It all started with a debate. You see I have this friend, a retired writer who visits me regularly and we drink coffee and set the world to rights (yeah, I should get out more, I know).
Anyway, Israel launched it's offensive against the Hezbollah and I complained that the death toll of Lebanese civilians seemed disproportionate to the crime of kidnapping two Israeli combatants. My friend told me it was a bit like a sleeper, maddened by a mosquito, who swats wildly and knocks over the bedside lamp. Israel, he said, lies surrounded by enemies who just won't stop firing rockets, sending fanatics with bombs, generally causing a nuisance.
Something about the number of civilian casualties just didn't add up. I wasn't influenced by pictures of apartment buildings being blown up. I don't have television. Furthermore, I was aware that Israel has a great deal more firepower than it's neighbours.
My friend is a very knowledgeable chap and gave me a potted history of the Middle East but a couple of points jarred with my recollection of events. After he left I did a search on the internet. That was where I discovered the Bidstrup essay.
I didn't trust it so I kept on searching for more and more reliable information.
Many references to "the fence" and "settlements" arose. I had figured that Israeli settlers were moving into the border lands between Israel and the West Bank. Why not. Probably a good thing I thought. Get to know each other a little, learn to co-exist. So I googled the fence. You don't have to. It's here:
Have a look at it. The blue areas are Israeli settlements. The Israeli Government subsidises people to go and live there. It's actually not Israel's territory. When the settlers have moved in, they often have a bit of bother with the locals. As you do. The Israeli army feels a duty to protect it's citizens, even if they are not actually living in Israel. So there's a bit more bother.
Next time we'll look at another map.