Israel Report

April 2002         

It's Time to Snap Out of Arab Fantasy Land

By Mark Steyn - April 18, 2002
So what do you think of this Israeli "massacre" at the Jenin refugee camp?

In the British accounts of the alleged worst human-rights atrocity since, oh, the Dutch took charge at Srebrenica, you can't help noticing a curious sameness. All reports rely on the same couple of eyewitnesses -- "Kamal Anis, a labourer" (The Times), "A quiet, sad-looking young man called Kamal Anis" (The Independent), "Kamal Anis, 28" (The Daily Telegraph) -- and the same handful of victims -- "A man named only as Bashar once lived there" (The Telegraph), "the burned remains of a man, Bashar" (The Evening Standard), "Bashir died in agony" (The Times). You'd think with so many thousands massacred there'd be a bigger selection of victims and distraught loved ones, wouldn't you? But apparently not. I do hope Fleet Street's herd-like experts aren't falling for the old native spin machine yet again -- cf. "the mighty Pashtun warrior, humbler of empires"; "the brutal Afghan winter"; etc.

"All British officials tend to become pro-Arab, or, perhaps, more accurately anti-Jew," wrote Sir John Hope-Simpson in the 1920s wrapping up a stint in the British Mandate of Palestine. "Personally, I can quite well understand this trait. The helplessness of the fellah appeals to the British official. The offensive assertion of the Jewish immigrant is, on the other hand, repellent." Progressive humanitarianism, as much as old-school colonialism, prefers its clientele "helpless," and, despite Iranian weaponry and Iraqi money and the human sacrifice of its schoolchildren, the Palestinians have been masters at selling their "helplessness" to the West.

Odd, isn't it? The Americans are routinely accused of being (in Pat Buchanan's phrase) Israel's amen corner. But Washington is at least prepared to offer the odd, qualified criticism of Sharon. The rest of the world, by contrast, is happy to parrot Yasser's talking points without modifying a single semi-colon. In the last month, I've found as many Jew-haters on the Continent as in the Middle East, but the difference is that the Arabs are fierce in their hatred, no matter how contorted their arguments, while the Europeans are lazy, off-hand Jew-haters -- they don't need arguments, they're happy to let the Arabs supply the script. Thus, the extraordinary resolution this week by the UN Human Rights Commission which accuses Israel of many and varied human rights violations, makes no mention of suicide bombers, and endorses the movement for a Palestinian state by "all available means, including armed struggle" -- i.e., terrorism. The resolution could have been drafted by the Arab League or the PLO. Forty of the 53 nations on the Commission approved it, including six EU members: Austria, Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Only five countries could summon the will to vote against: Britain, Canada, Germany, the Czech Republic and Guatemala. (The U.S. is not a member of the HRC, having been kicked off by a coalition of Euro-Arab schemers.)

This is only the most extreme example of how the less sense the Arabs make the more the debate is framed in their terms. For all the tedious bleating of the Euroninnies, what Israel is doing is perfectly legal. Even if you sincerely believe that "Chairman" Arafat is entirely blameless when it comes to the suicide bombers, when a neighbouring jurisdiction is the base for hostile incursions, a sovereign state has the right of hot pursuit. Britain has certainly availed herself of this internationally recognized principle: In the 19th century, when the Fenians launched raids on Canada from upstate New York, the British thought nothing of infringing American sovereignty to hit back -- and Washington accepted they were entitled to do so. But the rights every other sovereign state takes for granted are denied to Israel. "The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews," wrote America's great longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer after the 1967 war. "Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem ... But everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab ... Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world." Thus, the massive population displacements in Europe at the end of the Second World War are forever, but those in Palestine a mere three years later must be corrected and reversed. On the Continent, losing wars comes with a territorial price: The Germans aren't going to be back in Danzig any time soon. But, in the Middle East, no matter how often the Arabs attack Israel and lose, their claims to their lost territory manage to be both inviolable but endlessly transferable.

So even the so-called "two-state solution" subscribes to an Arafatist view of the situation. Creating yet another fetid Arab dictatorship in the West Bank would be, technically, a "three-state solution" and, indeed, a second Palestinian state, Jordan, whose population has always been majority Palestinian. It was created in the original "two-state settlement" 80 years ago, when the British partitioned their new Mandate of Palestine, carving off the western three-quarters into a territory called "Transjordan" and keeping the surviving eastern quarter under the name "Palestine." They did this for two reasons: First, they needed to stop one of the Hashemite boys, Abdullah, from marching on Syria and the best they could come up with was to halt him in Amman and suggest he serve as interim governor; but secondly, Churchill, as Colonial Secretary, thought the fairest way to fulfill Britain's pledges to both Arabs and Jews during the Great War was by confining Zionists to a Jewish National Home west of the Jordan and creating a separate Arab entity in Palestine east of the Jordan. The only thing he got wrong was the names: If instead of inventing the designation "Transjordan," he'd just called the eastern territory "Palestine" and the west "Israel" (or "Judah"), the Arafatist claim would be a much tougher sell.

The Zionists have been trading "land for peace" ever since the Great War, and the result is they've got hardly any land and less peace than ever before. As early as 1921, Chaim Weizmann wrote to Churchill protesting the ever shrinking borders of the potential Jewish homeland. To the north, Britain had surrendered traditionally Palestinian land to France in fixing the Mandate's border with Lebanon and Syria and, by giving the eastern three-quarters to Abdullah, had removed the rich fields of Gilead, Moab and Edom. The 1947 UN Partition took more land -- a partition of the previous partition -- but the Zionists accepted it. In 1993, Oslo was the biggest gamble yet, the creation of a mini-fiefdom for their bloodiest enemy. The "Palestinian Authority" was an unlikely bet for a state but, from Arafat's point of view, it would make an ideal launch-point from which to kill Jews in the very heart of their tiny sliver of territory.

Other than that, what's the point? I'm sure the Middle East can always use another squalid corrupt dictatorship, but at the very least it ought to be a viable squalid corrupt dictatorship. An Arafatist squat on the West Bank and Gaza would be insufficient. If Israel is, to the French, a "shitty little country," this would be littler and shittier. Therefore, Arafat would seek to augment it with territory from either west or east, Israel or Jordan. The likelihood is that he'd be able to destabilize Jordan far more quickly than he could destroy Israel. If it's a choice between an Arafat sewer straddling the Jordan River or the Hashemites, I know which I'd prefer.

Israel should take what it needs of the West Bank for a buffer, round up every terrorist it can, and announce that the Jordanians are welcome to what's left. If King Abdullah doesn't want it and chooses to call in the UN blue helmets in perpetuity, so be it. But the last eight years should have taught Israel that it cannot live within its 1967 borders next to a thug statelet whose sole purpose is to liquidate it. The Arabs have succeeded in luring the West into their bizarro alternative universe, where land lost by a foolish king is mysteriously transformed into the personal property of a terrorist organization, where the "armed struggle" of wired schoolgirls is UN-approved, and where the "right to exist" is something to be negotiated. Fantasy land is fun, but we've encouraged the Arabs in their peculiar dementias for too long. It's time to get real.

©2002 - National Post


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