By Sy Schechtman
Because the last century, my century of major life experience, was by far the bloodiest in the history of mankind, with over one hundred million killed in internecine combat, it has been inevitable that I should be witness to many so called ĎPeace Processes." So far mankindís great technological mastery of our planet earth has never transcended some of the apparently inherent bestial instincts in his own nature and so the frightful prospect of nuclear disaster seems to grow more probable. Therefore I am not cynical about the abundance of searches for peace; healthy skepticism but still prayerful hope! The peace process I refer to now is the still born Oslo Accords (1993-2003), but it is useful to go back and compare and contrast, to other major efforts to bring peace and prosperity to an ailing humanity in this century. History never really repeats but it always beguiles and intrigues and always sheds some light on the dubious path a stumbling humanity seems ever to be on.
Besides Oslo, in my memory, the Israeli Egypt Peace Treaty and that venerable granddaddy of my peace experience, the Munich Accords, "Peace in our Time", and Neville Chamberlain and his proverbial umbrella stand out. And not to mention historyís most evil genius of all, Adolph Hitler, who was continually underestimated by all who opposed him politically. Even Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte pale as world conquerors in comparison in Western history.
In 1924, while in prison, Hitler wrote a seminal work, the book Mein Kampf (My Struggle), which detailed the foul Jewish conspiracy for world wide domination, the need for German expansion (lebensraum) to the east and hailed the racial purity of the mostly blonde, blue eyed German (Aryan people), who were threatened by the scourge of intermarriage. (This from a dark haired, short, mostly ranting orator with piercing eyes and a Charlie Chaplinesque black mustache who was Austrian by birth!) Hitler was able to conflate his "drang nach Osten" ---drive to the east-- and his murderous anti Semitism into one brilliant non sequitor, that the miserable Jew, that miscreant, contemptible, totally inferior people (as in communist Red Russia to the east) was the same evil rich capitalist Jew to the west who was plotting to rule the world and who was polluting and defiling the pure Aryan, Nordic strain thru intermarriage.
But while he spoke so to his enthusiastic German audiences and, later Austrian audiences, on the international diplomatic front his piercing eyes misted over with a different type of humble fervor, contritely promising that the current unrest he had fomented over regional disputed territory and the displaced Germans therein, was absolutely his last demand to correct the unjust Versailles Treaty after World War One. Thus the Rhineland, Austria, Danzig, the western tip of Czechoslavkia (the Sudetenland) and then the rest of that little democratic state, all fell into the Nazi net without a shot of opposition. And the term appeasement was born----the vain hope that Germany would become a respectable, happy neighbor of the European family of nations now that these "legitimate" demands for German repatriation had been met. Late in 1938 the infamous Munich Pact was signed between between France (Deladier), England (Chamberlain), Germany (Hitler), and Italy (Mussolini), which forced the hapless Czech state to cede the Sudeten territory to Germany with another pious Hitler promise of ceasing further demands, while his subversive cohorts continued their infiltration of the rest of Czechoslavikia and soon the whole state was under German hegemony. Thus we had poor Poland, alone now with a hostile Czech state on its southern border, and also now on its eastern border the Soviet Union, with which the very duplicitous Hitler had just concluded a non aggression pact, two hitherto ferocious enemies now comfortable as bedfellows---at least for awhile.
When Chamberlain returned to England after the signing at Munich, which allowed Hitler his last uncontested aggression, he waved his umbrella triumphantly and declared "peace in our time!" only a few months before Hitler invaded Poland and began the largest wartime conflagration we have ever experienced as the western allies finally rose up to fight.
It is generally conceded that had Hitler been stopped at the Rhineland border six years before, his first incursion into non German land, he would have retreated and "behaved". What has never been conceded is the extent of participation of"Hitlerís willing executioners"óthe German people-- in the abominable slaughter of the Jews that the Nazi Party carried out.
A different scenario seems apparent in what appears to be evolving in the Israeli Egyptian accords concluded in 1977. Here we have an almost unqualified success story. At least the two signatories are still almost amicably surviving side by side. Two belligerents have found more in peace and "jaw, jaw rather than war, war", to use Churchillís basic classic English summation. And the real hero appears to be Egyptian prime minister Anwar Sadat, who eventually paid with his life for his coming to terms with an existing Jewish government, much to the disgust of his Arab brethren. Before his assassination, however, he lived long enough to do great things. First he made the long journey to Jerusalem to broach the possibility of peace and ending the senseless annihilation going on daily between Arab and Jew. In a speech before a raptly astonished Knesset he proposed negotiations between the two countries and under the very watchful and tender nurturing of President Jimmy Carter a peace agreement was agreed to after about 21 days of discussion. Many times the discussions foundered and the two participants would call it impossible to continue, but Carter would persist from day to day and success was attained. Indeed, at the end Israeli prime minister, Menachim Begin, seriously suggested that the final result, really due to Carterís insistent "mother hen" approach, should be called the "Jimmy Carter accords".
Unquestionably, the peace treaty was the greatest achievement of Carterís rather faltering tenure as president, and President Clinton tried, as we shall see, to duplicate this in the same region not so many years later with very dubious results. Fortunately for Clinton a very buoyant economy shed much luster on his two term tenure as president, shielding the dim foreign policy aspects of his regime. Carterís brokered deal with Begin and Sadat yielded to Egypt the captured land the Israelis had captured in the two wars of Arab aggression against Israeló1967 and 1973. Much arid desert land but with at least three productive oil wells that Israel sorely missed. Also much local regional turmoil, for the Jews in that ceded area had built flourishing small communitiesónotably Yamit, right on the projected border of the new territory settlement. The Israelis forced the Jewish settlers fo leave their new homes and destroyed them rather than give them to the incoming Egyptians. (A situation that may now be repeated in Gaza and most of the West Bank!)
