Defenseless under the night, Our world in stupor lies.
The unchanging struggle to evict the Jews from “all of Palestine” (that is, from Israel as well as Judea/Samaria/Gaza) is driven by the homicidal idea of jihad or holy war. According to Islamic orthodoxy, their “prophet” is said to have predicted a final war to annihilate the Jews. Mohammed, it is reported, had stated: “The hour (i.e., salvation) will not come until you fight against the Jews; and the stone would say, `O Muslim! There is a Jew behind me: come and kill him.'”
Israel’s Peace Process supporters, in alleging Palestinian legal claims, seem to have forgotten that the PLO urged Saddam Hussein to launch annihilative attacks upon Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. Yasir Arafat had even enthusiastically embraced Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, sending units of the Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA) to actively assist with the inter-Arab killing and rape and torture of Kuwaitis. Following the Iraqi aggression, Arafat and the PLO openly supported Baghdad in different ways. At the Cairo summit of August 10, 1990, Arafat sought to deflect attention from the invasion, toward the crises in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Abdul Abbas sent his own paramilitary forces into the occupied state to help “police” the sheikhdom. So, too, did the PFLP’s George Habash and the DFLP’s Nayef Hawatmeh. And at the time, Mohammed Milhem, senior aide to Arafat, publicly threatened Fatah-led terrorism “everywhere” in support of Iraq.
Islamic critics of Israel like to hint at certain “sinister” Jewish migrations to “Palestine” after World War I, neglecting to mention that (1) there had been a substantial and continuous Jewish presence in the land for over 3,000 years; and (2) there had been a steady Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Nor do they care to remember that after World War II, when the General Assembly proposed to partition them Palestine, this offer followed an earlier (1922) and illegal partition by the British, which gave almost 80 percent of the land promised to the Jews by the Balfour Declaration to create the Arab state of Transjordan. Even today, very few are aware that, at the time of the 1947 partition vote in the United Nations, the Jews had already been unlawfully deprived of four-fifths of their lawful entitlement.
How did protracted warfare first arise between Israel and the Arabs? Not even militant Arab leaders or anti-Zionist historians could conceivably accept the view that the 1948-49 conflict was a war of Jewish origin. On February 16, 1948, the U.N. Palestine Commission reported to the Security Council: “Powerful Arab interests, both inside and outside Palestine, are defying the resolution of the General Assembly and are engaged in a deliberate effort to alter by force the settlement envisaged therein.” The Arabs themselves were unambiguous in accepting responsibility for starting the war. Jamal Husseini informed the Security Council on April 16, 1948: “The representatives of the Jewish Agency told us yesterday they were not the attackers, that the Arabs had begun the fighting. We did not deny this. We told the whole world that we were going to fight.” As for the British commander of Jordan’s Arab Legion, John Bagot Glubb, he remarked candidly: “Early in January, the first detachments of the Arab Liberation Army began to infiltrate into Palestine from Syria. Some came through Jordan and even through Amman…They were, in reality, to strike the first blow in the ruin of the Arabs of Palestine.”
The current State of Israel came into being on May 14, 1948. The five Arab armies of Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq immediately invaded the new microstate. Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League publicly expressed their combined intention: “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” In terms of international law, the Arab League thus spoke plainly of genocide. This is hardly surprising, especially in view of the open and warm cooperation they offered Hitler and the Axis against the Allies in World War II.
Israel’s critics maintain that the 1967 War was one of Israeli aggression rather than a war of Israeli self-defense. Yet, on May 15, Israel’s Independence Day, Egyptian troops began moving into the Sinai, massing near the Israeli border. By May 18, Syrian troops, too, were preparing for battle along the Golan Heights, 3000 feet above the Galilee, from which they had shelled Israel’s farms and villages for years. Egypt’s Nasser ordered the UN Emergency Force (UNEF), stationed in the Sinai since 1956, to withdraw, whereupon the Voice of the Arabs proclaimed, on May 18, 1967:
“As of today there no longer exists an international emergency force to protect Israel. We shall exercise patience no more. We shall not complain any more to the UN about Israel. The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence.”
