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Epp More Hopeful Than Blanchard on Gaza

Posted by tdepp on January 4, 2009


I’m not sure most of us in KELOLAND know or care much about the Gaza Strip.  It’s not like Doug Lund ever did a story on a nice Palestinian woman who milked goats and won the Gaza County Fair with her home made feta cheese.

But a speck of an area in a small country on the east end of the Mediterranean Sea gets an inordinate amount of our nation’s attention. And that small country–Israel–gets an inordinate amount of our treasury and the ears of our Presidents and Congressmen and women.

So, we should pay attention to what goes on in Gaza, as my KELOLAND colleague Dr. Ken Blanchard does today.

Ken’s central thesis appears to be that the problem with Hamas is that it’s not really in charge of Palestine, let alone even Gaza. Plus, they have nothing they can “give” Israel in return for peace.

I mostly agree with that. As Ken points out, Egypt could trade peace for land with Israel. Even Syria could do the same thing if they were so inclined–and if the Israelis were so inclined.

But Hamas? They are also busy trying to kill their much more moderate opposition party, Fatah, and Fatah is busy trying to screw over Hamas. Imagine if Democrats and Republicans were busy killing and jailing each other and what that would do to how well government worked in the United States or South Dakota.

Blanchard’s other thesis is that the situation is hopeless and that President-elect Barack Obama will also fail in solving the mess as have most other U.S. Presidents.

On this point, however, I disagree.

It’s not that I think Obama has magical pixie dust to spread over the area and suddenly make everyone in the Middle East. I don’t. But I think there is opportunity because of Obama’s stature in the Arab and Muslim worlds and his willingness to try new things. That is, of course, unless the Israeli Lobby here in the U.S. doesn’t either bribe, threaten, or cajole him into continuing to take Israel’s side–without hesitancy–on every issue.

The last President who didn’t do that was President George H.W. Bush–the elder Bush was far more even handed in his policy toward Palestinians and Israelis than any other President except perhaps Jimmy Carter. And great progress was made in the peace process under President G.H.W. Bush.

But I also place some of this hope on the Gazans themselves. I’ve actually spent some time in Gaza. In the summer of 1988, I spent about a week and a half in Gaza at the tail end of the first Palestinian Intifada. It was clear to me that the PLO and the Fatah faction was, without  question, the popular leader of the Palestinian people. I met many highly educated (and Western educated) Gazans who loved the U.S. but hated U.S. policy.
They looked to the U.S. for inspiration.

Obviously, that was a generation ago and the radical youth who I met int he slums of Gaza City and the wretched refugee camps are now often Hamas supporters. But there was a desire by typical Gazans and Palestinians to just live and let live with Israel–if they could only have the chance.

So, unlike the good NSU doctor, I have more hope in 2009 and beyond for Gaza. And I’ll have more thoughts in the coming days on my experiences in Gaza.

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