Thursday, January 8, 2009

geography and fear

I keep thinking about this Israel/Palestine conflict in terms of geography. I think there's something here that goes beyond religion or nationalism and gets stopped up on something far more rudimentary--earth and water and the distances between places...

Max writes:
On the first day of the war, there were a few violent protests, not only in the territory but also East Jerusalem and the Old City. But I'm told that they fizzled quickly, and after eating lunch at my favorite place in the Muslim Quarter a few days back, I'm confident in that assessment.

That news is striking in and of itself, but it becomes downright portentous when you recall that, not a week ago, top Hamas officials were calling on West Bank Palestinians to initiate a third intifada. The proclamation alone was enough to send a collective chill through Jerusalem. (I began standing a few extra feet away from fellow bus and taxi travelers, to protect against stabbing. A friend confessed to me that she had gotten herself so worked up that she actually got off a city bus four or five stops early.)
Now not to dodge the point of his post, but I'd like to spend a minute remarking on the nature of geography and fear. Max notes that as a resident of Jerusalem, he's basically surrounded on three sides by the West Bank. Essentially, he lives in an Israeli peninsula that juts out into hostile territory, all of which brings me to the question of West Bank settlements and their unique geographical conundrum. See the map below:

What strikes me about this map is that Max notes the fear of Jerusalem residents who are surrounded on three sides by Palestinians. Settlers in the West Bank are literally dry-land islanders. They are totally cut-off from Israel proper.

How must they feel when calls are made for a West Bank intifada? I can't imagine, but judging by Max's description of Jerusalem reactions, I think the feeling must be fear. So I have trouble understanding the point behind settling the West Bank at all. I can try to relate it to my own ancestors' sense of manifest destiny but I think it comes up short. For one, the American West represented limitless possibilities, new freedoms, cheap land. I don't think that the West Bank represents all of that. I assume much of the motivation is religious--a sense of historical rights or obligations.

Still, it doesn't strike me as practical, or even really sustainable. It seems to me that the settlements really do make a two-state solution impossible. I simply can't reconcile the existence of two-states and settlements.

The alternatives to a two-state solution are both one state solutions. Either one mixed state, or one Jewish state and a whole lot more Arab expulsions to....where?

So maybe someone who understands this better than me can explain the point of having all these islands in the West Bank, and how they can ever do anything but prevent a real, lasting peace. Is it a matter of limited space for Israelis? Can't that be solved in other ways? Through innovative urban development? Israel is renowned for its technological and scientific savvy. I believe that the Israelis can come up with a brilliant solution to almost any problem out there if they want to badly enough. Their brilliance, though, comes up short when it comes to settlements. So far the policy has been stubborn and short-sighted.


Max said...

not to spam you, but an initially short response got a bit lengthy to merely be a comment. it's here:

in short, you're quite right to be confused, but you may rest assured that the contradiction has been recognized and argued over for many years now, with very little change to be spoken of because the conversation somehow never takes place in the United States. (At least, not where I'm from in the United States.)

E.D. Kain said...

Not at all, Max. A link back to your response is very welcome actually!

Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!