What's All This Then?

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Friday, January 02, 2009

I haven’t written anything about Israel for a while, mostly because writing about the Jewish state and its 60 year conflict with Palestinian Arabs has been pretty close to an exercise in futility - trying to speak with sanity about a never ending madness. It’s just as insane as ever today - but the comments of many others on the current spurt of violence compels me to add my own.

The knee jerk reaction of most of the world was to be expected - though it was mildly encouraging to hear Arabs suggest that the attack on Gaza might have been prevented if the Palestinians spoke with one voice - which I interpret to mean if there was a Palestinian leader or leaders who could speak for the entire Palestinian Arab population - on the West Bank and Gaza - and most importantly were considered to be relatively sane and interested in stopping the decades long impossible goal of overwhelming the Jewish state. But even though the condemnations were expected, it’s still frustrating to read and hear the convoluted reasoning that is used to support those condemnations.

I have never been to Israel but I have lived under circumstances similar to those that residents of southern Israel have been subjected to for years. I speak of London during that period of World War ll when we were under attack night and day with the frightening Buzz Bombs - the V1 and V2 rockets which disrupted life and kept us in a constant state of apprehension. It was a nerve wracking period of the war and I can understand how the half million or so people living within range of the Hamas rockets must feel after years of this sort of thing and how much pressure the Israeli government must have felt to do something - anything - to stop the reign of terror. What’s surprising is that it took so long - but what is frustrating is that the air attack - perhaps to be followed by a ground assault - will accomplish nothing other than the destruction of buildings and the death of some terrorists and, regrettably - some innocent civilians. It will be like the 2006 war with Hezbollah. Lots of buildings destroyed. Lots of people killed. And the madmen will still be there with their rockets, ready to launch indiscriminately at the slightest provocation. Actually, madmen don’t need any provocation. They could launch an attack at any time.

Unless Israel re-occupies Gaza and determines to stay there and subject the population to military rule, the rockets will continue to be launched. Indeed, they have increased in response to the air attacks currently underway. The only other way to stop the madness is for the international community - including all the Arab states - to come together and put consistent pressure on Hamas. But of course they won’t do that. It’s easier to condemn Israel.

What sickens me more than anything is to see young people carrying banners condemning Israel and writing responses on line to news stories about the conflict. It’s as though in the world as they understand it - Israel is this bullying power that occupied the "land of the Palestinians" to subjugate the indigenous population and take over the use of the land. And all for no good reason. Even people who know better - who attempt to write or speak in reasonable terms - pointing out that Israel has few option when it comes to the need to respond to barrages of missiles that terrorize large segments of its population on a daily basis. They somehow feel compelled to add that the response is "disproportionate" as though it should be on a quid pro quo basis. They send over rockets. We send over rockets. They kill one Israeli - Israel kills one Hamas terrorist. Like a children’s version of war.

You have to wonder how the critics would react if they were the ones subjected to living under the threat of daily missile attacks. But those are the same critics that have blamed Israel for the conflict ever since the ancient state was reborn under the auspices of the United Nations in 1947 . Take a look at the maps and see the tiny territory that was to be the Jewish state after 80% of the original Palestinian mandate was used to create Jordan. The Israelis of 1947 accepted that sliver of land. The Arabs didn’t and the conflict that we are witnessing today and for which Israel is being blamed by most of the world - began with that Arab non-acceptance and military attack.

Some people are now calling for another "cease fire.". The concept of a cease fire between Israel and Hamas is as maniacal as the myth that there is a "peace process" which has been interrupted by this latest clash. Maybe in the wars of ancient times, it was appropriate for opposing sides to agree to a cease fire while they retired for tea and to bind their wounds. But a temporary "cease fire" says that both sides are at war and will continue that war once the agreed time for the cease fire has expired.. The madmen of Hamas might want a cease fire so that they can refurbish their arms before resuming their insane, never ending war - but Israel should never agree to any such arrangement. It should make it clear that as long as the people of Gaza refrain from launching rockets into Israel or committing other acts of violence against Israeli citizens or property, Israel will be a good and peaceful neighbor and do what it can to help the people of Gaza create a peaceful and prosperous society. That’s not a cease fire with a beginning and ending date after which both sides would feel free to continue to wage war against each other. It’s a way to make clear to the Palestinian Arabs and to the rest of the world that there is a sane alternative to the madness that has prevailed for 60 years.

Is that a simplification? I think not. Surely if the leaders of both sides in this ridiculous conflict were sane - and had the best interest of the people they represent at heart - it wouldn’t have taken 60 years to settle their differences. So the solution remains what it has always been - having little to do with "peace processes" and "cease fires" but with the need for sanity. I think for the most part it has been there on the Israeli side. I have yet to see it in the leadership of the Palestinian Arabs. The only way to end the conflict is for a Palestinian Arab leader to be elected after proposing a sane end to the conflict to which Israeli leaders have already agreed and to be elected by an overwhelming majority of Palestinian Arabs. And then of course for the madmen to let that leader lead.

But I’m not holding my breath. It’s bad for general health.