The Freak Show: A Middle East Quandary

It’s strange times in the Middle East these days. The so-called “Arab Spring” continues, with the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt, while in Libya, the civil war rages on with assistance to the rebels from NATO air power. Tunisia also successfully removed their ruler, but protests in Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Algeria and Jordan, among others, have been less successful. Syria, particularly, has dealt with the uprisings harshly, with reports of over 1,200 dead from the hands of government troops.
The rulers in the Arab world have often used the West and Israel as a convenient rallying point and this is no exception. Palestinians have been gathering at the Syrian/Israeli border to protest against the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights. There hasn’t been a conflict between the two countries since 1973, and although Syria doesn’t recognize Israel, there has been a tacit understanding between the two countries. But now the Syrian government needs a diversion from their internal protests, so they have let the dogs loose, so to speak.
The busloads of Palestinians could never have reached Syria’s border without the permission of the Syrian government. The same goes for what’s happening in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah, the terrorist group that controls the Lebanese government, knows that border provocations with Israel will always draw attention.
The West Bank, where a de facto Palestinian state exists, and Jordan, which has more Palestinians than Syria and Lebanon combined, had no protests against the Israelis, so it seems obvious they were staged by Syria and Lebanon to try and change the subject from the growing protests against their governments.
Strangely enough, it seems to work; the press in Europe and the U.S. treats the protests against the Israelis as a real uprising, as opposed to a staged event. President Obama even went so far as to make statements calling for a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians based on the 1967 borders, which seemed like a change in U.S. policy. He later backed off from that and indicated it would have to be through land swaps that an agreement be reached.
The Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, reacted strongly to Obama’s statements, indicating that there’s no way they could go back to those borders, because they are indefensible against attacks. In a meeting with the President, Netanyahu urged Obama to endorse a 2004 American commitment, made by then President George W. Bush, in which he said a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines was “unrealistic” and a future peace agreement would have to recognize “new realities on the ground.”
Indeed, it seems the President, and the European leaders who also call for the 1967 borders to be enforced, need a history lesson. Great Britain controlled much of the Middle East in the early 20th century. When they left the region, the United Nations created a “partition plan,” in which half the land was given to the Israelis, and half to the Palestinians. The Israelis accepted it, but the Palestinians did not, demanding the whole area, and the Arab countries immediately attacked the new country of Israel.
Many of the Arabs living in the Israeli portion of the land fled, based on promises from the surrounding Arab countries that they could return after the war was won, and all the Israelis, as they put it, were “driven into the sea.” Ironically, the Arabs that stayed in Israel ended up being the only ones who have been able to participate in free elections, to have a free press, to have women’s rights, etc. There are even Israeli Arabs in the Parliament of Israel.
The Israelis won that war, and although there’s much more to it than we have room to get into, they gave back some of the land that was captured in the ceasefire agreement. They were again attacked by the Arab countries in 1956, 1967 and 1973. Each time they gave back some of the land they captured. They also, just recently, pulled out of the Gaza Strip, at the behest of the international community. Did the Palestinians take it and use it to set up a society that would serve the people? No, the terrorist group Hamas took over and immediately started shooting rockets into Israel.
With all this history, how can anyone expect the Israelis to just hand over land again? Every time they tried it, they were attacked. Why do people think this time will be different?
And here’s one more fact I don’t get… on 9/11, almost all the world was shocked and saddened, and gave the U.S. sympathy. Except the Palestinians, who went out on their rooftops to shoot off guns and celebrate. At the UN, the Israelis vote with us 99 percent of the time, and support us at every turn when we undertake international actions. The Palestinians, as with most Arab countries, almost always vote against us. And support for terrorism comes from these countries, often clandestinely from leaders that claim to be our friend. We have one country, Israel, that’s a democracy, with a capitalist system like ours; freedom of speech press, women’s rights, etc. And on the other hand, we have brutal dictatorships that suppress their own people, and Palestinian leaders who have taken our foreign aide and instead of building hospitals and schools, built secret tunnels to import arms and weapons.
I’m no apologist for the Israelis, as they do things that I feel aren’t in their best interest, but why does the world get up in arms when they think we aren’t being evenhanded? Why does the world call for sacrifices from the Israelis all the time, and not mention the rocket shelling going on right now from the Gaza Strip, or the fact that Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier in 2006, and still holds him, not even letting the Red Cross in to see him? It’s time to support those who support us and live by our values. Let’s see the Palestinians show some goodwill for a change.