Israel and the Arabs
To the Editor:
Ruth R. Wisse [“Blaming Israel,” February] is on target in noting that the nature of the Arab-Israel conflict has been turned on its head, but I would suggest that Mrs. Wisse herself is not completely immune from the propaganda that seeks to cast blame on Israel. The concluding sentence of her article refers to “five major wars” between Israel and the Arab states. To confuse military conflict with a state of war in this way makes it possible for Arab propagandists to cry “aggressor” each time Israel is impelled to respond to Arab belligerency by force of arms.
I contend that it is no more precise to refer to a 1948 war, or a 1956 war, or a Six-Day War, or a Yom Kippur War than it is accurate to refer to World War II as a series of discrete wars such as, say, the War of North Africa, the War of Normandy, and the War of the Bulge. There is one Arab-Israel war, begun by the Arabs in 1948 against the Jewish state, and that war continues to the present day.
In an interview following the decision of the Reagan administration to remove the marines from Lebanon, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig suggested that their presence would not have been required had the 1982 fighting in Lebanon been concluded by military means (the means, I would add, by which the Syrians removed the PLO from the city of Tripoli in 1983). But the Reagan administration, like every other U.S. administration in office at a moment of hostilities in the Arab-Israel’ war, moved to prevent the Jewish state from attaining clear military victory. So long as the Arab belligerents are confident that Washington will deny Israel decisive military victory, the Arab-Israel war will continue, with Israel, of course, being held responsible by the Arab belligerents, the UN, U.S. correspondents and editorial writers, and, I now fear, influential neopopulist Democrats in Washington.
David R. Zukerman
Bronx, New York
To the Editor:
In her article “Blaming Israel,” Ruth R. Wisse overlooks two possible explanations for Israel’s failure to counter Arab delegitimation propaganda. . . . Both are based on the recognition that the underlying culture of Islam rejects the right of non-Muslims to individual or collective human or political rights. . . . Islam divides the world into two spheres, the dar al-Islam, the realm of Islamic power, and the dar alharb, the realm of war. Muslims are enjoined by their faith to fight on its behalf, although nothing compels them to be belligerent when prudence dictates otherwise. It is no coincidence that the Islamic world is demarcated by the front lines of all the world’s chronic wars: Turks vs. Greeks and Armenians; Lebanon; Arabs vs. Israelis; Pakistanis vs. Indians; Somalis and Eritreans vs. Ethiopians; and northern Sudanese Muslims vs. southern Sudanese blacks. Throw in Afghanistan and Chad and one has a nearly continuous ring of fire.
Islamic clergymen were very forthright on Israel, Jews, and Judaism at the Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research, held at al-Azhar in 1968, to discuss the theological significance of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The papers presented included several with temperate titles that one might expect at such a conference: “The Jews in the Quran,” “Muslims and the Problem of Palestine,” and “The Jihad.” These differed little in content from the more accurately titled papers: “The Jews Are the Enemies of Human Life as Is Evident from Their Holy Book,” and “Good Tidings about the Decisive Battle between Muslims and Israel in the Light of the Holy Quran, the Prophetic Traditions, and the Fundamental Laws of Nature and History.”
The sentiments expressed by these clergy put the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to shame and would have made Hitler blush, yet the Egyptian government was sufficiently proud of what had transpired to publish the proceedings in English, apparently for the benefit of the West. . . .
This brings me back to the two reasons for Israel’s failure to mount a campaign of delegitimation against the Arabs. One reason is based on the belief that exposing the Islamic dimension of the conflict would require a campaign to delegitimate Islam. For a people which has seen its faith vilified for centuries, the prospect of attacking another faith must be daunting. So, to avoid getting caught up in the logic of the situation, Israel and most Jews have simply chosen to ignore the evidence and not start down this path. . . .
The other possibility is that recognition of the problem as a fundamental one with Islam, rather than one that is basically political involving hostile regimes, leads to the conclusion that there may be no real solution. The implication is that only continued military superiority will enable Israel to maintain a modus vivendi with its neighbors and that acceptance will never come. Such a bleak prospect is a far cry from the dreams of the founders of the state and may be a greater liability for morale within Israel than any gains derived from propaganda successes.
Yale M. Zussman
North Quincy, Massachusetts