Monday, June 07, 2004

It's Monday. I could barely crawl out of bed this morning. Of course, I didn't get anything done this weekend I wanted to get done, but we did get a lot done. If that makes sense. We ran into Kalkaska Saturday morning and got some more bits to finish off the power shed and get ready for a youth gathering we had scheduled for Sunday evening. We spent the rest of the day moving rocks. Little rocks, big rocks, huge rocks. We should have enough to finish the retaining wall now and maybe make a start on some of our landscaping. After we had had enough of that sort of fun, we cleaned up and headed into Traverse City. The youth group always buys Bibles for the high school graduates, so we took care of that. That's one item off a list of thousands that we have to have done by Sunday. Fun, fun. I don't know if we are going to make it or not. Time is getting tight and things are not happening fast enough.

Sunday was crammed full as usual. Bible study, morning service, run home to grab what we needed for the afternoon and evening, over to my sister's house for lunch/dinner, back to the church at 3pm for FPU, choir practice, evening service, then herd the teens over to one of the church family's place for hot dogs on the grill and mosquito-swatting. We landed at home around 10:30 and made it to bed after midnight. I hope I can survive the summer.

Today will be a day of organizing pictures and music for the video we are trying to put together for the graduate service on Sunday, lots of reading (a couple hundred pages out of the most boring book on earth), and getting things ready for my PLT on Thursday. For the second class in a row, we have someone missing the final week, so we will need to have all our work done a week early and tape that person's part of the final presentation. I also seem to recall a personal paper, but I think that is just a one-page work-scenario thing. I just have to not forget to do it. So just this Thursday and next Thursday and the Class from Hell is over and I get a two-week break. Which I'm going to use to knock off my fine arts class that I need to take care of. It will be interesting to try to cram a one-semester class into two weeks, but I think I can pull it off. Maybe. Or not. Confidence, of course, is the key.


Well, unless you have been in a cave, you know Ronald Reagan died on Saturday. My news sites are full of nothing else: funeral plans, endless biographies, and all the rest. Reagan did a lot of things that people disagreed with, but the one thing he did right was to listen to Jerry Pournelle. Because he did, the high school kids in my youth group don't know what the Soviet Union was (which may say more about the miserable state of public school education than anything else). When I was in high school, the Soviets dominated the national consciousness. We were taught to be resigned to a world where communism was the norm and America would be struggling to survive or would be taken over. It's hard for people under thirty to understand just how much of a threat the Soviets appeared to us. In hindsight, the collapse of the USSR seems inevitable, but it was anything but that in the 1970's. We can expect to be inundated by more facts about Reagan than any of us ever wanted to know. I expect the Reagan movie marathons are already underway.

In any case, hoist a jelly bean to Mr. Reagan the next time you think about the fact that ten former Soviet satellite nations just joined the EU and Russia is a toothless, arthretic bear. Personally, I'll suffer any of his mistakes for that.

Speaking of Jerry Pournelle, Jerry has a good bit on the Israel/Arab civil war that pretty much aligns with what I think of things. There are a lot of sad stories on both sides, blood on both sides, guilt on both sides, and politicians on both sides who have made a career of the conflict and have strong motivation to see that it never ends.

One reader (Mr. Maas) has accused Jerry of favoring the Palestinians over the Israelis. Jerry replies:

First: earlier Mr. Maas and others have said that I generally have more to say about Israeli atrocities than Palestinian. I agree; but surely there is no lack of information about the actions of the Palestinians and Arabs? And surely everyone here is aware of them, and anyone who thinks I have anything worth saying cannot possibly believe that I am either unaware or indifferent?

If you want to break your heart, read Richard Ben Cramer HOW ISRAEL LOST with its stories of losses on both sides. The Russian single mother physician who claimed to be Jewish in order to get her daughter out of Siberia (she vaguely remembered a Jewish grandmother), brought her to Israel, raised her to her teens, and lost her to a suicide bomber; the Palestinian mother whose teen-age kid was blown up in the act of assembling a bomb to put into a model airplane; and on, and on. No one not bereft of his senses can fail to be aware of the horrors; and having been there in 1998 when there was peace and we could travel through the West Bank as well as Israel, it is doubly horrible because I have seen what that land can be like when the worst one sees are insults and insensitiveness; but this was when everyone thought there would be peace.

(Worst one personally sees: but there were the minefields in the Jordan Valley, and the busses of Settlers with 15 year old boys carrying loaded machineguns with spare magazines taped on as they toured Christian churches on Mount Carmel. And the armed checkpoints that seemed designed to humiliate those who had to go through them: but balanced by the continuing foot traffic about 200 yards away through the olive groves of the Inter-religious Institute of Tantour.)

Yes: I have probably said more about Israeli actions than Palestinian, but that is largely because the former generally go unreported while the latter seldom do. When I write of such matters I have a point; I don't write about atrocities because I like thinking about them.

