A More Promising Palestinian Breakthrough

Egypt lets the Palestinians in.

Reuters reports:

Thousands of Palestinians flood into Egypt to stock up on life's essentials after militants destroyed parts of a border wall.  Egyptian border guards didn't intervene. Palestinian police from Gaza's ruling Hamas group also stood by - watching the surge but doing nothing to stop it. It comes after days of protests by Gaza Palestinians angered by Israel's blockade of the impoverished territory since Friday. Residents in Rafah say members of Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees were among the gunmen who blew up the wall. Hamas officials deny involvement - but say it was impossible to prevent.

This event has offered us a fascinating spectacle of impoverished people gleefully bashing through a barrier while uniformed officials stand idly by.  Apart from the clothes and the weather, it's quite reminiscent of another similar occasion in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was reunited.

The similarities are striking; but so are the contrasts.  The Berlin Wall was built by the East Germans at the behest of their Soviet masters, to keep the people in.  West Berlin, and West Germany, had no objection to people coming across; in fact, generally speaking, they encouraged it, and even helped where politics permitted.  The Communists rightly feared that if free transit were permitted, though, all their subjects would leave, and they'd have nobody left to boss around - which is pretty much what happened in 1989, and the dictatorship collapsed forthwith.

The Gaza Wall, in contrast, was not built by the Palestinian Authority to keep its subjects in; quite the contrary.  It was built by others to keep them out.  And therein lies both the cause, and the solution, to the longstanding Palestinian question.

It's not news that Arab Muslims and Israeli Jews, in general, don't get along very well.  As the poet Robert Frost so wisely pointed out, "Good fences make good neighbors"; and insofar as walls provide a clear line of demarcation, and reduce attacks from one side to another, they are a good thing.  That's been the case with the wall Israel has been constructing in the West Bank, with a corresponding decrease in terrorism.

That's not the purpose of the Gaza Wall, though.  It separates the Gaza Strip, not from Israel, but from Egypt.  Now, there's no logical reason why that should be nearly the bone of contention that it is, since both Egypt and the Gaza Strip are overwhelmingly Muslim and Arab.  There's no history of hatred there.

The wall has been cast as an Israeli requirement, in order to prevent the Palestinians from freely smuggling in heavy weapons and missiles with which to assault Israel; and so indeed it is.  But this is a comparatively recent phenomenon.

The reason for the wall - in fact, the real reason for the presence of a border there at all - has been to keep the Palestinians out of the rest of the Arab world, and trapped in their tiny hole - not by the desire of the Israelis, but as a tool of Arabian leaders.

As long as the Palestinians live in misery in their isolated, collapsing corner, the Arab world can use them as a stick to beat Israel with.  Apartheid!  Racists!  Nazis!

We hear the demands every day for Israel to freely provide them fuel, electricity, markets, money, jobs, all the stuff of life and economics.  This is even while improvised missiles rain down daily on Israeli towns, and Hamas suicide bombers regularly rip apart buses, nightclubs, and restaurants in Israeli cities.  What sort of rational reason would there be, for any nation to give valuable goods to another group which is actively at war with them?  It's insanity, but that is what is demanded, and the support for the demand is the sympathetic pictures of suffering Palestinian children.

Yet the solution is ready at hand, and always has been.  The Arab world is not a small place.  It covers a territory the size of a large chunk of the United States.

Israel, however, is about the size of New Hampshire, a state which is ridiculed for its effect on American presidential politics despite its small size.  And both the West Bank and particularly Gaza are far smaller even than that - the size of typical American counties.  Yet the Arab world has kept the Palestinians trapped in there all these years?

Consider for a moment, if we had a county in New Hampshire which did not get along with the other residents of that state.  Would it make sense to keep them stuck in there, cheek by jowl with their enemies?

Of course not!  We'd say, look folks, there's the entire rest of the United States to move to, find someplace else more appealing - and in fact, that's exactly what happened with the Mormons, and how they came to be in Utah and not the Midwest.

At one time, the relations between the Mormons and their neighbors were quite similar to those between the Muslim Palestinians and the Jewish Israelis, with massacres in both directions. But add a little space between them, and a little time, and now we all get along fairly well, throwing verbal insults at the very worst.

If you accept (as does the UN and the US) that Israel has a right to exist in the first place, it is in no way the fault of Israel that the Palestinians have been bottled up in Gaza for a half-century.  What are they supposed to do, allow Hamas to overrun the entire country, instead of just the border areas within range or the unlucky targets of infiltrating suicide bombers?

