Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Solomon, Where Art Thou?

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the Fight for the Holy Land since I was in grammar school. I’ve gone through a Pro-Israeli phase and an Anti-Zionist phase, and I’ve heard all the ridiculous arguments on both sides. Right now, I’ve settled into a American-Centered phase and I’m not seeing any good guys running the show. I want to see them, but it is hard. I pray for the everyday-folks who live there, who just want to be able to get a pizza or a beer or coffee without getting shot at or blown up. I see teeming millions of Jews, Christians and Muslims held hostage by a small group of lunatics with heavy weapons and holy books.

We (the West) have called on the Palestinians and Hamas to "recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace." Since the 26th, when Hamas won their landslide victory, we have not heard much from the right other than 'the sky is falling.' Christopher Hitchens went so far as to call the Palestinians suicide voters. SAWB predicts "Maybe it's just me, but ifin I were a betting man, I'd be wagering that this little tiff between Israel and Palestine is going to explode here sooner rather than later." Dante has wondered if Israel’s plan all along has been to goad the Palestinians into "actual military combat."

I think terms like this really demonstrate how little the actual facts on the ground matter. Let us go over them, just to be clear. Israel is not going anywhere. They are millions of people who live there now, who have tanks and guns and planes with big bombs. Hamas’ recognition is only important symbolically. The important thing is that Hamas keep the nominal ceasefire going with the Israelis. The Palestinians are not going anywhere. They are millions of people who live there, they have guns and rockets and people willing to kill themselves to stop Israel. The West’s recognition is only important symbolically. The important thing is the nominal amount of money the West sends to prop up the Palestinians.

All those people live closer together than I live to Athens, Georgia.

It is a very difficult thing to ignore someone pointing a real gun at you. (So I’ve heard.)

Suicide voters are a far sight better than suicide bombers.

The 'tiff' between Israel and Palestine explodes, on average, every 7 hours.

Israel has already engaged the Palestinians in "actual military combat." The Israelis won big. Real big. That’s how we got to this point in the first place.

And that’s really the big daddy, right there. What’s Israel going to do, take over Palestine, again? That worked so well for the last 40 years that we want to do it all over? Talk about suicide.

Lost in Translation yet? You’re about to be.

Today, we got an open letter from Hamas. It is a strange letter, obviously written by someone who doesn’t know the West very well, but who is trying. In my opinion, there are three big parts of this:
"My message to the West—to America, to Europe, to everybody—is this: Hamas wants peace. We hate bloodshed and killing. We don't want to fight. There is a verse in the Qur'an that says whoever kills one soul kills all souls. And whoever brings life to people brings life to a nation. Our problem is with the Israeli occupation."

"Our weapons are the only guarantee of our existence. If a proper Palestinian state were established, then all the militias would melt inside the Palestinian Army."

"We would be happy to work under the Irish model. But is Israel prepared to respect our political wing? Is Israel ready for such a formula?"

(Bold added for emphasis, HR)

Thing is, I’ve never heard anything like this from any Palestinian reported in a major American news outlet. Look at that for a minute. Believe it or not as you choose, but it just does not sound like the usual propaganda to me.

Meanwhile, back in Israel, there is strife brewing between those who want peace and security and rule of law, and those who want only war. This may give you a clue as to whom the real enemies of peace are: The fight was on in Amona.

"The confrontation at Amona, one of dozens of illegal outposts established since the 1990s, began Wednesday morning, after Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a final appeal by the settlers. The court ordered nine houses in Amona, built on private Palestinian land, to be demolished. The remainder of the outpost, inhabited by about 35 families living in cramped trailer homes, was not yet being cleared."

"Amona is one of dozens of outposts set up by settlers in the past decade to prevent the creation of a future Palestinian state."

"However, since the launch of the road map in 2003, the evacuation of outposts has been bogged down in legal maneuvering, and a government report said Israel was not doing enough to meet its commitments. Some government ministries were even funneling state funds to the outposts."

(Bold added for emphasis. HR.)

I applaud Israel for doing what needs to be done. I think Ariel Sharon broke his own heart to do what is right. When he became Prime Minister, I cussed up a storm becaue all I could see was his past. But the fight for peace rages on in the here and now, where unlikely heroes rise. Wake up, Ariel. Wake up.

Wake up, Hamas. Please.


S.A.W.B. said...

Point to me on a map where Palestine exists, and the first round is on me.

Patrick Armstrong said...

On "a" map? You meant "a current" map, so I ain't gonna hold ya to it, but will Israeli maps do?

Palestine was a partition of the Ottoman Empire that was placed under British Mandate in the 20's.

Later, the British further divided the mandate. You'll start to recognize the borders.

When Israel was created, here is what that mandate recommended.

So find me a map between 1000 AD and 1948 AD where "Israel" existed.

My point is that those distinctions don't matter. Israel is now there, and the Palestinians are now there, and neither looks like they're going away.

Dante said...

For what it's worth, I am pretty well versed in Israel's conflicts around the late 60's and early 70's. My Father was sent to Germany instead of Vietnam when he was drafted largely due to the Yom Kippur War. At the time, it had the potential to turn into World War III due to heavy US and Soviet involvement.

The end of that war was largely negotiated by the US and Soviet Union since neither really wanted a really real war they'd have to fight themselves and neither was willing to back down in the support of their allies.

That brings me to the reason I claim that Israel is itching for "actualy military combat." There's a big difference if Israel goes the route of formal war this time around. There's not a USSR to supply and support the opposing side but there is still very much a strong US presence available to bail Israel out if they can keep US support. The decision to scrap military combat and work towards a "peaceful" resolution can be largely attributed to the Arab nations since they came to painful conclusion that they just couldn't beat Israel militarily. I'd imagine Israel would prefer the military route since they were much better at it.

I do realize Russia still exists but they're not nearly as interested in the goings on of the Middle East as they used to be. There's no Cold War to be won or Communist expansion to work towards. Nowadays, Russia sees the Middle East as some of their best military supply customers but little else.

Since Israel is very much interested in keeping the support of their current allies, Israel needs an excuse to engage the Palestinians. After all, in the words of former Israeli PM Golda Meir, "If we strike first, we won't get help from anybody." The Palestinians breaking a large peace treaty would work nicely towards a military conflict but Israel can't just go and give the farm to the Palestinians by signing a large peace treaty and giving up a lot of stuff. After all, the heads of the Israeli government do have to get re-elected. Israel has the time to wait. They don't exactly have the short end of the stick right now.

And SAWB, it always looks like the situation in Israel is coming to a head. We may see something catastrophic sooner than later but I think we'll just see more of the same for a while to come.

Laddi said...

"Our problem is with the Israeli occupation."

Interesting, because that's a veeeery similar statement to what I heard on a pretty good documentary from the show "Almanac" on the History Channel International. Mark Dowd (British TV producer/writer of religious documentaries) asked questions of Islamic students at one of their school. The statement came from one of the females and she said (paraphrased):
"We do not hate Jewish people. Our problems are with Israel."

Even the Jewish language makes a distinction between Israel as a people who follow Judaism (people), the government of Israel (politics), and the actual land that is now Israel (country).

A parallel sentiment would be to say, "I support our troops (our people), but I don't support our president (politics)."

So if Hamas isn't spouting rhetoric (which is probable, but maybe not) and Sharon's government continues to free up land for the Palestinians, maybe (and that's a big maybe) this issue will finally be stabilized without a big showdown. Yes, that's a lot of "if"s there.

Laddi said...

"So if Hamas isn't spouting rhetoric (which is probable, but maybe not)"

To be clear, I think it is more likely they spouting political rhetoric.