History repeating itself in the Mideast

August 25, 2010


“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Never has George Santayana’s oft-quoted warning had greater significance than when it comes to Middle East “peace talks,” including the latest round scheduled to begin Sept. 2 in Washington, D.C. In constantly pressuring Israel to go far beyond the multiple and unreciprocated concessions it has already made, the United States ensures repetition of past mistakes, which will produce the same outcome.

Some history and the results for those who would learn:

• The Balfour Declaration (1917) and the Palestinian Mandate (1922). These called for the formation of a Jewish homeland while recognizing “nothing shall be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” The Arab response: A series of riots, largely instigated by Mufti Mohammad Amin al-Husayni.

• The Peel Commission (1936) was formed to investigate the cause of the Arab Revolt (1936-1939). The commission recommended the partition of Jews and Arabs. The Zionist Congress accepts the proposal as the basis of negotiation. The Arab response: Outright rejection and a continuation of the revolt.

• U.N. Partition Plan for Palestine (1947) proposed a two-state solution and a divided Jerusalem supervised by the United Nations. The Arab response: Outright rejection, followed by violence. When Israel declared its independence, May 15, 1948, armies of the neighboring Arab states invaded. According to the secretary general of the Arab League at the time, Azzam Pasha, the goal was “a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.”

• Oslo Accords (1993). Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians lead to a Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements. The response, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The killing continues. By one estimate, nearly 300 people were killed by Palestinian terrorism between 1993 and 2000.

• The Camp David Offer (2000). Prime Minister Ehud Barak offers PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat most of what he asks for. The response: rejection and the second intifada, which according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, killed more than 500 and injured more than 8,000.

There were other “peace talks” and initiatives, among them the Madrid Peace Conference (1991), the Wye River Memorandum (1995), Oslo II (1995), Taba (2001), Road Map for Peace (2003), and the Geneva Accord (2003). Some of these led to Israeli withdrawal from land it had occupied for security purposes, amid continued threats and terrorism, following the 1967 War. These withdrawals predictably led to more terror attacks from Arab regions.

To Israel’s enemies, talks and agreements are incremental steps toward their ultimate goal of annihilating the Jewish state. Two examples: According to the Endowment for Middle East Truth, 16 years after Oslo, in 2009, the official platform of the terrorist organization Fatah continues to affirm “armed struggle” against Israel. And the Palestinian Authority continues to practice incitement against Israel through student textbooks, television programs, sermons, editorials and the naming of public streets and buildings after terrorist “martyrs.”

At the upcoming talks in Washington, the issues will likely be the same as Camp David 2000:

• Jerusalem.

• The Palestinian demand for a “right of return” for “refugees” and their descendants to places in Israel from which the original “refugees” claim to have come.” This would overwhelm Israel, which is the point of the demand.

• Territorial compromise (again).

• Agreement on the legitimacy of Israel’s sovereignty in the region, producing an end to the war and termination of future claims, which Hamas and Hezbollah have promised never to accept.

If the all too familiar scenario plays out, Israel will give up more land, the Palestinians will make more promises which, like the others, they will break, and more riots and terrorism will follow under the pretext that Israel has not ceded enough. After the maximum propaganda value has been extracted, the Palestinians will agree to more talks and the scenario will be replayed.

To top it off, the Obama administration has assured Israel that Iran is not an “imminent” nuclear threat. This claim has been made before and then withdrawn. Why should it have credence now?

The United States and the West have learned nothing from history and, thus, are doomed to repeat it.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. tmseditors@tribune.com


Abdu Omar 7 years, 10 months ago

Oh, Cal, another selective thinking episode. Let me ask you a question: If anyone of any religion or background came to your house and divided it so that you have a very small portion, wouldn't you be angry and fight back? IF some group of people came to Kansas and took all the good land except a small portion of it, say Finney County, wouldn't the rest of Kansas fight for their land. Did you expect the Palestinians to lay down and let their land be taken away without a struggle. OF course not, they won't go quietly to the ovens without a fight.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

