I’ve known a lot of Arabs in my life. I’m well disposed to the Lebanese, for example, because they seem rather sensible. Their country has been a playground for lunatics, but the indigenous population would be happy to make money from tourists and leave the troubles of the Arab world to others. Jordanians are similar. Their location means they are a convenient staging area for lunatics from Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. As a result, they hold a dim view of the rest of the Arab world.
I’ve known some Palestinians, all crazy, except one. I knew a guy I called One-Armed George. He lost his arm when as a kid he picked up a grenade. George came to America because he decided Palestinians were nuts and not worth the trouble. He told some wild stories about growing up in the camps. His descriptions of Gaza and the West Bank brought images of a country run by West Virginia rednecks, but jammed into a tiny urban space. Apartment bloick full of guy high on meth playing with guns and fireworks.
One of things you learn where getting to know Arabs is nothing is ever as it seems. There are always layers. Even a trip to the mall has depth. It is just a natural part of their culture and maybe even baked into their DNA. You also learn that in the Arab-Israeli conflict, there are no good guys or bad guys. It is just a bunch of people with complicated agendas for no reason other than tribal, cultural and ethnic loyalty. Even within these groups, there are agendas, vendettas and conspiracies. Arabs prove that economics is based on nonsense and the blank-slate crowd in our humanities departments are nuts.
It is why I am indifferent to it all. The Jews certainly have a right to defend their people and lands. In my view, they have a right to level Gaza, drive off the people and pave it. For all of human history this would have been the result long ago. From the dawn of time until the middle of last century, you dealt with troublesome states by killing as many of its people as possible. If you could kill all of them, you won. Since that’s temporarily off the table, perpetual low-grade war will be the status quo.
For most of my life, I’ve been on the wrong side of most Americans who see the Israelis as the white hats and the Arabs as the black hats. Our rulers, particularly Republicans, have been cozy with the Arabs for their oil, but the average American is very pro-Israel. That’s understandable as they know very little of the place, but they know plenty of Jewish Americans so a natural sense of solidarity informs their opinion. Christians in America are particularly supportive of Israel.
It is not that I’m against Israel. In fact, I wish them the best. if I have to pick a side, I’m going with civilization. But, I’m largely indifferent to it all. I just don’t care very much.
What I find baffling is the anti-Israel insanity that seems to break out anytime this things flare up. This post by the normally sensible Peter Hitchens borders on unhinged. The opening few paragraphs read like the orderlies forgot to give him his meds.
Gaza continues to be the most pressing and violent issue on the planet. It has two interesting competitors for this position, in Tripoli and the area of Eastern Ukraine around Donyetsk, but most journalists simply dare not report from these places, even if they could get in, so we hear less.
And for the moment I feel I need to rebut or reply to readers’ opinions on the Gaza issue. This is frustrating, because so many of those comments are unresponsive and useless for debating purposes. Telling me I’m wrong in some general, unspecified way is useless.
Telling me that I know nothing without saying what precisely it is that I don’t know, since none of us is omniscient, and lack of knowledge is only important when it can be clearly shown and is relevant to the issue, is useless.
Gaza in not the most pressing issue anywhere other than Gaza. Even there, most of the locals quietly hope the Israelis kill every Hamas fighter and sympathizer. The surrounding Arabs are quietly helping Israel destroy this outpost of the Muslim Brotherhood. In fairness, Hitchens elsewhere makes clear he thinks the Palestinians are their own worst enemy. But, he has this bit in another post which I find strange.
My position, as a strong supporter of Israel in general, is that Israel’s action is wrong morally and gravely mistaken politically. Attacks from the air always kill innocents. It is no good pleading that you regret such deaths, when you knew perfectly well that your actions were bound to cause them. This was equally true of our own adventures in Iraq and Serbia, and is true of American bombing in Afghanistan. Israel’s moral position is seriously weakened by the deaths of these innocents, and also by the flanneling and evasion of its spokesmen over this.’
Attacks from the ground always kill innocents. War is a bloody business. That’s the point of it. Modern Western notions of warfare border on the insane for the reason they argue that war can be something other than bloody and monstrous. It pretends the innocent can be spared. It pretends there are innocents. Make no mistake. Hamas cannot exist without the support of the people in Gaza. History is full of example where people threw over their rulers in the middle of war and made peace with their attackers.
What I sense in Hitchens is a desire to be critical of Israel. It is as if he feels he has to show both sides an equal amount of empathy and an equal amount of enmity. I suspect he is succumbing to the pull of certain elements within the paleo-con world who have a hard-on for the Jews. Pat Buchanan, for example, has lost his marbles on the Jewish question. His personal war with Bill Kristol, I think, has led him down some blind alleys.
The Left has its own troubles in this regard. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in the hive. It has always been an element of the Rousseauist cults that have sprung up over the last 200 years. Marx was a fevered Jew hater, for example. Then we have you know who out there. In America, is has been a back burner issue, but it now springing forth again as the Holocaust fades into history. As a result, the J-Street – New Left fusion is becoming a force in American politics. Obama’s anti-Semitism being a primary example.
I’ve rambled on long enough. My general view is I simply don’t care what Israel does with Gaza and Hamas. Having dealt with Israelis and Palestinians, I can’t see how any sane person would pick the Palestinians. It’s Detroit without a proud past. If we wanted to solve the problem, we would move the population to Afghanistan where they would not be a nuisance. Perhaps drop them into Africa somewhere. That way the remaining Jews in the Middle East and Europe could have a place of their own. Everybody is happy.