Why Obama, Kerry, Abbas, Hamas, BDS, and Hezbollah Will All Go Poof!
Bad newspaper headlines aside, it’s been a pretty good century for the Zionists
In 1912, David Ben Gurion moved to Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire, to study law at Istanbul University. The land of Israel had been under Ottoman rule for centuries, and the only way the Jews could grow their villages and towns, family by family, house by house, was to be accepted as loyal Ottoman subjects.
Two years later, when the World War broke out, Ben Gurion recruited 40 fellow Jews into a militia to serve the empire. Given the strategic situation, it was the only intelligent choice: The Ottoman Empire had persisted for centuries as its declining military strength was perfectly offset by increasing diplomatic support—by 1912, it was backed by both the British and the German empires, a double assurance of its long-term survival. That is why Ben Gurion was studying Turkish and the law, confident in the expectation that in 10 or 20 years he would master Ottoman political complexities to attain the rank and seniority of an ethnic leader for the thousands of Jews who were arriving each year.
But Ben Gurion’s strenuous efforts were wasted. Instead of enduring for several more centuries, in a mere six years the Ottoman Empire went poof! Just like that.
Many things changed in the ensuing confusion of World War I and its disordered aftermath—but not the determination of the Jews to return to their ancestral land to grow their villages and towns family by family, house by house. With the Ottoman Empire but a memory, from Sept. 29, 1923 on, it was the British who officially ruled the land.
Managing relations with the Ottomans had been fraught with complexities—aside from their ambivalence toward the immigration of Jews, even the language that Ben Gurion had to study was no mere street Turkish but the complicated Persian-Arabic-Turkic mixture of the official imperial language. With the British, however, matters were even more complicated. Instead of straightforward colonial rule, the British governed as the “Mandatory Power” under the League of Nations, forcing the handful of emerging Jewish leaders to contend with Foreign Office officials whose taste for intrigue was only exceeded by their distaste for Jews, while also trying to fend off other League of Nations powers. The French acquired a Mandate of their own over neighboring Syria, from which they soon carved out what is now Lebanon, but they also demanded privileges in Jerusalem especially, and were anything but sympathetic to Jewish settlement. The Italians were much nicer of course but to no avail after 1926, when Mussolini ended the quarrel between king and pope, and Italian officials started to serve the Vatican, whose prelates viewed the return of the Jews with outright alarm, as if it undermined the very legitimacy of their own church, which in a way it did. The alliance between Arab rejectionists—violent ones definitely included—and the Franciscan “custodians” who represented Vatican interests started already then, generating another layer of complexity that the Jewish leaders had to deal with.
In order to be able to grow Jewish villages and towns, family by family, house by house, the Jewish communal leaders—themselves still callow youngsters—had to outmaneuver highly experienced British officials, sophisticated European diplomats, and especially relentless prelates. Given all this, Ben Gurion’s 20-year timetable to understand and overcome Ottoman imperial complexities was definitely optimistic when it came to the Mandate. But just when he and his colleagues had finally learned how to avoid its traps, on May 15, 1948, British rule went poof!
By then, the newly minted Israeli state was engulfed in war, not least with the British-officered Arab Legion. And in spite of President Harry S. Truman’s instant recognition, Israel was also at war with the U.S. Department of State, for its officials were relentless in denying arms and ammunition to the beleaguered Jewish forces who were fighting on five fronts. At the time, there were huge unwanted inventories of armored vehicles, artillery, personal weapons, and combat aircraft in U.S. military depots across Europe and the world. But the same officials who had gone to inordinate lengths to deny immigration visas to Jews desperate to escape the Nazis were equally assiduous in denying any military supplies whatever to Israel, on the poisonous theory that more weapons would only add to the fighting and the suffering—blithely ignoring the resulting imbalance with Arab military forces already equipped. Moreover, in an excess of zeal, the U.S. State Department used the United States’ then-overwhelming influence to persuade other countries as well to deny weapons to the Jews. The fledgling CIA joined the British Secret Intelligence Service in trying to intercept pathetic shipments of ancient cannons from Mexico, worn-out rifles from Italy, and others such purchased by desperate envoys. In the end, it was only by Stalin’s will, for his own anti-British ends, that the Jews were able to buy in Czechoslovakia the vast majority of the weapons with which they won the war, thereby being able to keep growing their villages and towns and cities family by family, house by house.
