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ISRAEL SETS THE TONE FOR 2009

In Israel, the leadership there was pondering a 48 hour truce in their latest war with the Palestinians. It seems the Hamas thugs across the border were firing small rockets randomly into Israel for the past few weeks, causing a few deaths and some damage, but mostly terrorizing the populace with the randomness of the whole ordeal, never knowing who will be in the path of one of these rockets. So, Israel being Israel, they decided to amend the Biblical quotation of “an eye for an eye” to the more modern version: “the whole head and upper torso for an eye” and proceeded to drop thousands and thousands of tons of bombs on the Palestinians in Gaza.

Of course the whole world was shocked by war between the Israelis and Palestinians. Exactly why we were shocked remains a mystery when those two identical-looking peoples have been at war for as long as anyone can remember. International pressure was brought to bear on Israel to at least call a truce, and then assess how best to proceed in order to resolve their differences. It is a momentous time, the beginning of a new year that many in the world hope will be the beginning of a new era of peace and harmony.

Israel actually considered calling off the war for a while, maybe twenty minutes to half an hour, but then figured, what the hell, who are we kidding? And so they continued the heavy bombing raids and thus ensured that 2009 will be ushered in with at least one more high-profile war to set the tone for this New Year, 2009. Naturally they said all the proper things about being open to diplomacy in the near future and having hopes for a permanent peaceful solution to their “neighbor problem,” but they had everything set up for more saturation bombing and it seemed such a waste not to just let fly with some more metal death from the sky. 

Plus, they’ve got their tanks and ground troops all lined up ready to invade, and a lot of time and effort went into that military buildup. Seems a shame to send everyone home disappointed, so expect some riveting house to house street fighting video on your cable news channels to augment the usual New Year’s drivel about Times Square and various pompous ceremonies where we promise ourselves that this year, by God, this year will be different! In a sense, Israel and Palestine have done the world a great service by holding a mirror to our faces. THIS is who we are and THIS is what we do.

These two small tribes in tiny insignificant countries are no different from the rest of humanity. Perhaps circumstances and political fortunes have placed them a lot closer together than other warring belligerents, but that cheek-by-jowl closeness has not had the same results as the same situation in New York City, for example, where stiff gun laws prevent the outbreak of hostilities before people have a chance to get to realize that the other guy is really okay. Too many arms manufacturers have made this New Jersey-sized piece of real estate an armed camp where seemingly every little kid and his mother can pull out an AK-47 from under their robes to brandish for the TV cameras. Their fathers and big brothers carry rocket-propelled grenade launchers like they were lunch pails or something.

In an atmosphere like that, it would be more surprising if war did not occur on a regular basis. And then there’s the entertainment industry to consider, more commonly called the news media, who for the past half century have relied heavily upon Israel and Palestine to provide dramatic war stories for the enjoyment of the whole world. That’s a lot of pressure on these people to produce, and produce in a big and dramatic way. And so over the years the plot has thickened with the introduction of smaller and deadlier weapons, the recruiting of women (!) to be suicide bombers and the ever-increasing deadliness of Israel’s counter attacks. This latest war has brilliantly lived up to all our expectations as the buildings fall and the body counts rise.

The question is: How can they top this? What will it take to truly satisfy their bloodlust, and that of their audience, the rest of us? Is Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s statement that this is “a war to the end” any indication that this will be the biggest show (war) to come out of the Middle East since the Six Day War of 1967? Now, that was a show, rivaled only by the 1973 Egypt-Israeli war featuring the biggest tank battle since World War 2. Olmert’s statement is most likely an exaggeration made for public consumption. Why “fight to the end” when there’s plenty more good TV ratings to be had in the future, many other New Years’ hopes to be dashed? In Israel and Palestine, war is practically the only interesting thing about the place, unless you’re a huge fan of olive groves, ancient religions and people who can’t stand one another. 

Contributions flow most heavily into the Israeli and Palestinian treasuries during times of conflict. Larger nations eager to test their latest weaponry in the relatively safe arenas of small proxy wars arm both sides to the teeth with very expensive killing gadgets. No sense killing the golden goose with one huge war when that goose keeps on laying one war egg after another, thus bringing hard currency and media attention to a location most people would be hard-pressed to recall without all that exciting warfare. Israel actually trades on this whole repetitious scenario to promote a lucrative tourism business!

This war will probably last a few more days, just enough to sully the blank slate of a new year with blood and burnt flesh and let us all know that the business of being human has a dark and ghastly side. Once again the Middle East has shown us just how much work we’ve all got to do. America is still mired in the most senseless war in our own history and the globe is dotted with wars and genocide campaigns. And 36,000 people still die every single day from starvation, far outdistancing the body counts of all our wars, and the vast majority of them are small children. So let’s get on with this New Year and see if we can do something, anything, about all of this crap, or New Year’s 2010 will be another stale re-run. Here’s wishing us all a Busy New Year so that our future New Years can be happy ones.

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