In fall 2001, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delivered an impassioned and, some believed, ill-considered speech aimed at America. "In 1938, enlightened Europe sacrificed Czechoslovakia for the sake of a temporary, convenient solution," Sharon said. "Don't try to appease the Arabs at our expense. ... Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. Israel will fight terrorism."
At the time, President Bush was attempting to rally Middle Eastern support for the "war on terror," and Sharon was apparently worried that Israel would get thrown over the side. The Bush White House was livid - and rightly so - over Sharon's attempt to paint Bush as Neville Chamberlain.
Sharon's concern was understandable. Indeed, shortly after 9/11, Sharon made some unsuccessful attempts to unite Israel and America in a common struggle. For example, he called Yasser Arafat "our bin Laden."
But the analogy was off. Arafat, a murderous carbuncle of a human, was nonetheless no Osama bin Laden. He was a secular leader claiming to lead a national liberation movement that aimed to take or retake a specific piece of real estate. Arafat won a Nobel Peace Prize, proving that such prizes have as much worth as an expired car-wash coupon. He was feted in European capitals. He was Bill Clinton's peace partner.
In his book "Red Horizons," Ion Pacepa, the former deputy chief of Romania's intelligence agency, recounts KGB evidence of Arafat's homosexual trysts with his East German bodyguards.
The prudish bin Laden, holed up in the wilds of Afghanistan, may be a mountain terrorist, but he's not a "Brokeback Mountain" terrorist.
Bin Laden also represents something different. He isn't an Arab nationalist, or even a pan-Arab nationalist. He's a jihadi, an Islamist, an Islamo-fascist or whatever label we're using this week. Arafat certainly paid lip service to Islamic extremism, but at the end of the day that wasn't his bag.
Things are different now. Israel is in its first war against bin Ladenism. Hezbollah's defenders continue to paint its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, as an Arafat, not a bin Laden. But that argument doesn't fly, since Israel has no legitimate border dispute with Lebanon. The so-called Shebaa Farms issue was manufactured by Syria and Hezbollah in order to give the terrorist group an excuse to keep fighting. But the simple fact is that Hezbollah is openly, avowedly, passionately committed to Israel's complete destruction. And so is the leader of Iran, Hezbollah's primary sponsor.
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