Friday, August 26, 2011

Israel, Part VI: Continued Unrest

This is the 6th (final) part of a series on Israel. For the full series, see Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V.

Boundary Maps
I need to correct something from yesterday. Israel gained a significant amount of land when defending themselves in the 1967 War. I showed a map of what the boundaries looked like a year later, when they had ceded much of it back. But as I began reading about the Yom Kippur War, one of the reasons for that war was for Egypt and others to regain territory lost (specifically the Sinai Peninsula for Egypt). What the Israelis did do in the occupied territories, however, was allow the conquered peoples to continue self rule. They sharply put down any rebellion, but where there was cooperation, Israel was generous and mostly hands-off. I’m not certain why the source for my map was incorrect, unless it was using this self-rule policy as a limit to the actual boundaries of the state of Israel. So my apologies for the confusion. 

There’s a video I came across recently, dealing with the changes in boundaries. I found it helpful. It’s about six minutes long, worth watching for clarity:

I should maybe talk a bit about my sources, since it is information sources in the Middle East that accounts for so much of the difference of opinion. I am reading sources that have always been friendly to Israel, but who have spent a lot of time in the Middle East and developed relationships with many local Arabs as well. I trust the sources for point of view generally. You can make your own decisions. 

I mentioned at the beginning of this series that much of my information came from the history texts we used for homeschooling. These were self-published, and last I looked were no longer available for distribution. The books are Understanding Middle East and European History, Volumes 1 and 2, from The Center for Educational Restoration, © 1997 and 2000 respectively. I used basic information from these books, but analysis is mine.  

A good chunk of the information, especially up to WWII, is cited as coming from Zionism—The First One-Hundred Years, distributed by the Embassy of Israel, Washington, DC. Some later information comes from David Ben-Gurion’s Israel: A Personal History, © 1970 as well as The Jews in Their Land © 1974. The texts also quoted at length from writings by W. Cleon Skousen, including speeches, government reports, and his definitive work on the 1967 War, Fantastic Victory (I also used a student edition of this book, from CER, © 2001). Skousen was a prolific author; you might know him for The 5000-Year Leap, The Real Benjamin Franklin, and possibly his Bible history series, The First Two Thousand Years, The Third Thousand Years, and The Fourth Thousand Years. 

The reason for this talk about sources today is more than to make up for yesterday’s error; it is to get at the heart of why there is so much confusion there. How do we know what the situation really is, and who are the injured parties and the oppressors? Some of my trust comes from familiarity with the sources. Some comes from observing the countries and people, and gauging how closely they adhere to principles of civilization. 

Yesterday we covered some of the Palestinian refugees—the Arabs in Israel who fled their homes when surrounding Arabs refused to recognize the newly created state of Israel and went to war to eliminate Israel and the Jews. I need to add a detail about this. After the brief war that failed to eliminate Israel, the Israeli government set up a trust to handle the property of the refugees, to hold it for them. All they asked was recognition of their statehood and a permanent peace treaty. These requests were never met. 

Eventually the land was purchased using a price structure set up by the UN. Israel never simply went in and took over private property; they lawfully acquired the land. Meanwhile, however, it does not appear the refugees were personally paid for their properties. If that is so, it was not because of any evil attributable to Israel. 

Among the refugees, as we noted yesterday, were a number of hotheads, tending toward terrorism and war, and refusal to meet any Israeli demands. In addition, we also looked yesterday at the Soviet Union’s efforts to fill a power vacuum left by a retreating Britain. 

Now, for the Palestinian Liberation Organization. By the early 1950s, this was a loose organization of many factions, brought together under this umbrella that was supported and trained by the Soviets. Methods, structure, and ideology were more Marxist than Muslim. Potential leaders were trained in Moscow, East Germany, and Cuba, where they were specifically trained in subversion, propaganda, explosives, and terror tactics. In every war against Israel up to the fall of the USSR, the Soviets provided massive arms to Israel’s enemies. 

While among the refugees, the PLO attempted the assassination of Jordan’s king, causing the refugees to be ousted from that country in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, in Lebanon, they attempted a government takeover; the PLO was ousted, but refugees were allowed to stay. The PLO remained infiltrated, therefore, and often used innocent refugees as human shields.  

