Peter Shelton

Palestinians on Horsefly Peak

Posted in Road Trips West, Watch columns by pshelton on October 8, 2010

It was just an imagination exercise with our morning coffee. But what if?

What if we were the Israelis and we had the Palestinians bottled up in a tiny space of land more or less equivalent to what we see across the valley on Horsefly Peak?

Stay with me here. I know, topographically Horsefly would more closely correlate to the Golan Heights than to a strip of coastal desert. And while the Golan Heights is technically still part of Syria, Israel has occupied the hills there since the Six-Day War. So, we, Ellen and I, were stretching an already stretched allusion.

But just say that Horsefly, 12 miles away in the imaginary universe outside our living room windows, was Gaza. A million and a half people live over there in a rectangle four miles wide and 25 miles long. More people than live in Denver are crammed into that space. We can see the whole thing, left to right and front to back.

We’ve built a fence around it. Nobody, or nobody but a few criminals, gets in or out without our saying so. There are checkpoints, few roads and fewer gates in the fence. Our technologically superior ground and air forces patrol constantly. The people inside are not allowed to sell stuff on the outside, or trade, or receive goods that we think might be useful to the leaders on the inside, who hate us.

They, Gaza’s elected leadership, have said they would wipe us off the map if they could. That would be a hard thing to actually pull off, given how rich and powerful we are, and how poor and crushed they are, but we are frightened just the same. And to keep us frightened, the Gazans launch occasional missile attacks into our territory, onto Log Hill and beyond.

E and I are far enough away that we don’t have to worry much. But our friend Phoebe, who lives in Busted Boiler Draw, closer to the fence, takes a random blast now and then in her aspen forest. A stray piece of shrapnel tore a hole in her solar panels one time.

The Palestinians on Horsefly smuggle the materials they need to build these crude missiles through tunnels dug under the mesas in the direction of Norwood, which is on the other side of the fence, in Egypt. We here in the Uncompahgre Valley have tried to get the Norwoodians to close off the tunnels on their side, but they don’t seem eager to do that. They’re probably making good money selling the Palestinians things they need, like medicine and books. And rocket parts.

We take a lot of heat from the rest of the world, but we don’t let anybody from anywhere else bring stuff to the Gazans. Except for the tunnel problem, we alone say what goes in or not. This has unfortunate consequences now and then. Like when that truck convoy of Good Samaritans from Salt Lake City tried to sneak through at night, and our commandos blew them to Kingdom Come. We’re sorry, but we have the right to defend ourselves.

All of Israel would fit between Grand Junction and Cortez. The distances are tiny compared to what we’re used to in America. In The New Yorker a couple of weeks ago, the Israeli novelist David Grossman complained wistfully that he can no longer travel the eight miles from his house in Jerusalem to his Palestinian professor friend’s house in the Occupied Territories.

That’s like me not being able to travel to Montrose. I can see Montrose, see the lights twinkling at night. But no, it would be forbidden. Too dangerous. And too suspicious. What mischief might my friendship, my sympathies, engender? What subversion of our questionable but necessary dominance over his people?

When people in other countries say we’ve created a concentration camp on Horsefly we say no, you’re mistaken. It’s a cruel – given our history – and an unfair analogy. But still, it looks bad. What we did to the Utes and other tribes who had lived here for centuries, that was bad. This looks worse.

But what are we to do? If we let them go free they’d come down here and lay claim to our water, our irrigated fields, our nice homes. Our land of milk and honey. They think it’s theirs, too.

What’s going to happen? They’re like animals in a cage. But they’re human beings.

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