- Politics and Social Issues
An Ideological Link to 9/11
Brute Force Wins
Personally, I think that the self-designated "new historians" are self-centered and present their revised histories of Israel noticeably out of this unique country's larger, more pertinent context. But since today is 9/11, fourteen years after, it occurred to me that it might be worth an effort to find out more about some historical events that fester inside the warped minds of dangerous terrorists. After all, they already know a lot about something we do not. The only real source I have at my disposal is a book on the expulsion of the Palestinians from the late/mid 1940s into the early 1950s. Outside of Exodus, more the movie than the book, how much are people aware of the initial wars that ultimately shaped up not only Israel's boundaries but its purist, ethnic composition? Well, maybe, if you are old enough, you heard Meir Kahane denounce Israeli Arabs in a characteristically undignified vocabulary. But, as it turned out, they were nothing in terms of a threat compared to others, outsiders, who came into prominence after the rabbi's assassination in 1990. Still, Israeli Arabs continue to be harassed. According to one author, they are commonly referred to as "cholera". This might hold an interest for specialists in social issues as they relate to race, etc., but the greater challenge is to latch on, however late in the game, to the kinds of things that riled up Osama bin Laden and his cohorts. They are used by the "new historians," I would suggest, in an expoitative manner. Yet, I cannot judge any aspect of the Middle East, including its academic scene, although I have done a couple stints myself as an adjunct professor -- albeit in the good ole USA. It is just that we Americans live humdrum lives according to our own customs and habits, while across the seas, whole nations pray for our deaths five times a day.
"Time Will Tell"
The Perpetrator's Letter to America
From The Guardian, November 24, 2002. One of the reasons, bin Laden explains, for attacks on the U.S., has to do with: "Palestine, which has sunk under military occupation for more than 80 years. The British handed over Palestine, with your help and your support, to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years; years overflowing with oppression, tyranny, crimes, killing, expulsion, destruction and devastation. The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals. And of course there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel. The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its*price, and pay for it heavily."
The new historians seem to have put into print all the grievances bin Laden might have gone on to list. It is all there for everyone to read: rapes, war crimes, crimes against humanity, piles of corpses in mosques (unaccounted for, later inspected by the Red Cross), looting, forced marches, separation of families, starvation, humiliations, executions against the walls of churches, fires, explosions, home demolitions (still a favorite pastime in the Middle East), the injection of typhoid and dysentery germs into Gaza's water supply, and so on. This, by the way, is how wars are fought. Even taking into account the fact that Palestinians had weaponry and live ammunition, left over from the British, as well as manpower, there was, it turns out, no legendary, David vs. Goliath confrontation, the way it has been handed down by word of mouth. All the same, the problem of evil did not commence in 1948, nor was the canard that atrocities are made exclusively in Germany ever meant to endure.
But none of this is actually the problem. To make it into one is to apply a double standard, since all nations formed long before Israel engaged in what is only relatively recently called and condemned as ethnic cleansing. Also, Israelis were desperate to form a homeland, having virtually no alternative. Granted, it was carried out mostly by terror groups with the approval of big names, who later became known as heroes. But to reiterate, none of these items constitute a problem. For bin Laden, who at least had the candor to admit it, the problem was the fact that nobody came to the aid of Palestinians in distress without the means to defend themselves. He could not forgive himself, even though he was not yet born. A few Egyptians showed up, as did a handful of Lebanese soldiers. Syrians and Iraqis tried in vain to help. Embattled Jordanians, somehow, held their own ground. But basically, Palestinians, without true resistance, were rounded up and tossed out. Israel's sworn enemies passively allowed Palestinians to become victims, not just losers. The horrors of this war, and the unnecessary tactics employed, are nothing new in terms of warfare. Dating back to time immemorial, it would be disengenuous to single out a group of young refugees and ardent pioneers to blame for war's insanities.
However, today we live in a more kiss-and-tell society. People who went over to fight, just as Americans did in Spain years earlier, rarely elaborated -- at least not so readily in apartment gatherings in Chicago and New York. No chat rooms or You Tubes back then. Anyone is free to research the subject. It will always come up the same: the weapons used against Palestinians came from Czechoslovakia. In other words, they were provided by Communists. They owed their former comrades as much. If there is any party to be blamed at all, let it be the Soviet Union, which no longer exists. That it had more compassion for a people it is ordinarily accused of having oppressed only exposes an obscurity. To put it otherwise, no one, whether individuals or countries, ever religiously sticks to a script. The Madman, who never wrote or spoke disparagingly about Jews without linking them, arm in arm, to Marxists, as if they were interchangeable, also expressed a legitimate perception, if one that is, in the long run, rather meager.
Just the Facts? Care to Bet?
Facts Do Not Speak For Themselves
A-Ha! You might exclaim! For whatever reason! But the real world does not respect the United Nations, the Red Cross, the Geneva Convention, Amnesty International, or, for that matter, modern scholarship. The Hagana, Irgun, and Stern Gang were guilty of innumerable crimes -- including murdering the British, who handed Palestine over to the UN in 1947. That same institution granted Palestinians the choice to come back to their native land -- to no effect whatsoever. All the same, bin Laden will not have the last word on history or theology. Where and when will wrongs leave off and clear acts of righteousness begin? Maybe nowhere and never. What had Palestinians done to deserve indefinite suffering? Nothing. Is it immoral to turn a mosque into a space to milk cows? Maybe. Both are good, aren't they? Praying and milking? Why does Allah not return the "holy" land to His preferred worshipers? To entertain a potential point of view. Is He putting them through a period of testing for a larger purpose? Who knows? We have an administration that is actually trying to brainily grasp the intricate complexities of the Middle East. Good luck! Until the final showdown, if it ever comes, no amount of facts, no arrangement of them, from either side, regardless of how deftly told, in print, song, or on the screen, adds up to anything. We are talking about a place apart. It has been different for quite some time. It will always be like this.
The Church of Mother Russia
From America, With Love
Lately, it appears as if the United States will over time deliver the entire Middle East into the hands of Russia so that the much-maligned and battered cause of Democracy can be freed from further aggravation. That would be a sad development. The U.S.A. is also different, a place apart. It is in its best interests to support Israel, that is, without further comment on Israelis, Sabras, and sympathizers. Whatever they do or say does not matter. The same goes for whatever they did or said. There are pragmatic reasons, as well as ethereal ones, better left to evangelicals and popularizers, that intervene. The questions involved in restructuring the Middle East are not entirely rational. At present, there is a sense that, as things stand, they need to be reversed. ISIS has rampaged about too long unopposed. The Syrian Civil War never caught much interest, despite the routine use of chemical and biological weapons on innocents. Now, needless to add, Russia's military might is digging in. It has already voiced support against regime change.
It is good, however, in the long run, for historians to be less squeamish. They can tell the honest truth (as they see it) about heavily mythologized events, especially those of recent vintage. We do not need the feel-good insulation. Let us then turn more realistically toward what is -- not who did what 65 years ago and pluck quotes from the Bible. Just how long does it take for a situation characterized by unbearable unrest to get out of control? Not long, once sparks begin to fly. How long does it take for it to be finally circumscribed, encompassed, defused, and placed under a benign authority? No one knows. But we must believe in its possibility, sooner rather than later. America should not alienate itself and allow a non-interventionist form of laissez faire to re-determine the Middle East. Its disorder cries out for a new, viable, path toward peaceful coexistence. Bin Laden's way is not hard to figure. Eliminate infidels and establish Sharia. America can stand on the sidelines, wait, and watch. But only bold action, carefully conceived and executed, and force (without deliberate brutalities) can breathe new hope and life into this beleaguered region.