As the world's attention has been focused on the Israeli evacuation of its settlements in the Gaza strip, many questions remain. Is this a token move by Ariel Sharon to cover up Israeli intransigence when it comes holding on to most of its West Bank expropriation of Palestinian lands? Or is it, on the other hand, a first step in conditioning the Israeli people into accepting the painful inevitability that there can be no peace in the Holy Land until all parties return to the pre-1967 War boundaries established by the UN in 1948 when the modern state of Israel was created? Most people think that Sharon is only conceding the former; that he sees the "two state" solution, no matter how disagreeable to his taste, as the only practical solution and is determined, with this once exception (and in two trouble-prone locations elsewhere in the Palestinian West Bank), to hold on to as much of "the Greater Israel" as he possibly can, regardless of the rest of the world's opinion. All this raises, yet again, the problem of the claims of conflicting cultures and religions. Although Sharon is not a fervently practicing Jew, he still identifies strongly with Jewish culture and his people, sympathizing with their belief that God promised that the land of the Canaanites would become their own for all time to come -- even if God had to evict them from time to time when they failed to live up to their part of the agreement. Nor were the Philistines (after which the Romans named the Holy Land "Palestine") the original inhabitants, being sea-faring peoples of non-Semitic origin who landed on and subsequently occupied the lowlands along the coast shortly after the Hebrews invaded the highlands to the east. Eventually these non-Semites were evicted and today, DNA studies indicate that today's "Palestinians" and the Jewish population of Israel (as well as most Jews around the world -- as well as the Syrians for that matter) are almost genetically indistinguishable. It is mostly in religion, culture, and national identity that they differ. Most Palestinians and Syrians are Muslims although significant minorities are Christians. This raises still another question: how many of these peoples' ancestors were Jews before they became Christians or Muslims? So can it be a question of religion alone as to who has the right to occupy this or that land or country? It seems to me, the Bible or the Koran notwithstanding, that we can not go on without eventually destroying ourselves if we continue to make ideologies (which include our religious beliefs) the source of our claims to own a given piece of real estate. Europeans carried on this kind of bloody nonsense for hundreds of years and finally exhausted themselves in the effort. We came close to annihilating the whole world again in the titanic standoff between ourselves as "true believers" and the "atheistic" religion of Soviet Communism. Given that struggle was really about freedom versus totalitarianism, no doubt it was justified. Yet, when it was over, we found almost as many believers (Christian, Jewish, and Muslim) remained on one side as on the other. So when we see religion being used as an excuse for still more fighting, one must ask, "When is enough, more than enough?" When will we finally come to our senses? What we see going on in Gaza is not reassuring.

R W Kropf 8/18/05 Gaza.doc 05-08-18.html