Sun Ra - Column for 7/24

Dog Bites Man in the Middle East

Well, Israel is in southern Lebanon again. And who can blame them? Hezbollah attacks a military post, kills a few soldiers and abducts a few more, and then scurries back into Lebanon to hide. Surely Israel can't be expected to sit on its hands and let Hezbollah operate with impunity because of a little thing like a national border? It's not like the Lebanese were doing anything to help.

Of course, the Israelis also decided to bomb Beirut, and the Lebanese power plants, and roads, and entire districts that, you know, tended to support Hezbollah, and some other things besides. Because the best way to convince your neighbor that he should do what you want is to attack him until he does so. Yeah, that always works. Nice country you've got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.

It's interesting to reflect that the whole struggle over Palestine, so entrenched and immutable, is not even a century old. In the nineteenth century the whole area was Ottoman and (relatively) peaceful. Jews lived there, Muslims lived there, Christians lived there. They may not always have liked each other but they certainly got along.

Now, of course, it's a festering wound with no solution. 'Peace in the Mideast' is a black joke. There's one piece of land and two groups of people want it; and both sides get their rocks off stepping on the other guys.

The problem for Israel, of course, is that they're not bad enough. If they took a leaf from Uncle Joe Stalin's notebook, and simply eradicated every last Palestinian - and the Hezbollah Shi'ites of southern Lebanon - the problem would be over. Sure, the world would be aghast, but hey, no more buses blowing up. And, as Hitler observed, who remembers the Armenians? A generation or two go by, the West forgets about it, and you're golden.

Except, of course, that the people of Israel aren't evil.

The problem for the Palestinians, ironically, is that they're not good enough. Tom Clancy, of all people, had it right back in the nineties. If the Palestinians forswore violence and embraced non-violent yet aggressive resistance, within two decades they'd get most of what they want. Precisely because Israel isn't evil. If the Palestinians had a Ghandi, a Martin Luther King, if the world got to watch Israeli tanks stopped at Palestinian bodies and Palestinians getting shot as they climbed the wall to their own lands, a generation of self-sacrifice and oppression made blatant, not only Europe but the Israelis themselves would realize that the Palestinians were getting a very short end of the stick indeed.

But it is much easier, frankly, to lob rockets and hurl stones and give in to your hatred, and that lets the Israelis soothe their consciences with the knowledge that the Palestinians are basically evil. Because they act that way.

The other solution for Israel, of course, would be to go the other way entirely. Marshall plan the Palestinians. Dump cash on them, not in the form of handouts but in the form of infrastructure and food and investments and jobs. There's a reason Hamas won the recent elections, and it's not because the average Palestinian loves seeing a rocket wobbling its way into Israel. It's because Hamas provided services and they did so without the egregious corruption of their rivals. If Israel embarked on an ambitious and expensive plan to make the Palestinian territories prosperous, support for the terrorists would wither.

Not, of course, disappear entirely. Witness Timothy McVeigh; the aggrieved crazies will always be with us. But in the Middle East at present they are the rule, rather than the exception.

But of course, why should Israel splash out this sort of cash for people who hate them? Aside from, you know, enlightened self-interest. Which is a philosophy that repulses conservatives world-wide. "Not our responsibility" is as gut-level appealing over there as it is here. "We've got ours, you just leave us alone."

In the end, all of the above is just pie in the sky. The Israelis aren't going to wipe out the Palestinians, just as they aren't going to spend the money to make the Palestinian territories a place worth living in. Nor are the Palestinians going to embrace the sort of non-violence which is the only effective method for changing the behavior of a civilized nation. All of those things are just too hard.

But what about us Americans?

I've been really rather surprised at the Bush Administration's utter subservience to Israel. The Democrats have a good excuse - most American Jews are Democrats. So when it's time for Democratic policy vis-a-vis Israel, it's a natural for the folks who care the most to set the tune.

But the Bush family are deeply in bed with the Saudis. They're oil men. Republicans. They don't much care about the opinions of American Jews. Why have they so totally kowtowed to the interests of Israel above the interests of, say, the United States?

Witness the current fracas in Lebanon. It's wholly typical - Hizbollah attacks Israel, Israel overreacts. But rather than observe as much, we have once again backed Israel to the hilt. We stepped up shipments of precision-guided munitions because the Israelis asked us to. Those are American-made bombs falling on Beirut, right now.

What good does that do the United States?

It's a puzzler.

Anyway, I'll stick with my proposed solution: let the Palestinians dictate how much U.S. aid Israel gets. Contingent, of course, on the immediate reduction/elimination of violence. The problem with negotiations, you see, is that as soon as the Palestinians stop murdering Israelis, the Israelis have what they want. They don't need anything more. They have all the good stuff already and just want to be left alone. So there's no incentive for them to do anything further once the Palestinians stop killing people.

We could provide that incentive. Front the Palestinians a bargaining chip, to take the place of the bloody one they're providing themselves. And then maybe, just maybe, we could see some negotiations in good faith, and no more children blown up at bus stops.

Oh hell, let's just give the whole place back to the Turks.

- Sun Ra

Columns by Sun Ra