How Israel Acquired the West Bank and Jerusalem and Why the United States is Following It into Perpetual Warfare and Economic Collapse
Israel conquered the West Bank and Jerusalem in the June 1967 Six Day War. The proximate cause of that war was the Egyptian closure of the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping.
The United Nations resolution creating Israel gave it a 5 mile coastline on the Gulf of Aqaba. The Gulf of Aqaba is 98 miles long and varies in width from 7 to 15 miles. It is bordered by four countries: Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
At the southern end of the Gulf, leading to the Red Sea, is a 12 mile wide strait obstructed by two islands which belong to Saudi Arabia: Tiran Island and Sanafir Island. Because of Reefs and shallows, there are only 3 passages through the Strait of Tiran: Enterprise Channel, 950 feet deep; Grafton Passage, 240 feet deep, and a third, unnamed channel 54 feet deep.
The Enterprise Channel, the only one really usable, lay within a mile of the Egyptian coastline and, therefore, was within Egyptian territorial waters.
It is important to remember that, until the end of World War I, there were no national boundaries in the Middle East. "Before 1920 states in Arabia were little more than assertions by oases of claims to tax their users, by religious dignitaries of claims to recognition, and military alliances among tribes." There were administrative districts under the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and there were ethnic groupings. But the deserts were treated like the oceans, open to anyone who could manage to cross them. The idea of precise land boundaries is a concept native to cultures with plentiful rainfall, like England. In the desert, land is merely a formidable barrier and useless without water.
This was the error made by Bush I in the strategy for the first Gulf War. Americans assumed that once coalition troops invaded Iraq, the people would be humiliated and rise up in rebellion against Saddam Hussein who brought this calamity on the Iraqi nation. Not wanting to risk casualties, the coalition forces just crossed the border and did not go into populated areas. Unfortunately for the psychological operations teams in the defense department, Arabs are psychologically different from Westerners. They are more attached to their tribes than to the land where they do not live and where there is no water. About the desert, they care about as much as most Americans care about the Ocean
So, under maritime rules during the Ottoman empire, the Gulf of Aqaba would have been considered an inland sea, the territory of the empire. But once the west started carving up the Middle East under the League of Nations mandates following World War I, the Gulf of Aqaba became an international waterway. Of course, the League of Nations was supposed to lead the states to independence and self-determination. Instead, the European mandatory powers turned them into colonies or pseudo-independent client states. The Hashimite monarch was placed on the Iraqi throne by Britain as a reward for having supported Lawrence of Arabia against the Turks during World War I.
But accepting the Israeli and western arguments that the Gulf of Aqaba was an international waterway and that ships of all nations have a right to innocent passage through the Strait of Tiran and that the Egyptians had no right to use belligerent rights to close the strait to Israeli shipping because of the Armistice agreements signed in 1949, the fact of the matter is that the Israeli port of Elath was not opened until 1952 and ocean going ships could not use it until 1956, so how important was that port to Israel, in fact? Israel wanted access to the Gulf of Aqaba so it would not have to depend on passage through the Suez Canal or have to send its ships around Africa to trade with the Far East.
The Suez War
So in October, 1956, Israel, in a secret alliance with France (then the major arms supplier to Israel) and Britain invaded Egypt. The real purpose was to topple President Gamal Abdel Nasser who had nationalized the Suez Canal. Eventually, the French, British and Israelis were forced to withdraw because the United States, under President Dwight David Eisenhower, refused to help support the British currency until the English agreed to pull out. This act made the United States very popular in the Arab world.
Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion announced that Israel would not relinquish Sinai. In those days, many Zionists claimed a religious basis for making the Sinai part of Israel. In fact, even today, Israelis will not say what constitutes the historic land of Israel or what they claim as Israel's rightful territory.
Ariel Sharon was a tank brigade commander in the Suez War. And while he waited for the disengagement agreement to be implemented, he mapped the Suez peninsula which turned out to be a tremendous help 11 years later when Israel conquered Sinai again.