" If anyone of any religion or background came to your house and divided it so that you have a very small portion,"

Yeah, except that's not what occurred. Jews were already living all over the territory before independence was declared in '48, making up more than 1/3 the population. It was only after decades of aggression, including persistent attacks from surrounding Arab countries, that the people began to be divided. And this was done out of neccessity for survival. Israel didn't annex areas like Golan Heights and Gaza until after they won them in battle during the Six Days War when Egypt inadvisably decided to cut off access to the Red Sea. Jewish people didn't emmigrate to the area with the intention of segregation, nor was it the cause of the perpetual animosity and hostility that Thomas' documents all the way back to the early 19th C. 'Course, even that's short-sighted. I don't think it's mere coicidence that the men who wrote the Bible millienia ago included the saga of Isaac and Ishmael.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

George Will yesterday, Cal today. I guess the word has gone out that Israel needs some emergency PR work. And surprise, we find out that the founding of Israel was a virgin birth, and the evil Arabs and Palestinians are just wannabe abortionists.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

"we find out that the founding of Israel was a virgin birth, and the evil Arabs and Palestinians are just wannabe abortionists."

First fragment: Huh? Second fragment: Pretty much.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

As we all know, a black and white view of the world is always correct.

Practicality 7 years, 10 months ago

Israel has a right to defend itself. They are completely surrounded by nations that have publicly advocated for the anhilation of Israel (and have attempted it). Israel has to keep up its militaristic presence and superiority otherwise they would invite invasion. This isn't to say that Israel hasn't made some mistakes, it is just meant to say that the military aggresive stance that Israel takes is understandable, because without it they wouldn't exist.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

"because without it they wouldn't exist."

And without Britain and the US deciding that Israel should be founded on top of an area that was predominantly Arab (before 1914, it was over 95% Arab,) they wouldn't exist either.

The injustices and stupidity involved in this dispute have cut both ways. Israel exists, and it's not going away. Palestinians exist, as well, and they aren't going away.

Until each side recognizes and accepts that, nothing will change. I think the majority of each side is ready to do that. Unfortunately, a violent minority on each side is calling the shots (pun intended.)

Gail Grant 7 years, 10 months ago

At this point most people in the middle east (except the ones ruling Gaza) have already acknowledged that Israel is there to stay (even if they don't like it). And even most Israeli acknowledged that the Palestinians are there (west bank) and will have a country. With that said, many promises past Palestinian leaders made never done. Violence towards Israel never ended, all the time while Israel tried to support Palestinian efforts to become a legit country with police and armed forces (did you know that Israel gave weapon to the Palestinian police?). Israel has made mistakes here and there, but at the same time forced to do various actions due to the violence from the other side

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

Bozo simply refuses to cite facts. The U.S. had little to nothing to do with "founding Israel on top of" Palestine. That was carried out by Britain and the UN. All Truman did was recognize the state of Israel, and that was against the wishes of an irate State Department. Nor has Israel wished for or sought to force Palestinians to go away. Unfortunatley that's not reciprocal. Attacks against jewish settlers commenced shortly after the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations recognition of the document, and the immigrants tried virtually everything to live in peace, including Ben Gurion proclaiming a "turn the other cheek" policy in the '30's which demanded no response nor retaliation to Palestinian or Arab attacks.
Bozo prefers to see this mess as an equality of intolerance on both sides, ignoring the fact that if Palestinians (and the rest of the Arab world) would just let them live in peace there would be no furher violence. But since they refuse to cease their (Palestinina) unending intifada and jihad (Arab world), Israel is forced to fight back, and therefore they're at best "equally" guilty, at least in this rare display of supposed fairness, while usually he represents them as 'the bad guy bully.'

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

As we all know, a black and white view of the world is always correct.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

Makes no more sense nor has any more validity than the first time you posted it.

