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A good video showing what the real obstacle to peace in the Middle East is.

It never seems to fail that at some point history gets reworked into something other than what happened. It happens with current events — like the recent war in Gaza — but also with more distant events. Take the Arab-Israel war of 1967 — the Six Day War in which Israel roundly defeated the armies of Jordan, Egypt and Syria and captured the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights. In his most recent commentary in the British paper, The Independent, Bruce Andeson gets things completely wrong. In this piece, “Israel is trapped, and the chance of peace is ever more remote” he essentially blames Israel for the failure of the peace process and revises history to fit that blame.

With regards to the recent war in Gaza, Anderson states

It is easy to understand why the Israelis reacted as they did. Once you have suffered a Holocaust at the hands of the race which produced Beethoven, Goethe and Mozart, you lose trust in mankind’s benevolence: lose faith in everything except your own soldiers and weaponry.

(Anderson, Bruce, “Israel is trapped, and the chance of peace is ever more remote“, The Independent, February 16, 2009)

He portrays Israelis as losing faith in “everything except [their] own soldiers and weaponry.” Really, then what was the Oslo Accords and the Oslo II processes about? Or the Wye River Memorandum? Or the 2000 Camp David Summit? Or the Road map for Peace? Or the Annapolis Conference? He never considers the possibility that Israelis are right to lose their faith in the process when the other side does not keep its obligations or when the other side continues to send homicide bombers into and rains rockets onto its cities. No that doesn’t enter into Mr. Anderson’s analysis at all.

He continues in his tirade against Israel’s quest for peace and security by saying

Because of the circumstances in which their Jewish state was created, most Israelis believe that they have two existential necessities, and entitlements. They want to enjoy security and they insist that their neighbours recognise their rights to do so. That does not seem unreasonable. But it is. It fails the highest test of political rationality. It is not realistic.

(Anderson, Bruce, “Israel is trapped, and the chance of peace is ever more remote“, The Independent, February 16, 2009)

Why is it not realistic (not just reasonable) for Israel to expect to live in secure borders and for her right to exist be recognized? Israel is the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland (something that appears to be happening more and more these days among everyone else — why are the Jews to be singled out and denied this right?). The ties of the Jewish people to that land run uninterrupted for thousands of years and yet in today’s world Mr. Anderson argues that we should not expect to have these ties and our rights recognized by our Arab neighbors. Other countries, other peoples are seeing their rights recognized…why not the Jews? Why not the Israelis?

Then Mr. Anderson makes the most eggregious error in his commentary. He rewrites history and turns the 1967 Six Day War from a war of survival (where Israel is attacked first) to a war in which Israel sought out territorial gains

The first act of the current tragedy began in 1967, after the Six-Day War. Plucky little Israel was master of the battlefield. She had overrun a vast acreage of Arab territory. Almost immediately, even by those who had never been enthusiastic about the State of Israel, distinctions began to be drawn between the pre-’67 boundaries and the 1967 conquests. Israel had a tremendous hand of cards, strategic and moral. There was never a better moment for “in victory, magnanimity”.

Israel should have announced that unlike almost every previous military victor, she did not seek territorial gains; her sole war aims were peace and justice. [emphasis added] To secure them, she was prepared to trade her conquests, with the obvious exception of the Holy Places in old Jerusalem. On such a basis, and with huge international support, a deal would have been possible. But there were problems. At its narrowest point, pre-’67 Israel was only 12 miles wide. A tank thrust from the West Bank could have cut the country in two. Although the generals cannot be blamed for failing to predict the era of asymmetric warfare in which tank thrusts would only occur in war movies, their insistence on a demilitarised West Bank complicated matters. Then a temptation emerged, like the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

(Anderson, Bruce, “Israel is trapped, and the chance of peace is ever more remote“, The Independent, February 16, 2009)

And here he is completely wrong and exposes his ignorance and naivete. Apparently Mr. Anderson did not read the aftermath of the Six Day War. According to former Israeli President Chaim Herzog,

On June 19, 1967, the National Unity Government [of Israel] voted unanimously to return the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria in return for peace agreements. The Golans would have to be demilitarized and special arrangement would be negotiated for the Straits of Tiran. The government also resolved to open negotiations with King Hussein of Jordan regarding the Eastern border.

