No Fulbright For You, Gazan…

June 3, 2008 at 12:12 pm (Politics) (, , , )

Yes, it’s just another great day for peace in the Middle East.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/30/world/middleeast/30gaza.html?ex=1212897600&en=cfbf8bf8dae505b1&ei=5070

I come from a background where the house religion was that of Education.  The fervent belief that the more educated you are, the more the world will smile upon you, has been drummed into me from an early age.  Equally, I was taught that in education, meritocracy is king.  If you work hard and are deserving, there is nothing that can stand in the way of your success.

The temple of this religion lies, naturally, in the hallowed halls of American universities.  That is where we look to for hope and guidance; the direction of our Mecca is west and covered with Ivy.

Therefore, to me, Fulbright scholarships being taken away from those that rightfully earned them is akin to Catholic priests molesting cherubic altar boys.  We may tactfully look away when Father O’Leary downs his third sherry in five minutes, (religion, by definition, is imperfect) but here is an outright betrayal of all we hold dear, and cannot be ignored.

I have always admired how spunky and powerful a 2.2%  (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/usjewpop.html) of the US’s population can be if it so chooses.  Drive is an admirable quality.  Cowardliness is not.  America is guilty of the latter.

President Bush is the latest in a line of American presidents who dream of going down in history as the One who resolved the Middle East peace crisis.  In January, he stated that it would be his mission to have a peace deal signed by January of 2009. He also “issued a stern warning to both♣ sides not to do anything which breaks promises they have already made, or which might make negotiations more difficult. (italics are mine.)

♣ [To ignore the fact that there are three, and not two sides to the matter dooms it before it can even begin.  While it is certainly easier to negotiate only with Fatah involved (at least they recognize Israel’s right to existence), Hamas remains in charge of Gaza, having been democratically elected, and that is just the stark reality of things.  But, that is another article…]

Clearly, this Fulbright fiasco falls squarely into the making-negotiations-more-difficult category.  And it is such an ideal opportunity to do real, as well as photo-op good.  But America was so powerless (let us ignore for the moment the existence of Kosovo) that it could not even manage to bring this act of goodwill to fruition.  Or prevail upon Israel to do so.  Iran and North Korea must be shivering in their boots.

This is not the way to show integrity, dedication, or objectivity; all, qualities a mediator must have.  Most of all, the two or three or four sides must trust the mediator.  Else, he should just pack up and retire to Crawford.

And as for Israel itself?  For, one may ask, why must America insist on being Israel’s and Palestine’s keeper?  Why can they not work it out themselves?  Why can they just not throw out the preconceived notions of 1948 and 1967 and take a good look at reality in 2008? Take a deep breath, and just go on from there?

That is even more depressing than America’s bumblings and double standards.

Sixty years ago, a diverse people held together by their ancient religion and suffering argued for their right to nationhood in their ancestral homeland.  This was freely given, though not by the people who actually lived there.   And now? In the same blood-soaked piece of desert, there is a people who share the same religion, suffering, and barbed-wire apartheid.  How shocking that that the righteous sufferers of old are the ones holding the whip, and overusing it with glee.

Israel is acting perfectly rationally, like any small and selfish child in its position would do.  Like a latter-day Khruschev, it bangs its shoe on the negotiating table, and yells, “I was oppressed for years and years! I was slaughtered! I was discriminated against!”  The subtext here being, “And now, it’s your turn, neighbor. Watch your back, for I am in charge of Lady Justice’s good smiting hand.”  So it goes. Perfect symmetry.  After a few thousand years, the circle has reached its starting point.

The sad thing is,  I am sure that there are many non-extremist Israelis that honestly believe that if they give an inch, raging hoards of suicide bombers will descend on Tel Aviv.  The thought of killing and oppressing others doesn’t sit so well with their left-of-center western intellectual beliefs, but they raise their hands in the air and fatalistically say, “What can we do? If we don’t protect ourselves in this way we are doomed!  They must learn that there will be retribution, and will give up – or suffer the consequences.”

If this was any other country speaking, I might have some empathy.  But not for Israel. How can they willfully forget what the Jews have withstood?  For two thousand years, often under the worst of circumstances, they kept their religion and traditions alive.  The more desperate the times, the more obstinate the resistance.  No, sir, I will not convert.  Burn my temple, go ahead.  I will remain inside clutching my Torah.  I will die for it.  Remember the Warsaw ghetto? It resisted the Nazis longer than the whole of Poland.  Proudly, do the Jews recount these and other tales.

But slowly, insidiously, and – I guess, – inevitably they have turned from oppressed to oppressor.  Yet, how can they expect the Palestinians to just roll over and comply?  Why would they give up their dream of Palestine when the Jews did not?  Why should they not desire equal opportunities and freedom? And will Israelis dare complain when these seven kids, who have played by the rules in order to achieve their pursuit of happiness, pick up a grenade and blow themselves up in a disco?  Does Israel give anybody any choice in Gaza other than extremism?

Collective punishment only brings victims even closer together; anybody who has ever attended school knows this.  And when teacher is deemed as unfair and prejudiced; well, she’ll never have a moment’s peace.  Inspiration is needed.  A view of a flickering light at the end of the tunnel would do more damage to extremists than a nuclear bomb.  But America and Israel seem to not even have the skills of a kindergarten teacher.

By not letting these kids leave, who are not guilty of anything other than being Palestinian and living in Gaza, Israel (and America)  are committing a disastrous diplomatic faux-pas.  Israel “proves” that it does not want to solve anything, that it is a bully, and that it leads America by the nose.  And America?  It proves beyond a doubt that it is the biggest hypocrite in the world.

Like Eliot Spitzer, so go the rest of the country’s ruling elite; there is nothing more disgusting than pretending to be so much more ideologically and morally above the rest, shoving that democracy spoon down everyone’s throat until they are sick, and then being caught with your pants down in a cheap brothel with no condom.

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