Middle East Muddle Isn’t Middling

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After 60 years, I would venture that the situation in Israel and the Middle East is nigh insoluble. As our own campus microcosm suggests, this issue is a tinderbox, to put it lightly. The stalemate is enervating and the tension is palpable.
I’m loath to tread this ground, but given the week of fruitless, decidedly ostentatious bickering between our campus Jews and Muslims, I felt inclined. I’m not particularly vested in either side of the conflict, but with three bumblers running for president, I worry for the state of Israel and the Middle East as a whole.
My paleoconservative inklings tend to steer me toward isolationism, a la Ron Paul. Of course, this is unrealistic. Unfortunately, the United States will be the arbiter in the conflict of Israel versus the Middle East for the foreseeable future, willing or unwilling.
There are myriad reasons why. Among them:
1) Israel has the mandate. Whether in the hands of Romans, Turks or Israelis, “Palestinian” land has always been under nebulous political control. The Turks lost it, so it went to the Israelis. Unless we would like to try to resolve the politics of antiquity, that is Israel’s land now. The nation is there to stay, and it has a right to its sovereignty. Both the Palestinians and the Jews, like African-Americans in our politics, have become political footballs in a worldwide game of tackle, with even higher stakes than our own contentious racial politics.
2) Inept leadership on the Israeli side seems to have exacerbated tensions with Palestinians, in regard to settlement disputes as well as the 2006 conflict with Lebanon. Israel’s mistakes have fostered an already endemic anti-Semitism in the region, which has extended this stalemate to the present proportion. The virulent passion of the Muslim side, I suspect, is attributable to the legacy of colonialism, dating as far back as the crusades.
3) Given the present conditions, neither diplomacy with any leader nor invasion of any country will resolve the issue. The legacy of both tactics is escalation. A delicate balancing act, really, is the only foreseeable “answer.”
Regardless of origins, a culture that leads one to the auto-da-fé of the suicide bomb is one as misguided as the Inquisitors’ and Crusaders’. As it did for the West vis-à-vis slavery, a change of heart of this magnitude will inevitably have to come from within Muslim and Arabic culture. In the meantime, unfortunately, fending off rockets, bombs and bullets with the same seems to be Israel’s and, by extension, our lot.
Likewise, we have seen instances of unnecessary zealous aggression from the other side, albeit restrained given what lurks on the horizon: that is, the open secret that terrorist-run democracies and a nuclear Iran vis-à-vis a rightly staunch Israel poses the most imminent threat of global conflict. It is in Israel’s best interest not to keep screaming about “tangible action” against Iran. It is in ours not to walk into another Iraq-like stalemate.
It would be foolish to deny that oil factors into defending Israel. We are hopelessly tied to the lifeblood of the world that sits under the feet of terrorists like Hamas. I say “the world” deliberately: Any country that is developed or wishes to develop, be it African, Asian, South American, Middle Eastern or otherwise, needs this resource, all idealism tabled. As such, it is in the best interest of all that this product remain in the free market, not controlled by Hamas, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or any other garden-variety dictator.
George W. Bush, Neo-Conservatives, Democrats, liberals, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Jews—not one has proposed a viable solution. Unnervingly, I suspect there probably isn’t one. While I respect Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama and Ron Paul’s desire to mend fences as opposed to ill-informed, mishandled invasions, like our present one, their desire for diplomacy is equally naïve and dangerous.
Unless a global conflict sucks us into this fight, it is really our role to watch carefully. Any pawn misplaced on our call is bound to checkmate our needed allies, not just Israel. The much-loathed Israeli wall is the quintessential symbol of this sad, sordid state of affairs. It is not apartheid, as alleged, but it is not purely defensive, either. It is, rather, the hulking symbol of indefinitely irreconcilable, regrettable differences—the manifestation of religious wars and colonialism centuries bygone. As long as rockets are being lobbed into shopping malls, the wall is wholly necessary. So long as that is the case, I have little hope.

Patrick Ross is a fourth-year English major. He can be reached at pross@uci.edu.

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