Monday, June 20, 2011

History Lessons from the Middle East

by Gordon Cooper

From Broader View Weekly, June 9,

When a smoldering ember is infused with a fresh breath of oxygen, it usually results in bright flame that can spread to a full-fledged fire if the source of that oxygen remains. It is one of the paradoxical qualities of fire, that it can be a force of warmth, comfort, beauty and useful for preparing food and/or other vital products, and it can also become a scorching, fearsome destructive force that can take lives and wreak havoc.

When President Obama said the “pre-1967 borders” between Israel and Palestine should be considered, when discussing the possibility of peace in that region, he blew a fresh breath of proverbial oxygen onto a smoldering ember of hatred and resentment toward the Jewish state. This simple remark – juxtaposed as it was on the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to our Capital and the White House – ignited a flame that, if not quenched by more reasoned words, could potentially lead to a very destructive conflagration.

When one hears of the “pre-1967” borders, one should look into what exactly those borders were and determine the cause of why those borders changed.

The history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, literally, goes back to Old Testament book of Genesis and the prophetic statement made by Yahweh; that the family feud between Isaac’s offspring (Israel) and the offspring of Ishmael (Arab nations) – both sons of Abraham – would continue forever (Genesis chapters 22 – 25). I do not intend to go back that far but I do believe we should at least go back as far as 1967 and revisit the events that led to the alteration of the political landscape that summer.

Egyptian forces were encamped along Israel’s southern borders, Jordanian troops were also poised for attack from the west and north, Syrian forces accompanied by Pakistani aircraft were ready and joined the Egyptians as willing partners, along with the freshly formed and virulently hateful Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The aim of this coalition of Arab nations was total annihilation of the infant state of Israel.

When Egypt’s Nassar shut down the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping in the last week of May, 1967, it was, in essence, an act of war. Israel responded with a pre-emptive strike and an historic military campaign that stands alone in world history as one of the most brilliant and well-conducted operations ever mounted in a nation’s self defense against hostile forces. Within six days (June 5 – June 10) Israel had captured all of the Sinai Peninsula and extended her borders into Jordan, Palestine and Syria.
Most of the lands and territories captured during those days in early June of 1967 have since been relinquished by the Israelis in exchange for promises of peaceful coexistence. However, the aim of those in Palestine who are, to this day, still sending rockets and sniper fire into Israel, continues to be the annihilation of – not the peaceful coexistence with – the nation of Israel.
The PLO and Hamas (the terrorist organization recognized as a legitimate political party in Palestine) still refuse to recognize the statehood of Israel and until that recognition is established, it matters little what President Obama says or how eloquently he says it. Peace will not come to that area, even if Israel reverts back to pre-1948 borders.

We should bear in mind that this conflict is not about territories or settlements. It is about the right to exist without fear of sniper bullets or suicide bombers or rocket fire. Israel faces these fears each and every day. Many Arabs live and move freely within the borders of Israel. No acts of hatred and violence threaten their commerce or sleep. However, very few Jews dare to risk their lives by moving into Palestine.

President Obama was right to say: “For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them.” (

However, he was wrong – or misled – when he said, in the same speech: “I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past.” (ibid)

Current events (the evidence of Iranian support for Hamas’ continued terrorist activity aimed at Israel) and the fact that Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas has made several public statements that he does not recognize the state of Israel as legitimate, prove that the majority of Palestinians are indeed looking to the past. “I will never allow a single Israeli to live among us on Palestinian land,” Abbas declared in a recent interview. Israel is home to a sizable proportion of Arab citizens, who have the vote and are represented by Arab parties in the Knesset. (

President Obama should know the Palestinian authorities are not merely looking back to 1967, they seek to return to 1947, when there was no official state of Israel.

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