Over the next week we’re probably going to be focusing a lot of attention on who shot down the Malaysian jetliner in the Russian-Ukraine conflict. But the even more devastating event, in a sense, is the renewal of active conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians of the Gaza strip, in the conflict that will never die (even if plenty of individual people will).
As much as I hate to say it, it appears that the Israelis and Palestinians have not yet inflicted enough damage on each other. If they had, the scales would tip, and the conclusion would become inescapable that somehow the conflict must be ended.
This is an era that has seen tremendous advances in the area of conflict resolution, both interpersonally and globally. We know much more now than ever before as to how to resolve conflict. And we have people like George Mitchell, who helped to mediate the peace in Northern Ireland as President Clinton’s Special Envoy. He went to the Middle East as well, both on behalf of Clinton and later Obama. But he could not help untie the Gordian Knot that is the Arab-Israeli conflict. It appears that nobody can.
One of the first problems we have is that Israel is small. At 8522 square miles, it is 80.7% the land area of Massachusetts. And yet, Israel has approximately 8,146,300 residents in that space whereas Massachusetts has only 6,692,824. So Israel is small and dense, and frankly, a little bit barren. But if Israel is small, then the Gaza Strip is just tiny. It has 1,816,379 residents squeezed into 139 square miles. That’s only 10.6% the area of Rhode Island, which has only 1,050,292 residents. It’s crazy! The Gaza strip is ungovernable, even under the best of circumstances. But these are not the best of circumstances.
Hamas, which was established in 1987 as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, has governed the Gaza Strip since winning a popular election in 2007. Hamas was founded “to liberate Palestine” from Israeli occupation and “to establish an Islamic state” in the area. Which is part of the reason the Israeli and the United States governments still consider Hamas a terrorist organization. Hamas continues to be dedicated to the destruction of Israel even though it should be blatantly obvious to anyone that Israel will not be destroyed. This is a nuclear state that has the backing of the greatest military power ever assembler, the United States. Israel has more military wherewithal than any of its neighboring states, and arguably more than all of it’s neighboring states combined. There is a certain kind of insanity in Hamas’ continued dedication to Israel’s destruction, like a flea dedicated to the destruction of an Elephant. I understand that there are internal politics involved, but at some point you would think that even they would recognize that it’s not helping their cause. Fatah has recognized how counterproductive such an official policy would be and was actually able to negotiate with Israel, albeit too limited success.
If Gaza and the much larger West Bank — about 67% the size of Israel but, of course, not contiguous with the Gaza Strip — did become an independent Palestinian State, they’d still have a tough go of it, without (and perhaps even with) the economic cooperation of Israel. That’s where the jobs are. Jordan, which is on the other side of the West Bank, hasn’t been of much help to the Palestinians either. Economically, the Palestinians need the Israelis much more than they need the Jordanians.
And what can be done about this mess? The short answer seems to be nothing. There is no evidence that this situation will ever get any better. There would have to be some kind of sea change in the perceptions and understandings of the populations involved, but these just seem to be driven further apart. Not enough pain, I guess.
This no holy land, this area where Israel and Palestine are located. If anything it’s an unholy land. It’s holy only in the sense of “holy shit, we should all get the fuck out of here.” Instead this harsh land is just teeming with people who are enemies to each other, who all seem to think that their God — who, ironically, as the God of Abraham, is of course the God of both the Jews and the Muslims, not to mention the Christians — somehow designated this place just for them, and has commanded them to kill his other children. What a world we live in!