Gaza has been Arab since the dawn of civilization. The city of Gaza was the home of the Philistines at the time of Moses. It was an Egyptian city with an Egyptian religion and social customs. According to the Torah the Arabs wouldn’t let the Jews pass through on their way to their Promised Land. They made them go around and come into Palestine by crossing the Jordan River from the east.
The massive immigration of European Jews to Palestine after World War II fundamentally changed Palestine and the Middle East. The Ashkenazi Jews brought with them new notions of a nation state and a new notion of private property. Like Native Americans, the Palestinians did not fully understand the radical transformation of their land until it was too late.
When the U.N. approved a partition of Palestine to include the Jewish state of Israel in 1947, they gave Israel about half the land. The Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world were understandably upset. They felt the U.N. gave Israel the Palestinian land because the Europeans felt guilty about their complicity in the Holocaust. Israelis drove Palestinians from their homes, and to this day Palestinians insist on their Right to Return.
In 1967 the Arab neighbors prepared to invade Israel. Israel struck first, wiped out their armies, took Jerusalem and the Sinai Desert and about 90% of the total area of Israel/Palestine.
The Camp David Accords in 1978 gave back the Sinai Desert to Egypt, and Egypt not only agreed to recognize Israel but also agreed to a peace treaty. Jimmy Carter made them an offer they couldn’t refuse: He agreed to give each of them $3 to $4 billion a year in military hardware if they would pretend to be friends. Eventually Arafat wanted a piece of that action for the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), so in exchange for relative peace he got an equal amount of cash to pay off his government and friends.
Hamas was not happy with this compromise. It challenged the PLO and won the election in Gaza. When Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, won the first democratic election in Egypt and began close association with Hamas, the Egyptian military felt their paychecks threatened and overthrew the Morsi government in a military coup.
At that point Hamas felt trapped and cornered. Abbas and the PLO had cut off its money while Sisi and the Egyptian military cut off its access to trade. Hamas felt it had nothing to lose by waging a full-scale war against Israel. Further, when it looked like Hamas and the PLO might reconcile and form a unity government, Israel felt threatened and was eager to clean out some of the rocket launchers in Gaza and, hopefully, drive a wedge between Hamas and the PLO.
So, where are we today? The Palestinians have lost over 1000 people in the recent hostilities, and the Israelis have lost less than 100. And there appears to be no end in sight. Netanyahu says Israel should prepare for a long siege of Gaza and has ordered all the Palestinians into Gaza City.
Why should we care? Why should we be involved? Of course, it is not possible to see all that suffering without wanting to do something about it. But how effective has U.S. intervention been in the Middle East?
Afghanistan: We paid a billion dollars to the Pakistan military to create the Taliban to overthrow a Russian-backed regime that had a sound economy, a good educational system and equal rights for women. But the CIA was able to cut itself into the multi-billion dollar opium trade.
Iraq: We invaded and overthrew a socialist government that had a sound economy, a good educational system and equal rights for women and replaced it with ethnic fighting that has no end, a collapsed economy and repression of women. But some people made a lot of money selling off the oil concessions.
Syria: We supported the “good” rebels that somehow turned into the “bad” rebels, and they want to send their part of the country back into the 9th century.
Lybia: We helped overthrow a multi-ethnic culture that had a good economy, a good educational system and equal rights for women, and we replaced it with chaos and Islamic fundamentalists.
I believe the best thing the U.S. could do is stay out of it. What we have bought with our billions of dollars is more war and more chaos. The thousands of American lives that have been lost fighting in wars that have no meaning and have no end have been a betrayal of patriotism. It’s time to say, “No.” No more involvement in the Middle East—on any side. If there is a humanitarian crisis, then the U.N. should be involved, and we should let the rest of the world assume some of the responsibilities.
Southside Pride, Women Against Military Madness, the Anti-War Committee and others are sponsoring a Teach-In on Gaza on Saturday, Aug. 23, at 1 o’clock, at Walker Church on 31st Street and 16th Avenue. We are hoping to get either Norman Finkelstein, Israel/Palestine scholar, or Alice Walker, author of “The Color Purple,” to give the keynote address. There will be a panel discussion by peace organizations; a time for questions from the audience; and a final Call to Action by Jennifer Lowenstein, an Israel/Palestine scholar who has lived and traveled extensively in the Middle East.
There is no admission. Please come with an open heart and an open mind.