What's All This Then?

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The forced evacuation of 9,000 Israelis from the Gaza strip has begun - and as I watch the story and the pictures unfold, I am filled with a sense of sadness - even despair. Supposedly knowledgeable people from both sides of the conflict - and from knowledgeable observers around the world - are saying that this is a good thing. That it is a beginning - a move toward a Palestinian state that will live side by side and in peace with Israel. But I have to wonder. There were some 9,000 Israelis living among 1.3 or 1.4 million Arabs in the Gaza strip. By themselves, they represented no danger to the huge Arab population. Yet militant Palestinians waged unrelenting war against them, requiring the presence and fire power of Israeli troops to protect them. Now there’s a hope that by uprooting this handful of people - including the remains of their dead - and by destroying their homes and places of worship - an important step will have been taken toward achieving an eventual peace agreement between Israel and a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.

I hope the pundits are right, because a huge sacrifice is being made by the settlers - and it will be an even bigger sacrifice if, after they’ve gone and the Israeli military presence is gone - nothing changes.

I’ve always felt that the approach to peace between the warring parties has been from the wrong direction. Instead of starting from the proposition that the two peoples have to live together on disputed land, as I suggested only partly tongue-in-cheek on October 13, 2003, the Gaza move is saying that the two peoples can’t live together in peace. That peace can only come when they are separated.

In Gaza, that means when the Israeli military leaves . But if the Palestinian residents of Gaza had concluded that maybe 9,000 Israeli settlers didn’t represent any kind of threat - and could live peacefully and to their mutual advantage among them - as 1.2 million Arabs live peacefully inside Israel proper, there would not have been the need for the hated Israeli military presence. There would have been no need for military contingents to guard the sprinkling of settlements. There would have been no need for checkpoints and for other restrictions on the lives of Gaza’s Palestinian Arabs.

Of course I hope that the pull out will turn out to be a positive step on the road to eventual peaceful relations between two democratic states. I desperately want it to be. All sane people do. But I’m not holding my breath. So far, the move has been greeted by Palestinians with the slogan "Today Gaza - Tomorrow Jerusalem." Whether that will be the reaction of a majority of Palestinians remains to be seen. I recommend reading Daniel Pipes’ analysis of the situation - with which , for the moment, sadly, I am inclined to agree.

2.45 p.m.

More On Cindy Sheehan

The right wing response to Cindy Sheehan was of course predictable and expected by her. Attack the messenger. Smear. And it probably also should have been expected that the attacks would go over the top, since there seems to be no limit to how low they will stoop to smear those with whom they disagree. Like accusing Democratic Congressional candidate Paul Hacket of serving in Iraq to "pad his resume." Still, each time they stoop a little lower, it surprises. You want to believe that these people are still fellow Americans and that even if they play hardball when it comes to political battles, they understand that our system calls upon us to respect certain limits of behavior. You want to believe it, but the effort seems to be an exercise in futility.

We now have had guns being fired in the area. Not at someone as far as we know, but certainly not unconnected to Mrs. Sheehan being in the neighborhood. And the shooter? Larry Mattiage, a neighbor of the President, whose explanation was that "this is Texas" and as to a motive - "figure it out for yourself." And some Bush supporters thought it was an appropriate counter protest to run over some of the memorial crosses that have been erected along the road.

And of course they have picked out words and phrases from comments made by Mrs. Sheehan after her previous meeting with Mr. Bush, to make it look as though she once supported him and had since "changed her mind." Those who blindly support the President of course repeat this garbage as though it were gospel. Why bother to check if it agrees with your pre-conceived beliefs? Besides, it takes effort to look for facts, even when you can find them all over the place on line. Like here.

It’s astonishing really. You have to wonder if some of these right wing nuts who are attacking Cindy Sheehan and calling her a "tool" of left wing activists have ever had children. Can they possibly understand the agony of a mother whose young son has had his life cut short in a war that she doesn’t understand and that more than half the nation now think was a mistake and that we were sold a pack of lies about why it was necessary? Can they understand what such a death can do to a family where the parents are divided on the need for the war in which their son died? Can they not imagine that the loss was so great to Casey Sheehan’s mother, that after recovering from the state of shock that she was in when she first met with the President, she felt compelled to do something about it - something like asking Mr. Bush to explain the "noble cause" for which her son died and to lobby to bring the troops home? Before more die in a war that she and more than 50% of the nation no longer support. Why do they insist that she must be a "tool" of anyone? I think the war was a mistake and based on lies and deceit. I’m not an activist nor a member of any activist group - left or right - but does my belief, which I write about here - I guess that’s a form of activism - make me a "tool" of any such organization?

I am the father of two children and the grandfather of four grandchildren. If any of them were to die in a war that I thought was fraudulent, I imagine I would go bananas and want someone’s head on a platter. And if any extremist nut from anywhere on the political spectrum criticized my feelings and anything I did to express them that was within the law, it would be their ignorant heads that I would be after.