Gary Epstein
And now for something completely different . . .

Remember The Philistines!

Remember The Philistines!

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It is generally accepted that the Obama-Biden reign was not replete with foreign policy success. Though President Obama did win an aspirational Nobel Peace Prize for not being John McCain, his red line in Syria, his dismissal of ISIS as the JV, the disaster in Libya, and his catastrophic appeasement of Iran pretty much assure that history will not look kindly on his achievements or lack thereof. As for Uncle Joe, Iran and Afghanistan. Need I say more?

Thus, when President Biden suggests that it might be a capital idea to reinstall the Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza after Hamas is defeated, it should not be surprising that the proposal falls on deaf ears and is greeted with incredulity.  The PA refused to condemn the October 7 massacre, and has even expressed support for the actions of Hamas. The PA enjoys limited popular support and possesses no moral authority, having failed to hold elections for the past two decades.  The PA is led by a Holocaust-denying anti-Semite. Or, as Prime Minister Netanyahu calmly stated, “They will control Gaza on ‘the day after?’  Haven’t we learned anything?”

As relates to Biden, the question is hardly rhetorical.  No.  He hasn’t learned a thing.  He is still pushing the Iran deal and refusing to respond to Iranian proxy provocations.  He is still insisting on sending Iran billions of dollars.  And he still thinks that it would be a good idea to have a terrorist state on Israel’s borders.

So maybe we need to suggest some other solutions that will appeal to him. After all, he is very, very old, and fancies himself a student, and not just a relic, of history.  Perhaps we should be looking at some solutions that predate the current conflict. We can learn from the past.  And President Biden can even recreate it and imagine himself participating in it at will.

Let’s start with some folks who had a reasonably successful run in Gaza:  the Philistines.  If we are going to bring back a failed government, let’s at least find someone almost as indigenous to the land as the Jews.  That should attract the support of Black Lives Matter and other anti-colonial movements on campus.  I can just see them marching and (quite truthfully) shouting, “We are ALL Philistines!”  Moreover, the Philistines come with a set of heroes that will appeal to the various constituencies supporting Palestine.  The LGBTQ folks can dress up like Goliath, and the women can ditch the hijab and keffiyeh and dress like Delilah. Or vice versa. Without cultural appropriation.

Moreover, the Philistines have become synonymous with a distaste, even abhorrence, for culture, civility, courtesy, and intellectual achievement. Do you begin to see the possibilities?

For the college students among you, a bit of background.  The Philistines settled in the Gaza/Ashkelon/Ashdod area at about the same time that the Israelites arrived, about 3,000 years ago.  (Sorry, no Muslims for another 1,500 years or so.)  They pretty much engaged in continuous wars with the Jews, until they were defeated by King David, so the present inhabitants will have lots in common to discuss.  They worshiped Dagon, Ashtoreth (Astarte), and Baal-Zevul.  We do not know whether they sacrificed their children or encouraged them to blow themselves up. If you want to know more, the Bible has lots to say about the Philistines, as does John Milton (oh, sorry, college students: Milton is a dead, white British poet who wrote Samson Agonistes, including the famous phrase “Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him/ Eyeless in Gaza . . .”; the Bible used to be a best-seller and served as a source for quite a few movies).

So we bring back the Philistines and put them in charge of Gaza, their old homeland.  Now there will be a history in the land to rival that of the Jews and maybe with that sense of equity, the Palestinians can learn to cooperate.  And if they can’t, let them choose one champion and send him out to fight against a young lad with five smooth stones and settle things once and for all time.  Hmmm.  David’s Sling.  Some things never change.

If the Philistines are too remote or esoteric, how about the British?  I would suggest the Egyptians, which makes a lot of sense, but they want no part of it, just as the Jordanians want no part of Judea and Samaria.  But the British?   They never really wanted to leave anyway.  They won Gaza fair and square in World War I, and wouldn’t the Gazans be proud to be a part of the Commonwealth with a Royal Family?  England is accustomed to dealing with internecine strife and  settled the Northern Ireland situation without excessive bloodshed in just a few decades.  Gaza should be a walk in the park. And the BBC already acts as a Palestinian national megaphone.  No need to ramp up.

It would be a win-win.  The Gazans could connect to a glorious past, perhaps an annual Shakespeare festival and high tea at four in the new chain of pubs (The Lion and Camel) that will surely open, revitalizing the economy.  And the British could finally again start to feel good about themselves as players on the world stage.  (Oops, sorry, did it again; college students: Shakespeare was a British playwright who lived more than 30 years ago.)

I was also considering the Crusaders or Suleiman the Magnificent, but there are some seriously negative associations; ditto the Romans and Babylonians and Assyrians.

So the choice is between the Philistines (and they will not be hard to find on any modern campus) or the British. I leave it to Biden, Blinken, and the State Department to make a final recommendation. Whomever they choose couldn’t be worse than Abbas.

OR . . . 

 . . . someone might prefer a rational approach: a demilitarized Gaza under Egyptian supervision, with Israeli military oversight as long as it is necessary. A buffer zone and barriers designed to resist terrorist attacks.  An international oversight commission in charge of education and reeducation, comprised of Palestinians motivated and incentivized to focus on progress rather than tunnels, together with Western and Arab countries at peace with Israel.  The dismantling of the UN refugee scam.  An economic plan starting with light industry and agriculture, building to tourism and high-tech development.

That is, an enlightened approach through which the two peoples could live side by side in peace.

Nah. We should go with the Philistines. Why change something if it’s not broken?

About the Author
Gary Epstein is a retired teacher and lawyer residing in Modi'in, Israel. He was formerly the Head of the Global Corporate and Securities Department of Greenberg Traurig, a global law firm with an office in Tel Aviv, which he founded and of which he was the first Managing Partner. He and his wife Ahuva are blessed with18 grandchildren, ka"h, all of whom he believes are well above average. He currently does nothing. He believes he does it well.