Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Chamberlain Story

The Ghost of Appeasements Past Haunts Israel as Gaza Pullout Wraps Up

As of this writing, the Israeli army (officially known as the Israel Defense Force, or IDF) is in the final stages of removing the last remaining Jewish settlers and protestors from the settlements that Israel has maintained in the Gaza Strip for the last thirty-eight years. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, once the outspoken champion of Israeli settlements in the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, now stands accused of treason by his one-time biggest supporters. As the newspapers and TV screens fill up with pictures of Israeli troops in full riot gear scuffling with brick-wielding settlers and carrying them away from the homes that they've lived in for, in some cases, nearly forty years, one has to wonder why Ariel Sharon (and 75% of the Israeli public) thinks that this latest attempt at appeasement, based on the old Land-for-Peace formula, will have any positive results for Israel. All one must do is pick up an accurate history book to see that not only has every attempt in modern history at appeasement of this type, with an enemy of this magnitude of evil, failed, but it seems that these attempts have, in one way or another, involved the Jews. Israel is continually haunted by these ghosts of appeasements past, while their Arab enemies build on each concession in their ultimate goal of driving the Jews into the sea.

The first such attempt occurred in Britain, nearly two decades before British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain delivered his infamous "peace in our time" speech. In October 1917, the Cabinet of Prime Minister David Lloyd George authorized Lord Arthur Balfour, Britain's foreign minister at the time, to issue what is now known as the Balfour Declaration. Signed by Balfour, Chaim Weitzmann (leader of the international Zionist movement), and Emir Faisal ibn-Hussein (leader of the Arab revolt that marginally helped the British take the Middle East from the Turks in World War I), it called for an independent Jewish state that would be established as soon as Jewish immigration and development was sufficient in the barren wilderness of Palestine. The borders of this Jewish state-to-be included all of Israel, all territories later captured in the Six-Day War, all of modern-day Jordan, and even parts of southern Lebanon. This declaration was codified into international law by the League of Nations in the same 1920 act that created the French and British mandates in the Middle East. Simultaneously, Britain and France granted Arab independence in Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. After being granted nearly all of the Middle East, when they had owned nothing for centuries, Lord Balfour could not imagine that the Arabs would "begrudge this small notch of land" earmarked for the Jews.

Lord Balfour's assumption held true for about one year. In 1921, Abdullah, the brother of Faisal ibn-Hussein, who was also the leader of the Hashemite tribe, demanded that Britain give him Transjordan, the area set aside for Israel east of the Jordan River, to be his own kingdom. The Hashemites had just been driven from Mecca and Medina by the House of Saud and Abdullah argued that Britain had reneged on its promises to give him land based on T.E. Lawrence's mostly-fictional account of Abdullah's role in the Arab revolt of World War I. After a costly campaign in Iraq, Britain was weary of becoming involved in further conflicts with the Arabs. This resulted in the British Foreign Office giving nearly 75% of the land mandated to become a Jewish state to Abdullah, a clear violation of the League of Nations mandate upon which British authority in the region was based. This was the beginning of the appeasement idea which would later come to be known as "Land-for-Peace." Unfortunately, this would not be the last time that Jewish land would be given away in hopes of placating an implacable enemy.

Shortly after World War II, Britain's own failed attempt at appeasement, the international sympathy generated by the discovery of Hitler's death camps led to a serious UN effort (one of the few in their history) to re-establish the Jewish homeland along the 25% of the old League of Nations mandate that remained intact. However, the objections of Arab member states caused the UN to further whittle away about half of this land in a region where Arabs already controlled 98% of the land. This second attempt at appeasement failed spectacularly when Israel, in an area about 10% of its original mandated size, declared independence. The surrounding Arab countries, still unwilling to accept a Jewish state, no matter how small, invaded immediately, intending to drive the Jews into the sea. Fortunately, for Israel, the fledgling state was able to drive back her invaders and expand the nation to more defensible, albeit still tiny, borders.

Now, one would think, having observed first-hand and defeated the effects of appeasement of their Arab neighbors, that Israel would never again be willing to try such a failed measure. However, through widespread international acceptance of Arab revisionist history, Israel would later succumb to the pressure of naively attempting to appease an enemy that seeks to destroy her in hopes that their latest concession would change their minds.

