Nick Fickling: Israelis can’t really win in Gaza
Vail, CO, Colorado
Gaza is a narrow strip of land wedged between Israel and Egypt, with borders originally defined by armistice lines agreed between Egypt and Israel after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It has been occupied since then, first by Egypt and then by Israel, but is not recognized internationally as part of any sovereign country.
Israel pulled its troops out in 2005 and allowed free elections, trying to buy peace through the establishment of a self-governing Palestinian authority.
Sadly, the Israelis misjudged the political situation in Gaza. The Palestinians elected the terrorist organization Hamas to power, presumably because it seemed the best way to keep their families fed and protected. Hamas has, ever since, used its legitimate power to smuggle in arms and then use them to provoke Israel with rocket attacks and other incidents. Hamas eventually goaded Israel into a re-occupation of Gaza.
Gaza now closely resembles the guerrilla warfare playbook with the Israelis tied down in hostile terrain, expending their energy on a war that they cannot afford to fight for long and against an invisible enemy with time on its side.
Hamas cannot lose this one. For the longer the Israelis are in Gaza, the costlier it becomes to them in lives, money, armaments and international standing, significantly with Palestinian Israelis (yes, there are some Arabs still living in Israel) and those living within the West Bank.
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Israel, through its actions, is undoubtedly hardening support for Hamas in Gaza and throughout the Middle East region. You can defeat armies militarily, but it is hard to defeat political movements in that way. There are those who refer to the current conflict as a proxy war between Israel and Iran, but that should not mask the problem, which is solving the Palestinian issue.
Gaza is one of the most densely populated territories on earth. For perspective, try to imagine the chaos and misery if Avon had 10 times the population, almost nonexistent medical facilities, extreme heat and flies, severe food shortages, disease, 49 percent unemployment, a corrupt and incompetent government with an extreme terrorist agenda, shelling and bombing 24 hours a day and a complete absence of hope.
Of the 1.4 million Gaza Palestinians, 49 percent are younger than 15 years old, so there there are 700,000 young, impressionable Muslim kids there who are daily being conditioned to view Israel and the U.S. as evil and the cause of their miserable existence.
What is often forgotten is that Palestine used to include all of Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and much of Sinai. The Palestinians who lived in what is now Israel either left as refugees or were driven out in 1948 or since. Some Palestinians fled farther afield.
Today, there are between 10 million and 11 million Palestinians worldwide, of whom more than half are stateless.
Some have called this population movement ethnic cleansing, some apartheid, and there is much talk about history and blame. The sad truth is that Gaza is really just a very large refugee camp ruled by a terrorist gang and that things are not going to improve for Gaza, Palestinians or the Israelis under plans long in the works for a two-state solution.
When working in Bosnia, I was bemused that the conflict was between Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs and Muslims who all shared a similar genetic makeup and a great deal of the same history. Over the years, the religion that they adopted, or were coerced to adopt, depended on political and economic expediency. A similar thing happened in Palestine. It is curious that there are so many similarities in Judeo-Christian teaching and those of the Muslim faith. They all believe in one God and yet claim that theirs is the one true God. Is it not likely that the Judeo-Christian God and the Muslim Allah are probably the same?
Geneticist Ariella Oppenheim, in a 2000 DNA study, concluded that Arab Israelis and Palestinians are modern “descendants of a core population that has lived in Palestine since prehistoric times.” The study reaffirmed that Palestinian “Muslim Arabs descended from Christians and Jews who lived in the Southern Levant, a region that includes Israel, Sinai and part of Jordan.”
There has been much talk over the years of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. The simple truth is that the only solution is a one-state solution with Israelis accepting a true secular democracy rather than the pseudo-democratic theocracy they cling to and with the Palestinians willing to do the same.
It is ironic that the Israeli policy of a Jewish state may have made real the dream of a Jewish state but has enabled theocratic totalitarian regimes such as Iran with its ethnic cleansing of its Jewish populations just as Israel did with the Muslim Palestinians.
The Israelis and their American supporters need to realize that every time you kill a Hamas leader, another appears, and that the poor Palestinian population is growing at a far faster rate than the rich Israeli one. Hamas need only wait, and a one-state solution will be a reality.
With the inauguration of Barack Obama, there is the great opportunity to say goodbye to “you are either with us or against us” divisiveness and foster true secularism.
Let us all pray to God, Allah or whatever you want to call him or her for that.
Nick Fickling is retired from the British military and lives in the Vail Valley. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org