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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Holy land? Holy shit!

So here it is, the first of many Israel/Palestine blogs by yours truly.

It was only a matter of time. You see, the neverending struggle for the Promised Land is a topic of particular interest to me, for three strong reasons:

1. It’s a conflict of extreme geopolitical importance, one that directly and indirectly affects nearly all significant nations and their respective foreign policies.

2. It’s a fascinating subject on both deeper and more superficial levels, one that regularly involves assassinations and explosions, espionage, backroom diplomacy, Machiavellian tactics and a daily look at the darker side of man.

3. It’s a personal matter—I was born in Israel, my extended family still lives there and the ongoing evolution of the situation is one that I’ve followed my entire life.

This third point requires particular attention, because it automatically labels me as biased in my coverage. So before moving forward, I must make one thing perfectly clear: you will see no “preferential treatment” here of one side over the other, because judgment has no place in this blog. “Good guys” and “bad guys” are completely irrelevant here.

If you want to read about who’s wrong and who’s right in the Middle East, there are countless sources for you to turn to. But this particular blog was founded on a desire to analyze the world as a game, a contest with players and bystanders, winners and losers, short-term tactics and long-term strategies. I want to take all global issues big, intense and controversial—and I want to make it fun.

That being said, consider this the launch of a continuing forum on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, with particular focus on making sense of the history, geography, demography and politics. Write in with any thoughts or questions you may have, or just dive into any sub-topic you want.

A few suggestions:

• The mindset of your average Israeli, your average left-wing Israeli and your average right-wing Israeli. How many political parties does Israel have, and why do only a few of them count for anything?

• The four unnegotiable demands of mainstream Palestinians, and why Israel will never give in to all four. What exactly is the “Right to Return?” What do everyday Israelis think of all those settlements?

• The recent ascent of Hamas, and what it means for everyone in the region and the world. (And you thought Iraq was controversial!)

• The big differences between Gaza and the West Bank, and why approaching them with similar tactics may have devastatingly different results.

• The spheres of influence—which nations are directly or indirectly involved? What “side” are other nations on? This is an important aspect to watch closely, as the Middle East always has the potential to spark larger fires just as the Balkans have done for Europe.

• Predictions of what will happen in the next month, six months, year, five years and 20 years (spoiler alert: it’s not looking good).

As with any game, our world has its fair share of sure bets and dark horses. But here’s the wild-card topic that can completely alter the course of the War on Terror, the Iran Question and the shifting balance of global power week by week. And you can expect a great deal of attention on one of the world’s front lines.

Did I mention explosions?

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Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.