Ivo Skoric on Tue, 30 Apr 2002 02:54:02 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] ten days ago, but not outdated

I remember watching TV news when I was a little kid. There were
always some news about some war in the Middle East. Either
Palestinians set the bomb off in some Israeli city, or Israeli forces
razed some Palestinian village with tanks and helicopter gunships.
The entire Vietnam war later, and as the wars in Campuchea, East
Timor, Nicaragua, Somalia, Congo, Iraq, Iran, Bosnia, Kosovo and
even Afghanistan went by, the news from Israeli-Palestinian conflict
are still unchanged. That's why most of the outside observers
believe that Israelis and Palestinians richly deserved each other.

>From my dispassionate outsider perspective the solution was
obvious for many years: there is about equal number of Israelis and
Palestinians, yet Israelis are far better organized, supplied and
armed, so they keep the Palestinian population in reservations, on
the worst 20% of all land, limiting their earnings, employment,
education and development potentials. Israelis, being near
pathologically obsessed with security, also seemingly did not leave
any other way for Palestinians to address this unfair situation but
through terrorism. Therefore, the conclusion that they deserved
each other is confirmed. But this is no solution.

Sharon and Arafat are both old hands that know nothing but war
and suffering and spite. They are warlords, not modern democratic
politicians. They are old and stubborn. The art of compromise
eludes them completely. Sharon has a history of being a terrorist
himself. He is presently tried for crimes against humanity in
Belgium, for his actions in the 1980s in Palestinian refugee camps.
What is he different from Serbia's Ratko Mladic? And he has no
remorse for any of it - judged by the interviews he gave to the Israeli
press saying that he did not care whether he was called Judeo-
Nazi. His vision of peace in Middle East does not include any
Palestinians in the state of Israel, I believe.

Arafat, on the other hand, is a head of formerly terrorist
organization. And while both him and PLO came a long way, the
terrorism within Palestinian population is not rooted out - because
it appears that terrorism is the only 'military action' that
Palestinians can perform successfully against their Israeli
tormentors. But the fact that Arafat could/would not stop/prevent
suicide bombers, despite that suicide bombings work directly
against Arafat's interests in obtaining global support for the
Palestinian state (can you imagine what would happen with
Bosnia, if there were Bosnian Muslims blowing themselves up in
Serbian churches on Eastern Mass, and Izetbegovic could/would
not rein them in?), means that Arafat is not really in control of the
armed factions within Palestinian population, i.e. he is not really
accepted as the undisputed leader for the Palestinian cause any
more. Consequently, he is becoming useless in the peace
negotiations, because he cannot guarantee anything.

Both sides need younger leaders. Both sides need civilian instead
of military leaders. Both sides need to learn the immense
advantages of living in peace. Other than that, Israel needs to
abandon a lot of land and just leave it to Palestinians with no
strings attached; and Palestinians need to focus on construction of
their own state, rather than destruction of Israel. From lessons
learned in the Balkans, one may conclude that presence of the
international peace keeping forces is an absolute imperative and
should not be delayed any more. In a broader picture, as Israel
needs to come to terms about sharing the land with Palestinians,
other Arab states need to come to terms about sharing the Middle
East region with Israel. This is all well known. And it was a basis of
the Oslo negotiations. And everything seemed to have gone well,
until Rabin got conveniently shot by an extremist (terrorist?) Israeli
and the right wing in Israel took over. Palestinians were once again
pushed to the brink, and once again they responded with terrorism.
The vicious circle was re-opened.

In longer range the demographics present today in the Arab world
will play a large role: half of the population in the Arab world is
younger than 18. So, there is more violence and more suicide
bombings to come. But there is also a couple of revolutions to look
for. Many Arab countries are fossilized in the pre-Jacobin period.
Due to the sudden oil riches the ruling feudal families managed to
cement their rule by paying off their enemies and the masses.
They could give their folks to eat cake instead of bread, unlike
Marie Antoinette could. But the youthful population spells trouble
for boring, strict and regimented feudal, theocratic Arab societies.
We may see many of them fall apart in the next decade (Saudi
Arabia, Iran, Iraq, etc.) creating instability in one of - for the US, at
least - most precious regions of the world: Persian Gulf.

The US goes to a major war to protect its oil supplies at least once
a decade. And that's in the Middle East region. The US bends over
its policies backwards in order to continue to extend support to
Israel, despite objections of its closest European allies over Israeli
pushy and recalcitrant settlement drive and associated grave
human rights abuses of the Palestinian population, in order to
secure a 'wedge' in the vital oil supplying region, where other
governments are often hostile to the US.

US citizens are the largest consumers of energy on the planet. An
average US citizen needs 2.5 times more energy than the average
Western European citizen to survive and get around; 7 times more
than Chinese, 10 times more than African. Saudi Arabian royal
family is kept in power solely to feed the American industry with a
reliable supply of oil. Watching the perilous Arab world
demographics, the US is looking now for domestic resources, even
if that means destroying its own natural treasure: US government is
now ready to start drilling for more oil in the Arctic National Refuge
in Alaska (if Senate permits so ever).

Yet, there are over 800,000 federally owned vehicles in the US,
60,000 of them driven by the Department of Energy, costing
taxpayers a total of $2.26B. And it rarely occurs to Americans to
save resources rather than increase supplies - such thinking
seems to contravene the fundamentals of capitalist ideology.

The same fundamentals are the reason why my angry argument
against the speed limits is probably a losing proposition. The
speed limits were originally introduced because of the oil crisis.
And it is true that driving faster decreases your miles per gallon
ratio. I just noticed it myself, now that I am trying to drive slower.
For media purposes, at some point, the end to the oil crisis was
declared. The speed limits were kept on the books, though.
Puritan, safety obsessed upper classes of the US didn't have any
troubles finding a more morally acceptable grounds for establishing
speed limits. Which absolutely everyone breaks daily. But no
politician dares to oppose. Because the harsh reality is that if
Americans are allowed to drive faster, not only the number of
accidents would increase, not only the air pollution would increase,
but the oil consumption would increase even further, driving the
gasoline prices higher, hitting the citizens where they hurt the
most: their pockets. To do that would be a political suicide for any

Americans drive as if they are always stoned. I can drive that slow
and lazy, as the US rules of the road require, only when I am
thoroughly baked. I can drive 40 mph on FDR highway in NY city
then, too. I sometimes feel how cool it would be to drive a big
truck, instead of a car, at that speed. High, of course. But, maybe,
that's what is driving the pick-up, SUV and the mini-van industry.
So, ok, we have speed limits, which serve to tame the oil
consumption, but then, on the other hand, everybody drives those
huge gas-guzzling vehicles - one of them was just promoted in a
radio ad as being so huge that mom lost her kid in the back of it
and needed to look for little Eddy for about an hour.

What the US needs is: more and better public transportation,
preferably powered by electricity; more car-pooling; smaller, more
fuel efficient cars; development of new technologies for energy
production and car engines that would utilize those new sources of
energy; less commuting - different urban design that requires less
driving around, more home-office type of employment
- speed limits are just a band-aid applied to a gushing wound.


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