In a hopeless attempt to deflect the inevitable barrage of emails to both myself and my editor, let me state, for the record, I am neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel. I am also neither anti-Palestinian nor anti-Muslim. Jury's out on Hamas but I'm willing to keep an open mind.
I am, however, personally anti-religion, whether we're talking mainstream — Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, et. al. — or any variation, well, non-mainstream: Cosmic Muffin, New Age, whatever.
But that's my personal choice. You're entitled to make your own choice and if belief in organized or disorganized religion is what floats your boat, good on ya. I only ask you keep it to yourself and not start any wars with people who prefer to believe something else.
What we like to call, for convenience, the Middle East was a quagmire long before the state of Israel was declared on May 14-15, 1948. The various Arab countries and Palestine were fully capable of warring among themselves over tribal affiliation, religion and any number of other reasons long before the U.N. and the victorious, albeit guilt-wracked, allies conspired to create Israel. But those petty differences were, more or less, put aside the day after the creation of Israel and disparate Arab armies relished having an unwanted Other on whom to focus their barbaric attentions.
The conflict that began the day after the creation of Israel continues... and continues... and continues, ad nauseum. The history of Israel has spooled out like a non-stop war film with brief intermissions of faux peace.
The latest incarnation only flared up a few weeks ago. It just seems longer. At some unknown time in the future, it will subside. Shortly after that some new, inevitable slight — real or imagined — will bring it back to life, er, death, like one of those underground coal fires that have been burning for generations. Except it'll dominate the 24-hour news cycle, unlike those smouldering coal fires no one except the immediate neighbours pay any attention to.
I refuse to take sides. I find no merit in either and much to dislike. More fundamentally, I refuse to take sides in any conflict for which there is no end and if ever there was an endless conflict, this is it. The state of Israel will never live in peace with neighbours who refuse to accept its existence and openly embrace its annihilation. The Palestinian and Arab neighbours of Israel, not to mention the non-government militias, warlords and crackpots in the area, will only be happy when Israel ceases to exist.
Talk about moving into the wrong 'hood.
Having said that, Israel has sunk to a new low in this round of fighting. Civilized people do not bomb schools, hospitals, U.N. safehavens or children playing on the beach. Israel's rationale for these atrocities, that Hamas fighters use such structures and civilians as shields and launching pads for their unguided missiles, is irrelevant. We all know there is no new low toward which Hamas can sink; their ethics toward Israel have been subterranean since they came into existence. It is unfortunate Israel has chosen to join them in the basement of humanity, though uncomfortably reminiscent of the U.S. reaction to 9/11 and that country's embrace of torture, rendition and complete abandonment of the moral mid ground.
But I recognize it as an act of desperation and desperate people do desperate and despicable things. It's a variation of the same desperation that has led Hamas and the Palestinians to do desperate and despicable things. It is a desperate and despicable part of the world.
It will always be thus until someone leaves. The hatred is too deeply rooted in antiquity and too irretrievably entwined in religious differences for any lasting peace to have a hope in hell, which is not a bad description of the area.
So, who to move? It makes no sense to move, again, the Palestinians. If they moved there would still be plenty of other hotheads in the area who have vowed to obliterate Israel. Besides, who in the world would be willing to take Hamas and the Palestinians? None of their neighbours are offering up an alternative homeland. The only true path to peace is to move Israel.
Calm down. I know the stories — Jacob, Moses, the Twelve Tribes, yada yada. I know the Children of Israel trace their deed to the holy land to their bible, gift of God, yada yada. But here's the choice: live in a perpetual state of war with your neighbours who don't recognize your right to exist, boast a defence budget that's the highest percentage of GDP or any industrialized country in the world, never feel secure in your home in return for clinging to a biblical rationale directly at odds with the same religious reasoning(sic) of the people who hate you and believe their God gave them the same land... or find a more peaceful place in the world where your new neighbours would, if not welcome you with open arms, at least let you live in peace.
The Jewish people are an astoundingly resourceful, intelligent, creative people. They have managed to thrive in the most inhospitable social climates — which is to say virtually everywhere in the world — in the face of the most brutal repression imaginable. There isn't a field of endeavour, with the possible exception of peace, they haven't mastered. They enjoy, far beyond what their raw numbers would suggest, a disproportionate number of Nobel laureates, groundbreaking patents and inventions, artistic achievements, business acumen and wealth.
Imagine what they could accomplish if they lived in peace and didn't spend an outsize percentage of their treasure on defence. The mind boggles.
But where? Where could Israel relocate and live in peace? Where would be good enough to persuade all but the most religious fundamentalists — because fundamentalists, pretty much by definition, do not know the meaning of compromise — to pick up and relocate? A land to call home and build a secure Jewish state? A land offering many of the benefits of their current home with none of the bloodshed and strife?
Clearly it would have to be in the Western world, in a country that passes for both civilized and reasonably developed. One with a democratic tradition and a history of welcoming foreigners, at least the right kind of foreigners, to their shores. One who could see that the benefits of having such an industrious neighbour far outweigh the cost of giving up a portion of their sovereign territory.
Hey, I think I know just the spot.
No, really, Florida. How would such a crazy idea work? I'll tell you next week.