Jan 14, 2009

It is the perfectly balanced moral dilemma. Add up the moral arguments on both sides and the bubble hangs exactly in the middle of the level.

When should Israel stop its assault on the government of Gaza? After Hamas has been exterminated, to use that word carefully, or after Hamas has been "educated?" Read Thomas Friedman on that alternative. How much blood from Palestinian children does it take to permanently taint Israel's soul? How many Hamas rockets does it take to express the death-wish nature of Islamic extremism? Who is more driven to self-destruction, those who have a Masada complex or those who have the complex of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab?

We know that sons beaten by their fathers beat their sons, and their sons beat more sons. But so what?

Does the Ḥusayn-McMahon correspondence matter anymore? Or the Sikes-Picot agreement or the Balfour Declaration or the Hoover commission, or UN Resolution 242 or the first Intifada?

And what about all those old rifs: 'Well but the Palestinians weren't doing anything with the land'. 'Yes, but remember who drove the milk truck into the bottom of the King David hotel and killed Count Bernadette.' 'You would never have such sympathies if you had seen the flesh of those killed by a suicide bomber?' 'If only Rabin hadn't been assassinated.' 'If only Fatah had won the last election.' 'If only George Bush had had a mind to put to the peace. If only Iran had been vanquished by Iraq in 1984. If only Israel could be a bi-national state and we could move on beyond the addicts and their habits of violence.

If only...

Eventually, the killing will die down, amnesia and apathy will set in, hatred will masticize, Ibn Khaldun's clock will strike 25 minutes after the hour. Libraries will fill up with more books.

And all the while you wonder how it is that the moderates have been so left out of the solution. Everything is in the hands of settlers and bombers. It's time to give voice to people on both sides, to the 'civil society' whose first priority is not land or pride, but merely peace. Obama's gift will be if he can draw these people to the table and isolate the fanatics.

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