Thursday, January 08, 2009

Where it's always Groundhog Day

Update 1/10: The UN's most senior Human Rights official said Israeli forces may have committed war crimes in Gaza, and Naomi Klein is calling for a South Africa-style boycott of Israel.

A long time ago I concluded that the perpetual wild card of the future was the intractable conflict in the Middle East between Israel and everybody else, which could rapidly spark thermonuclear war. Over the past 40 years, "everybody else" has contracted somewhat--there are leaders and states in the region willing to establish peace, and have been acting that way. But the basic conflict with the Palestinians remains, and if possible, has grown worse.

The Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza is the latest tragic case in point. A few years ago President Carter received widespread criticism for his critique of the state of things there, chronicled in a documentary I saw recently. Last night on Charlie Rose, I heard Bob Simon--eminent reporter for CBS, a Jew who has lived in Tel Aviv, and who spent 40 days in Iraqi prisons during the first Gulf War--say essentially the same thing: Israel has organized what is essentially an apartheid regime in Palestinian areas, and because Israel controls and has essentially closed borders in and especially out of Gaza (with the cooperation of Egypt), he calls Gaza the world's largest prison.

The only good news Simon had about the current invasion is that it will certainly be over by January 20, so as not to piss off the new President. President-elect Obama has expressed "deep concern over civilian deaths"--which overwhelmingly victimized Palestinian civilians, including many children--and (as others speculate) his silence likely indicates his own views are much different than those of the current President Bush, whereas when he made a public statement on the terrorist attacks in India, he was supporting the views of the soon-but not soon enough-to be former administration. Bush is capping his awful regime with his usual chicken hawkishness, more hawkish at times that even Israel, with no consequences to him or the people he represents.

Simon was very pessimistic about peace in the region, since Israel has flooded Palestinian areas with their own settlers, now probably impossible to remove as part of a two-state deal. But he notes that in 20 years or so, the Palestinian population will be larger than Israel, and some solution short of an official South Africa kind of apartheid regime will be needed. One doesn't like to suggest that killing Palestinian children now is meant to delay that day, but I wonder if a state has the right to "defend itself" by any means it sees fit, if it is perpetrating gross injustices and making no effort to end them. But then, I'm not a Middle East expert and have no desire to be one. Fatalism remains my basic attitude about the place.

No comments: