Sunday, January 11, 2009

Would You Open Your Door If People Were Shooting at Your House?

4 January 2009

Happy New Year, I was going to write a piece about resolutions and the future. Most readers know this as the typical end of the year puff piece. Then reality set in. Here I am just back from Metairie and getting ready to put on the optimistic colored spectacles, the Middle East reared its ugly head. Before I start the blog, I want to wish everyone safety, health, happiness and more than likely a better 2009.
A friend of mine called me last week and asked me what caused the latest flare up between the Israelis and the Palestinians (in Gaza). I thought for a moment because I didn’t know where to start. I wondered how far back to go.
Should I mention the relationship between the Palestinians and a possible connection with the Phoenicians of ancient history books? Should I mention the connection between the Torah and the real estate in question? Rather than get into a long drawn out history discussion, I decided to go back about a month or so.
Roughly thirty days ago, the truce between the group Hamas, and the government of Israel expired. The country of Egypt had brokered this truce. The group Hamas currently rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. They therefore feel justified in starting rocket attacks on Israeli cities. These rocket attacks were heaviest in and around Christmas Day. A day or two later, Israel started the bombardment that led to this current ground offensive. These are the basics, but why is all of this not solved already. As everyone knows there have been innumerable efforts at diplomacy in the last 60 years, so why has there not been a “bargain”.
Most important the concept in America that all Arabs have similar interests is about as accurate as saying all Europeans have similar interests. Thankfully, this belief is beginning to disappear. Not only are there significantly different views based on the religion of Islam (Shia v. Sunni), there also nation-state goals that give different groups individuals goals. In this way Palestinians are not necessarily representative of all Arabs in the region. The Palestinians are struggling against not only the Israelis, but also the other Arabs and even themselves to gain political autonomy.
No matter how elementary it sounds it is necessary to understand the individuality of the various Arabic groups. If the Arabic peoples are viewed in a monolithic way then properly relating to them will be almost impossible. Do not expect that the goals and aims of the Kingdom of Jordan to be the same as the goals and aims of the country of Egypt, anymore than you expect Honduras and Mexico to have the same policies. For many years the American press seems to have supported this myth. The goals of the Palestinian population are separate and unique from the other groups in this way. Don’t misunderstand me. The Egyptians, for example, have an interest in the cause and plight of the Palestinians. The same can be said of most of the Arab countries in the region. But their desired resolution is very likely not synonymous with the desired goals of the Palestinians.
The moderate Arab states want to keep the Palestinian problem going. Hey wait that doesn’t make sense. They always talk about how they want a resolution for the Palestinians that helps their Arabic brethren. This issue is much more useful for them, than any positive resolution would be. To the moderate (minority) governments in places like Egypt and Jordan, it is just another political talking point, oh dear those horrible Israelis, oppressing another group of Arabs. These are just propaganda items to express to the West. For proof I look at the assassination of Anwar Sadat in Egypt.
Muhammed Anwar Al Sadat was President of Egypt from 1970-1981. Egypt was the most powerful military force in the Arab world during this time. President Sadat came to the conclusion that it was in the best interests of his country to make peace with Israel. He achieved this goal in the late 1970s, and many people think this was one of the reasons he was assassinated in 1981. (For the wikipedia article click here)
This was an example of the national leadership going against popular national opinion. Within the referenced article there are other reasons, including economic policy changes, but it is generally accepted that signing the peace treaty with Israel was a significant cause that energized some of the assassins. By the way, Omar Abdel-Rahman and Ayman al Zawhari were both implicated in the assassination plot. Both of these men have acted as agents of terror toward the United States recently.
The governments of many these countries learned lessons from the assassination of Sadat. Allow the general population to vent its anger toward Israel or the West, and that same anger is less likely to come back on the national government. Many school children have textbooks and teachers that vilify Israel, so the general public support of the rocket attacks is easy to understand. Current Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak came to power shortly after Sadat’s murder and is not a friend of the Palestinian cause. The same elements supporting the Palestinian cause within Egypt are not supportive of their own government.
The people of Gaza are stuck between Israel (to the north and east) a country that they are not willing to recognize, and Egypt (to the south), a country their sympathizers have tried to destabilize. This is not exactly the model for winning friends in world diplomacy. The Gazans keep talking about how they want a truce and yet, to this day, they’ve not agreed to dismantle the rocket launchers targeting southern Israel. Nor have they agreed that Israel has the right to exist. Why should Israel agree to leave Gaza if those conditions don’t change?
The main complaint of the Gazans, apart from the obvious, appears to be that Israel won’t open its borders for the purposes of trade, and work. If someone were shooting at you would you open the door to your house?

. For those interested in technicalities, Egypt is still the national government responsible for the Gaza based on U.N. documentation; I wonder why they aren’t eager to take the area back. I appreciate the humanitarian concerns for the people of Gaza. It is remarkably unfortunate what is going on, but rather than blame everyone else the people of Gaza should start taking the Hamas leadership to task for what is happening.

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