Category Archives: Middle East

Truth is the Only Path to Peace

The “Arab Spring” has devolved into the Jihadi Winter. The Cairo 2009 strategy of “leading from behind” and “outreach” to radical Islamic regimes is bearing bitter fruit and global contempt for the USA. “Negotiations” between the Palestinians are interrupted by terrorist attacks on Israelis, continued calls for violence and a refusal of the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel’s right to exist within secure borders and with full diplomatic relations with a second Palestinian state (Jordan was shaped as the first one in 1947). When Israel defends herself or builds a few settlements, the world declares “Apartheid! Racism! Colonialism!” And those are the nice words.

It is time for honesty about USA foreign policy and the realities of the Middle East. Millions of lives, scores of national economies and our pursuit of justice demand serious accounting, not ideological epithets tossed back and forth on the airwaves and Internet. In the following paragraphs, I will outline a pathway to peace, with the understanding that any accord is fragile and the cohesion of nation-states and tranquility between nations requires ethical courage and constant vigilance. I will not cater to radical Zionists that wish to displace all Arabs from Judea and Samaria. I will also refuse to listen to replacement theologians and leftist activists that reduce Israel to Western colonialism and deny her place in the community of nations.

There are multiple 20th century narratives concerning the Middle East, from the miracle of Zionism to the tragedy to Palestinian diaspora. All of them contain some truth and no one timeline (with its inherent selectivity) can capture the complexity. The pathway to peace requires understanding history and a willingness to lay down the grievances of the past to forge a better future. Recounting terrorist incidents and family tragedies without forgiveness and willingness to create something new only compounds the current impasse. The way forward is rooted in present reality and future hope, not bitterness or nostalgia.

Here are some “mile markers” on a road to peace:

1. Israel is not going away. Much can be negotiated – and has, with Nobel prizes awarded for the attempts – but existence in peace with diplomatic relations is the starting point.

2. A Palestinian State dedicated to peace, economic cooperation and freedom of conscience must be the goal. There will be no new state without renunciation of terrorism. This new state is another “given.”

3. The Palestinian demands for “right of return” for 1947-49 refugees cannot include every distant descendant and must involve relocation in the new state as much as possible, not overwhelming a Jewish State with angry radicals. Realistically, many can return home in Israel, with others welcomed in a new Palestine.

4. Jerusalem can be the capital of both states. The Temple Mount and other holy sites need oversight from outside bodies as well and the consensus of each nation.

5. The new Palestinian leaders must renounce deception, winking at radicals and the long-term goal of annihilating Israel. There cannot be one set of phrases for Western consumption while other agendas are promoted to radical constituencies. No more Temple denial, Holocaust denial or distribution of the Protocols and other scurrilous literature.

6. Israel should freeze settlements if # 1 is unequivocally announced and terrorists are arrested and prosecuted.

7. There should be immediate economic joint-ventures creating thousands of new jobs for underemployed Palestinians.

8. The USA must be the leading mediator at serious peace talks. No other nation has anything close to the objectivity America displays. China wants oil, period. Russia wants imperial power and access to warm water and economic control. All the nations surrounding Israel have much to gain from peace, including the blessings of free trade, tourism and culture exchange. Iran and Syria can be marginalized and a new coalition of freedom-affirmation nations may be emboldened to resist the mad mullahs.

9. The EU needs to stay on the sidelines and enter a new season of humility and repentance for her anti-Semitism and capitulation to radical Islam. Without reverting to the national-racial depravities of the 19th and 20th century, European nations must reaffirm first principles of freedom and arrest their decline toward de facto Sharia. No European nation has the moral strength and objectivity at present to lend any weight to negotiations.

