Wednesday, August 10, 2016

So the good guys always wear white hats, and the bad guys black hats, right?

As some of you may know I'm an avid follower of current events and fancy myself as a fairly decent (amateur) historian.  Contrary to many of my contemporaries, I don't see things as just black or white, all good or all bad.   Very few things in life fall into those nice, neat pigeon holes.  Life just isn't that simple.

Case in point: Israel.  I admire what they've had to go through just to survive as a nation, and what they've accomplished in their short history.  They certainly aren't a lilly white faultless society, but compared to any of their neighbors IMO they look pretty damn good, and they deserve our support. Many here, however, seem to think otherwise, that Israel is the big bad bully from whom we should withhold our support, while the Palestinians and other Mid East nations are always the oppressed.  That's much too black and white for me. 


Look at what Israel has done:  They've taken a barren, some would even call it worthless, piece of crap real estate and made it bloom.  Israel has become an international powerhouse in agricultural research and technology.

While fresh water has always been in critically short supply in much of the arid Mid East, Israel has developed and built new, ultra-efficient state-of-the-art desalination plants.  They will soon be water self-sufficient and are in a position to export their technology to others in similarly dry environs.

Israel is a R&D leader in medical technology.  Much of the technology we take for granted here today originated in Israel.  Considering their small size (8.522 million people:  6.4 million Jewish, 1.8 million Arab, and .322 million "other"), their achievements in the field of medicine are impressive.

Tel Aviv is a modern cosmopolitan city....

...and their rural agricultural collectives (kibbutz) are generally modern and efficient.

Compare any of this to what their neighbors offer their citizens.  "Well, yes, Israel is modern and progressive because they receive Billions of $$$ in aid every year."  True, but so do most of the other nations in the region.  In reality the other Mid East countries collectively receive much more US aid than does Israel.  So what do they do with theirs?

According to Time magazine in 2014, Yasser Arafat before his death controlled a personal fortune of $3 Billion dollars, money that was sent to the Palestinian people by the West, but was embezzled by the PLO leader. While it's difficult to pull off such a Grand Heist in a democracy, it's a fairly easy thing for dictators to skim off as much as they want, whenever they want.

Look at Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc....their educational institutions, their medical technology, their agriculture, the overall "quality of life" they deliver to their citizens.  A few of the Petro-Elites do well, but everyone else is living in essentially third world conditions.  They had many, many centuries to develop and they did virtually nothing.  Israel has blossomed in just the past 68 years since their independence.

"But the Jews stole much of their land from the Arabs."  Yes, the early Zionists bought some of their land, but later simply ran some Arab owners off theirs.  That was wrong, but how is that any different from the way virtually every other country in the world, including the United States, developed? (Hello....Native Americans?)  I'm hearing the pot calling the kettle black.  It was unjust to be sure, but so is much of life.  At some point in history we have to just accept reality.

And then we come to the military balance of power in the region.
(These are Merkova IV tanks, developed and built completely in Israel.)

To this day Israel's neighbors still hold a numerical military advantage over them in men and equipment.  

Israel has to be smarter and tougher because their neighbors (except Egypt and Jordan) have vowed to wipe them off the face of the earth.  They are in a state of perpetual war, literally, against Israel.  Israel has made no such threats against them.

In fact, while Israel is believed to possess 100 or more nuclear weapons, and have since the 1970's (?), they have never once threatened to nuke their neighbors.  They don't even admit they have nukes (the world's worst kept secret).   

Military trivia:  Israel requires women to serve 2 years in the military (3 years for men), and 51% of all Israeli military officers are women.  Seems like a fairly equal society to me.

circa 1967 Six Days War
Those Israeli tanks and aircraft are not American made.
"Israel wouldn't even exist if the US hadn't recognized and armed them back in 1948."  Not true at all.  The US recognized the state of Israel only after the United Nations had already voted for a separate Jewish state in Palestine.  And the arms Israel used to fend off Arab attacks from all sides the instant they raised their flag were not provided by the US, but were arms mainly of British and French origin that the Jews had hastily scavenged.

