Will cease-fires never cease?

Posted: Aug 16, 2006 12:01 AM

How many cease-fires have there been in the Middle East -- or is the number too large to remember? Over the past half century, there must have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than in the rest of the world combined.

What will this latest cease-fire do? It will give Hezbollah a breather from Israeli retaliation and allow them time to get new shipments of military equipment from Iran, rebuild their military infrastructure and prepare for the next round of attacks on Israel.

Why do these phony cease-fire scenarios keep getting repeated? Because there are too many people, including many in the media, who take the corrupt windbags at the U.N. seriously -- so our political leaders have to act as if they take the U.N. seriously as well.

This is a costly charade. Among its costs are human lives. U.N. cease-fires are the ultimate in feel-good decisions made by people who pay no price for the repercussions.

No one in his right mind believes that either the Lebanese army or the U.N. "peacekeepers" will disarm Hezbollah. The track record of both is virtually a guarantee that Hezbollah will be able to resume war against Israel at whatever time and place it chooses. Most people have no idea how small Israel is -- and therefore how vulnerable every part of it is to its surrounding enemies.

New Hampshire is considered to be a small state but it is larger than Israel. So are 45 other states. Lake Erie is larger than Israel and Lake Michigan more than twice as large.

The Middle Eastern places we hear about are very close to one another. From Israel's capital in Jerusalem to Bethlehem in the Palestinian territory is only a fraction of the distance from Washington to Baltimore.

Most people are as uninformed about the history of the Middle East as they are about its geography. Supposedly Jews took over the Palestinians' homeland in order to create the state of Israel.

But there was no Palestinian homeland. That whole region belonged to the Ottoman Empire until the Ottoman Empire was dismembered after its defeat in the First World War.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims had all lived in Palestine for centuries. In the course of carving up the Ottoman Empire to create new nations, the British set aside a small part of it for Jews -- and after violent objections from the Arabs, stalled for years on letting this bit of land become an independent nation.

Jews lived in Palestine long before there was a state of Israel and even before there was an Ottoman Empire. In 1939, Winston Churchill commented that Jews in Palestine "made the desert bloom." The resulting prosperity of the area attracted both more Jews and more Arabs, including some Arabs whose descendants would later claim that Jews took over their country.

After World War II and the Holocaust, Jews seeking refuge turned to their promised home in the Middle East and battled the British to seize control and proclaim the independence of Israel.

In the face of polarizing hostility and violence in surrounding Arab countries, Jews fled these countries and many were absorbed into Israel. Meanwhile, Arab countries urged Arabs living in Israel to leave before these countries' planned attacks with the aim of destroying the new state.

It was the Arabs, rather than the Israelis, who created a massive Palestinian refugee problem. While Jewish refugees were absorbed into the general population of Israel, Palestinians in Arab countries were kept in refugee camps for generations -- promised a right to return after Israel was conquered and the Jews displaced.

After the most complete failure of the many Arab efforts to annihilate Israel in 1967, the Israelis took over lands of strategic value, such as the Golan Heights, in order to prevent them from being used in future military attacks.

In all the years when these lands had been in the hands of Arab states, no one made them a Palestinian homeland. But now it has become a fervent cause to force Israel to create a Palestinian state that the Arabs never created.

None of this matters to those consumed by hate in the Middle East or those in the West wanting feel-good cease-fires, without bothering to think through the actual consequences.

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