10. All of these principles for peace require unprecedented courage on the part of Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The PA must change their textbooks and include an Israeli State. Israel must welcome a fledgling state next door and create economic and travel pathways for prosperity. Before the ink is dry, death threats will come to all involved. But the lessons of Begin and Sadat are instructive. There has been no war between Israel and Egypt (or Jordan) since Camp David (President Carter’s greatest achievement). Bill Clinton called Arafat after the another broken accord and accused Arafat of ruining the chances fro pace and destroying their personal legacies. Arafat, child of the 1940s jihadi cries of the Mufti of Jerusalem (a joyful visitor to Auschwitz), could not, in the end, let go of his hatred and eliminationist ideology. Israel has proven her willingness to cede land for peace. It is time to find a PA leader who welcomes peace for generations yet unborn.

All peacemaking requires the best of human nature. All peace accords are subverted by human depravity. Israel is a moral good for the world. A peaceful Palestine could point the way toward Islamic cultural revitalization and political moderation. Real peace is a goal worth working for. May “open covenants, openly arrived at…” guide leaders that desire a better future.

Myths and Facts in the Middle East

The proto-state of Palestine, held together by a coalition that is ambiguous at best toward peace with their neighbor Israel, has made her bid for UN recognition. The process is a bit akin to Roman Catholic sainthood, except that the Vatican has a more objective process. The USA is obligated to veto such a move, even though President Obama has staked his world reputation and his Nobel Prize for hope on a resolution to current the impasse in the Middle East.

A cursory review of news outlets blames Israel’s refusal to halt new settlement construction for the breakdown in negotiations a year ago. While there is some merit in this, such a facile explanation betrays ignorance of the real issues underlying the current conflict. There is much myth masquerading as truth about The Arab-Israeli conflict. Sorting fact from legend – even for historical events less than a century old – requires intellectual integrity and patience, two virtues lacking in our instant-information-and-analysis Internet Age.

Myth: Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is the reason for the “cycle of violence.”
Fact: Israel is not blameless in this conflict; however, she has come to the table again and again, signed peace accords (Campd David, 1978; Oslo, 1993; others in 2000) and watched jihadist radicals subvert the process.

Myth: Palestinian national identity and historic claims to the land are equal to Jewish aspirations.
Fact: Palestinian “national identity” is a recent construct, though many families and villages have deep roots in the land. Jewish connections are unbroken for nearly 3000 years.
Special fact: the tragedies of war in 1948 created a refugee disaster still festering, with the descendants of 400,000+ Arab refugees living in squalor and exile.

Myth: The 1947 UN Resolution establishing a Jewish State place forced the displacement of over 700,000 Palestinians and gave control of a large piece of territory to a minority group.
Fact: The UN Partition Plan gave the Jewish population of Palestine a small portion of land in which the Jews were a majority. The plan also called for both Transjordan (the first Palestinian state)and Israel to respect minority civil, property and religious rights.

Myth: Jewish terrorism was equal to Arab terrorism and the Jews massacred civilians and destroyed Arab villages on a large scale in 1948 and 1967. “Remember Deir Yassin” became an Arab war-cry.
Fact: The unauthorized work of the Irgun did result in scores of Arab and British casualties. The legitimate Israeli authorities punished such acts when possible. The exigencies of war did cause up to 400,000 Arabs to leave their homes; however, nearly 200,000 remained and many of them and their descendants have become Israeli citizens. The Mufti of Jerusalem went well-beyond any Zionist rhetoric when he stated unilaterally, “Kill all the Jews!” Egypt’s ruler in the 1967 conflict, General Nasser, made it clear that his goal was the destruction of Israel. By the way, more than 600,000 Jews were forced to leave Arab homelands as a result of the 1948 conflict.

Myth: Israel started the conflicts in 1948 and 1967.
Fact: There was low-level fighting in 1947-1948 as both sides positioned themselves before the departure of the British military. The British equipped the Arabs, gave no help to the new State of Israel and washed their hands of any responsibility. The 1967 war was preceded by scores of Arab missile and guerrilla attacks, the closing of borders and waterways and the movement of Arab armies on all sides of Israel. The Israeli “pre-emptive strike” was a brilliant response to the violence and brought a rapid victory. It also cemented Israel’s nationhood and wounded the pride of the nations around Israel.

