Vox Rodentae

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Oh Palestine

Israel and the Hamas (now in its guise as the Official Government of Palestine) are duking it out again. Arabs beat their chests and howl in rage. And the rest of the world shakes its head and thinks “…nothing new here, move along…” But this time, it feels slightly different. One senses the feeling of a line having been drawn, a line that Hamas is perilously close to crossing over. A line that, once crossed, will be a point of no return.

To be fair, Israel has been remarkably restrained, given that most of the actions taken against them by Hamas constitute recognizable acts of war. For the last 30-some odd years, the US has been at the forefront of the much vaunted peace process, trying to broker peace between Israel and the Arab/Muslim world, urging restraint in all cases, and holding back Israeli ire whenever possible. Obviously, this kind of diplomacy hasn’t worked, and it hasn’t been working for a long time.

In the Middle East, Israel is a gem of prosperity, industry, contentment, and natural wealth (in the form of well-tilled, fertile fields). It is a locus for foreign travelers who seek it out for its religious significance, culture, fashion and nightlife, and even possibly for the barely lingering remains of the exotic reputation Lebanon once held in its glory days. Unfortunately, Israel also forms an excellent focus for Arab hatred, as Arabs look around at themselves living in poverty, squalor and filth in densely packed urban ghettoes. It’s existence has also become a tool Arab governments use to prevent their people from looking too closely at their corrupt and failing policies; Israel, the Other Great Satan, has Stolen the Birthright of the Palestinians, they are Occupying and have Criminally Colonized at the Cost of Arab Blood, Traditional Arab Lands. No atrocity is too brutal to attribute to the Israeli aggressors.

But none of the other Arab countries want the Palestinians either, since Arab memories are long and grudges aren’t easily forgiven. Arab leaders remember well the month of September 1970, also known as Black September. Throughout Jordan, thousands of refugee camps housed thousands upon thousands of Palestinians fleeing the orgy of violence and fighting throughout the area. After a while, militants living in those camps began to set up an internal infrastructure within Jordan, closing off roads, opening checkpoints and charging special “taxes” for passage along these roads. These and other actions represented a challenge to Jordan’s sovereignty as a nation. Jordan’s King Hussein dispatched Internal Security troops to deal with the problem, spawning bitter fighting with the militants. By the time the dust cleared, many thousands of Jordanians, refugees and militants had been killed (numbers on this are still uncertain, but range from 3000 to 5000, to more than 10,000), and the refugees were once again on the move, booted out of Jordan and distributed among the various Arab countries where they were (and still are) generally distrusted (especially after backing Sadaam in the invasion of Kuwait; Arab culture proscribes dealings with unlucky, unwise people, lest their bad luck rub off on you). They became a people without a country, glorified in cause, unwanted in person, and growing steadily angrier at the dichotomy of their position.

When they were got their own land, the first thing they did was elect a terrorist organization to be their government. What clearer message could they send to the rest of the world? The press no longer records the hostilities Israelis face daily from the Palestinians, the lobbing of Molotov cocktails, the rock-throwing. Even the kidnapping and murder of that young settler (may he rest in peace) wouldn’t have made a news blip, if it wasn’t concurrent with the kidnapping of a young Israeli soldier and the Israeli Army’s mobilization and determination to get him back.

I’m still trying to figure out why Israel shouldn’t be able to defend itself from attacks by hostile foreign governments and terrorist organizations whose charters cite the destruction of Israel as their chief aim. Yes, the Mossad gets up to many highly questionable antics. These need to be brought to light and addressed in the courts, legally, on a case-by-case basis, as we address our own suspected crimes. But this doesn’t invalidate Israel’s right to self-defense. And the matter of “non-combatants”? It is very sad that non-combatants get caught up in military actions. The terrorists don’t even recognize the concept of “non-combatants”. I don’t believe that Israel intentionally targets civilians (although when they do hit them, they need slightly more convincing arguments than “We didn’t do it” followed by “Well, it might’ve happened, but it was probably something else instead” or some equally lame response. The proper wording goes something like “We deeply regret that this (bomb/round/whatever) fell among civilians. It was a grave mistake, because we would never knowingly target civilians. We offer our sincerest condolences to their families in their time of loss.”).

In the meantime, if we really support Israel, then it’s time we cut the apron strings and let her walk on her own. If our diplomatic nurse-maiding hasn’t done her any good, let’s see what she does on her own. If nothing else, it’ll be interesting.

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