But the treaty has been sustained, despite foot dragging and reluctance to carry out all its terms. The Egyptians have not encouraged improved economic, cultural, or tourist relations, all hopeful stipulations of the treaty. Rather, under the present very long term president, Hosni Mubarrak, Egypt has become a virtual cesspool of vile, foul anti Semitic literature even reveling recently on national television with a 40 week serialization of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, prime cornerstone of the false facts about Jews that Hitler and his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels luxuriated in. And this material was taught in the schools as gospel and in l984 some true believer went even further and brought a class action suit in Egyptian courts, against the whole Jewish nation for their gross theft in ancient times!! Upon leaving in biblical times (Exodus) the Jews "borrowed" from the surrounding Egyptian peasantry much treasureóat the Lordís behest-- which still has not been repaid!
But the hard fact of the present matter is that the southern border of Israel was now secure. The Egyptians never threatened militarily, and the Jews were free to concentrate on the very troublesome northern Syrian and Lebanese front. For a while this seemed successful, with Ariel Sharon in his most belligerent generalís mode. And Ronald Reagan backed him up with ultimately disastrous results, as 250 marines were killed in a barracks blown up while they slept. But at least there was peace on the southern border and the flagrant Egyptian anti Semitism was just words. But words that led to sticks and stones with murderous intent---the intifada. Children throwing rocks that could harm and maim and unanswerable by return gunfire. the ultimate result of what maliciously fabricated, inflammatory words can do. Children heroically risking their lives for a chance to vindicate their concept of Allahís will. The intifada, which is the final chapter in this peace process map.
This was preceded by the Oslo Accords, an attempt once more to bring rational cooperation out of the looming chaos of Israeli Palestinian affairs, and in an elaborate ceremony on the White House lawn in September 1993 Arafat and Prime Minister Rabin (also assassinated, like Sadat) signed a Declaration of Principles to bring about gradual Israeli territorial withdrawals and the simultaneous creation of a responsible Palestinian infrastructure to continue negotiations for the eventual peace between the two very contentious disputants. A Palestinian police force would be created of limited size and the ceding of certain occupied territory would occur gradually at specified times. While these negotiations were continuing Arafat, in speeches to his Arab supporters assured them that these talks were only part of the long term Plan of Phases enunciated by the Palestinian Liberation Organization(PLO) in l974 "according to which the PLO would acquire whatever territory it could by negotiations, then use that land as a base for pursuing its ultimate goal of Israelís annihilation." (Kenneth Levin, The Oslo Syndome). In essence the Israeli Jews, numb with the emotional fatigue of occupying an increasingly hostile land in self defense were easily seduced by the siren song of peace. While Yitzhak Rabin, the Jewish Prime Minister in 1995 was saying "There are enemies of peace who are trying to hurt us, in order to torpedo the peace process. I want to say bluntly that we have found a partner for peace among the Palestinians as well: The PLO." At the same time, Arafat was saying in Arabic speeches to his people "We should be honest with ourselves and admit that Israel is the principal enemy of the Palestinian people. It was the enemy in the past, it is the enemy in the present, and will continue to be the enemy in the future."
Much as Hitler, starting in "Mein Kampf" in l924, vowed eternal wrath upon the Jews so was this to be Arafatís final stance. And unfortunately the end of what President Clinton hoped to be a big part of his foreign policy legacy, as was Carterís success previously. To that end Clinton had hosted Arafat many times at the White House; Israeli prime ministers rarely. But the net result was Arafatís final intransigence, revealing his core refusal to compromise. In 2000, just few months before the end of Clintonís second term, Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered him terms that represented almost all that had been demanded and could not have been refused, at least as a basis for continuing negotiation; all of Gaza, most of the West Bank, Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusaleum, the right of return to all of Arab Palestine to those who left, and thirty billion in compensation to those who chose not to return---among many other Jewish concessions. The only thing of consequence not offered was the right of return to the existing Israeli state, which Arafat also insisted on! This was his way continuing the Plan of Phases, dissolution of the Jewish State politically. There were already one million Arab citizens of the Jewish state and a return influx of any significant numbers of Arabs would quickly make the Jews a minority in their so called Jewish state. When this was refused by Israel Arafat broke off the talks and commenced a European tour to previously very sympathetic countries. This time his reception was far from cordial and on his return the second intifada commenced and in return the present Israeli wall began to be erected.
About 170 years ago von Clausewitz stated that war is the extension of diplomacy by military means. We can see that in the instances that we have elaborated this dictum still holds true. Both Hitler and Arafat used their peace agreements as stepping stones to the ultimate defeat of their enemies. (Sadat of Egypt was killed before he perhaps might have made an honest attempt to stabilize and even improve relations with Israel.) Both Hitler and Arafat followed the classic rogue nation path of a the peace treaty that would lull their foes and weaken them while they continually subverted the "peace" treaty to discourage their will to survive. But another element has now been added to this equation. The power and ethos of differing culturesóIslam versus Judeo Christian valuesóis evidently encouraging and supporting the fanaticism of the Moslem jilhad which is now arming suicide bombers seemingly en mass. In the past we of the west had our very cruel versions of the manifestations of Godís will, but we have also been able to denounce those abominable episodes almost simultaneously. We understand that murder and assassination are more a part of non democratic Islam but surely we must now exhort and persuade that hopefully large but silent part of Islam that the credo DEATH TO THE INFIDELcan foment in western eyes an equal and opposite reaction---at the very least.