Myth: Israel is a Western imposition arising our of Holocaust guilt.
Fact: The Holocaust DID accelerate world sympathy and UN action toward the new state. The problem with this line of reasoning is that many of its adherents are either Holocaust deniers or exaggerators of Israel’s “apartheid” policies.
Special fact: Current PA leader Abbas remains a Holocaust denier and refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist in peace next to a new (and second) Palestinian state.

Myth: Israel does not want an independent Palestine as a neighbor.
Fact: Israel has repeatedly negotiated toward a “two-state” solution – Camp David and Oslo both point the way. She has given up much land for peace and will even negotiate settlements in the West Bank – IF her neighbors will fully recognize her legitimacy, renounce terrorism and produce maps for their schools that include her name! Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated this time and again recently and even suggested another settlement freeze in exchange for direct, good-faith negotiations.

Israel is not perfect. She has
* Caused the displacement of many Arabs
* Invaded Lebanon and allowed her “allies” to wreak havoc among refugee camps.
* Erected a border fence that will make peaceful travel between two states difficult.
* Refused to look at creative solutions for Jerusalem – perhaps a shared capital of both nations?

But current Palestinian leaders have not
* Renounced terrorism – especially the killing of innocents.
* Recognized Israel’s right to exist peacefully and in perpetuity.
* Demonstrated any ability to treat minority populations with equity.
* Realized that their (exaggerated number of) descendants of the 1948 refugees cannot be allowed to settle within the political boundaries of Israel. Many could, however, help a new Palestine flourish.

Israel remains the only pluralistic democracy in a region of extremism and intolerance. If the USA was not so dependent of Arab oil, we would have helped popular secular movements topple several regimes long ago. Even this year’s “Arab Spring” is shrouded in mythology as the Islamicist Muslim Brotherhood takes control in multiple locales. The vandalizing of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo is a sign of what awaits these “revolutions” that are the darlings of the anti-Israeli Left in Europe and the USA. It is an insult to all decency to allow the Iranian leader on US soil. The greater tragedy is that thousands of unthinking students and chattering class members parrot his calls to destroy Israel. Ignored in all of this are the arrests of dissidents in Egypt, the “ethnic cleansing” of Blacks in Libya and the non-existence of anything resembling pluralism in the nations surrounding Israel.

The Palestinians deserve better leaders who want to live in peace and create a thriving region in partnership with Israel. When Israel left Gaza to the PA, the result was destruction and more violence. Hundreds of intact businesses were destroyed for no reason. Infrastructure was sabotaged. All this in the name of jihad.

Peace is possible, with direct negotiations and honest US leadership. But first we must know the facts and reject the myths.

Clear Thoughts in a Cloudy World

A fringe, small-church pastor wants to burn the Muslim scriptures, the Qur’an. Burning the Qur’an benefits only extremists, and hinders the cause of dialogue and peace.

Palestinian leader Abbas’ vision of a new state includes no Israeli political or security presence. On the surface, this sounds reasonable, until one realizes that neither Abbas nor any other Arab leader has given unconditional recognition of Israel’s right to exist in secure borders. They also flatly refuse to have any shared capital in Jerusalem. Now is the time for all people of conscience to urge Israel to extend the freeze on new settlements in exchange for real progress and for Abbas to look for ways to agree on terms instead of excuses to exit the talks. Oh yes, and the current vision has no room for Jewish citizens either, unlike Israel, which gives full rights to its Arab citizens. By the way – in 1947 the U.N mandate gave 80% to a new Arab nation, today called Jordan. The other 20% was divided between Jewish and Arab Palestinians. Israel’s original borders contained a majority Jewish population. In essence, Arabs were given 90% of the territory and still refused to live in peace. Notice that Israel has prospered while most nations around her are awash in poverty. The refugee camps are a deliberate strategy of the Arab states to keep hatred of Israel alive – so that radical Islam will not topple their regimes! Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PA are all funded by the Saudis and others to make sure they keep the pressure on Israel and off of their benefactors.

