Article by Mike Royko -- Chicago Sun-Times, September 9, 1989
Leave little Israel alone: pick on someone your own size
When I look at a world map, I sometimes wonder what the insane fuss in the Middle East is all about. Sure, I listen to the experts, the pundits and even Henry Kissinger. But then I look at the map and it still makes no sense.
If I look closely and squint my eyes, I can find a country that has about 800 square miles. That's Israel. To give you an idea of how small that is, you could take about 40 Israels and put them together and the whole things would still be smaller than Texas. There may be counties, even ranches, in Texas that are bigger.
Little New Hampshire, where just about everybody gets a handshake from a politician during presidential primaries, is bigger than Israel. So is Vermont. In fact, we have only four states that are smaller.
Then consider the population: about 4.4 million. There are many cities that have more people. New York is much bigger. So are London, Istanbul, Bombay and Tokyo. You could put three times the population of Israel in Mexico City. And Chicago, if you include the suburbs, is almost twice as populous.
People sometimes refer to Japan as being small. But it's almost 20 times as big as Israel, with 30 times as many people.
But if you want to talk big, just un-squint your eyes and look at some of the countries near Israel -- those that have been trying to squash their tiny neighbor for the last 41 years: Syria, nine times a big with three times as many people, Iraq, 20 times as big with 17 million people, Iran, 80 times bigger, with almost 50 million people.
Put that part of the world together and there are millions of square miles with populations bigger than that of the United States. And most of them, at one time or another, in one way or another, with guns, tanks, terrorists and oil money have tried to squash a country that isn't as big as Vermont.
You would think that with more than three million square miles of land -- probably more, but I'm not that good at math -- and 200 million-plus people, they wouldn't make such a fuss about what amounts to a tiny sliver of real estate and fewer people than live in many of their cities.
But instead, they've spent that last 40 years making themselves look like idiots by unsuccessfully trying to wage ware on this itsy-bitsy country.
They didn't wait long. The day after Israel was first established as a state, the Arabs invaded. They expected little trouble overrunning so few victims, only 800,000 at the time.
Instead, Israel beat them back, making the Arabs look like some of the most incompetent warriors in history.
Looking back, the Arabs would have been wise to let Israel alone -- to let them irrigate, turn arid land into something green, make greasy chicken soup and start some small industries. Who knows, if the Arabs hadn't been so warlike, Israel could have turned its energies to peaceful pursuits. And today, instead of watching a Sony, we might be looking at a 36-inch Goldberg.
Now the Arabs are irate because Israel has expanded its borders. Of course it has. It wised up. When the Arabs kept attacking and Israel chased them away, the Israelis decided that if they have to keep going through all that trouble, they might as well keep a few acres. Besides, if somebody is using nearby hills to lob shells at you, you'd be silly not to kick them off.
The way the Arabs act, you would think Israel treated them the way our ancestors treated the Indians. (Actually, my ancestors can't take much credit, not being WASPs [White Anglo-Saxon Protestants]). We came here, stomped every which way, conned, cheated and slaughtered, until the whole things was ours.
In contrast, the land Israel has seized doesn't amount to much more than Coney Island.
But we keep hearing that the Palestinians must have their homeland. You'd think that with millions of square miles of vacant land, the Arabs could find them a homeland, the cheapskates. Jordan is right next door to Israel. It would make a fine homeland. That was the idea of creating Jordan in the first place. Lots of vacant land. Same climate. If they'd stop spending their oil money on bumbling wars, they could probably turn Jordan into something that looks like Palm Springs.
Instead, we have these vast, and in some cases, wealthy countries now entering their fifth decade of trying to take over a place you can barely find on the map.
It makes no sense. I mean, Israel doesn't even have one really good golf course.