Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Brief Word About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

I have never been a fan of Bibi Netanyahu. He has always struck me as a smarmy used car salesman who isn't as smart as he's made out to be. And I've never been a fan of Israel's expansionist behavior. Israel occupies a precarious place in the world's psyche. Few outside of loons like Ahmadinejad argue with the existence of Israel on the basis of the Holocaust and the prior couple thousand years of Jewish history. But most of that bad experience came about as a result of European Christians not middle eastern Arabs. Before the 20th century, Arabs for the most part, and certainly relative to Europeans, coexisted with Jews whenever they have been in proximity with each other. Look at the years of Muslim occupation of Spain before 1492 for evidence of that fact. The common refrain "you can't just wish away 2000 years of Arab-Jewish conflict" is an absolute fallacy.

The result of European history towards the Jews, ending with the Holocaust, finally shamed the British to take a piece of its share of the moribund Ottoman Empire and cede it to the State of Israel in 1948. But that piece of land had been lobbied for by European Jews since the last quarter of the 1800s, not just the few years after WWII. And rather than the small sliver of a country that is officially Israel today, the first Zionists wanted twice that amount of land, specifically everything that is argued over today: Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights. The reasons for that territorial desire was simple and practical: access to the sea, defensive protection, but most importantly, because the West Bank contains the Jordan Valley -- the water. The region is a desert and the Israelis have made the desert bloom, but they did so by sucking out all the available water from underground. And without direct access to the Jordan Valley, it's gonna dry up in the near future. Hence the need for the land, not because God said so, but because to continue to exist and support the population, it needs water.

The other factor to consider is that because of how it was formed, Israel is essentially a European colony and brought with it all the usual problems and attitudes of a European colonial culture, much of which is not typical of Jewish culture. Most significantly racism, and a virus-like need to gobble any and all natural resources it can get.

Israel has two options: accommodate the reality of a native population, but one that greatly outstrips it in terms of birthrate, thereby requiring permanent second class status for Arabs if Israel is to retain a Jewish identity; or have a two state solution which prevents access to the water Israel needs to maintain it's literal ability to sustain itself. Both solutions presume the natives will finally recognize Israel as a fait accompli and stop trying to simply eliminate the place as a country and retake the territory.

Because of money and military hardware, the US is the only reason Israel continues to exist. In an earlier era it would have been treated as a vassal state but that isn't how we do things today. The result is that Bibi can get away with the insult perpetrated last week on VP Biden by announcing a huge construction project in E. Jerusalem in the midst of a so-called building "freeze".

But the Palestinians, never ones to ignore an opportunity to screw up a chance to get the world on its side, is responding by possibly beginning another Intifada. Between the Palestinians and Israelis, it would be hard to find two better matched peoples capable of legitimately playing the victim card.

The trouble now is that since the US has troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, any action against Israel could easily bleed into violence against American military targets in the region. So instead of getting the relatively moderate leaders of the Palestinian west bank to the negotiating table, the hardliners of Hamas will end up taking the day again and it will remain War All The Time in the middle east, but in a much more threatening manner for the US as opposed to just "US interests." Hamas are terrorists with a tinge of legitimacy, and Bibi is no one I would ever let sell me a car.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

GOP: The Party of Nero

For over 30 years we have watched while a political party took the reigns of power by declaring the best government is that government which governs least. The notion took hold by virtue of twisted mythologies, blatant lies, interminable fear-mongering, subtle race-baiting, adolescent machismo, cowboy inanities, bad history, bad economic theory, bad corporate structure, bad foreign policy, bad math, bad science, no respect for the labor that actually built this country, stalinist tactics, purism in religion, absurd utopian conceptions of human behavior, suspicion of excellence, rejection of debate, refusal to compromise, and dividing to conquer. For over 30 years they have refused to address a staggering array of problems which, in their time, could have been handled had they engaged the drive and ingenuity of the American people. But they failed to do so because they were leaders who failed to lead all the while proclaiming how well they were leading. For over 30 years they had plenty they could have done but instead did nothing. All the while, they gave it away with a smirk as if this nation was some monstrous garage sale disgorging trinkets to the poor neighbors. They did not govern as that which governs least. They have governed as that which does not govern at all. For over 30 years the GOP has not been simply The Party of No. They have been The Party of Nero, fiddling away while our country turned to shit before our very eyes.