Two days later, an enthusiastic echo came from Hafez Assad, then Syria’s Defense Minister, who proclaimed openly: “Our forces are now entirely ready…to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland…The time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.” President Abdur Rahman Aref of Iraq joined the chorus of genocidal threats: “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy, which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear – to wipe Israel off the map.” On June 4, Iraq formally joined the military alliance with Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The Damascus regime’s commitment to military final solutions for Israel has been described by Ahmed S. Khalidi and Hussein Agha as stemming from “…an apparently strong conviction that the struggle with Israel is no mere political or territorial dispute, but rather a clash of destinies affecting the fate and future of the Middle East.” Moreover, Syria’s approach to Israel, say Khalidi and Agha, remains “bound up with the view that force, whether active or passive, is the final arbiter of the conflict with Israel and the ultimate guarantor of any settlement in the area.”
Was Israel the aggressor in 1967, as (incomprehensibly) the Arabs and Iran continue to maintain? It hardly seems possible. The jurisprudential correctness of Israel’s resort to anticipatory self-defense is well established in longstanding customary international law. The Law of Nations is not a suicide pact. Israel could not have been expected to wait patiently for its own annihilation. Indeed, when the government of Golda Meir decided not to exercise the lawful option of anticipatory self-defense in October 1973, when Egypt and Syria were preparing to launch yet another war of aggression against the Jewish State, her country almost paid for it with collective disappearance. Although Israel eventually prevailed against the Arab aggressors, it did so at a staggering cost in human life. The Yom Kippur War produced 2,326 deaths of Israeli soldiers, nearly 10,000 injuries and hundreds of prisoners. These costs to Israel were the direct results of A’man’s (Military Intelligence Branch) failure to predict the Arab attack, a failure known in Israel’s intelligence community as the mechdal, a Hebrew term meaning failure, nonperformance or neglect.
What if Israel had chosen to ignore the recent stockpiling of Hizbullah rockets in Lebanon? What if this stockpiling had been allowed to continue for months, or even years? And what if Israel now chooses to turn aside from Iran’s continuing assembly of much more dangerous weapons – ballistic missiles topped with atomic warheads? Can Prime Minister Olmert trust the “international community” to oversee a world of jihad that includes a nuclear Iran?
The Arabs argue that Israel has no claim on Jerusalem beyond power politics. Yet, Jerusalem has long been a Jewish city, and calling for an end to Israel’s sovereignty over an undivided Jerusalem is simply a call for an end to Israel. When, in 1947, the United Nations called for an international (UN-administered) city, it was not the Jews – but the Arabs – who refused. When the Jordanian army seized the Old City during its war of aggression against Israel in 1948, it promptly desecrated all Jewish holy sites in the area, turned Jewish cemeteries and synagogues into urinals and murdered all Jews who remained on the Jordanian side of the 1948 armistice line. Of course, Jordanian control over East Jerusalem from 1949 to 1967 was entirely unacceptable under international law from the standpoints of both the Arab kingdom’s method of acquisition and its brutal methods of occupation. Do Israel’s stubborn Road Map/Peace Process supporters ever object to these earlier and manifestly egregious violations of international law by the Kingdom of Jordan? If they do, their objections certainly have been muted.
The statement that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions is now generally taken as self-evident. Yet, for Muslims, even those who regard the city as theirs because of presumed Canaanite origins, it is not Jerusalem, but the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, that is paramount. It is Mecca, not Jerusalem, to which Muslims must pilgrimage at least once. For Christians, Jerusalem contains some, but not all, of their holiest shrines. For Jews, ALL main holy sites are within the post-1967 Jerusalem municipal borders or in very close proximity.
Jews at prayer anywhere in the world face toward the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Muslims, even those praying on the Mount, face away from it, towards Mecca. When they pray on the Mount, Muslims have their backs toward the Dome of the Rock, while those praying in the Al-Aqsa mosque also look away from Jerusalem and toward Mecca. In the Jewish Holy Scriptures, Jerusalem is mentioned 656 times. Jerusalem’s wellbeing is central to all Jewish prayer. In the Koran, Jerusalem is never mentioned; not even once.
With the brief exception of the Crusader period, no conqueror of Jerusalem made the city a capital. Driven into exile by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E., the Jews returned 50 years later and rebuilt Jerusalem as their capital. It was the capital of the Jews, again, under the Maccabees.
(To be continued)
Copyright The Jewish Press, September 15, 2006. All rights reserved.
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.