The plight of the Palestinians is the fault, pure and simple, of the enormously larger Arab world that has not let them come out and settle elsewhere peaceably - because politically, the Arab rulers preferred to have the festering boil of Palestine as a distraction from their other problems.

Today, it would appear that the Egyptians at least have changed their mind on this point.  Not only are they freely allowing the Palestinians entry, the government has announced it won't make them go back.

This the best possible news, and most unexpected!  The ideal situation for peace in the Middle East would be if all the Palestinians left, and settled down somewhere else.  They would nurse a grievance; but their children would get caught up in their new lives, and their grandchildren would neither know nor care.  And voila!  The problem, if not entirely solved, at least is no longer an active war.

It's pretty ironic that George W Bush, lambasted as the destroyer of peace in the Middle East, may preside over the most welcome development there since the Second World War, and not because of anything done by him, or Israel, or the Palestinian "leaders," or any diplomats or politicians at all.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments
Looks like the New York Sun thinks this is a good idea too.

January 24, 2008 1:33 PM
The entire Isreal vs. Palestine argument comes down to one single issue, and you touched on it briefly. Do you believe that Israeli history demonstrates the land is theirs or not? It is simply yes or no. Depending on how you answer that, the rest unfolds.

(And GWB will never be given credit for anything that happens good in the middle east. Certainly not by the MSM)
January 24, 2008 1:38 PM
It would appear that the Egyptian government agrees with scragged. The IHT reported

'The current situation is only an exception and for temporary reasons," the Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman said. "The border will go back to normal."

A top Egyptian official said Thursday that Egypt's border with Gaza will go back to normal, and strongly rejected the idea - floated by Israel - that the Jewish state might relinquish all responsibility for the troubled Gaza Strip.

OF COURSE Egypt won't accept the Palestinians. They're nothing but trouble. They nearly toppled the king of Jordan, for example. Why would anybody want a bunch of them?

Unfortunately, drizel's argument is an oversimplification - regardless of who owns the land, what do you do with the other bunch? If Israel owns it, nobody wants the Palestinians and vice versa.
January 24, 2008 2:34 PM
A simplication is necessary with this issue. Years of allowances, complexities and compromises have only muddled the situation and given false hope to Palestinian children. If you believe it is Isreali land, than the Palestinians should be told to leave. If they do not, they should be bombed flat. It is that simple. Your government would never put up with from the Native American Indians that now occupy your west. If tomorrow, your Native Americans united and claimed that it was their land first and then proceeded to bomb cities and houses and bus stops throughout the US, your would absolutely destroy them. And they would be correct in doing so. Once you simplify the matter, you understand the solution. 1) Declare the law - which the US and Europe did 40 years ago and 2) Enforce the law no matter the cost.
January 24, 2008 2:47 PM
What Mr. Drizel said is undoubtedly true, but for that to work, the various governments involved would have to be willing to AT LEAST use the tried-and-true nation-building process which Scragged documented some time back:
If nobody will do that, the best we can hope for is more of the same.
The situation in Iraq is a bit different in that the population is discovering that AQI is far worse than Mr. Hussien ever could have been.
January 24, 2008 2:58 PM
I do not believe it would become the massacre that Western and European media suggest it would be. Israel is also partially to blame for holding themselves back and allowing others to dictate their policy. If they simply started going house to house through Gaza and the West Bank, deporting Palistinians with NO other offered options or choices and NO looking back or hesitation, it wouldn't take long before most neighborhoods packed up and left on their own. As far the the rest of the Arab world is concerned, Israel could simply ask for ideas on where the people were to be transplanted with a firm date for mass deporation. No money, nor buy outs, no house building; simply the offer to help in the move with the understanding that all resistance would be plowed over with an iron hand. If that plan was STUCK to and followed completely from start to finish, the entire conflict would die out within a decade. The transplated area would have to be a good thousand miles away, perhaps on another continent. They should not accept even local residency within 100 miles of the closest Israeli border. Mark Steyn writes about these issues from time to time. He has often lamented that the Israeli situation is beyond the tipping point. There is no way back now because this was never done. I disagree with him. I believe it could still be done. Isreal simply has to be loud, clear and consistent from end to end.
January 24, 2008 3:28 PM
It seems like a great many of the Palestinian ordinary folks have decided that rule by Hamas - which was, let us not forget, elected in a more-or-less free and fair election - is worse than any other alternative they can achieve. They're voting with their feet. Egypt isn't the greatest place in the world, and not so very welcoming of Palestinians, but apparently it's preferable to the alternative. This speaks volumes about the joys of Islamic rule, to say nothing of the corruption of the PA. No wonder the Israelis have nobody they can plausibly negotiate with even if they wanted to.

