Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tolu at center of Arab-Isaeli conflict ... sort of

By Chris Evans

This week leaders from the Middle East are meeting in Annapolis, Md., near Washington to discuss further a road map for peace among Arabs and Israelis. Namely, the dispute is over some territories in and around presentday Israel which the Arabs believe they own and want to establish a Palestinian state on. While most of us have heard the terms Gaza Strip, West Bank, PLO and Arab-Israeli Peace Process, the vast majority of Americans have only narrow understanding of the whole situation despite it being a major story almost nightly on the television news. An expert on Middle Eastern affairs, I am not.

However, with this week's peace talks going on in America, I figured it would be timely to discuss – in simple terms – what all of this fuss is about. In doing so, I will use some familiar terms and landmarks to draw a figurative comparison to the Arab-Israeli situation. Let's say for instance that Jerusalem is Tolu, the West Bank is Hurricane Island, the Gaza Strip is Sawmill Hollow and Golon Heights is Carrsville and its tall hillside overlooking the Ohio River. OK, snicker if you will, but using this imagery might make the whole thing easier to comprehend.

Tolu and the surrounding area from Carrsville to Hurricane Church, if you will, were once ruled by the British. When the British Empire pulled out, some of the ancient tribes of the area decided they would retake Tolu for their own. Those were the Israelis who during a war in the late 1940s won back the land that their religion claims to be an inalienable right from God (see Abraham, Genesis and the Old Testament). Now, when the Israelis repatriated their ancient lands they ticked off their age-old rivals the Palestinians (see Philistines, Goliath and the Old Testament). Instead of wiping out the residents of the whole area as the Old Testament says God demanded in Biblical times, the modern Tribes of Israel decided to try to live side by side among their enemies – granted their enemies were subservient to the leaders of new Israel, I mean Tolu.

After it was apparent that the outlying areas were becoming staging grounds for their enemies, the Israelis took by force in the late 1960s all of the area surrounding Tolu, including Hurricane Island and Sawmill Hollow. Slowly since then they've started moving outward, establishing Israeli communities at E-town Landing, Sheridan and even Carrsville where a strategic hillside overlooks the valley where the capital city Tolu is located. The new Tolu leaders couldn't have the upset native river people dropping bombs down from Carrsville Heights, now could they?

Understand, too, that the old Tolu School, the Tolu Post Office and former Tolu Grocery Store buildings are sacred locations among ancestral tribes, including the Israelis, the Palestinians and other Arabs living in the region (see Wailing Wall, Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock). In fact, those sacred sites are among the most beloved by all of the ethnic groups living in and around Tolu. Each group wants to own, occupy and control its ancestral sites.

However, the new rulers of Tolu say the Arabs are too dangerous to let roam the streets. They are considered low-life terrorists and an almost sub-human class of people. Because of that, the Israelis are building walls like in China around their cities and communities out in Sawmill Hollow and on Hurricane Island. If any of the non-Israeli people want fruit, meat or vegetables grown in the fertile Sawmill Hollow lands, they have to buy it from the Israelis who only allow a certain amount to be sold to the Palestinians. Likewise, if the Arabs living around Hurricane Island want gasoline from the island refineries, they have to stand in line and can only have a small amount to put in their cars.

The Palestinians are ticked off about their treatment. Some want to kill or eliminate all of the Israelis from Tolu and surrounding areas. Other Palestinians, or Arabs, say they can tolerate the Israelis, but want Sawmill Hollow, Hurricane Island and part of Tolu proper for their own state. Some are willing to concede a great deal of land to Israel, including part of the town of Tolu and most of the area from Hurricane Creek to McKinley Island and from Buck Creek below Carrsville all the way out to Sheridan.

If the Palestinians would quit throwing rocks at Israelis in Tolu and bombing buses near Sawmill Hollow, the Israelis, also known as Jews, say they are willing to talk about giving up some of the lands that the Arabs want. The biggest problem is that there is no one in Tolu who can speak totally on behalf of all of the people. Both sides of the conflict have weak leaders who are feeble in the eyes of a number of their more radical followers. Israel really wants to keep all of Tolu and is reluctant to consider giving up a single acre of it. Israel also wants to keep some of its settlements near Sawmill Hallow and a fraction of Hurricane Island.

Folks in southern Illinois, across the Jordan, I mean the Ohio, would like for the two sides to find an equitable solution to the strife and to quit fighting all of the time. Folks as far away as Smithland, Marion, Paducah and even Frankfort are urging the two factions to find a peaceful solution to their quarreling over land. For me, the only solution I can see is greater international influence on the process.

Tolu should be made an independent city-state such as the Vatican. It could be ruled by an international board so that everyone with a stake in the ancestral city could enjoy its historic and religious values. As for Sawmill Hollow, Carrsville and Hurricane Island, give up totally. Go back to the 1960 border that was established by the Israelis. Then, if the Palestinians can't get along with the Israelis, let the rules of engagement from the Old Testament be the guide.

Chris Evans is editor and publisher of The Crittenden Press. You can reach him at