Once again the modern state of Israel has taken extraordinary military measures to defend itself against its perpetual enemies in the Levant, that area of the eastern Mediterranean bounded by Turkey, Iraq, Egypt and Arabia wherein the crucible of an historic conflict continues to boil. The years of rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza strip are being answered with a full-scale air and ground assault. Israel deserves to prevail, at least as much as it can. Anyone familiar with modern history, as well as Biblical history, knows that the enmity between Israelites and Palestinians has never been resolved, and probably never will be. But the very intractable nature of the conflict does not necessarily point to any determination to write the area off as irrelevant to our interests or too costly to our resources. It certainly should give pause to any efforts to find lasting peace.
It is enough to understand that Israel’s presence in the Middle East is unwelcome to appreciate the ferocity with which Israel’s enemies have attempted since 1948 to drive the tiny (the size of New Jersey) but resourceful nation into the sea. But why is it unwelcome?
First, its freedom and prosperity are an affront to all the surrounding backward and corrupt Arab despotisms. Second, it is an “infidel” nation in an otherwise Muslim region. Third, it humiliated its enemies in most of the wars that have broken out since the United Nations mandate fulfilled the dream of the Jewish people for a secure homeland.
What is truly amazing is how public opinion has turned completely around since modern Israel was founded. Liberals and socialists were most enthusiastic about Israel, for not only did a people who had been persecuted so cruelly and for so long deserve an opportunity to be free of oppression, but it embraced socialism and even the kibbutz or collective farming.
President Harry S Truman, a Democrat, recognized Israel immediately, much to the chagrin of his advisors and many Republicans who saw no advantage in dividing the Arab world. Now most left-wingers equate Israel with imperialism and most right-wingers see Israel as a vital ally in the Middle East.
Between the horrifying accounts of Hitler’s Jewish holocaust and subsequent hunts for the fugitive mass murderers, the world became increasingly sympathetic to an heroic people who also, not incidentally, are seen as the Chosen People of God by millions of Christians, especially in the United States. Has anyone read the book or seen the movie “Exodus” and not been moved by the Jews’ struggle for independence?
Israel won its independence in 1948, and defended it in 1967 and 1973, against Arab attacks, demonstrating that it intended to survive and prosper. But that success has never convinced its enemies to give up the struggle. Yes, Egypt and Jordan have acquiesed in the Jewish state, but not Syria, Iran or Saudi Arabia. Iraq’s attitude may be changing but not yet.
For Western peoples enamored of “conflict resolution,” the Arab-Israeli conflict is merely another opportunity to work their wonders. But one does not have to know very much about the situation to conclude that it defies solution. Anyone who believes that religious differences should be no barrier to peace just does not get it. No amount of concessions by Israel — whether it is giving up land or releasing prisoners — will ever satisfy Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Iran’s president is not merely posturing when he threatens to “wipe Israel off the map.” That is why his nation has supported both Hamas and Hezbollah. He and other Arab rulers have made it clear that there can never be peace with Israel.
That leaves Israel with little choice but to arm itself to the fullest extent necessary and use its power in self defense, as it must do from time to time. Golda Meir spoke the truth when she said that peace would come only when the Palestinians love their own children more than they hate the Israelis. It is a weird kind of love that the Palestinians show when they enlist their children as suicide bombers.
In contrast, Israel has taken extraordinary precautions to avoid or minimize civilian casualties as it takes out the sites of rocket launchings, notifying them in advance. Of course, Hamas deliberately places rockets and arms caches where lots of civilians can be killed, providing a propaganda feast for “world opinion,” largely anti-Israel.
Persecution of the Jews seems to be here to stay.