Drizel is right though. If two peoples cannot live together - and nowhere is this more thoroughly proven than Palestine - one or the other of them has to leave. The only question is, which one shall it be? At the moment, it would seem rather easier to move the Palestinians than the Israelis, but if the Iranians get their nukes the calculus may change.
January 24, 2008 3:31 PM

"The ideal situation for peace in the Middle East would be if all the Palestinians left, and settled down somewhere else. They would nurse a grievance; but their children would get caught up in their new lives, and their grandchildren would neither know nor care. And voila! The problem, if not entirely solved, at least is no longer an active war."

I am Acadian and I can assure you that they would remember what had happened to them well beyond two generations. Still, you are probably right that successful ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians would end almost all of the violence in the area (as would a successful ethnic cleansing of the Jews, for that matter).

If you read about le Grand Derangement suffered by the Acadians at the hands of the British you may learn that it would be most efficient to scatter the Palestinians to several far-off destinations as well as to split of and separate families in order to exterminate them culturally as well as remove them from the area. This would help to achieve maximum success in eliminating them as even a potential threat to peace in the brave new Israel you envision.

Or you could just start eating their babies.
May 29, 2009 4:47 PM
"Drizel is right though. If two peoples cannot live together - and nowhere is this more thoroughly proven than Palestine - one or the other of them has to leave. The only question is, which one shall it be? At the moment, it would seem rather easier to move the Palestinians than the Israelis, but if the Iranians get their nukes the calculus may change."

Indeed it may. And here you exhibit the truly reptilian nature of anyone who would seriously consider such a scheme.
May 29, 2009 4:52 PM
Various media suggest that the Iranians are a lot closer to having nuclear weapons than estimated. If they Iranians mean what they say about Israel being intolerable, we may find that the conflict ends sooner than we expect.
May 29, 2009 6:58 PM
The Iranian government will not nuke Israel unless it's members have a death wish. For all his sabre rattling, Ahmy is not a *complete* loon.
May 30, 2009 6:43 AM
I'm not really sure that is true. My understanding is that Ahmadinejad is the Muslim equivalent of an extreme fundamentalist millenarian - that is, he believes that by triggering Armageddon, he'll force the "Hidden Imam" to present himself and bring about the End of Days forthwith.

So from his point of view, there is every reason to destroy Israel, regardless of the potential consequences to his own nation. Also, I'm not sure that the Iranian government is "patriotic" towards their own nation in the sense we understand it, as opposed to making common cause with their co-religionists no matter what country they live in. If that's the case, they might view nuking Israel, and then Iran being nuked, BUT there still being plenty of Muslims everywhere else, as a profitable exchange.
May 30, 2009 11:45 AM
As I understand it, there are millennialists in the US who believe that the 3rd temple has to be built on Temple Mount in Jerusalem because Christ can't come back until the 3rd temple is built. If you google "third temple" you get more than 21 million hits.

I don't follow the topic all that closely, but as I understand it, the temple folk are divided into 2 camps. One group says that the Blue Mosque, which sits on temple mount and is the 3rd or 4th holiest place to Islam, must be blown away to make room for the temple. That would enrage Muslims.

The other group says no, there is room, but the 3rd temple will have to be within 14 feet of the Blue Mosque.

That olive branch notwithstanding, Muslim folk have said that ANY steps toward building the 3rd Jewish temple on THEIR mount will lead to war. Jews and Muslims don't get along very well.

News reports suggest that the Israeli authorities watch out for Zionists who plot to blow up the Blue Mosque to settle the issue once and for all. The plotters feel that clearing away the Muslim rubble to make way for the 3rd temple is God's will which trumps the possibility of war.

One of the reasons it's so hard to arrive at peace in the Middle Least is that both sides are absolutely certain that their side is absolutely correct. You can't split the difference - there either will or will not be a Jewish temple on Temple Mount.

Iran could very well regard committing suicide to wipe out the Jewish state so that other Muslims could visit Temple Mount unhindered as a good deal.
May 30, 2009 11:56 AM

Petrarch -- you may be right about Amadinejad, but I doubt it. This is a man with a lot to lose, and the religion of such people is almost always a tool rather than something they truly serve (stirring speeches aside).

Nate Smythe -- the more I read about this part of the world, the more I think it might be quite poetically just if God solved the problem Himself with a nice meteor the size of Connecticut. Then again, how long would it really take before people started warring over the smoking crater?

May 30, 2009 1:02 PM
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