by Gerald A. Honigman
An historical twist--to say the least…
Towards the end of the 19th century, France accused an assimilated Jewish captain in the army of espionage. It was later proven that Alfred Dreyfus was innocent and shamelessly framed. Much later, after disgraced, sent to Devil's Island, etc., he was finally exonerated.
The Dreyfus Trial became the cause celebre of the era, and the prominent writer, Emile Zola, wrote his open letter, J'Accuse ("I Accuse"), which was published in L'Aurore on January 13, 1898.
Among those covering the trial after 1894 was another assimilated Jew, Theodore Herzl, from Hungary.
While the religiously-inspired, age-old anti-Semitism of the masses was regrettable (but understandable) to such men, it was the virulent Jew-hatred which remained even after the so-called Age of Enlightenment among the educated classes which became the most troubling.
The rise to power of such folks as the anti-Semitic demagogue, Karl Lueger, in Vienna in 1895 combined with the Parisian Dreyfus Affair to convince Herzl that there was no hope left for the Jew outside of the resurrection of Israel. Herzl soon wrote Der Judenstaat--the Jewish State--in response, and while others before him wrote of such things as well (Dr. Leo Pinsker's Auto-Emancipation is especially haunting), Herzl became known as the Father of modern political Zionism as a result.
Back to the future…
All hell is breaking loose right now in the Middle East.
Every day, for years now, we hear of Arabs and other Muslims blowing each other (and non-Arab, non-Muslim folks) apart in the region. Unfortunately, the words of Israel's late Golda Meir come to mind. Back in 1972, Golda, of blessed memory, stated…
We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children...
In a similar manner, we have become almost immune to the carnage over there--it has become that common place.
Yet, with events in Syria now crying out for action, I cannot help but thinking once again of Emile Zola and that French Jewish captain…
The world's duplicity and indifference has largely produced what we are seeing today.
Thousands of Arabs are now dying in Syria because, for decades, most of the world largely turned a blind eye to what Arabs were doing to literally millions of other non-Arab folks in the region and basically did nothing beyond huffing and puffing every so often. It literally took acts of genocide by Arabs in black Africa and in Kurdistan before the world was moved to respond at all…and the atrocities continue in the Sudan as I pen this piece.
During that same time period, if Israel took one too many breaths, the United Nations condemned it and passed one resolution after another taking it to task.
Thousands of Jews were killed and maimed by Arabs seeking Israel's destruction, and, among other things, the Jewish State was brought before the World Court in Geneva for building a security barrier to prevent its kids from deliberately being disemboweled. Etc., etc., etc.…
Had the world--the Russians, Chinese, Europeans, the U.S. State Department, and so forth--not given Arabs a virtual free pass when they were slaughtering and enslaving black Africans, Copts in Egypt, Berbers in North Africa, Kurds, Jews, and others as well, perhaps--just perhaps--those regimes now blasting their own people would have been more reluctant to do so.
Instead, the reality has been that Syria has been coddled for over a half century now.
During this same time period, it was subjugating Lebanon and doing likewise (and often worse) to its own native Kurds, Jews, and others as well.
The Alawi Arab Bashar al-Assad's late father wiped out between 20 to 40,000 Sunni Arab opponents in the infamous Hama Solution--a precursor to how the younger Assad is now handling today's predominantly Sunni Islamist revolt.
As in Egypt and elsewhere in adjacent North Africa, while there are other, more democratic ("tolerant") elements in the opposition, with the exception of Syria's millions of Kurds, look to organized Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood taking over in Syria as well if the Assad regime caves. Indeed, for its own reasons, the American State Department has largely been ignoring those more tolerant elements in the opposition in favor of the Islamists instead. While it's good to see the Turks taking a stand here, it's also sobering to note that Ankara's support is coming as a result of its own turn towards militant Islamism.
And while all of the earlier "stuff" was all going on, the world basically looked the other way.
The Europeans, Russians, the United Nations, and the American State Department were putting the squeeze on the Jews instead.
The Syrians had shelled Israel from atop the Golan Heights since 1948. The latter were actually part of the original 1920 Mandate of Palestine until the French and Brits did some imperial trading.
Damascus did much to instigate the June '67 Six Day War--but lost the Heights in the process.
The final draft of UNSC Resolution 242--the main peace-making tool adopted in the wake of the war--promised Israel that it would finally get real, more secure, defensible borders instead of the armistice lines which had made it so vulnerable in 1949.
Regardless, Secretary of State James Baker III promised the elder Assad a total return of the Heights--without even consulting Israel. Had Syria just been a bit more cooperative in Lebanon and later in Iraq as well, America was all set to deliver (or at least try to) Israel on a silver platter to Damascus.
One of the first things President Obama did when he first took office was to send his good friend (and Arafat's bosom buddy), Robert Malley, to the Assads with basically the same offer. Luckily, Damascus wouldn't play ball. The Obama Administration was uttering sweet words about Syria until just months ago.
There is no doubt that Obama has the same ideas, in the long term, for the Golan as he does for the other territories addressed by 242…
Forget about the latter's call for a territorial compromise to create those secure borders Israel was promised.
The new deal, one which would supplant 242, was expressed repeatedly by Obama stating that Israel would be crazy (his exact words) if it rejected the alleged Saudi Peace Plan. Note, please, that the main provision of that plan calls for a total withdrawal of Israel to its 9 to 15 mile-wide, pre-'67 armistice line existence. That's what the fuss over the building freeze and settlements issue is all about.
All of this behavior has sent a message, however…that Syria could get away with anything and everything that it indulged in--internal barbarism, aggression against its neighbors, and so forth--unless someone physically stopped them. And no one did--except the Jews--who, more and more each day, were and are being treated like the Czechs at Munich in 1938 for the sake of a new "peace for our time" by their alleged friends.
Indeed, if Israel wasn't involved taking steps to protect its own kids from getting blown apart by Arabs, no one gave a hoot.
We are thus largely faced with this tragic, bloody mess today because no one really dealt with Damascus before--when, perhaps, the problem would have been easier to manage. Syrian and other Arab atrocities, after all, are nothing new.
Now, instead, Syria's best friends--the similar bloody, maniacal, ruthless mullahs of Iran--are on the verge of becoming a nuclear power. And its other close pal, Hizbullah, has all but taken over Lebanon while amassing scores of thousands of Iranian-supplied missiles just a few virtual stones' throws away from Israel.
While the above are just a few of other newer problems now exacerbating the situation, had folks acted earlier, that very axis of Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah--which is now causing so many of the world's headaches--could have very possibly been nipped in the bud in the first place.