On August 20, 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat shook hands in a public display that marked the mutual acceptance of the Norwegian-brokered Declaration of Principles, commonly referred to as the The Oslo Accords. Based on the repeatedly failed Land-for-Peace formula, Israel granted Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization, the terrorist group that had been murdering Israeli civilians and attacking Israeli troops for the last quarter-century, governmental control over all Arab population centers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which would be the first step to a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho. In exchange for recognizing these terrorists as the legitimate representatives of the "Palestinian" people and allowing them to control the land that they had been fighting over for the last 25 years, the PLO officially recognized Israel's right to exist, renounced terrorism, and (officially) abandoned its goal of Israel's destruction. On paper, it looked like appeasement of Israel's enemies had, for the first time ever, succeeded. However, like all previous attempts at appeasement, the Oslo Accords were doomed to failure.

The first few years after the signings at Oslo saw the rise of a new Arab terrorist group known as Hamas. This terrorist group, which has repeatedly denounced the Oslo agreements and openly calls for Israel's destruction, killed dozens of Israeli civilians in suicide bombings throughout Israel proper from 1994 through 2000, at the same time that Israel was gradually withdrawing and reducing its presence in the West Bank. Yet, despite this and evidence that Arafat's Palestinian Authority (the Oslo-established descendant of the PLO) was allowing these actions to occur, it seemed that the Oslo Accords might yet have a chance to bring a lasting peace. Amazingly, in the July 2000 Camp David negotiations between Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, Israel offered the Palestinian Authority nearly everything that they had been fighting for all those years. The terms of the proposed agreement called for a Palestinian state comprising all of the Gaza Strip and 97% of the West Bank, excluding largest Jewish settlement in the region, which contiguously bordered Jerusalem. In exchange for the remaining settlement, the new state of Palestine would receive the same amount of Israeli territory. Arafat had been offered everything that his organization claimed to want. The only problem was that this agreement would leave Israel without any pressing security concerns, a condition that the Arab goal to remove Israel from the face of the Earth could not endure. Arafat introduced one last demand, one which would kill any democratic, non-apartheid Jewish state: the right of former Arab residents of Israel and millions of their descendants to return to the cities that they evacuated during the Arab invasion of 1948. The Palestinians knew that such a condition, if accepted, would mean national suicide for Israel. It's obvious that this is exactly what they wanted. Barak, as expected, refused this unacceptable demand and the Camp David Peace Talks, the best chance that the Arabs had of establishing yet another Arab state in Jewish land, found its way into the historical dustbin of failed Middle East peace attempts.

The last remnants of that faint hope from Oslo disappeared in September 2000 when the Palestinians, under the pretext of outrage over a visit by then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount (a site holy to both Muslims and Jews), launched a second insurrection against Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza. Hundreds of Israelis civilians died as suicide bombers attacked civilian centers on an almost-daily basis. However, this time, it was not just Hamas or other groups doing the killing, groups that Arafat could conceivably claim were outside of his control. Most of the deadly attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians were now coming from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a group directly linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction. The Arabs had proven, once again, that peace with Israel was not on their agenda. To deal with this new emergency, the Israeli electorate removed the dovish Ehud Barak as prime minister and replaced him with Ariel Sharon, viewed as someone who had the will to decisively deal with the terrorism that he had been fighting as a soldier and politician for the last sixty years.

Now, it seems that these ghosts of appeasements past haunt Ariel Sharon. Hamas, and most of the Arab world, rightfully regard this as a huge victory for their terrorist campaign. They have publicly stated that attacks on Israelis will continue until "all of Palestine is liberated" (translation: until Israel is destroyed). Sharon has claimed that this evacuation of Gaza will be first step towards peace. In reality, it will only lead to more attacks on southern Israeli towns. He claims that Israeli lives will be saved. In reality, more Israelis will die as energized Arab militants seek to finish the job that resulted in the Gaza withdrawal. One would hope that Ariel Sharon would learn from past attempts at appeasement, as Ebenezer Scrooge did from the ghosts of Christmases past. Now it appears that he will add his own ghost to the list as Israelis suffer for the idea that they can appease an enemy who seeks the annihilation of their race.


At 8:49 PM, Blogger Axel Bavaria said...

Outstanding piece !

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Lt. Bomb said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:46 PM, Blogger Lt. Bomb said...

Thank you. :)


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