Among PLO atrocities are hijackings of passenger jets, assassinating the Israeli Olympic team in Munich, killing Egypt’s diplomatic corps in Cyprus, assassinating US diplomats and ambassadors, and many many attacks on innocent Israeli citizens in their own country. All these events they boast of as “revolutionary victories.” 

One of the PLO’s tactics was disinformation—lying propaganda. Repeating the lies over and over, through decades, in schools and in every news broadcast, has left a large part of the world unaware of the truth of events in the Middle East. 

Since the loss of Soviet support in the early 1990s, the PLO itself is both more accepted as legitimate and less in the news, but terrorism and disinformation tactics are at least as prominent as ever. 

During lectures I attended last week, Middle East expert Victor Ludlow talked about the people there. He has visited Israel some fifty times, lived there four times. He used the analogy of salt and pepper. Among Arabs, Jews, and Christians he knows there, most are the salt of the earth—good people, hard working, family oriented, the kind of people you want as your neighbors. But scattered among the salt are the pepper, the hotheads who make trouble for all. 

Over here in the US, that is also my perception. Most of the Jewish people I’ve known are good, decent people not too different from me and my family. Lately we’ve become acquainted with a number of Arab Muslims, mostly who have come here from Iraq and Saudi Arabia for training in the oil industry. Mostly young men between 20-35, they are nevertheless salt of the earth, not the pepper.  

Ludlow, an American who truly understands the Middle East, said he was very glad not to be asked to come up with some partition plan. He showed us a map of the controversial West Bank area. Jewish settlements are mostly many small dots, and a few larger settlement blocks. And Palestinian cities and towns are fewer but larger, mostly among the various Jewish settlements. There is no way of partitioning without uprooting a majority of probably both parties. 

There are serious problems that may not be solvable either by war or peace treaty. Population per square foot, for example. In the US we have about 30 people per square kilometer. Israel has 300. The West Bank has 400. Gaza (refugee area attached to the Sinai Peninsula) has 4000—only parts of India and Bangladesh are more crowded.  

In the US the GDP per person is about $47,200. In Israel it’s $29,800. They are hard-working and successful, but you can see their work doesn’t translate into as much prosperity as we enjoy. The West Bank GDP per person is only $2,900, and in Gaza it is $1000—extreme poverty. 

The larger Middle East can be divided into Big Four (Egypt, Turkey, Saudi, Arabia, and Iran), with 70% of population and, I believe, production/income. Seven Middle countries (Syria, Iraq, Jordan, UAE, Oman, Yemen, and Israel) have 25%. Then there are Six Small countries, dividing up the remaining 5%. As one of these small countries, Palestine (the partitioned country recognized with leadership from the PLO) continues as a hot spot for poverty, politics, and terrorists. (Similar problems exist in middle-sized Yemen and Syria and larger Egypt and Iran.) 

Israel’s government is much more socialist than we tolerate in the US (so far). But they are hard working and rights oriented, with elected representation. Despite the necessary outgo for defense, they are among the most prosperous in the Middle East. Logic alone tells us the 7.5 million Israelis, on their New Jersey-sized plot of land, are incapable of oppressing the surrounding hundreds of millions of Arab peoples.  

I believe Knesset Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu was right when he said, “If Palestine were to lay down their guns tomorrow, there would be no more war. If Israel lays down theirs, there would be no more Israel.” I’ve kept that quote for some years. But in that speech, he went on to say, “Israel must create treaties with the countries of the world based on values, interests, and strength. We must nurture our military, diplomatic and political, and spiritual strength—that is the key to our future.” 

At the Spherical Model, we can judge the success of civilization, economics, and freedom based on specific principles. It isn’t surprising that terrorists who advocate a mixture of savage chaos followed by tyrannical rule are far into the southern hemisphere, not only politically but also economically and socially. The Muslim people who most adhere to the rules of civilization also enjoy better economics and less oppressive government. Israel may not be perfect, but as a democratic friend that strives for civilization, we do well to honor that friendship.

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