As part of the pullout agreement, a United Nations Emergency Force was stationed at Sharm-el-Sheikh at the tip of the Sinai peninsula, overlooking the Strait of Tiran. It was also stationed on the Israeli-Egyptian border in northern Sinai, but because the Israeli's refused to allow it on the Israeli side of the armistice line, it was stationed entirely on the Egyptian side.
The Six Day War
In May, 1967, the Egyptians were told by the Soviets that the Israelis were preparing to attack Syria. This was probably a deliberate deception by the Israelis to lure the Egyptians into a war. It was an opportune time because the United States was involved in an escalating war in Vietnam and was not paying close attention to the Middle East. Egypt, which had a mutual defense pact with Syria, asked the United Nations to remove the Emergency Force from the border with Israel.
U Thant, the Secretary General, had to comply with the request because the force was stationed on Egyptian sovereign territory. But he also decided, on his own hook, to remove the Emergency Force from Sharm-el-Sheikh, which the Egyptians did not request. Once the fig leaf of the United Nations Emergency Force was removed from Sharm-el-Sheikh, Nasser had to close the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping for domestic political reasons. (Imagine what would happen today if an Iraqi vessel sailed down the Saint Lawrence seaway into the Great Lakes and the United States government did nothing to stop and search it.)
So the Israelis attacked Egypt to "reassert their rights to free passage through the straight of Tiran." They destroyed the Egyptian air force, on the ground, in 80 minutes. They also attacked a United States vessel stationed off the coast of Egypt, the USS Liberty, a signals intelligence ship working for the National Security Agency. Thirty-four sailors were killed and 171 wounded out of a total crew of 295 and the ship was almost sunk. The attack was never investigated from the American side and much of the information pertaining to that attack is still secret. This is one of the reasons that there is a conspicuous absence of Navy support for the current war with Iraq.
Egypt lied to the Jordanians to bring them into the war, and the Israelis invaded the West Bank and seized Jerusalem. After the belligerents agreed to a cease fire, then Israel attacked Syria and seized the Golan Heights. All to secure it's free passage through the straights of Tiran? Not likely. The day before the war Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol said that Israel had, "No territorial ambitions." Today, 36 years later, Israel continues to take land from the residents of the conquered territories.
In the weeks before the war, Ambassador Abba Eban met with President Johnson and secured a promise that the United States would not force Israel to withdraw from lands it conquered as it had after the 1956 Suez War.
The issue is really one of proportionality. Is it reasonable to think that the June 1967, Six Day War was a fight to assert Israeli rights to free passage through the Strait of Tiran? Even Moshe Dayan, the legendary one-eyed Israeli General during the Six Day War said that the Strait of Tiran issue was a causus belli. Israel has had a plan of conquest and settlement of the Middle East since the Zionist movement first was created in 1890.
Originally, the Jews were only 7% of Palestine, and the Arabs were 93%. The Zionist problem was to create a majority Jewish State on land that was overwhelmingly Arab. First, the Zionists encouraged immigration to Palestine. The Arabs, seeing what was coming, were not happy and some even became violent.
The Jews first came as pilgrims. Then, as their numbers grew, pioneers on agricultural communes called kibbutz. Then, settlers. Once there were enough, they converted the Balfour Declarations promise of a national home for the Jews into a Jewish State.
The United Nations partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states (the Arab state still has never been created) created a map where the Jewish state still had 55% Arab population. So, the second leg of the Zionist plan after bringing in more Jews was to get rid of the Arabs.
This getting rid of the Arabs is was the home demolitions in the Middle East are all about. Within a month of the end of the Six Day War, the Israelis were demolishing Arab sections of Jerusalem so the refugees would have no place to return to. The home demolitions are illegal under international law. The Israeli occupation of east Jerusalem and the West Bank is illegal under international law and in violation of United Nations resolutions. The refusal of Israel to allow the return of Arabs to their property or to compensate them is a violation of countless United Nations resolutions. Yet, Israel continues to receive massive financial and military aid from the United States and the west.
