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Worldwide Ace » The Gaza Strip is not a Gentleman’s Club

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The Gaza Strip is not a Gentleman’s Club

30 December, 2008 (10:13) | Politics

Palestinians duck for cover during an Israeli attack.

There’s an old Jewish toast, “Next year in the Holy Land,” or “Next year in Jerusalem.” At this rate, there might not be a next year in the Holy Land, let alone Jerusalem.

With attacks in the Gaza Region turning heads around the globe, eliciting protests across the Arab world, and helping 2008 go out with an extended bang, many people are watching the Fertile Crescent and its newest additions with fear and disappointment. My good friend Asa is just now leaving for a sojourn to Israel, and Jeff, who had planned his journey through the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean, will be arriving just in time for New Year’s. I can’t lie and say I’m not worried about their trips. I know it’s hypocritical given the excitement I felt being within a block of bombings in India, being in Bangkok the day the roits that have plagued the Thai government all year began, and even being in Jerusalem the same day as a bombing during my 1998 visit, but ever time I hear about Israel in the news, it’s something negative and often violent.

The political nature of Israel and the Arab World these days makes it hard to decipher who’s right, who’s wrong, and who started what. The US, as usual, is claiming that Hamas rockets have incited the recent spat of violence. After all, rockets started flying even before the six-month cease fire brokered by Egypt expired on December 19.

Hamas, which won an election but was still forced to sieze power violently, might not have been responsible for the rocket attacks. The militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for rocket attacks soon after the cease fire ended. Abe Amad, a spokesman for them, told the Associated Press that Israelis will “not sleep peacefully as long as Gaza children are not enjoying water, electricity, medicine and peace.” Of course, it doesn’t help that Hamas has now called for a new holy war against Israel.

Israel is certainly partly to blame. Gaza has no access to airspace or ports except through Israel, which has maintained a blockade, and its only other connection is via a small land bridge to Egypt (which is restricted because Egypt is afraid of an influx of terrorists).

The Israeli Defense Ministry reported that 150 rockets had been fired into Israeli territory since fighting began, with reports of over 300 in the weeks leading up to the attack.

Death Tolls in Gaza have risen above 300, with nearly 1500 injured. Compared to the two deaths in Israel, that’s a significant difference.

What’s worse is that the fighting has had far-reaching consequences already. Peace talks with Syria have hit a bump in the road and Egypt’s unsure anything can be done to stop the violence.

I’ve never been pleased with Israel. I certainly like the idea of a Jewish homeland, but at the same time, I truly believe in democracy and equality, which Israel can’t seem to quite install. The latest issue of Moment Magazine featured an essay about Israel’s mistreatment of its Arab population.

I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel and give up hope that Israel will find a way to be more inclusive and stop the violence, but the more bloodshed and fighting there is the more I wonder if Israel isn’t simply a bad idea in the first place. It’s possible the Israeli attacks are necessary, but no one’s certain the outcome will be what Israel wants.

I truly believe that Obama will be wise enough to drop outright support for Israel while it remains embroiled in this conflict. Whether that’s enough, I’m not sure. If it’s not, perhaps there won’t be a next year in Jerusalem. And perhaps deservedly so.

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  • Anonymous

    I follow your reasoning but think that the criteria which you apply are theoretical and not necessarily practical. There is a saying that one should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

    Eric Alterman’s opinion piece in Moment which you cite says “Israeli Arabs are also inarguably better off, by almost any objective standard, than the majority Arab populations of neighboring states, whether the measurement be economic, political or social. For one thing, they can vote in free, contested elections.”

    That being said, there is no doubt that there is prejudice and discrimination against the Arab minority — and that the continued hostilities serve to inflame this even more.

    Terrorism, suicide bombings, and missiles shot indiscriminately into Israel border communities are reprehensible. But the continued expansion of “settlements,” the maintenance of a de facto occupation of the territories captured in the 1967 war, and the economic blockade of Gaza all serve as provocations to keep the pot boiling.

    Many Israeli policy makers recognized years ago that the growth in the Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza is such that these areas could never be annexed as part of Israel, lest the Jewish population be reduced to a voting minority. Therefore, it is in Israel’s best interests that there be a sovereign Palestinian state. In fact, it is essential if Israel is to survive as a Jewish homeland.

    I am far from an expert on middle-East matters, but it is important to understand that neither Israelis nor Palestinians are politically homogeneous. The bifurcated Palestinian government (Palestinian Authority / Hamas) and fractious Israeli politics (secular / religious, liberal / ultra-orthodox) means that any macro solution must incorporate policies and strategies which recognize the complex internal issues of each nation.

    I doubt that the present ugliness is going to have much effect other than to harden positions on both sides. Unfortunately, I am not convinced that there is an alternative path to a solution.

  • Dov of Peace

    I follow your reasoning but think that the criteria which you apply are theoretical and not necessarily practical. There is a saying that one should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

    Eric Alterman’s opinion piece in Moment which you cite says “Israeli Arabs are also inarguably better off, by almost any objective standard, than the majority Arab populations of neighboring states, whether the measurement be economic, political or social. For one thing, they can vote in free, contested elections.”

    That being said, there is no doubt that there is prejudice and discrimination against the Arab minority — and that the continued hostilities serve to inflame this even more.

    Terrorism, suicide bombings, and missiles shot indiscriminately into Israel border communities are reprehensible. But the continued expansion of “settlements,” the maintenance of a de facto occupation of the territories captured in the 1967 war, and the economic blockade of Gaza all serve as provocations to keep the pot boiling.

    Many Israeli policy makers recognized years ago that the growth in the Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza is such that these areas could never be annexed as part of Israel, lest the Jewish population be reduced to a voting minority. Therefore, it is in Israel’s best interests that there be a sovereign Palestinian state. In fact, it is essential if Israel is to survive as a Jewish homeland.

    I am far from an expert on middle-East matters, but it is important to understand that neither Israelis nor Palestinians are politically homogeneous. The bifurcated Palestinian government (Palestinian Authority / Hamas) and fractious Israeli politics (secular / religious, liberal / ultra-orthodox) means that any macro solution must incorporate policies and strategies which recognize the complex internal issues of each nation.

    I doubt that the present ugliness is going to have much effect other than to harden positions on both sides. Unfortunately, I am not convinced that there is an alternative path to a solution.