Friday, August 1, 2014

Israel and Gaza—Custer’s Last Stand



A quiet half-hour over toast and jam (two slices) this afternoon set me to thinking in an uncluttered, free-spooling manner. My wife is in Brighton, England for three weeks, to do some heavy-lifting on a novel that’s been too long neglected and I’d just returned from a visit to my Bulgarian mechanic, who I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone within driving distance of Prague. In other words, my mind was free to wander for a bit, but it’s under tight rein, this mind of mine and settled upon the ghastly news from Gaza and the current frenzy of world opinion.

It’s not good, this mini-holocaust that’s transpiring and it’s neither necessary, humane within our understanding of humanity or headed into a useful and logical end-game. Custer’s Last Stand against the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho American Indian tribes at Little Bighorn came to mind. That occurred 138 years ago. Too long to remain in the quarterly-interest-rate mindset of today, but so prescient in the Palestinian-Israeli circumstances of today that it’s interesting to a mind set on idle.

We Americans then, as the Israelis today, were faced with what we considered savage tribes who interfered with both our peaceful intentions and ability to expand westward into a then untamed America. Those peaceful intentions of ours were delivered at the end of a musket and bayonet and General George Custer was our boy—the current ‘hero’ of a long list of his kind. Never mind that Indian tribes were our indigenous people and the land was theirs before us, that history was murky in our minds and the rules of conquest were a hot breath on our collective necks.

Custer got his scalp handed to him in a stunning defeat, which made headlines in New York but didn’t much help the tribes in the long run, as the power of our new nation was inexorable and what was theirs became ours. I can’t help but wonder if Gaza today is not Israel’s Little Bighorn. The massacre will end, the dust settle, the horrendous Palestinian losses buried and history will take its unrelenting, bloody course of the powerful over the powerless.

Little Bighorn and the extermination of large parts of the American Indian culture need not have happened if calmer minds had prevailed. But the powerful and particularly the powerful who see themselves at risk, have little time for toast and jam and the quieter speculations of an uncluttered, free-spooling mind. There are flags to fly, reputations to defend and patriotic duties to perform. Statesmanship is too long and circuitous a route for the quick.

Gaza need not have happened, but only in the long run and the times when peace and prosperity might have bloomed for both Palestine and Israel are long gone. America broke every treaty it ever signed with its Indian tribes and Israel has trashed every move toward peace with Palestine—and there have been many of them as the world crossed its fingers for a Palestinian nation that might have been and could have been. And so it has come to this, Hamas and rockets facing fear and overwhelming air-power.

Custer’s Last Stand