... and as he's on his deathbed, he begins his final conversation with God in this life. He asks God all the questions he's ever wanted answered before he passes. The ailing rabbi and God have frank discussions. Finally, the rabbi asks God what not only he, but everyone else in the world wants to know: "God, (cough, cough) will there ever be (wheeze, wheeze) peace in the Middle East?"
God pauses - mostly for effect, becuase y'know it's God and he can do that; he digs the theatrics - and parts his lips, "Yes, my son," he begins, "but not in MY lifetime!"
That's the joke as told to a group who'd come to hear the Ambassador from the Palestinian Authority speak a few weeks ago. My dad was there and said it happened to be on the same day that hezbollah had first kidnapped the Israeli soldiers. The ambassador had just learned of it as well and chose not to comment on it as he didn't know much more than the rest of us. I don't know anything else of the speech; Dad just shared that joke with me after we'd both been lamenting the bullshit that's going on out there.
I can only think that there are certain cultures during certain times that prefer violeny chaos over peaceful stability. I'm no historian, but I think, despite man's propensity for constant war, we can look at varying times in Europe's history where certain countries or cultures seemed to only know how to kill and plunder themselves and others. I know some Native American tribes were considered more warring than others, Apaches, for instance. (Blah, blah European slant; yes, I know, but come on! Hundreds of tribes in the US pre-Euro invasion and I'm supposed to think that all of them always got along and not one of them was known as the asshole tribe?) That's really the only way I can get my head around this crap. I can only suspect that that's the deal with the modern Middle East. They only know how to blow things up and make life shitty.
Granted, I do believe that the majority of folks in Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, etc genuinely want to go about their lives and let their neighbors go about their lives without any "make mad go boom." However, their leadership, whether elected, appointed or passed down through the ages, certainly down lead them that direction. And as such, they only know how to live as oppressors, oppressed and generally unhappy.
Looking at this conflict, I'm so angry at Israel. The response to the kidnappings has been completely out of proportion. For as warmongering as Spanky is, I can never imagine him bombing the fuck out of Chihuahua and Coahuila because some border agents or National Guardsmen were kidnapped and killed by rogue members of a Mexican militia. The world community wouldn't stand for it. And the world community is not standing for it this time with Israel - except of course for Condi and Co. By the way, could someone explain to me why we can't have an immediate cease-fire AND a plan for long-lasting peace? What am I missing here? I am completely sympathetic with Israel's desire to be rid of Hezbollah once and for all, but give me a break! Shelling the snot out of a country and killing their folks 12 times over does not make friends and frankly drives those who merely hated you politically into the arms of those who want your complete destruction from the face of the Earth.
There are many things that confound me about the entire Middle East:
* Why did Lebanon allow Hezbollah to have a political voice in the country in the first place, and why did they not disarm them? Lebanon was flourishing as a burgeoning moderate (read not miserable) mid-east country. Get the crack heads out! That's like not only giving the KKK seats in your legislature, it's saying they can keep their shot guns and hemp ropes.
* Why must their be only a Palestinian state or only an Israeli state? Whatever happened to a representative government for all the land's residents? Certainly there must be local voices saying as much, but neither the PLO nor Israel has ever paid them any heed. They only want their own separate governorships.
* Why are countries in the Middle East - excepting maybe Jordan and Lebanon - so convinced that theocracies are the way to go? Firstly, has anyone ever been happy under a theocracy? Not really. Secondly, if God is so great and your religion so superior, then trust that your people will agree and pursue it in their own hearts and in their own daily lives and that that will make your country a moral place. Ruling by religion denigrates God by slapping his name on your own agenda and denigrates religion by fusing it with that agenda and not making it optional.
* Why does killing your neighbors make sense? An Israeli official I heard on the BBC this week claimed that even if Israel ceded to all the demands of its neighbors and Hezbollah regarding land and political rights, the countries and parties surrounding Israel would not be happy until Israel is destroyed. I agree with him on that. I do believe there is a deep anti-semitsm among the political and corporate leadership in the Middle East that simply wants to see all Jews forever out of the Middle East. However, how does disenfranchising those who loathe you in your own house and bombing those who loathe you in the neighbor's house make you any safer? It doesn't. You can never kill everybody, and those who survive, unfortunately - because few humans are actually in touch with divinity of reconciliation and forgiveness (God knows i'm not) - usually just grow more hateful of you and anyone like you.
* How do you move from opressed to oppressor? It almost goes without saying that the Holocaust, because of its systematic, mechanical, pseudo-scientific execution, was probably the grossest crime against humanity in the 20th century. So if you've been ghettoized and marginalized and de-humanified, why do you want to impose that on others? It's not only beyond compassion, it's beyond logic.
I've been writing for over an hour now and I just want to get my Saturday started. I understand to some extent the US general support of Israel, but not the unflinching, absolute support that the current administration has and certainly others have had. I truly do not understand the Middle East. I don't understand why these countries feel like they must be theocracies - don't they get it that there are minorities in their midst who, when strictly denied legitimate modes of expression, devolve into terrorists? And I don't understand why those countries don't crack down on their own terrorist organizations. For all the big bad Americans and nasty Israelies Hezbollah, al Quaeda, Islamic Jihad and those other militant creeps have killed, with their explosions, they've also taken down a lot of their own civilians who were just trying to get to work or take vacation. Why don't the locals see these groups as menaces and act against them?
The only reason I can think of is that there are certain cultures during certain periods of time who only know how to kill and fight and frankly only want to. Everyone probably knows a person who is really only content when there is something bad going on in his or her life, or when he or she can instigate some conflict within the family or group of friends. That's the modern Middle East: so entrenched in grudgery and chaos that it wouldn't know how to be happy with a lasting cooperative stability.