Might As Well Get To Know It
by Charley Reese
Now that our president has embedded us in the Middle East for an indefinite future, you might as well start trying to educate yourself about the area and its conflicts. As one can say about so many problems in this world, it all began with the British Empire.
When you look at a map of the Middle East, you are looking at a map drawn by two Europeans by the names of Sykes and Picot. This map represents the betrayal of the Arabs and the Kurds. Before this map was drawn, the area had been part of the Ottoman Empire. (That's Turkey, for those of you who hate history and geography.)
The British, with their usual perfidy, had promised everything to everybody. Help us overthrow the Turks, they said to the Arabs, and you can have an independent Arab nation afterward. Help us overthrow the Turks, they said to the Kurds, and you will get an independent Kurdistan. And for some reason historians still argue about, they also promised European Zionists that they (the Brits) would establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. They betrayed them, too, because what they did was establish the Palestine mandate — or, in plain language, British occupation of Palestine.
Britain and France divided the Middle East between themselves, and this basic fact set off the conflicts we are still dealing with. The problem with establishing a Jewish state was that Arabs already occupied the area chosen. While they initially had no quarrel with Jews who wanted to immigrate to Palestine (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has nothing to do with religion and never has), as soon as they figured out that European Jews were not coming to be Palestinians but to take their land away from them, the Arabs revolted. The British crushed this.
It wasn't too long, however, before Jews became impatient with British occupation and so, to drive out the British, did what Palestinians are doing today — used terror. Two of the premier Jewish terrorists — Menachem Begin, who led the Irgun, and Yitzhak Shamir, who led the Stern Gang — would later become prime ministers of Israel. It is the political parties these terrorists started that rule Israel today. Begin is famous for blowing up the King David Hotel, Shamir for reputedly ordering the assassination of Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte, who had been sent on a peace mission by the United Nations. Both of their groups joined forces to commit one of the most infamous massacres in history at the little village of Deir Yassin, where more than 200 men, women and children were slaughtered. Much of modern terrorist methods were pioneered by Begin. You should read his book "The Revolt."
Sometime in 1947, the British had had enough of Palestine and announced they were going to end the mandate the following year and dump the problem in the lap of the United Nations. The Zionists fiercely lobbied both Harry Truman and Joe Stalin. The deal was to get a vote to partition Palestine. The Jews would immediately proclaim the state of Israel, and, as preplanned, the United States and the Soviet Union would instantly recognize it. This was the first instance of the United States using a combination of threats and bribery to round up votes at the United Nations.
Jews and Palestinians were already fighting, and in the course of that fighting, the better-organized Zionists decided to expand beyond the boundaries set by the partition resolution and to do a little ethnic cleansing, since Arabs still outnumbered Jewish residents 2-1. Despite some volunteers coming in from other Arab countries, the Zionists had accomplished both goals by the cease-fire in 1948. In a 1967 war, the Zionists took the rest of Palestine, and Palestinians, who stubbornly insist on self-determination (once, but no longer, an American value), are fighting them the best way they can.
With the United States loading the Israelis down with both modern arms and billions of dollars, however, the Palestinians are having a hard time. This issue has made the United States hated in the region and the king of hypocrites because we have vetoed 35 U.N. resolutions to prevent the international community from giving any justice or help to the Palestinians.
Now, our president has included Palestinian organizations that are not international terrorists (Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah) on our list of enemies. Originally, they were just aiming their attacks at Israel, but I suppose this might change since George Bush has become the puppet of the Israeli government.
Hang on to your hats, folks. You're in for a violent next 50 years or so.
© 2003 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.