How 'Bout Relocating Israel to Mexico?
Dear Ariel Sharon and Vicente Fox,
Thomas Friedman keeps squeezing New York Times columns from his "open letter" gimmick, so I figured I'd type a note to both of you guys.
Here's the deal: that whole Israel/Arab thing is getting very ugly and a lot more people will die before Israel wins. Sure, Israel always wins, but what about the hassle? What about the lives lost, and the economic mess, and the general bummer of living in a Death Zone?
Does Israel really want to be the only functioning democracy in the Maniac Middle East, forever? And endlessly have to haggle and fight with the poor, backward dictatorships surrounding it? Hell, Israel doesn't even have oil. Other than the historical thing, there's not much to the Holy Land beyond desert, suicide bombers and some nice beaches.
(This is usually when Friedman tells his readers to sit down, as if they all read the NYT in an awkward standing position.)
That's why I'm asking you both to consider my big idea of moving Israel to the lovely and sparsely populated Mexican state of Baja California Sur. Presidente Fox, you're the first democratically elected leader of Mexico, and most Mexican Jews voted for you. Prime Minister Sharon, you're an old warrior who needs a vacation and a bucket of Corona beer on the beach. Israel has money and smarts. Mexico has a bright future but could use a few hundred billion in foreign investment.
Here's what Mark Twain had to say about Ottoman Empire-era Palestine in his 1869 book, "The Innocents Abroad":
Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are unpicturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and despondent. The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee sleep in the midst of a vast stretch of hill and plain wherein the eye rests upon no pleasant tint, no striking object, no soft picture dreaming in a purple haze or mottled with the shadows of the clouds. Every outline is harsh, every feature is distinct, there is no perspective — distance works no enchantment here. It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land.
Baja California Sur is the southernmost chunk of the California peninsula, a thin and sparsely populated strip of desert surrounded by the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. An online travel guide describes it like this:
The northern part of the state is typically hot and extremely arid, with vegetation typified by desert shrubs and cactus .... Baja California Sur is largely unpopulated and has the least number of residents of any Mexican state. The population is primarily mestizo — people with a mix of Native American and European ancestry — and many people are recent immigrants. The state has virtually no indigenous population, and only a tiny minority speak an indigenous language.
Perfect. The Israelis could all take a sleeping pill on the plane and wake up in a place that looks much like home — minus the angry Palestinians and maniac bombers. The Palestinians could awake to a land without Jews...and without any sort of modern infrastructure or economy. (Happy Israeli Arabs would be welcomed in the nuevo Promised Land, just as they are welcomed in Los Angeles.)
Lower Baja California has only 420,000 residents, most in the capital city of La Paz and the booze resorts of San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. But north of La Paz, it's pretty much uninhabited desert, just like British-controlled Palestine before the Zionists arrived and made the harsh land blossom with fruits, vegetables, software companies and night clubs.
Unlike the Holy Land and all its complications, Lower Baja has never been a center of anything but piracy and tequila binging. Francis Drake was one of the many pirates to land on Baja, long thought to be an island. The Spanish Jesuits finally made a few permanent settlements. There wasn't even a paved road from the Mexican mainland until a few decades ago. And check it out, Ariel: it's said that Sephardic Jews came to Baja to escape the freakin' Inquisition back in the 15th Century. (There's a 1973 book about this, but I can't find a copy.)
Baja California Sur has 46,920 square miles. Israel has 10,840 square miles — including the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Surely President Fox could spare a chunk of his least populated state for the sake of peace.
Would Israel rather be forever surrounded by hostile Islamic fundamentalists and progress-hating dictators or be a day's drive or one-hour flight from Southern California and all the friendly Jews and non-militant Muslims in Los Angeles?
Vicente, your lovely nation has a healthy Jewish community. Why not sell a piece of Lower Baja to a people who will pump billions into the region? The Jewish homeland will do more than make a thriving nation from this land — they'll bring a democratic model for all of Mexico.
Ariel, your nation can rebuild the ruins of the temple. Hebrews have experience in that sort of work. And sparkling modern cities like Tel Aviv can be quickly and easily recreated. The Jewish Homeland is intrinsically connected to the United States, another nation of immigrants looking for a better life. Why not just get over here and get rid of the Middle East nonsense? According to the Good Book, God didn't even mention Baja back in Abraham's time.
It's the digital era, after all. Movies and DNA and books and music can all be perfectly copied. How about Israel? You think God cares about what chunk of dirt you call home? Sure, the Torah says otherwise, but the Torah also says you should sacrifice your son if a voice in your head gets too loud. Jesus Christ lived and died around one little piece of ground in modern-day Israel, yet the Catholic Church is based in Italy. Come to Baja, Israel.
Okay, I'm biased. I'm scared of suicide bombers and am fond of Baja California. I like quiet beaches and fish tacos and little desert towns on the sea. I'm tired of watching Israeli civilians blown apart, and I'm tired of the Palestinian people tossed around like a beach ball between Arab countries unwilling to accept the Palestinians as citizens.
Where do Jews and Palestinians live in peace? North America — right here in Los Angeles. Down with the Old World. Up with Fish Tacos. Let's call 'em Gefilte Fish Tacos.
Ken Layne types from a shack behind his Los Angeles home. The author of trashy thrillers such as Dot.Con and the upcoming Space Critters, he has written and edited for a variety of news outfits including Information Week, the Sydney Daily Telegraph, UPI and Mother Jones. Since the Enron-like collapse of his Web paper, Tabloid.net, in 1999, he has been posting commentary to KenLayne.com.