Milton Bass: Frozen in time in Middle East
Every once in a while the world must stop whatever it is doing and adjudicate the perpetual struggle between the nation of Israel and a portion of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. Where do you stand on this matter? Israel, of course, considers itself a legitimate nation with all rights and privileges that go with such standing. The Gaza people want Israel swept back into the sea behind it and all its people dead. You can see that such conditions are intolerable for both sides and there is the possibility that the problem will never be solved. Ever. Ever. Ever.
There have been so many confrontations over the years that the general public may not be bored with the death and destruction, but it has become what you might generally describe as apathetic. The news pictures from the present conflict don’t look phony, but they could be from five or 10 or 15 years ago with very few people able to notice any difference.
The Israelis, of course, have put together a fairly modern military force with air power, artillery and a few new-fangled developments such as the Iron Dome that blocks rocket and artillery shells. The Palestinians have no air power, which proves that bombers are not a major element in a war entailing uninhabitable battlefields. When boots are on the ground, men with single-bore rifles can control territory even though their opponents far outclass them in equipment.
The biggest factor in the area pictures have to do with faces and screaming.
The Israelis look stolid and determined. Their casualties are usually low so the pictures have to do with a grieving family burying a son or somebody being bandaged in a hospital. The Palestinians, on the other hand, usually have hundreds of casualties from bombings and artillery fire and whole areas of people turn out to be in the parade to the cemetery.
Israel is the one democratic society in the area so they are one nation indivisible no matter what the problem or possible solution. The Arabs are a scattered mass with 1.8 million people, many jammed into refugee camps with less than minimum facilities. They are supposedly guarded and protected by a group called Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) but the infighting of that group dilutes its capabilities.
The most tragic aspect of this situation is that the oil-rich Arab nations have made no moves to help the inhabitants of Gaza. They periodically throw chunks of money into Gaza relief but there are no concerted efforts to make necessary improvements. There should be factories operating by now, small business developments, young men working rather than sitting around plotting futile attacks on Israel. Instead, most of the money goes for rockets and artillery shells.
They use their funds and skills to build elaborate tunnels that enable them to sneak over the border and kill off a few Israelis. This has given the Israelis an excuse to bomb the fertilizer out of the whole border area and the beat goes on. There are so many things Hamas could buy in place of the missile rockets.
The present confrontation will eventually fizzle off and semi-peace will semi-flourish for a few years. Then today’s pictures will fade in with those of past years and you’ll only be able to tell the difference by the fashions of the burqas.
Milton Bass is a regular Eagle