The Gaza Strip is not a Gentleman’s Club
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.
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.