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The International Writers Magazine: Tunnel Vision

Clueless In Gaza
• Dean Borok

You got to hand it to the Arabs of Gaza: they can burrow more tunnels than the gopher in “Caddyshack”. Maybe we should get them over here to work on the Second Avenue subway tunnel, which is taking so long to build that people who were born when it was started will be eligible for senior citizen passes by the time it goes into service.


Tunnel building comes so naturally to the Levant that it is second nature to them now, after centuries and millennia of sieges and subterranean attacks on otherwise impregnable fortresses. They were also prepared as defensive measures, the way we build bomb shelters today. There exist in Turkey a site named Derinkuyu, the excavation of a network of tunnels built before recorded history, which comprised an 18-story underground city, replete with habitations, thoroughfares, commercial spaces and even schools. It even had its own drinking wells, so that the water supply could not be contaminated by assaulting forces. This marvel of ancient engineering stands out at least as favorably as the construction of the Pyramids.

Gaza Over the years, the international community has contributed vast quantities of construction materials and funding for projects to improve the lives of Gazans, but instead of building infrastructure and housing, the Gazans used the resources to construct a network of tunnels into Israel with the sole and unique purpose of killing and kidnaping Israeli Jews who live in collective farms close to the border. You can’t blame this on Hamas. Interviews with ordinary Gazans show that the project was 100% supported and approved by ordinary citizens.

The Gazans are trying to resist the irresistible historical impulse of the Jews, who are returning to the region despite thousands of years of efforts to eradicate them. It’s like straight pins being drawn to a magnet, the screaming desire of the blood to return to its ancestral home.

Nevertheless, start-up countries are messy and deadly affairs. Look at India/Pakistan. After thousands of years of living together in relative harmony, they are now at each other’s throats with a deadly vengeance: two all-out wars with millions killed in hideous massacres, and countless families thrown off their ancestral properties. Both countries are now nuclear armed and threatening mutual annihilation.

The Middle East has long been a merciless burial ground for the ambitions of would be invaders. The Jewish armies of ancient Israel ground successive Roman legions to hamburger so many times that when General Vespasian and his son, Tito, finally prevailed in 70AD, he massacred and enslaved every Jew he could find, with the survivors fleeing to every corner of the world. This victory was so hard won that a triumphal arch was constructed in the Roman Forum, still standing, featuring a frieze that depicts the sacking of Jerusalem.

Previous or successive waves of invaders fared no better: Egyptians, Crusaders, Napoleon’s expeditionary force all ground to dust. Only the Ottomans succeeded in occupying the region for a few centuries before collapsing under the weight of their own anachronism.

My feeling is that modern Israel will survive and take root because of the Jews ancient historical devotion to the region, as well as the ferocity of their people, whose attachment to the land is at least as strong as the Arabs. Let’s say for the sake of argument that Israel has survived the beachhead stage of its national survival. On a day-to-day basis it is doing business and thriving. But this ad hoc approach to putting out fires is not enough to ensure survival in the long run. A more strategic approach to building stable alliances in the region is called for. That is why I believe that the ascension to power of General el-Sisi in Egypt in Egypt could be a big breakthrough for Israeli diplomacy. Egyptians enjoy stability under military strongmen like Nassar, Sadat and Mubarak. They like it. Democracy is too much of a pain in the butt in a country that is comprised of tribes and clans, and where the interests of the clans are paramount.

El-Sisi seems to be favorably disposed towards Israel, if for no other reason than they share a common goal of eradicating Islamist fundamentalism like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. In addition, Israeli Jews and Egyptian Arabs share enough similarities of culture and temperament that they could find common ground in a number of areas. The idea of a strategic alliance with Egypt, which is the most powerful and influential of the Arab countries, should be tantalizing to Israeli policymakers. Most immediately, both countries have a compelling interest in controlling Gaza, but also, in the longer run, Egypt could be instrumental in brokering and guaranteeing an arrangement for the West Bank Arabs that would make them feel that they were not being sold out.

The US and Europe have been crucial in helping Israel get established but, looking a century or two down the road, the public opinion of Western democracies can fluctuate. Actually, the explosion of anti-Semitism that is currently sweeping Europe serves to demonstrate the validity of this opinion. Who would care to depend on the kindness of these strangers? No, the solution has to be found closer to home.
© Dean Borok September 1st 2014

St. Louis Blues
Dean Borok

Ferguson is a fascinating control group for anybody interested in speculating how far American attitudes have progressed during the last 150 years.

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