Monday, June 7, 2010

Pointing the Finger at Me Leaves Three Fingers Pointing Back at You - Part One

Recent events in relation to the Gaza blockade have once more catapulted the mess that is Middle Eastern politics into the world's living rooms - here we were thinking the BP was the devil because of the oil spill and then all of a sudden we're reminded that there's other devils still hanging around out there...

The Background

There was this guy called Abraham, and he had a son, Isaac ... okay, maybe this is going a little too far back but the problem with this saga is that it's hard to remember when it all began. We're coming in at the middle of the story, like Star Wars - when it starts, we see this tiny little blockade runner being pursued by the biggest baddest mofo of a star destroyer ( “IDF inflatable vessel”) anyone had seen to date, and over the course of the film our emotions are manipulated into thinking that the rebels ( “aid flotilla”) are "good" and that the Imperial (“Israeli”) forces are "bad". Of course, when we go back to the beginning of the story we find out that, while some of the guiding forces behind the Empire (“Israel”) may have had a rather mixed agenda (like all that nonsense with the Stern Gang and Irgun, wtf was that all about guys? Kind of like going to the Dark Side and giving in to the Sith, right?), all the Empire really really wants is peace, order, a place to call home, and security - something that the ineffectual Republic (“Palestinians”) cannot enjoy because the Galactic Senate (“Hamas”, the “PLO”, “Fatah” – take your pick) is corrupt and ill advised. The Empire, we see, is actually the good guy in all this - Imperial forces have established a relatively peaceful regime, one which is ordered and controlled and where the people are safe in their own beds, apart from the ungrateful little bastards who set up the rebellion because their piece of the pie wasn't big enough for them. Most people can’t see the Lucas layer of mystification to perceive the truth behind it, although he himself got a little mixed up with the analogy and brought in a whole bunch of cuddly teddy bear Ewoks (“Viet Cong”) to defeat the overwhelming technologically advanced forces of the Empire (in this case, the “USA”), which of course we all know is a load of crap; the only reason the VC won is because the ARVN didn’t want freedom, liberty and security enough to fight for it.

Anyway, back to the Israel-Palestine thing. It is sovereignty over the land (which they’re welcome to, by the way – NZ has much more worth fighting for than that strip of sand and dust ever will, other than some cool old ruins) to which both groups have eons-old claims which lies at the centre of their dispute; land which, until the early 20th century, was really not being utilised very well at all, so the Zionist Jews who began arriving back "home" after the centuries long Diaspora legitimately purchased the land from the Ottoman Empire and began to work it, then invited more of their brethren back to the Promised Land to purchase more of it, work it, and set up kibbutzim. The Palestinian Arabs living there were rather annoyed at these Johnny come-latelies making more money out of the land and started protesting vigorously. Britain made deals with both sides during WWI, which is usually where most synopses of this situation start, and was given a mandate over the entire area after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Some 90% of the region was converted into Transjordan, essentially a Palestinian Arab territory, while the rest - called "Palestine" by the British just to confuse everybody, allowed limited entry by some of Europe's Jews – although not enough to accommodate the many Jews who wanted entry, many of whom resorted to smuggling themselves in. By 1931 Jews formed 13% of the population of the mandated territory, but the number of Jews in the area more than doubled over the next six years with the rise of the Nazis in Germany a significant contributing factor. The situation was becoming untenable when WWII came along and with it the Holocaust, the ruthless extermination of millions of Jews and other undesirables (although not Muslims, because Hitler and the Nazis had an understanding with some of the highly ranked Muftis in the Middle East and are said to have admired the Islamic faith). Throughout the '30s many hundreds of thousands of Jews fled Germany, and millions more would have followed had it not been for the reluctance of the rest of the world to allow too many Jews into their countries (which, you have to say, was probably justified to an extent – every country has the right to limit the number of new arrivals it takes and no person has the right to enter or claim citizenship of another country just because they think they should be entitled to it). Stories like that of the MS St Louis which was denied entry from various ports as it carried a number of Jews seeking sanctuary show the exact reason for why Israel was established in 1948, and why it should still be there today – no matter what happens in the world, if there is an attempt to repeat the Holocaust against the Jewish people, there is one country that has an open border; any Jew, anywhere in the world, is entitled to entry and citizenship in Israel.

Unfortunately the Arab world was not too happy with a Jewish state being re-established in the area, and the Jews themselves were not about to let a little thing like a UN directive get in their way, not when they’d survived the worst that life can throw at you. (Interestingly none of the Arab countries supported the UN Partition Plan either.) So David Ben Gurion declared independence for Israel in 1948 and immediately thereafter the infant state was attacked on all sides by all its neighbours – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. Oh, and it won. Some 700,000+ Palestinians fled or were felt impelled to leave their ancestral homes in the Palestine territory during this war, although interestingly enough well over a million Palestinian Arabs remained in Israel and gained citizenship of the new state, and more than 800,000 Jews left or were forced to leave the Arab World by the early 1970s; oh, and there’s only one of those groups which remains huddled in refugee shelters and dependent on overseas aid. The Jews helped their people, and enfranchised the Arabs who had remained, while the rest of the Arab World basically cursed their people and did their best to isolate them while holding them up as a tool which legitimised their hatred of Israel. Somehow we tend to forget the Arab World’s role in this massive humanitarian crisis... Anyway, the borders established in that war remain what most countries in the world still recognise at Israel’s “official” border, although Israel itself soon realised that a lack of strategic depth would be a significant weakness. A number of wars followed: in 1956 against Egypt, which had sought to block Israeli shipping in violation of a number of international agreements; in 1967 against Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq – a mass mobilisation on its borders provoking a pre-emptive strike from the IDF, wiping out the impending and seemingly overwhelming invasion forces to the north, east and west within less than six days; in 1973, as a result of Egypt and Syria’s surprise attack on Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holy days; in 1982, against PLO forces in Lebanon, and again in 2006, this time against Hezbollah forces there; and in 2008-9 against Hamas forces in Gaza. Notably the nature of the enemy has changed in recent years; Israel has not officially gone to war since the 1970s, and its military actions have been primarily retaliations against terrorist activities. This means that Israel has surrendered the initiative to the terrorists, and it is in this context that we must view the most recent events – ie the blockade runner.


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