The State of Israel came into being on May 14, 1948. The five Arab armies of Egypt, Syria, Trans Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq immediately invaded the new microstate. Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, expressed their combined intention publicly: “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 from the beginning in unhidden support of genocide. This is hardly surprising, especially in view of their candid and warm personal cooperation with 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 where they had freely shelled Israel’s farms and villages for years. Egypt’s Nasser ordered the U.N. 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. [Emphasis ours]
Two days later, an enthusiastic echo came from Hafez Assad, then Syria’s Defense Minister, who proclaimed: “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 voluptuous 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.”
“…to wipe Israel off the map”? Does this sound familiar, today?
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 scholars 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.” 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 the Arabs and their supporters continue to maintain? It hardly seems possible. The jurisprudential correctness of Israel’s resort to anticipatory self-defense was well established in longstanding customary international law, in the “general principles of law recognized by civilized nations,” and in the “teachings of the highly-qualified publicists” (all authoritative sources identified at Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice).
International law 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 genocidal aggression against the Jewish State, Israel almost paid for it with its own 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 2326 deaths of Israeli soldiers, nearly ten thousand 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 still known in Israel’s intelligence community as the Mechdal, a Hebrew term meaning “omission,” “nonperformance” or “neglect.”
The Arabs argue that Israel has no legitimate claim on Jerusalem. 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. Ironically, when, in 1947, the United Nations called for an international (U.N.-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 cruelly murdered all Jews who remained on the Jordanian side of the 1948 armistice line. Of course, Jordanian control over East Jerusalem from 1949 – 1967 was flagrantly unacceptable under international law. This is the case from the standpoints of both the Arab kingdom’s illegal method of acquisition, and of its subsequently brutal methods of occupation.
Do President Obama and Israel’s own Road Map supporters object to these earlier and egregious violations of international law by the Kingdom of Jordan? If they do, they are doing it very quietly. To date, they certainly haven’t even mentioned them.
The viscerally fashionable statement that “Jerusalem is holy to all three monotheistic religions” is now generally taken as prima facie true. Yet, for Muslims, even for those who regard the city as their own because of its presumed Canaanite origins, it is not Jerusalem, but the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, that is religiously 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.
At prayer anywhere in the world, Jews 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 well-being 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 his capital. Driven into exile by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E., the Jews returned fifty years later, and rebuilt Jerusalem as their capital. It was the capital of the Jews, yet again, under the Maccabees.
The rights of both Jews and Christians were openly trampled on by the Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem. Churches were made into mosques. Slaughterhouses were deliberately established near Jewish places of worship. Mosques were built next to churches and synagogues just so their minarets could literally “over tower” them.
LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on Israeli and US foreign and military policies. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.
Louis Rene Beres