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  Global Views
Reflections on History
Special Contribution
By Zvi November
David Ben-Gurion — Born in Poland in 1886, David Ben-Gurion was Israel's first prime minister (1948-53, 1955-63) and defense minister (1948-53; 1955-63). It was Ben-Gurion who, on May 14, 1948, delivered Israel's declaration of independence. His charismatic personality won him the adoration of the masses, and, after his retirement from the government and the Knesset, he was revered as the "Father of the Nation." Ben-Gurion died in Israel in 1973.

There are many themes in history. For instance, 'dumb luck' often seems essential for survival. The UK and Japan have rarely been invaded because they are protected by water on all sides. The USA has two weak and friendly neighbors and two huge oceans on its borders.

By contrast, Poland, with Germany and Russia as powerful and assertive neighbors, has been frequently invaded and even disappeared as a political entity for over a hundred years. Peace and prosperity seems to be partly a function of geography.

The Israeli government could sign a "peace" / capitulation treaty with irrelevant "President" Mahmud Abbas but this will not obligate Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Islamic Jihad, ISIS (Islamic State), al Qaida affiliates and Basher Assad; all of whom are dedicated to Israel's destruction. Some of these enemies hold territory bordering Israel which is a very small vulnerable country.

Another theme, blind faith in an ideology such as communism, Maoism, Nazism and now militant Islam has always, in retrospect, proven stupid and destructive. Today Daesh (Islamic State) terrorists are absolutely convinced that they have a monopoly on truth and that the whole world (you and I included) must convert to their version of fascism or face death. Islamists do not recognize any laws or code of behavior except their own.

Also, in the past, blind faith in a charismatic leader (e.g. Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and Nasser) has infected millions of followers. There is an entire branch of psychology that deals with brainwashing and mesmerized unquestioning true believers who are willing to sacrifice their lives for their leader and his political program.

There is another major history theme to which we don't pay much attention. I am referring to misconceptions.

For example, at the onset of the US Civil War in 1861 the federal government's leaders were convinced that military campaigns should be minimally invasive and avoid antagonizing local white southerners many of whom were reluctant secessionists.

According to this theory, moderate southerners would welcome the chance to return to the federal framework and they would also influence their more radical friends to do the same if they were treated gently and honorably.

Furthermore, at the start of the war government officials declared that they did not intend to interfere in the institution of slavery as southerners viewed slavery as central to their way of life. (After the war some southerners moved to Brazil where slavery was legal until 1888.)

As it turned out, the diehard secessionists never gave any thought to reversing their exit from the Union. Their more moderate colleagues had no influence on them and went along with the rebellion. Consequently, northern commanders were forced to become more aggressive (and savage). Had the Union army been more determined at the start of the conflict, the Civil War may have been shorter.

Before WWI most Europeans assumed that warfare on the continent was highly unlikely because all the countries were interdependent; every nation had more to lose than gain from hostilities.

Nevertheless, war broke out in August. 1914. Most military pundits believed that it was going to be a short conflict. The soldiers would be home by Christmas. All these learned predictions proved false.

Before the Six Day War, Israel intelligence did not think that war would break out because it was assumed that Egypt would not help Syria which was busy diverting Jordan River sources and skirmishing with Israeli army units.

Additionally, the Egyptian army was still trying to overthrow the extremely conservative Imam in Yemen and was, therefore, not fully prepared for action against Israel. Both of these estimations were false, misconceptions.

Another misconception: David Ben-Gurion who was not in the government at the time (May, June 1967) was firmly against launching an attack (offence being the best defense) because Israel had NO allies at all and he anticipated 40,000 casualties. But Israel's young generals understood that hostilities were imminent and they were well prepared.

Today, the Israeli defeatist establishment (media, social science academics, aging generals, left-wing parties and NGOs) adhere to a host of misconceptions (i.e. "moderate" Abbas, two-state solution, territorial retreat) which should be replaced by the following factual assessment:

Mahmud Abbas is not a negotiating partner because he represents very few constituents. The "Palestinian" people are an invention. Israel's Arab antagonists can easily be granted citizenship and residence in any one of twenty-two Arab countries where they share the same language, religion and culture.

Arabs living under Israeli rule are not oppressed but rather enjoy more freedom and opportunities than their brothers in most Arab countries. So long as the Arab world is in turmoil, it would be folly to try to resolve the "Palestinian" problem. Finally, the number of local Arabs (and their sympathizers) who want to murder Israeli Jews seem to outnumber the few Arabs who truly wish to live in peace with Jews.

It would be great to get to a permanent peaceful modus vivendi but nothing positive can be achieved so long as misconceptions dominate the UN, EU, US, Russian and radical Israeli Left thinking. And, to make matters worse, insightful Arab and Islam scholars who analyze trends and machinations in the complicated Middle East are for the most part ignored.



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Zvi November, who grew up in New York, served as a Peace Corps' teacher in rural Philippines. He also taught at Hong Kong Int'l School. He earned his diploma from Univ. of Edinburgh, his MA from Syracuse Univ, both in anthropology. Now he is an activist in Israel's Media Watch and other civic bodies.

 

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