Friday, June 15, 2007

Oh My, Gaza!

As far as H.G. Wells stories go, I liked "The War of the Worlds" a bit more than "The Time Machine" – even though "The Time Machine", which I read in an afternoon in 2004 while staying in the dorm room of a friend, was a bit more adventurous and more uplifting than "The War of the Worlds". I only mention this because the current situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank resembles – up to a certain point, and only to that point – the division between two different species of mankind in the year 802,701 in "The Time Machine".

In "The Time Machine", a Time Traveller has discovered that by 802,701 humanity has split into two species: on one side, living aboveground, you have the peaceful, unassuming Eloi. On the other side, underground, you have the predatory Morlocks – who look at the Eloi as, basically, their slave labor and their food. The Time Traveller muses over how this situation came about. I won't spoil it for you, so unless you've seen the latest movie version that came out a number of years ago, do yourself a favor - pick up the book and then watch the 2002 movie (I've only seen a few minutes of the 60s version).

It needn’t take an overactive imagination (of the sort I am guilty of possessing at times) to see where I’m going with this: The Gaza Strip is essentially the Underworld of "The Time Machine", realm of the Morlocks (a.k.a. Hamas). The West Bank is (at least, those areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas) now the aboveground, the realm of the Eloi. Unlike in "The Time Machine", the "Eloi" – West Bank Arabs – are in reality hardly peaceful, subservient victims to the Hamas-led "Morlocks"…but like I said, the comparisons were valid only up to a certain point.

Since the very first years of the Arab-Israel conflict there has never, truly, been one Palestinian "people". After Israel’s War of Independence, Egypt took over the Gaza Strip – denying to grant resident Arabs there any form of surrogate citizenship. Egypt organized guerrilla (terrorist) militias for use against Israel, a course standing in stark contrast to that of Jordan, which when it illegally annexed the West Bank following that same war granted the Arabs living under its jurisdiction Jordanian citizenship and - while violating armistice agreements by preventing Jews from visiting holy sites - built hotels in east Jerusalem.

Having personally seen both the beauty of a Gazan beach and swaths of barren landscape in the West Bank, I would've at one time thought the situation would be the reverse of what it actually is:

The seaside-hugging Gaza is the more religious of the Arab-inhabited territories left over from the violent birth pangs of the Jewish State; considering the history of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt right next door, and the perpetuation of Gazan squalor by Egypt and the rest of the Arab League, this isn't surprising on a second look. But land-locked, surrounded West Bank Arabs are - more or less - a more civilized, educated bunch...thanks, in part, to the late King Hussein. Like Gazans, West Bank Palestinians don't have a "Palestine", but unlike Gazans, they do have Jordan.

Not only do many West Bank Palestinians have Jordan, but today a majority of Jordanian citizens in Jordan are of Palestinian descent - indicating that a recent suggestion by former Jordanian PM Abdel Salam Al-Majali that the Hashemite Kingdom absorb what's left of the West Bank into some sort of confederation isn't as out of this world as some might think it.

Putting aside utopian dreams of a united "State of Palestine" consisting of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it needn't be a given that any union between Palestinian Authority territories and King Abdullah's Jordan must also include Gaza...existing as it does tens of miles away, but in a completely different world. So what would happen to Gaza?

Though they may be loathe to consider it, in the wake of such a Palestinian-Jordanian confederacy's creation, Egypt could eventually reoccupy the Gaza Strip and legally incorporate it into its territory - correcting, if you ask me, a historic mistake (one made because the Arab League wished to use the "stateless" Palestinians as pawns in a never-ending war against Israel, and Egypt was only too willing to lead it). Given the problems Egypt already has with religious extremists, this is unlikely...but...hey, it could happen.

Or, Gaza could simply be left alone and become a mini-Iran, right next door to Israel. Hey, if Islamic dictatorship is what they desire for themselves and their children, and their children's children...let 'em have it. It's their choice. Then, we can choose to help them dismantle it...or dismantle such an entity for them.

Whether you compare them to "Eloi" or "Morlocks", think of them as Egyptians or Jordanians, call them Gazans or West Bankers, or simply say they're "Palestinians", since the signing of the Oslo Accords the leadership of the PLO and Palestinian Authority have not shown the world they are particularly qualified to look after their peoples' affairs. This is mostly their own fault, for continually shooting themselves in the feet, but partially ours - for giving them the guns to do that sort of thing.

Whatever solution is found for the current happy/sad situation, if we fail to acknowledge that those on one side of the Arab-Israeli conflict who've tried to be one people are and have for some time been two, all we'll be doing is setting the stage for future Palestinian Civil Wars...and God help us all if the "Morlocks" win.

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