Friday, January 25, 2008

An Inconvenient People

Whattya know?! It's Friday, and I'm actually posting a think piece! Must be another sign of the Apocalypse...

Tonight I've been thinking about the news from Gaza, the toppling of the Egyptian Walls of Jericho that have kept the Gazans impounded since the end of the Six-Day War in 1967, and even more tightly since the Hamas takeover this past year. As of this evening the border remains open, although everyone from Condi Rice to Hosni Mubarak to Aunt Jemima seems to be having a fit trying to get the Gazans back into their box.I've talked about the problems of the Israel/Palestine region before; as far as I can see this latest event doesn't really change the basic physical facts. Two groups of people with fundamentally unreconcileable outlooks want exactly the same piece of real estate. This is about a newsworthy as cooking a pot of spaghetti. Humans have been doing this since the first australopithecene bashed the second across the base of the skull for the best place at the waterhole. Greeks versus Trojans. Spanish versus Basques. Pilgrims versus Indians. Britney versus KFed.

Back in the Good Old Days all this land ownership squabbling was settled pretty easily with a bit of casual genocide. A little butchering here, some raping there, a lot of burning and pillaging everywhere. And before you could say "knife", the old owners were no trouble at all! Ask any Carthginian...oh, wait. You can't! The Romans killed them all. Silly me.

So if the Arab former owners of what was British Mandate Palestine had lost to the Israelites of, say, David's time, we wouldn't even be here talking about this and the IDF field sanitation teams would be trying to figure out what to do with all those foreskins. But we're "civilized" now, so instead of wreaking bloody-handed extermination we try and find a way for the lion and the lamb to lie down together, even though we know that the lamb isn't going to get much sleep.So it is that as the poor Gazan bastards scramble out of the reeking toxic waste dump that is Gaza looking for cement and cooking oil Israel has to pretend to be scratching under the yarmulke trying to figure out a "land for peace" deal when it really wishes these annoying former tenants would give up squatting on the lawn and move to Vegas or Reno or something, maybe get work as a blackjack dealer, nu?

And the Arab former residents of Palestine have to...well, actually, they DON'T pretend to cut Israel any slack. Instead they do the bobblehead-doll-nod thing when some dumbass American senator asks them if they support Israel's "Right to exist" while spending the rest of their time hanging little Chaim Weizmann voodoo dolls and channelling their inner Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. But, again, these are the people who, as a friend once described them to me, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,

And the rest of the world has to pretend to work with one or the other or both of these knuckleheads to find a "roadmap" for peace, when what we'd really like to do is knock their skulls together and shout "What the FUCK is WRONG with you people!?" until they stop squabbling over one of the shittiest parts of the Levant, a piece of real estate that practically every empire since the Hittites has used a a dumping ground for the politically unreliable, social deviants and the people they just don't like; useful for spontaneously generating homicidal religious nuts and flatbread and damn all else.

Soldiers - the most frequent visitors here - have loathed it since the first file-closer for the X Legio Fretensis carved "Copula is locus" on the windowsill of his billet in Galilee.So the thought that occurs to me is; why doesn't everyone see this unexpected union as a good thing? Let's just knock down the whole freaking wall and make Gaza part of Cairo, 90210, right? Such a deal!

Fatah gets rid of Hamas, who is, like, their irritatingly radical little cousin who always makes the big scene shouting slogans at the elders at the Eid party and getting everybody pissed off;

Gazans get to be Egyptians again and get a regular shot at cooking oil, jobs, and paid vacations along the Egyptian Riveria (a strip of muddy beachfront outside Alexandria);

the Israelis get to NOT have anything to do with the Gazans, since neither likes the other anyway, so they can go back to worrying about freaking Hezbollah, and;

the rest of the world has one less miserable trouble spot to worry about so Darfur or Zimbabwe or Burma or East Timor instead can lead off tonight's fire-and-murder news. Like it's so hard to find other bottomless-human-misery-anus-of-the-universe-type-of-places that we can't spare one...

And then I realize: as much as all the players want Gaza to be somebody else's problem - they all want it to be somebody else's problem. Israel wants the Egpytians to take the strain so they don't have to do something about all those freaky ex-Russian settlers going all ultra-orthodox on the West Bank; the Egyptians are saying "Not me, pally..." and worrying about bullying other Arabs and about the Islamic threat to the Mubarak LVXII Dynasty; the other Arab states want to keep shoving the Palestinian stink-bomb down Israel's pants; and the former colonial powers and the U.S. want to look concerned but don't want to, y'know, actually DO something, like well-to-do diners staring appalled at the reeeeally stinky wino dying of respiratory arrest outside the door of Le Pan Bleu - mo, really, I don't remember ANY of my CPR, it's been years, I'd love to help but we have a 6 o'clock curtain getyourcoatONhoney..!!!

So, like so often in human history, those with power and skill find reasons to leave the poor and inconvenient struggling, weak and suffering. Because as much as it's human to help those who need help, it's also very human to turn our heads when figuring out a solution that would help would mean real pain, real work and real sacrifice for us.

But noble words are so easy to speak, make such a pretty sound and let us walk away with our backs so straight and our heads held so high. And they're so, so, so cheap.


Mrs. Vandertramp said...

ya know, I think I'm just going to sit here and consider with awe your gift of articulate expression and blunt honesty.

walternatives said...

It's such a complicated mess between the Israelis and Palestinians. Aftre spending time in Israel a few years ago, I'm much more sympathetic to the Palestinians.

Meghan H said...

You know, I realized recently that this little quagmire-o-the-millenium is never going to be solved. Call me cynical, but when I heard that opinion polls in the Arab world said that the people believed that every problem they faced (the economy, religious fanaticism, not enough texbooks in schools, and so on ad infinitum) was the fault of Israel, I finally got it. And I'm sure Israelis probably feel the same.

This is an intractable problem that will only be fixed when humans go extinct. So, at least we have something to look forward to, right?

Carolyn said...

I enjoyed that fresh perspective. CRIPES- I knew Gaza was SMALL, but not that small.