge Deek, who is Arab, Christian and a proud Israeli. Go figure.

• The Pirate Codes, like international law, are more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Like Jack says, the only rules that matter are what a man can do and what a man cannot do. International law has limited influence in terms of the final outcome in the Middle East. Hard power, political pressure and economics matter much more. Israel cares about how other countries criticize it, impose economic sanctions, or threaten to withdraw support. The same is true of Palestine. The fact that international law might allow or disallow something does not matter to Israeli or Palestinian humans any more than it matters to American humans. Humans everywhere are more worried about safety, their jobs, their daily lives, and their families. And they will do what it takes to protect them.

• The compass is not going to work for Jack. There is an infamous compass in “Pirates” that is supposed to point at whatever it is you want most in this world. It doesn’t work if you don’t know what you want, and this is precisely the problem with Palestine today.

Dr. Khalil Shikaki does excellent surveys looking at the mood on the Palestinian streets and he keeps getting confusing results. Forty-eight percent of Palestinians support the two-state solution, but 58 percent believe it’s not practical due to settlements. Yet 71% oppose a one-state solution. Forty-two percent believe armed action is the most effective means of getting a state, but 80 percent favor joining more international organizations. Palestinians don’t know what they want, except for security and not being second-class citizens in an apartheid state. Palestinian leaders don’t represent the views of Palestinian people.

On the other hand, the compass would always work for Will Turner, who spends the entire series madly in love with one Elizabeth Swan. Israel knows what its Elizabeth is and it will fight to protect it. The most important thing to Israelis has been and will always be having a Jewish state, says Dr. Einat Wilf, a former member of the Knesset and a prominent Israeli scholar. To Israelis, protecting the Jewish race by granting citizenship to Jews is more important than keeping Jerusalem or any of the other holy sites in the region. Israel wants to be a Jewish state. Will loves Elizabeth. End of story.

Jack is actually a good man. Spoiler alert: Palestine is not a “typical” Middle Eastern Muslim country any more than Jack is a “typical” pirate. Palestine is not Syria. It’s not Iran, Sudan, or Egypt. Most Palestinians are not terrorists, do not support terrorism, and are as afraid of ISIS and Hamas as Israelis are, if not more so.

Huda al-Jack, a Palestinian entrepreneur and business developer from California, says that Palestinians are the most highly educated Middle Eastern Muslims and are young, eager to find jobs, and interested in democracy and gender equality. They want to have the freedom to choose their careers without walls and checkpoints and border issues preventing them from working in the growing industries in Israel.

Asher Susser, a scholar on the Middle East, agrees and also points out that the lack of jobs is what made the rest of the Middle East explode in the first place. Give people jobs, he says, and they won’t turn to terrorism. But if they have nothing better to do, they may amuse themselves with more dangerous pastimes.

• Actually, everyone in “Pirates” 1 turns out to be good. If there is one thing I will always remember from Israel, it is that it was really hard to hate anyone: The Israelis I had sabbath dinner with, the Palestinian bus driver who believed the war was a conspiracy between Israel and Jordan, or even the very widely disliked Mr. Netanyahu. It was pretty easy, actually, to understand why everyone wanted what they were fighting for. Palestinians want a one-state solution, a democracy which will end up being a majority Muslim state. I understand. Israel wants to retain a large, proud Jewish state controlling the Holy Land. I understand them, too.

Part of the reason that this conflict is so hard to resolve is because everyone has legitimate arguments. Stay tuned for the next part in this series, “Dead Men’s Tally,” for more pirates and the inconsistent standards applied in this current conflict.

Isvari Mohan is the author of the war drama, “The Eyes of Mikra,” a singer and a Global Law Scholar at Georgetown Law.

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