U.S. policy toward Israel did not change even after the fighting ended in 1949—indeed the sale of Canadian-made F-86 jet fighters to the Israeli air force was prohibited as late as 1956. But by then Israel had found an all-round ally in France, so that its originally Polish-and Russian-speaking leaders who had taught themselves Hebrew, who had once striven to study Ottoman Turkish before having to learn Mandatory English instead, now found themselves struggling to learn French. They also had to understand the peculiar but far more important complexities of French foreign and defense policies, which were entirely incompatible: French diplomats wanted to woo the Arabs by opposing Israel, while French soldiers wanted to defeat the Arabs by befriending Israel. Given Israeli dependence on shipments of French jet fighters and much else, Ben Gurion and his juniors, notably Shimon Peres (still hard at work 60 years later!), made every effort to immerse themselves in French politics, while reserving their principal energies to grow Israel’s villages and towns and cities family by family, house by house.
It was not until 1967, which witnessed the splendid performance of French Mirage fighter-bombers in what became known as the Six Day War, that Israel’s leaders finally became confident in their much-valued alliance with France. But in the May 1967 prewar crisis Charles De Gaulle replied with a sinister threat when asked for his support, and in his infamous press conference of Nov. 27, 1967 contrived to both compliment and damn the Jews—“a self-assured elite people and domineering”— and Israel, “which had started a war on a pretext,” i.e., the Egyptian army massed in Sinai. With that an exceptionally broad, exceptionally close alliance abruptly and entirely unexpectedly went poof!
By then Israel faced a new and most formidable strategic opponent in the Soviet Union. Reacting to the humiliation inflicted on their Arab allies and by extension on Soviet weapons and Soviet military craft, the rulers of the world’s largest state decided to direct their power against one of the smallest. So, they cut diplomatic relations with Israel and forced their Warsaw Pact allies to do the same. (Romania’s refusal was its declaration of independence.) They unleashed the then still very influential Communist and “fellow traveler” propaganda networks to demonize Israel and Zionism and sent weapons and trainers to Egypt, Syria, and Iraq in wholly unprecedented numbers: armored vehicles by the thousand, jet fighters by the hundreds, along with all manner of military supplies and thousands of instructors.
All this inflicted much damage on Israel. Instead of being able to reduce military spending in the aftermath of its great victories of June 1967, Israel had to double spending to ruinous levels to try to offset the Soviet-supplied growth of Arab military forces. At the same time, Moscow-directed propaganda turned much of European and Latin American opinion against Israel, increasing its political isolation, which was further compounded when the French betrayal was not offset by American support. As of June 1967, the United States had not delivered a single combat aircraft, armored vehicle, or war vessel to Israel. (In June 1966, though, after years of entreaties, 48 A-4s, the smallest and least advanced U.S. combat aircraft, were promised—but they would not arrive until 1968.)
In the wake of its historic June 1967 victory, therefore, Israel found itself facing the total hostility of both the Soviet bloc with its sympathizers world-wide, and the Islamic bloc with its camp followers. The Chinese and Indians were also unfriendly. It was 3 billion against not quite 3 million.
But Israel’s leaders and citizens were not intimidated by 1,000-to-1 ratios and were not lacking in tenacity—they continued to grow Israel’s villages, towns and cities family by family, house by house—within the 1967 lines, and beyond them, too.
Their serene confidence was soon justified. Faced with the massive Soviet military investment in Egypt, Syria and Iraq, even the U.S. State Department (if not the CIA, hostile till now) came to accept that American national interests mandated counterveiling support for Israel in order to deny a strategic victory to the Soviet Union. It took time for U.S. military supplies to arrive, but arrive they did, increasing over time in quantity and quality, albeit in fits and starts as bureaucratic opposition persisted.
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