A historical fact:  When Israel joined with England and France to invade Egypt in 1956 after Egyptian President Nasser nationalized the Suez canal (until then a British property), President Eisenhower backed the three countries down and sided with Egypt.  It was only after the Arab Mid East countries cast their lot with the USSR at the height of the Cold War that the US saw Israel as a tool to block Soviet expansion in the region and began to arm them.  

And even then it wasn't all US give/Israel take.  Many of the weapons we have protecting us today were joint ventures between the US ($$$) and Israel (technology).

So the Israelis are all good, and the Arabs are all bad, right?  Hardly!  For the life of me I don't understand why Israel insists on building new settlements in the occupied West Bank.  Isn't there anywhere else they could build them?  And the stranglehold/embargo they have around Gaza seems IMO to be unnecessarily harsh.  

I believe the Jews deserve their own homeland, and so do the Palestinians.  But I also understand that will only happen when the Palestinians drop their demand for Israel's annihilation.  While Israeli Arabs (yes, there are Israeli Arabs) have constitutional rights, I'm sure there is still plenty of inequality that exists.  Much of the criticism of Israel is no doubt for just cause.

For the record, I'm not Jewish, only have a couple of Jewish friends, and have no vested interest in Israel in any way.  I just feel they are by-and-large doing a great service for their people and are preserving a delicate balance of power in the region, something their neighbors can't say.  Whenever I hear a politician say we ought to back away from Israel and then heap praise on Israel's poor oppressed neighbors, I can't help but think how ignorant they are of the facts.

These are my opinions.  If my facts are somewhere in error please correct me and provide documentation. I'm not too big to admit my mistakes.  

Just always remember, there is a lot of gray in a black and white world.



  1. Upon re-reading this I realized I mentioned numerous Israeli accomplishments, but none by their regional neighbors. Except for building some magnificent cities with their oil money (a simple freak of geography), I can't think of any. Obviously they must have some...please help me here, without going back to ancient Egypt or to their heyday in the Middle Ages.

  2. Good thought on a complicated issue.

  3. I admire Israel, but our blind support is the root of many of our Middle Eastern problems. Until the Palestinians get a homeland there will be nothing but war in the region.

    1. Agree with Stephen. And, so long as Netanyahu is prime minister there is little hope for compromise or peace.

    2. Agree. And Bill is correct, Netanyahu will never allow a compromise peace with any country near them, let along the Pals..

      I think this was is a lot more grey than your analysis would have it. The Holocaust and the centuries of pogroms have shaped Israel, and not entirely to their benefit.

  4. Steve, Bill, Mike...I agree with all you say, with one caveat. The Palestinians do indeed deserve their own homeland, and PM Netanyahu is indeed a stubborn hawk unlikely to compromise. But here's my caveat: how can you compromise with someone (Hamas) who says over and over their number one goal is to destroy Israel, to annihilate them? They can't reign in those militants who build and fire missiles into Israel on a regular basis because THEY are the militants. It will take a brave Hamas leader who will also agree to compromise if the two sides ever hope to live side by side peacefully.

    They almost pulled it off back in the 90's in Oslo when Bill Clinton brokered a deal between Arafat and Rabin to recognize each other and stop the violence, and they got a Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. But it soon fell apart when Arafat and the PLO realized that without continuing to flame the fire of hatred towards Israel, they would lose the popular support that kept them in power. The Palestinian people are like a dog with a bone...they won't give up their dream of ridding their region of Jews.

    At this time IMO it would be folly for ANY Israeli PM agree to unilaterally agree to loosen their embargo of Gaza and allow them to bring in unlimited arms considering Hamas' stated aim of destroying Israel. The burden would be on Hamas to agree to cease all attacks on Israel as a good faith gesture. Then the burden would be on Israel to likewise stand down. Regardless of who went first, both would have to honor their word to the letter and stomp any of their own who violated their deal, no exception. Would the Palestinian people, with their lifelong hatred of Israel go along?

    And Steve, even if the Israelis and Palestinians agreed to live together peacefully, there will still be war in the region. Israel is not responsible for what is going on in Syria, Iraq, etc. Those are tribal feuds...Kurds, Turks, Iraqis, Iranians, Shia and Sunni. There is much more wrong there than Arabs and Jews fighting.