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In which John talks about Israel and Palestine, and the Israel's recent invasion of the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks from Hamas. Obviously no four-minute video can do the topic justice; we'll continue the conversation in comments, hopefully with some thoughtfulness and empathy.


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A Bunny
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Good morning Hank, it's Sunday, it's news day, and since the Israeli army invaded the Gaza Strip last night, I suppose I have to talk about it even though it makes me miserable.

To counter that misery, I'm going to show you footage of Bubbles the Nerdfighting puppy being cute while I talk. The reason I hate talking about Israel and Palestine is that people get so emotional that the quality of discourse is awful. Mostly it's just people screaming "The Palestinians are animals!" or "The Israelis are animals!" Both of which are true, of course; The Romans pointed it out long ago, Hank. "Homo homini lupus": Man is a wolf to man.

So okay, when people talk about this they often say that the anger goes back thousands of years. That's true, of course, but the roots of every war go back thousands of years, and just because an argument's old doesn't mean it's intractable. For instance, Hank, our argument over whether the Chuck E.

Cheese band's version of "You Say It's Your Birthday" is or is not great, you pro, me con, dates back more than twenty years, and yet, despite the relative ancientness of this argument, I don't want to kill you over it. So let's not start two thousand years ago, let's start in 1947 when Britain still had about a fifth of the world colonized. The UN decides that Britain's colonization of Palestine should end and that two independent states should be created: Israel, a sovereign homeland for the Jewish people, and independent Palestine.

The disputed holy city of Jerusalem, which would be surrounded by Palestine, would be run by the UN. Excellent idea, and in fact everyone, and I mean everyone, who is not entirely crazy still agrees that this is the only solution, with independent Israel, independent Palestine, and a shared Jerusalem. And yet it hasn't happened.

Sixty years and several wars later, Israel has dramatically expanded its borders as a defense against further attack, and Palestinian land, which is still not an independent country, has been split into two disconnected areas: The West Bank, and a twenty-five mile area along the Mediterranean Sea called the Gaza Strip. Both Palestine and Israel have unfairly attacked and dehumanized the other, and it's useless, albeit tempting, to make historical judgments about whose awfulness has been worse. So then in 2006, the Palestinians have their first really free elections and the Fatah party, which has been the most powerful political party in Pakistan [Palestine] for decades, loses.

The winner? The internationally recognized terrorist organization Hamas. A brief primer on Hamas.

They're the Palestinian arm of the Muslim brotherhood, this radical group that sucks worse than the Chuck E. Cheese band, and has inspired such A#1 organizations such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The Muslim brotherhood is illegal in Egypt, which is one of the reasons the Egyptian government hates Hamas.

Hamas is responsible for tons of rocket attacks and suicide bombings in Israel that target civilians, but they're also responsible for almost all of the infrastructure built in the last fifteen years in the Gaza Strip. They build hospitals and schools and orphanages. Israeli analysts think about ninety percent of Hamas' budget goes into social welfare programs; the other ten percent into weapons.

And it's important to remember that the Palestinian voters, like American voters, don't vote solely on foreign policy. After all, most American voters prioritize the economy over the Iraq war, so too with the Palestinians. But anyway, since the election, the Hamas lobs rockets and Israel responds with better weaponry, tit for tat, has worsened consistently, culminating in the invasion last night.

Ultimately, Israel wants to get Hamas out of power, which I think is a great idea, but unfortunately most analysts feel that this war will strengthen Hamas rather than weaken it. And now, Hank, here is the John Green path to peace in Israel and Palestine in one minute. Israel needs to stop allowing the expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian territory, and begin to dismantle even the old ones.

Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade need to stop attacks on Israelis immediately. Israel needs to free its political prisoners, Fatah needs to quit ruining its legitimacy with corruption. If they do that, Hamas will be out of power within a year.

At that point, Fatah and Israel can sit down together and draw a map similar to the 1949 map, with real and lasting sovereignty for the Palestinian people, even if it means Israel opening itself up to some kind of lack of security, that's a situation no one's going to be happy with, but everyone can live with. And then, you will acknowledge that you were wrong to like the Chuck E. Cheese band when you were five.

Salaam, and shalom, and best wishes.