The Ground Zero Mosque is not illegal; however, it is unwise and a deliberate flash point conceived by radicals to further their agenda. It is amazing that the Left will defend this construction while shrilly condemning any Jewish or Christian symbols and words in public space. The demonic alliance of the radical Left and militant Islam have one shared aim: the destruction of the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of the American life. Each of these subversive forces thinks they will win the battle for the public square once the old religious influences are gone. The tragedy of such thinking is that the removal of our lasting values will end in either religious or secular totalitarianism and the loss of liberties gained over hundreds of years.

Too much governmental control of the economy yields stasis and decline as creativity and wealth production yield to mind-numbing bureaucracy and zero-sum thinking. No ethical or regulatory oversight yields Love Canals, foul air, lakes and rives. We must encourage private initiative and public responsibility. We must protect profits and property rights while promoting community well-being and opportunity. Whenever taxes are low, government revenues increase. The Democrats refuse to see this simple math because they cannot imagine any restraints on spending. The Republicans have to demonstrate an intelligent understanding of what federal, local and state governments should do – and what prerogatives must be left to the people.

Historical ignorance is fueling folly in the public square. Freedom without morality and reverence becomes anarchy and eventual totalitarianism – hence Nazi Germany in 1933. Centralized control gives us Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Today’s “liberal” foundations were yesterday’s “robber barons.” The problem is not that the rich should not give back. The deeper problem is that the compassionate, non-profit sector forgets where all the money comes from! At some point, wealth must be created. Risk and reward are vital to progress.

“Social justice” must include not only fair trade practices and public accountability – it must empower wealth creation and understand that there will be differences in income levels. I do not see Al Gore divesting himself of the more than $100M he has made since losing the 2000 election. George Soros may give to liberal causes, but his wealth comes at the expense of whole nations. Conversely, the Right has not articulated who should be the recipients of public generosity and how to help people in times of economic upheaval. It is not enough to say, “get a job” when there are no jobs. Jim Wallis of the Evangelical Left needs to realize that conservatives are not against fairness and generosity – they just think such values are best administrated locally and privately. Glen Beck needs to stop castigating those to promote social justice and demonstrate by his words and deeds creative ways to partner with folks outside the conservative bubble.

We can trim the federal budget and balance it within three years. Of course this means 10 new fighter jets instead of 15 and hammers that cost $20 instead of $900. It also means decentralizing all humanitarian aid and helping thousands of federal workers find jobs in the private sector. It means privatizing all political and public employee pensions. It means inviting ethical business execs to examine all levels of government and streamline the systems. It means that we cannot prosecute wars and have a welfare state. Europe is more generous with her public benefits because the USA has borne the major military costs for two generations.

The clouds are still in the sky, but I hope I have been clear. There are ways forward, but they are the “road[s] less traveled” and only faith, hope and love in large amounts will propel us forward.

Here We Go Again

For thirty years there have been negotiations between Israel and some of her neighbors concerning a “final” geopolitical settlement in the Middle East.

Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded – but we have no peace.

Israel has withdrawn from major portions of the “Occupied Territories” – but we have no peace.

Israel has offered unilateral concessions – only to be met with ridicule and rockets.

Hamas, Iran and Syria are arming for war against the only democracy in the region and most of the world accuses Israel as being the problem!

Here we go again. It is January 30, 1939 exhumed from the ashes. As Hitler prepares to unleash war on Europe, he blames the Jews for the coming conflagration. In his speech to the puppet Reichstag (Parliament), he declares that any bloodshed in the coming years would be the fault of the Jews and result in their “destruction.”

Will we ever learn? Will we ever liberate ourselves from the bondage of Anti-Semitic mythology? Or do we need another war (which will be won by Israel) with thousands dead to remind us of the futility of hatred?

What are the keys to peace in the Middle East? There are two simple ones: Unequivocal recognition of Israel’s right to exist within clear boundaries and an end to state-sponsored terrorism.

Until some Palestinian leaders cool their rhetoric and demonstrate real courage, we will live with a tinderbox that could spark far more than a regional war.