Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gah-gah over Gaza

The news of the latest middle east bombings has me mounting my soap box like so many others, yet I hesitate because the whole mess is so confusing. Everyone wants to claim a piece of that area of the world and so much transition has occurred over thousands of years that it is difficult to discern where the lines should be drawn. Take ancient history, mix in geography with a hefty helping of foreign language and most Americans will cross their eyes and run the other way. The subject is one that most people recognize but lump all the victims and criminals into one recycling bin. When the topic resurfaces the reaction is, "Oh, it's you again."

Why should Americans care about what happens over there? How does it affect us? Let "them" figure it out, right? Wrong! Some "experts" will probably cringe at my descriptions here, but I'm hoping to fly under the radar and share on a level that has been overlooked.

We hear reference to the West Bank, Palestine, Israel, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Gaza, the Gaza Strip and other areas. Look at the map for a moment. Zoom in, zoom out, see where you are, see where "they" are. Keep in mind, the colorization I did is not perfect, but close enough to give you a general idea of the land mass for each area.

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The West Bank (in blue) and the Gaza Strip (in red) have changed hands over the years with rulers swapping hands like chess game players on crack. From 1965-2007 Israel controlled the Gaza Strip but backed off returning the government to a Palestinian leadership. Israel may have withdrawn from the strip BUT they control the borders and airspace. If they get PO'ed (or in this case PLO'ed) they can put the squeeze on supplies going into the strip. As for the West Bank, it's never been a state. The United Nations considers the West Bank and Gaza Strip "Israeli-occupied." Israel will not recognize the territories as independent until it can reach an agreement with the Palestinians.

To scramble the borders even further, there are people that say, "I was born in "XYZ" city and that is my home!" Others say their ancestors were from "ABC" town and they should be able to settle there. Then there are the ones that are living in the territories determined by the governments with which they are aligned. Israeli communities are popping up in areas of the West Bank where residents literally "take over" an area that was primarily Palestinian. Both believe they have rights to be there and they don't live in peace. Mix these folks up and there is conflict within the borders as well as tug-of-war on the borders.

Imagine New York City being invaded by Canadians. (no, seriously) Folks are milling about and suddenly the Canadian Mounties are roaming the streets claiming military power. Canadian builders take over Central Park and build massive home sites for their citizens. Then, as New Yorkers get frustrated and leave like refugees (generally heading south to my home state or to Florida) Canadians begin taking over entire buildings. The New York merchants are still trying to maintain their ground but the Canadians start looking out from their windows above, throwing trash and rocks onto the streets below. Okay, it's far-fetched on the local level (I hope) but maybe it brings the ideas closer to home? A friend recently visited the West Bank and returned with photos of these instances happening in the West Bank.

Back to the Middle East - let's not forget that the Palestinians have TWO sects vying for control. In 2006 there was a legitimate election of a legislative governing body for ruling Palestine's West Bank AND Gaza Strip called the Palestinian National Authority. "Fatah" controls the West Bank and their military rival "Hamas" has taken control of the strip. The president of the Palestinian National Authority fired his Prime Minister in the strip (who was supporting Hamas) and put a new guy in charge of rebuilding that government. The first Prime Minister thumbed his nose at the president and said (of course paraphrased) "We're not budging, in fact, we have control of all Palestinian territories and WE are the Palestinian National Authority." Hamas has been called a terrorist regime and there are reports of brutality against anyone opposed to the Hamas rule within the Gaza Strip.

Hamas and Fatah have been fighting with occasional missile fire between the two. Israel is smack in the middle and has been needling Hamas with border invasions and restricting incoming supplies. Hamas is irritated and is firing on Israel.
Now consider the fact that Gaza is the largest city in the Gaza Strip with a population close to a half-million and 1.4 million live in the metropolitan area. Israel's capital is Jerusalem with a population of around 750,000 but the population of the entire country is about 7.2 million. With a larger land mass and more cities, Israel's people are spread out more than Gaza's. When a bomb hits Gaza, more people will get hurt than when one flies into Israel, which would account for the 460 dead and 2,700 injured Palestinians with only four dead in Israel.

For me, a factor in the equation is President G.W. Bush's backing of Israel's actions. Regardless of who started needling who, where the lines in the sand are drawn and what religion anyone is, if Bush says he is "for" something, then the whole idea is probably wrong. He also managed to put his foot in his mouth once again (has it EVER been removed?) saying, "By spending its resources on rocket launchers instead of roads and schools, Hamas has demonstrated that it has no intention of serving the Palestinian people." This statement could just as easily be read with the U.S. in mind ... "By spending resources on rocket launchers instead of roads and schools, Bush has demonstrated that he never had the intention of serving the United States people."

We're seeing protesters and demonstrators, those for Israel and against Israel, for Palestine and against Palestine, Hamas and Fatah and many bloggers are backing up different perspectives. Compelled to follow the intended nature of my blog, I am not saying which way the lambs should go, but before you pick a side you should be well-informed. I merely hit on the proverbial tip of the mammoth iceberg (which is shrinking due to global warming - but that's another blog).

I will, however, insert my personal opinion that in this conflict there is no "right" side other than human rights. People who are suppressed, subjected to military control, and unable to get basic supplies are being denied their simple right to "be."


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Very nice treatment Iris. I am sure that you have devoted far more time in trying to really understand this issue than perhaps 93% of the population. The Institute for Applied Common Sense generally recommends that all societal issues be examined from a minimum of a 5,000 year perspective, and hopefully, a 13,000 oerspective.

    We generally start looking at the Roman Empire for answers since the roots of most issues can be found there. Just yesterday on the History Channel, a program aired discussing how the Pope considered embracing the Prophet Mohammed.

    Ralph Bunche, a UCLA grad, if I remember correctly, spent quite a bit of time researching the issues in making his recommendations to the UN. It's very interesting reading.

    Happy New Year.

  3. Thanks for the input! I have tried, over the years, to understand all the happenings in the middle east. As a child, I had neighbors that were from "Persia" prefering that title over Iran. They fled just before the Shah was ousted. I supposed that tuned me into the area on a more personal level. As I have met people that have visited or are from that part of the world, I have tried to learn more. It's just in the last year that I've gained a stronger grasp of the personal strifes faced by citizens of Palestine, Israel, Iraq and surrounding areas. Even the people that live there can have a narrow perspective based on their family histories. The ones in the middle of controversy often can not see their way out of a situation. When mediators enter and are not able to understand all sides of a multi-faceted issue, the tension is increased rather than defused. The typical politician is not the appropriate person to integrate into such negotiations, but instead non-partisan scholars would be better suited to provide assitance. I agree with you - the history of these territories is long and vital to the conflict. Add a few power mongers to the mix and the situation becomes volatile and critical.