Monday, December 5, 2005

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

29 November 2005
Tel Aviv

I find the best way to understand Middle Eastern politics is to remember that not much has really changed over the past 3000 years or so. Faces, allegiances, religions and the like may shift here and there but the basic dynamic of the region is pretty much the same.

Today is the anniversary of the United Nations’ vote to partition the British Mandate into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. (No one heard of a “Palestinian Arab” until the ‘60s when Arafat backed by the usual gang of anti-Semites from the European and American left invented the total myth of a Palestinian people with an identifiable history going back before the Jews came in from Mesopotamia and Egypt.) Back then the Israelis were divided among a number of under and above ground organizations. All of them Zionist but all of them representing a broad spectrum of views as to just what a Jewish state should look like and where its borders should be. Among these groups were the Stern gang, Etzel and other underground, terrorist organizations (oops, sorry, I forgot, these guys won the war so they get to be remembered as national liberation fighters) that would regularly blow up both military and civilian targets in an effort to make “normal” life for the British and the Arabs impossible. This in turn would cause the “others” to pull up stakes and leave. Yes, the scientific use of terror to achieve a political goal against a militarily superior enemy was developed in the last century by Jews. The technique has since been used by the Liberation Fronts of Algeria, Vietnam, Cuba and Palestine. Also by Al Queda and its various offshoots. Better we should have taught them how to grow oranges in the desert.

The Stern gang and similar groups were also philosophically tied to the right wing, revisionist thought of Jabotinsky. (I do not mean to imply that there were not lots of Socialists, Anarchists, Stalinists and Trotskyites who were more than happy to go out and blow stuff up. I just want to focus on the “right wing” to make my point.) Among Jabotinsky’s beliefs was the refusal to accept any borders less than the Biblical land of Israel. Those of you with a decent Hebrew or Sunday school education know that the Biblical boundaries of Israel are vague, ill-defined, constantly shifting and, oh yes, way east of the Jordan river. Nevertheless, since the original British Mandate from the League of Nations included the Sinai Peninsula and what is now the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, their line was a hard but not impossible line to follow. Consider it the Israeli equivalent of the Arab hard line (moderate line and popular line) of driving the Jews into the sea. A line basically followed by the Arab world to this day.

OK, so Jabotinsky died young enough to die young but his flag was carried forward by the likes of Manachem Begin, who many suspect of (or, credit with) having blown up the King David Hotel one sunny Sunday morning plus a few other nasty escapades. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations partitioned what was left of the British Mandate (Sinai and what is now Jordan having already been given to Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom). The Jews are given about 10% of the original Mandate. The Arabs, meanwhile, feel so demeaned, depressed and threatened by a postage stamp sized Jewish state that they declare war. Israel wins the war and winds up with a lot more territory than the partition but a lot less than Biblical Israel. David Ben Gurion and the rest of the Haganah leadership decide to play the hand they’ve been dealt and declare an independent State of Israel. Ben Gurion, et al, manage to persuade the Stern gang, Etzel and other “hard line” Jabotinskyites to morph into political parties. The underground military units either joined the Haganah-led Israeli army or disarmed.

As a result parties, including Herut, whose leadership included, yup, you got it, Menachem Begin, came into being as the not-so-loyal opposition to Labor. Herut would over time morph into the Likud. In 1977, Begin becomes Prime Minister and, in 1979, negotiates the first peace treaty with an Arab state. For this Begin will be given a Nobel Peace Prize.

So now we have Aboud Abbas, the current President of Palestine. Abbas is trying to persuade terrorists (er, ah, liberation fighters) in Hamas, Islamic Jihad and similar “bunches of folks” to morph into political parties and either disarm or merge their military wings into the Palestinian security forces (ie, the Palestinian Army). In the end, he argues, running the state will distract and deter them from their terrorist (er, ah, liberation fighter) ways and put their leaders inexporably on the road to making peace with Israel. Now where in the hell did he get such a ridiculous notion?

No comments: