First, before you do anything else, read this (just don’t forget to come back here).
Everyone knows that the Middle East is a mess, and has been for mega years. The other day I came across a rather humorous analysis of the situation, written by writer/actor/humorist (apparently he played a doorman on Seinfeld), who is a contributing humorist to The Daily Standard. That being said, here are some select quotes from the full article, written in 2002:
“The Palestinians want their own country. There’s just one thing about that: There are no Palestinians. It’s a made up word. Israel was called Palestine for two thousand years. Like “Wiccan,” “Palestinian” sounds ancient but is really a modern invention. Before the Israelis won the land in the 1967 war, Gaza was owned by Egypt, the West Bank was owned by Jordan, and there were no “Palestinians.”
As soon as the Jews took over and started growing oranges as big as basketballs, what do you know, say hello to the “Palestinians,” weeping for their deep bond with their lost “land” and “nation.”
The history of the Middle East is not quite so simple as Mr. Miller lays it out, but he is correct in that there are no historical “Palestinians” and that those who would be Palestinians turned down an offer of having a country called Palestine in 1947.
I recommend reading a bit about this history – it’s more convoluted than “The Da Vinci Code.” And, it’s enough to let you know that most of the people blowing off steam about the current situation are over-simplifying it. The liberal analysis tends to ignore many of the salient points (since acknowledging the elephants in the living room would undermine their position). The ultraconservative analysis is tainted by other issues, not the least of which is the bad theology of Christian Zionism that fuels much of conservatism.
The real story is about power, and hatred, contradictory extremist idealisms, and about imperfect past decisions for which there is no easy answer. The question now is not how to fix the past, but how to proceed. It seems all are making errors – who can blame that, considering the mess that exists. It seems there is no real good side to Hezbollah, who seems to operate mafia-style within Lebanon and whose primary reason to exist is apparently the eradication of Israel. Lebanon is, if nothing else, guilty by omission. Syria and Iran may be involved more than we know. Israel is at times a victim, but often appears to be too willing an aggressor; a blind support of Israel is no answer, but neither is a blanket condemnation.
While we argue over the appropriate use of violence, that is not an issue for any country actually in the Middle East. The Jews have a violent history, often apparently with the blessing of Jehovah; there’s no reason for them to stop now. The Islamists, it goes without saying, have no issue with violence. We can work to try to avoid major violence, but it seems all we will do is delay it. If violence escalates, it is sure to involve us one way or another; the world is now too interconnected.
Over here, of course, the main issue is politics. We haven’t gotten any straight talk out of the Left for years, and it’s not going to get any better. No matter what Bush does, he’ll be criticized by both sides, who are afraid to offend the voters. Working with the UN, especially if the UN actually wakes up to the larger game going on, seems wise.
All of this, of course, involves millions of people who would just as soon be friends. I know, through the internet, of Israelis who periodically check up on Lebanese friends. It’s a weird world.