Now regarding the Peace Offer. Richard Ben Cramer had a very great deal to say about that in his excellent book. Let me summarize.

Arafat did make a counter offer, it was his original offer, which was never even considered.

Cramer believes the Palestinians are ham handed, and Arafat doesn't want peace any more than Sharon; if there is to be peace it will have to be negotiated by someone with more claims to legitimacy than that thug. I haven't Cramer's extensive experience in that area, but I have long believed that. The PLO has no chance of retaining ownership of Palestine in fee simple if normal conditions return to that land. It has rivals, and so far politics and thuggery are indistinguishable, but it's not certain that the PLO would win even in a battle to the death among thugs, were it not for the threat [of] Israeli intervention.

As Richard Ben Cramer says in HOW ISRAEL LOST, if the Israelis went back to roughly the Green Line keeping much of Jerusalem and putting the Old City in some special status with possibly dual or international sovereignty, removed the minefields from the Jordan Valley, and stopped trying to exercise control -- check points, control of all import and export, petroleum and food monopolies over everything going into Palestine -- and pulled out the Settlements, there would be peace in an instant. The Palestinians would not be happy about losing the rights of refugees to return, but it would be pretty hard to get people to blow themselves up slaughtering innocents over the rights of their grandparents to properties in pre-1967 Israel, particularly if compensation were offered.

I think everyone knows this. It is certainly arguable.

The Israelis have never offered sovereignty -- a return to pre-1967 conditions with territorial adjustments -- and it doesn't look as if they ever will.

Years ago I said, here and elsewhere, that if Israel wanted peace all they had to do was to build a Wall more or less along the Green Line adjusting for really critical military topography but not for economic, keep Jerusalem but offer to negotiate on its form of government, pay for whatever they left inside their side of Wall, remove the Settlers (paying them to leave, and leaving their improvements as a prize and partial compensation; why blow them up?) and just declare themselves RID of Gaza and the West Bank. Let it be sovereign, let Jordan have the West Bank, invite the Martians to come in: but get out and stay out and let the Palestinians sort out who will be in charge.

Instead, they have built a Wall that includes deep incursions into Judea and Samaria and separates villages from cities, they insist on control over everything imported or exported from Gaza and all of the West Bank, and they keep check points deep inside Palestine; and keep the Jordan Valley a desolation on the West side. Driving along the road from Jericho to Galilee is an experience: on the Jordan side all is green. On the West bank of the Jordan they have built a desolation, mined it heavily, and call it a defense policy.

The new Wall isn't a peace offer, and it won't be secure; it's a perversion of the notion.

As I said earlier, there are plenty of arguments about the morality and who's in the right and the rest of it; and perhaps the chaos that is there is justified because not going back to the Green Line (more or less) is worth fighting and dying and continuing the occupation and making the Jordan desolate; but surely that ought to be debated?

One more point: the fortification of the Jordan Valley, and the retention of high ground Settlements in Judea and Samaria, are often justified by the needs of military security. I think this demonstrable nonsense.

The Golan Heights are a different matter, and were I an Israeli military officer I would immolate myself before acquiescing in my government's surrender of the Heights. Take the high ground, boy, or they will kick hell out of you in the valley. But that's entirely different from the Jordan valley. Palestine isn't part of Jordan any longer, and Jordan isn't likely to build a mass tank army and send it across the river. Nor is Egypt likely to attack again. The military security of Israel in these days of electronic surveillance, satellites, and even embassies in Jordan and Egypt, doesn't depend on watchtowers on Mount Gerizim and minefields north of Jericho.

Israel is far stronger, relative to her neighbors, now than in the dire days of the Yom Kippur War, when they really did come close to losing, or thought they had; and military intelligence is much better. And for that matter, the US maintains forces in Sinai to oversee the demilitarization of that area. Probably the only world power that could defeat Israel now is the United States. The likelihood of any combination of Arab and Muslim states and their allies being able to do it is negligible. Israel's peace is not threatened by armored armies and air forces.

What would I do were I a Palestinian? I'd get out. But of course some Palestinian, Christian, Muslim, and Druze, have very deep roots. Some families have lived in Bethlehem since their ancestors were converted to Christianity by the Apostles. They are not leaving, and they have sad stories. But one thing I would not do is encourage my children to blow themselves up killing other children. I'd also keep them far away from any armed Palestinian. And cry a lot, just as the Russian physician cries for her lost daughter.

And a last point: I would think it obvious that Israel can be: democratic; big; Jewish -- pick any two. To remain Jewish and democratic, Israel must have a majority of Jews. Ben Gurion said that in 1949 to the Knesset when the Green Line was proposed. He said that the Haganah could conquer all of the Land of Israel, from the Sea to the River; but it would then have a minority of Jews, and after the next election the government would be Arab. Those numbers have not changed much.

An I must get back to work.

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