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Israel's problems are due to its enlightened founders

Israel's problems are due to its enlightened founders

Author: Kevin Myers
Publication: The Irish Independent
Date: January 7, 2009
URL: http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/kevin-myers/israels-problems-are-due-to-its-enlightened-founders-1593777.html

The death toll from Gaza is of course, shocking, dreadful, unspeakable; though it does not compare with the death toll amongst Israelis if Hamas had its way. Recurring in the current debate are allegations about the terrible deeds Israelis did in 1948. But that is history. That some of these wrongs done to Arabs might have been prompted by local Arab support for the invading Arab armies is irrelevant. Historical injustices were certainly done in the formation of the Israeli state.

However, far greater wrongs were inflicted in 1945 on the Poles of Eastern Poland, and on the Germans of East Prussia, the Baltic and of the Sudetenland. We can go back a further quarter of a century, and look at the fate of the Christians of Anatolia, and the Turks of Crete and Thessalonika, or even, at a far lesser level, of the Catholics of West and North Belfast and the Protestants of Cork, who in different degrees were dispossessed, murdered, and exiled.

What was the difference between all those expulsions, and the expulsion -- let us settle for the word -- of some Arabs from what was to become Israel? It is that the exiles found homes in the states to which they had fled, and there they were allowed to work, and become full and active citizens. Turkey absorbed the Greek Turks, Greece absorbed Anatolia's Orthodox Christians, impoverished post-war Germany absorbed the millions of Balts, Sudetens and Prussians, the Free State absorbed the Northerners, (even appointing one of them, Dan McKenna, the head of the Army).

But not Israel's neighbours. No, they herded their fellow Arabs (not then known as Palestinians) from the former Ottoman province of Palestine into displaced persons camps, and kept them there. Not for months, but for decades, causing all kinds of political, cultural and moral claustrophobia. It was in these camps that the modern notion of "Palestinian" was born. And though we hear a lot about the walls between Israel and Gaza and Israel and the West Bank, we don't hear much about the walls between those densely populated Arab territories, and the neighbouring countries of Jordan and Egypt. Arab brotherhood becomes mysteriously indistinct whenever it requires solid gestures, rather than words.

The Israelis were told by the UN to leave Gaza. They left Gaza. Their reward has been to have had thousands of missiles fired into half a dozen of their cities from the territory they abandoned. And how many demonstrations have the grisly cast of showbiz anti-Israelis mounted to protest at these deliberate acts of indiscriminate terrorism? Let me ask you another question, with a comparable answer: How many Jews are there in Hamas?

Dear old Hamas, whose foot-soldiers are fed and supplied by EU and UN humanitarian aid, and armed from across the border with Egypt (which, naturally, is otherwise sealed to prevent Palestinians from leaving Gaza). It is admirably honest on one issue: it is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and to the extermination of the Jewish infidels in Palestine. So, the bombardment of Israel by Hamas terrorists is not a temporary nuisance, but the first step of a genocidal strategy.

And whereas the overwhelming majority of Israelis would regret the terrible slaughter of, say, the five Balousha sisters by an Israeli bomb, Hamas would rejoice in a comparable massacre of five Jewish girls. Moreover, I suspect I will win few friends by pointing out that the Balousha family had initially left their home, right next to a Hamas-controlled mosque, after the Israelis announced (as they often do, to minimise civilian casualties) that all such mosques would be targets for their bombers. But the girls' father, Ibrahim, then decided to take his chances back at home, where the sisters were killed by falling rubble when the mosque was bombed, just as the Israelis said it would be.

Such pathological and tragic fatalism in the face of an almost certain outcome defies all rational analysis. However, it does make stunning propaganda for the global anti-Israeli lobby. Moreover, all the arguments about the "proportionality" of the Israeli response are meaningless. Hamas can do what it likes, without serious rebuke or protests from the western intelligentsia and assorted celebrities: it is only when the Israelis reply to the insufferable provocation of Hamas-missile attacks that we suddenly hear the endless recitation of the P-word.

But 'proportionality' is a meaningless and largely theological concept: what is a proportionate reply to 8,000 missiles being fired into the defenceless civilian populations of so many Israeli cities?

Israel's current problems exist because its founders largely behaved like enlightened Jews, rather than as Communists and Nazis, or even as earlier generations of Americans or Australians had done. The Israelis didn't expel all the defeated peoples from their lands, but instead, let many stay. In other words, they didn't seek the kind of outcome which the Romans inflicted upon Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War. And that's the real point about that much-maligned thing, a Carthaginian Peace. For one tended not to hear very much from the Carthaginian Liberation Organisation thereafter.

- kmyers@independent.ie


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