Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, January 19, 2009

The why's and wherefore's of the conflict between Israel an the Palestinians are surely a muddle to this young girl who was badly wounded in Gaza the other day. No word on whether she made it.

It's an old, old conflict. Every Sunday School kid knows the story of David and Goliath. But now, today, several thousand years later, Israel is still not able to pacify the area. Remember the five cities of the Philistines? I'll refresh your memory. Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. All of these cities lie in the area we now call the "Gaza Strip." Did David kill Goliath in vain? Just before the current conflict began, I mentioned this problem to one of my Israeli friends. He said, "Now Israel is Goliath and Gaza is David." Interesting observation.

Israel has always maintained that they are not after civilian targets. They don't want people to think that they are viewing civilian casualties as "collateral damage." But it's hard to see the current fight as being completely free from any attempt to influence policy by terrorizing the general populace. Certainly Israel is not alone in this practice. The Americans killed tens of thousands of women and children in Hiroshima, while insisting (quite irrationally) that they were bombing a "military base."

But Hamaas is surely not a victim. And Hamaas is getting very bad press in this war. Not from Aljazeera, perhaps. But on Dialogue a couple weeks ago, Yang Rui grilled the Egyptian journalist who is often brought in as a spokesman for the Palestinian cause, as to how Israel could possibly negotiate peace with a force that refuses to recognize her right to exist under any circumstances. And the Arab nations are plainly disgusted with Hamaas.

So what is the solution? Before that we must ask, "What is the problem?" Always there is talk about the flow of arms into Gaza, and how to stop it. But the problem is more aggravating than that. Gaza is basically a large refugee camp. That is the official position of the United Nations. I have met UN refugees in Beijing. They are basically untouchable. The government here does not give them official permission to stay indefinitely, but also cannot expel them. And they have money given to them every month. As long as they don't work. I remember when I first came to China, a Christian lady approached me about her interest in supporting a young UN refugee and providing for his education. I told her it would be very difficult to do this, because if he accepted help from her, he would lose his refugee status, and he was not likely to give that up easily.

In Gaza, basically the whole country has refugee status. We always hear about poverty in Gaza. Yes, they are poor. But it's not normal poverty. China has lots of poor people, too, but they are working hard and getting by. In Gaza, they don't have to worry about getting by. They have UN money, much of it from the United States. There is no one-child policy in Gaza. In fact, there isn't even a ten-child policy in Gaza. No surprise, then, that the population of Gaza has doubled and tripled in recent years. It's as if the United Nations has said, "Don't worry about what you are going to eat. We will give you enough to survive, so that you can spend your time building rockets, blowing people up, and having children."

The tunnels used to ship arms from Egypt can be bombed. Ahmadinejad is hopeless, of course, but there are many among the intelligentsia in Iran who do not like him. There is still hope that a more moderate government might be persuaded to withhold support for violence. But it will be all but impossible to stop the flow of American money into Gaza--money that is subsidizing a rapidly growing society of restless, idle trouble makers. So I am not optimistic about the future of Gaza.

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