Thursday, November 15, 2007

"This is this. This ain't something else, it's this"

There is a nice little Iraqi restaurant just past the Edgware road station which I frequent with a friend of mine. As is often the case, we usually end up discussing issues to do with the Middle East and yesterday was no different. My friend had begun the conversation innocently enough about making a documentary sometime, something we've discussed for a while, and we eventually drifted into what was happening in Gaza. "What do you think the solution for this violence is?", he asked me. I shrugged, knowing full well where the conversation was going to head, "Till one of them wins, I suppose", nibbling away at my tasty lamb quzi. I could tell he wanted me to say more, so I felt obliged to elaborate.

I didn't really want to get into that, I guess it's because I knew we would get into the age old debate about how religion should stay out of politics in the region and so on and so forth, "The struggle between Hamas and Fatah is one which mirrors what is happening throughout the region.", I explained, "Some are finding it easier and more pragmatic to compromise with the United States and Israel, other countries aren't. I guess one way of putting it is that the person to call the shots in the region is being decided out on the street now. One of them will emerge and there is no room for compromise."

"Sure", he replied, "but don't they realise that they are being manipulated? Why are they fighting other peoples wars?".

"They aren't fighting other peoples wars, during the Cold War the backing countries were different but the fighting still took place. If a new country will provide the arms and finance to continue the struggle then so be it. At the root of the problem is that the land is occupied and people are still fighting for it, regardless of the cost."

He still wasn't satisfied though, and probed further. "Why did Hamas execute one of Muhammad Dahlan's men when they took over Gaza? Why couldn't they have let him go?"

"Because he was one of Muhammad Dahlan's men..."

Silence..."so they had to execute him?"

"...I guess so. Dahlan is not a very nice person, not that any of them are, but Dahlan is, what shall we say, questionable."


the conversation moved on from there back to the documentary and the state of the economy in the UK. Later on the bus back home, I recalled how matter of factly I was referring to what has become a very grisly affair. I guess that's why I always used to clash with "tink-thank" types and optimistic NGO aspiring students who thought there was a "solution" to the Middle East conflict. As Robert De Niro once said in a film, "This is this, this ain't something else, it's this".

It might be easier for our understanding to view things like this. The conflict in the Middle East has no "nice" people apart from the odd charismatic leader every now and then. These are all hard and cruel people capable of doing very mean things in order to "win" and by their very nature are required for times like this. Some of these cruel people are "ours", some of them are "theirs" and some are for no one and are the most dangerous of all. I said earlier this view might be easier for our understanding of why, not however, for our conscience. Then again, this is not the time for people like us.

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