Abdu Omar 7 years, 10 months ago

Jay, the Palestinians have been shuttled all over the world and have no right to return to their own fields and homes. 1/3 does not a majority make and it should have been a Palestinian state not Israel. AND the American congress does everything to ensure that Israel has enough arms, planes, tanks, etc., to blow up anyone who objects. Because these weak Arab nations need American Money, they don't cause problems.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

"AND the American congress does everything to ensure that Israel has enough arms, planes, tanks, etc., to blow up anyone who objects. Because these weak Arab nations need American Money, they don't cause problems."

Your first paragraph should substitute 'Jews' for 'Palestinians. And the above.......seriously? "to blow up anyone who objects."......to what? The fact they exist? First of all it's not their objections they need the weaponry for, it's their actions and vows to eliminate the nation of Israel and their stated mission to eradicate all Zionists that makes it a necessity for Israel to have a formidable military.
That last sentence is the most disturbing, however. Weak Arab nations? You're talking about the ones with 56% of the world's oil reserves?? And they don't cause any trouble?? You have to be freakin' jokin'.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 10 months ago

The USA gov't and our tax dollars are GIVING several new fighter jets to the non violent Israeli government. Now that should help bring peace to the valley.

Robert Rauktis 7 years, 10 months ago

The U.S. government subsidizes Israel and all its open door policies. Moving the Palestinians out the way they swept the plains bare in the 19th century.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

Those two sentences make no sense together, and the last one is little more than a dangling modifier posing as a sentence which modifies........nothing. Who is "they"?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

You know, reciting the Official Likud Party History of Israel doesn't really demonstrated any balanced or accurate understanding of the history or current state of the region (any more than a recitation of the Official Hamas Party version would.)

Practicality 7 years, 10 months ago

bozo, just because someone is successful in a military campaign doesn't necessarily mean they are the bad guys. Sometimes there just isn't any other option when you are attacked.

That said, there have been some questionable (in my mind) responses by the State of Israel in certain circumstances. But, when you just examine that incident all alone, and fail to acknowledge the circumstances and incidents that lead up to that incident, it is dishonest and unfair to Israel. It is the same as blaming the US for bombing Japan and prentending the Japanese were just minding their own business, tending their rice fields, and the big, bad US military came and dropped bombs on them.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

This is equally true--

"But, when you just examine that incident all alone, and fail to acknowledge the circumstances and incidents that lead up to that incident, it is dishonest and unfair to Palestinians."

As for bombing Japan, sure, it was all-out war-- stuff happens. But when the definition of "all-out war" comes to include intentionally targeting civilians by the hundreds of thousands with the most deadly and destructive forces imaginable, any moral high ground has been thrown out the window. The end justifies the means, no matter the means.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

And emptily asserting that's whats been done here isn't any more viable a rebuttal than anything else you've posted as response.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

There's plenty of information out there that contradicts your skewed view of this conflict. But your intent isn't to understand, your intent is to prove a point in which you have a great deal of emotional investment. I'm not sure why you are so emotionally invested in such an alternate reality, but you are, and I don't have any illusions that I can shake someone as narcissistic as you from such a firmly held belief.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

Translation: I am unable to support my own assertions which have been challenged.

My skewed view? My intents' not to understand? I have a an emotional investment? Um, pot calling kettle, come in kettle. Over. The 'narcissistic' childishness aside, the way you "shake someone from such a firmly held belief" is by countering it......you know, with debate, support, a valid argument; those kinds of things. Merely spouting that "he won't listen to reason" when no rationale has been offered is just plain weak and intellectually void. Shocker.

Kirk Larson 7 years, 10 months ago

Of all those deaths Cal mentions, notice he doesn't point out that most of those are Palestinians killed by Israelis. During the Intafada in the '80's the ratio of Palestinians killed to Israelis was around 15 to 1.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

Pretty sure those numbers are all Israeli deaths, Cappy. I'm sure Cal left out the Palestinian casualty numbers because of the disparity you cite.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 10 months ago

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. A good example from local history, the Jayhawks and the Tigers. Israel can defend itself; they should just do it on their own without or money. If we would quit being their sugardaddy, things might settle down. If they don't, so what? Let them settle it and move on. If they can't settle it, let them figure it out on their own.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

Crickets from bozo's yard. More shocker.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.