All the Arabs have fought the creation of Israel. But there is a fight within the Arab world for supremacy. There are five major muslim powers in the Middle East: Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. The internal politics of the muslim Middle East are, appropriately, byzantine. But the basic thrust is that all the Arabs realize that as long as they are divided, they will be subject to manipulation and control from the outside, as has been the case for the past century.
So, while all the Arabs and muslims want to unite in theory, achieving unity in practice is more difficult because of religious and ethnic differences. So, each of the five major powers is trying to be the major domo of the Islamic world in the Middle East. At the moment, the basic dichotomy is between Egypt (with Turkey and Saudi Arabia on the Western team) and Iraq (with Iran) on the anti-western team.
Iraq is resentful of the creation of the state of Kuwait, a British protectorate which is to Iraq what the state of Israel is to the Palestinians, except populated by Arabs. Iraq was first a British client state, then became independent in a 1958 revolution that overthrew the king. By the 1980's, Iraq was an American client state, fighting the Islamic revolutionary Iran with Saudi, Kuwaiti and American support and financing.
This subservience was not enough to protect it from an Israeli sneak attack in 1981 which destroyed its Osirik nuclear reactor.
After the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq invaded Kuwait, where the Bush family had extensive contacts in the oil industry. This was political warfare waged, not for military or even economic reasons, but to win the hearts and minds of the Arabs in every country.
Saddam Hussein saw that Israel was permitted to conquer other lands and hold them for decades in violation of United Nations resolutions. Now, by invading Kuwait, to which Iraq has a far more legitimate claim than do American Jews to the West Bank of the Jordan where they have never lived, Iraq was showing the Arab in the street the incredible hypocrisy and double standards pursued by the West.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait, it took six months for the United Nations to assemble a coalition to send 750,000 troops (including Egyptians) who attacked from Saudi territory to expel Iraq from Kuwait. This war won Israeli recognition of the Palestinians, which they had denied for the preceding 40 years, and got face to face negotiations going for the first time.
Many Israelis, however, are not interested in peace with the Palestinians and some are adamantly opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state of any kind. When the Oslo agreements broke down and the new intifada started in September 2000, the Palestinians used a new tactic never before seen in the half century of Middle East conflict, suicide bombers.
Iraq supported the suicide bombers by giving money to the families of the bomber. George Bush, who is substantially responsible for the current Middle East mess because he ran on a war platform of pulling out of the peace process (he was for peace, but "on their timetable, not ours) was warned repeatedly that the violence would spread if it was not stopped.
Bush arrogantly assumed that the violence could spread, but never to the United States. September 11 showed that he was wrong. Now, Bush is scrambling to snatch victory from the jaws of disaster. Bush is a dictator who lost the election by over 500,000 votes. The Supreme Court, in effect, prevented the American people from defending themselves by installing the war candidate instead of the candidate who called for continuing the peace process, all because of a distribution of 300 votes in Florida.
So, if Bush has no respect for the over 500,000 votes of his own people that defeated him, does he have any respect for the opinions of other nations or peoples? Of course not. Like all dictators, as the domestic economy slides into depression, he seeks a military adventure to distract and threaten his own population. Because he was not democratically elected, he has no political skills with which to solve the difficult Middle East disaster that has been building for over a century.
Donald Rumsfeld, his Secretary of Defense, even said that he saw the West Bank as land lost in a war that the other side started. Yet, he is still Secretary of Defense. Meanwhile, when a Congressman Moran says that the war with Iraq is at the behest of Israel, he loses his post in the Democratic leadership.
The disarming of Iraq is the same kind of issue that freedom of navigation throuigh the Strait of Tiran was for the Israelis in 1967, an excuse for war, not a reason. But ran on a war platform, lost the election, but the war with Iraq is the war the American people voted against but was given by the supreme court.