(Herzon, Chaim, Heroes of Israel: Profiles of Jewish Courage, Little Brown and Co., Boston, 1989, p. 253)

Israel offered to return the territories in return for peace with her Arab neighbors. The response from the Arabs was the Khartoum Resolution of 1967 which incorporated the, now famous, three “No”s:

  • No peace with Israel
  • No recognition of Israel
  • No negotiation with Isreal

Even when Israel has acted to further peace she is met with an Arab response that demands more. Israel gave Egypt the Sinai peninsula in return for peace — a cold peace but at least peace. Israel made peace with Jordan in 1994 — perhaps the most amicable peace to date between former enemies in that area. And it has attempted, time and time again, to make peace with the Palestinians to no avail. It is not for lack of trying. Even when Israel unilaterally relinquishes territory as it did with Gaza the response from the other side is more terror. To be sure, Israel has made missteps in its pursuit of peace with the Palestinians — some considerably large missteps, others smaller. But Israelis have longed for peace since the beginning. They have longed to be allowed to live in peace in their ancestral homeland. And it is that longing that drives them to continue to pursue peace with their neighbors and the Palestinians.

Mr. Anderson ends his tirade by claiming

The country [Isreal] emerged out of tragedy. It would be heart-rending if its heroic journey ended in tragedy. Yet that is the likeliest outcome, and it would be Israel’s fault.

(Anderson, Bruce, “Israel is trapped, and the chance of peace is ever more remote“, The Independent, February 16, 2009)

No Mr. Anderson…that is not the likeliest outcome…and whatever happens it will not be Israel’s fault.

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times penned an op-ed yesterday titled “The Gaza Boomerang” in which he excoriates Israel for their incursion into Gaza. He notes that

Since the shelling from Gaza started in 2001, 20 Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets or mortars, according to a tabulation by Israeli human rights groups. That doesn’t justify an all-out ground invasion that has killed more than 660 people (it’s difficult to know how many are militants and how many are civilians)

(Kristof, Nicholas D., “The Gaza Boomerang“, The New York Times, January 8 2009)

Sitting in an office a few thousand miles away Mr. Kristof balances the lives of 20 people on the one hand and 660 people on the other (which is probably more now) and says that the 20 people are not worth the 660 people. He uses this balance to say make the old tired response that Israel’s response is “disproportionate.” Israel, as Mr. Kristof believes, should simply have bombed the tunnels which Hamas is using to smuggle weapons into the Gaza strip or, better yet, eased the blockade of the Gaza strip in the hopes that in would have created “an environment in which Hamas would have extended the cease-fire.”

Whether Hamas would have extended the cease-fire or not we will never know now. I’m betting that they wouldn’t. They would have used the easing of a blockade to arm themselves with probably even more deadlier rockets as well as unleased their legions of suicide bombers on Israel. This sort of thinking originates from the Munich Pact of 1938 in which France, Britain, and Germany met to discuss Hitler’s demands for the Sudetenland (at the time part of the country of Czechoslovakia). Hitler reassured Britain’s prime minister Neville Chamberlain that if Germany was given the Sudetenland than he (Hitler) would make no more claims on the territory of it’s neighbors. Chamberlain went back to Britain with the pact in hand and proclaimed that he had secured “peace for our time.” Not long after, in March of 1939, Hitler’s army invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia and we all know the rest of the story.

Mr. Kristof’s naive assertion that if only Israel had made “nice” with Hamas then Hamas would make “nice” with Israel is completely off. It smacks of Gollum‘s quote in the Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers, “We’ll be nice to them, if they’ll be nice to us” — well, we all now how that ended. Gollum betrayed Sam and Frodo, tried to kill them and managed, albeit only briefly, to capture the One Ring for himself. Israel cannot afford to make “nice” with an organization that continually professes that it’s sole aim is the destruction of Israel with the concomittant explusion or mass murder of all Jews from their land. And Mr. Kristof clearly doesn’t understand that – it doesn’t enter into his calculus.

Hamas can easily bring an end to the Gaza tragedy it it would stop raining rockets down on Israel (which, just before the current fighting was around 60 per day), stop sending suicide bombers into Israeli cafes, shops, synagoguges, and malls, and realizes that a two-state solution is the only way to end this festering, open sore of a conflict. Instead, they only wish to continue the cycle of violence (which leads to Israeli retaliation which, in itself also contributes to the cycle).

The 20 Israeli lives that have been lost to the Hamas rain of rockets over the past 8 years (it’s been going on since 2001) are just as meaningful and valid as the Palestinian lives lost over the past two weeks. Those 20 were someone mother, father, child, brother, and sister. This is not a game of numbers that defines how hard Israel is allowed to strike back against an organization that is determined to see its destruction. It’s a question of survival. Israel’s response has to be strong enough that Hamas will think twice in the future of whether they want to keep the count going up to 21, 22 or beyond. It has to be strong enough that Hamas will realize that true peace comes with being willing to live with your neighbors rather than sitting and waiting to cut their throats whenever they let their guard down.

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