The lesson of Vietnam is that it is easier to go in than to get out. If the United States invades Iraq, it will win in a matter of weeks. It will be like the return of the French to Vietnam after World War II when, having been unable to defend themselves from domestic attack, the French were restored to their empire. Now, because the United States was attacked on September 11, it is going to invade Iraq.
Once there, American soldiers will begin to be killed one by one. Snipers, car bombs, suicide attacks. Eventually, the entire population will come to loath the foreign invaders. In the beginning, it will have some domestic puppets to rule the country, but unless they continue the historic animosity toward Israel, they will be dismissed by the Iraqi people the same way the British imposed king was overthrown in 1958.
The United States will have to maintain troops to protect its puppets as it is currently doing in Afghanistan with Hamed Karzai. And the presence of American troops in Iraq will force the Iranians to work quickly to develop weapons of mass destruction for their own protection. The Iraqis and Iranians have been at loggerheads for 3,000 years. The American invasion of Iraq is about to make them allies.
In short, the United States is invading Iraq so Israel can keep the fruits of its aggression on the West Bank. Bush does not dare reveal his "road map" to Palestinian statehood because the reality is going to be a conditional (on Palestinian behavior) bantuization of the west bank. A non-viable, disarmed, second class entity like the black homelands under apartheid South Africa. Just like Iraq under American occupation.
To forestall even this, the Israelis might start mass Arab expulsions the moment bombs start falling on Iraq. Also, the Chinese might decide this is a good moment to invade Taiwan and solve that problem once and for all. In any event, invading Iraq will give the signal to all those who feel they have a justifiable grievance that the unilateral use of lethal force is an acceptable means of resolving disputes.
It is a recipe for endless warfare and economic collapse, if not the destruction of the human race, now that many nations have nuclear weapons and more can be expected to acquire them in the future.
Bush sees the use of lethal force as an instrument of policy, whether it is the death penalty as Governor, or assassinating Americans in Yemen as president. He used legal technicalities to install himself as president when he lost the election, but now ignores the law in his conduct of the office.
David Frum, one of Bush's speechwriters who is credited with the inspiration for the phrase "axis of evil", wrote a book called The Right Man.
The concluding section says:
"In September 2002, Bush invited five religious leaders - three Christian, one Jewish, one Muslim - to meet with him in the Oval Office. He wanted them to know that the war on terror had not ended and that some of its hardest battles still lay ahead. Then he asked them to pray for him.
"'You know,' he said, 'I had a drinking problem. Right now I should be in a bar in Texas, not the Oval Office. [The understatement of the century.] There is only one reason that I am in the Oval Office and not in a bar. I found faith. I found God. I am here because of the power of prayer.'
"It was an astonishing moment, more astonishing than the clergymen perhaps appreciated. Bush seldom refers to his drinking days, and almost never acknowledges how close he came to wasting his life altogether. [Instead, he's going to waste other people's, along with his own.] Although he was born to wealth and privilege, up until 1992 his career was, as a biographer said of Winston Churchill's first fifty years, a study in failure. George W. Bush was named for a father who excelled at everything he did: war, athletics, scholastics, business, politics. He tried everything his father had tried - and, well into his forties, succeeded at almost nothing. The younger Bush scraped through Andover and Yale academically, never made a varsity team, earned no distinction in the Air National Guard, and was defeated in a run for Congress in 1978. He lost millions in the oil business and had to be rescued by his father's friends in 1983. It was after that last humiliation he began drinking hard."
No wonder Bush lost the election. Just like his father's friends bailed him out of a losing business venture, they bailed him out of a losing presidential campaign, too. The war against Iraq is the son bailing the father out of his humiliation of not removing Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War.
Now, tens of thousands of Iraqis, and hundreds of Americans are going to pay for these failures with their lives. And millions of Americans are going to pay for these failures with their wallets. This is 19th century war and hereditary rule. It will be a catastrophe, if not the end of the human race.
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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf