|Feisal I, arbitrarily declared |
King of Syria and later
King of Iraq [1919 portrait
by renowned British
painter Augustus John]
11 September '14..
Why are the White House, Whitehall and hubs of diplomacy in all the capitals of the EU so irascibly indignant over Israel’s decision to declare 400 hectares in Gush Etzion state lands?
Under whichever conceivable future compromise (if any) this minuscule area is sure to remain Israeli, as it was even before Israeli independence.
The Etzion Bloc fell to Arab besiegers in 1948 and its Jewish defenders were cold-bloodedly massacred after they had already surrendered. Destroyed and desolate, it languished under Jordanian occupation for merely 19 years. Nonetheless, the dysfunctional family of nations decrees that for the sake of world peace the Etzion Bloc must forever revert to its brief erstwhile judenfrei status.
Why? Because old antipathies die hard. In some cases they just never die at all, the staggering volatility around us notwithstanding. Otherwise sterling democracies still hold fast to their archaic prejudices despite the dizzying flux and scary savagery of our times – especially in the logic-defying Middle East.
Until lately hardly any statesmen, observers or scholars dared question the region’s national divisions or the borders delineating them. The sole exception, not unexpectedly, was their inimical perception of the Jewish state’s legitimacy. To all and sundry it seemed that Iraq, Syria or Libya were ancient nations with distinct characters and cohesive identities all their own.
Casting doubt on this was not only politically incorrect but it was castigated as heresy of the most profane and preposterous kind. Most unwelcome were reminders about the imperialist post-World War I deals between Britain and France which blatantly invented nationalities, defined their jurisdictions and even assigned them rulers. Highlighting any of this was judged to be arcane nitpicking, irrelevant and even subversive.
What was imposed by the superpowers of a hundred years ago on the Fertile Crescent, for example, was accepted as irrevocable. Opinion-molders inculcated in the masses worldwide the notion that yesteryear’s capricious concoctions are for keeps.
Doubters – few and far between – were derided and denounced.
Who, for example, cared that His Majesty’s government once sucked up to the Hashemite clan that ruled Islam’s holiest sites in what was known as Hejaz? In return for (not very valuable) Hashemite support during the Great War, Sharif Hussein bin-Ali, Mecca’s Hashemite emir (also self-proclaimed Caliph of all Muslims) was assured that his sons Abdullah and Faisal would be handsomely rewarded.
Hussein, by the way was the one who in 1924 lost control of Islam’s sacred city and surrounding provinces to a rival clan, the Saudis. Had he won, we’d be speaking today of Hashemite Arabia instead of Saudi Arabia (which is also no long-established monarchy in situ from time immemorial).
Abdullah, the older Hejazi princeling, was to get as his gift/payoff nearly 80% of the British Mandate over Palestine, which originally extended over both banks of the Jordan. It was all land designated by the League of Nations as the National Home for the Jewish people.
To be sure, Hashemite appetites weren’t quite sated by the freebee. Abdullah sought the title of Emir of Palestine – a country to which he had no previous connection whatsoever. Britain made him settle for Transjordan – on the east bank of the mini-river.
No Transjordanian nation appears in human annals and neither does Jordan, as the kingdom is now known. What today parades under the Jordanian moniker was conceived on Palestinian soil by Perfidious Albion.
That was the first division of Palestine. Betrayed, the Jews were left with only one-fifth of what was initially promised them and this puny remainder too has been violently disputed ever since.
If it’s any consolation, though, Palestine is as remarkably absent from history as is Transjordan/Jordan. In 135 CE, after the Bar Kokhba uprising, the Romans renamed Eretz Yisrael. They dubbed it Palaestina, with the expressed purpose of humiliating defeated Jews. Europe inherited the epithet and its latter-day English variant became what the British chose to call the land they mandated.
Local Arabs, who first deeply resented the name as an imposed alien import, later adopted it as their imaginary nation’s 9,000-year-old (!) appellation. They, however, cannot to this day so much as pronounce it correctly. In their diction Palestine has been warped into the Johnny-come-lately Filastin, a wholly fictional entity.
Palestine/Filastin never had any existence, self-determination, cultural uniqueness, linguistic distinctiveness or religious idiosyncrasy to differentiate it from the surrounding Arab milieu.
But then neither did Iraq or Syria, both of which feature prominently in the 1920s Hashemite saga. Out to recompense their Hashemite lackeys, the Brits enthroned Abdullah’s younger brother Faisal as King of Greater Syria on March 7, 1920.
It was as simple as that. Nations were invented, named arbitrarily according to the cultural precepts of the new European powers-that-be, and then cynically served these powers’ interests.
Conflicting interests inevitably kindled quarrels among the imperialist overlords. Paris, which claimed sway over Syria and Lebanon (another satellite of its manufacture), owed the Hashemites nothing. It had no use for Faisal and considered it colossally galling of London to have crowned him king in Damascus. Therefore – on July 24, 1920 – the French disdainfully chucked out Britain’s protégé.
In response, Britain earmarked its follow-up fabrication, Iraq, for Faisal’s subsequent make-believe realm. His next coronation took place in Baghdad on August 23, 1921.
The Iraqi Hashemite dynasty was deposed in 1958 when its third-in-line, Faisal II, was assassinated and his corpse dragged through Baghdad’s streets. Even so, England’s unnatural Iraqi fusion continues to disturb the world.
That’s because artificial Iraq, like synthetic Syria, doesn’t mirror any ethnic reality. Both are hopeless hodgepodges of tribes, clans and incompatible religions. In no way, shape or form do any of these assemblages remotely resemble what in western terms constitutes a nation.
Moreover, the very last thing components of the mismatched mishmashes want is to cozily coexist with each other beneath one national banner. They only did so involuntarily, when under a tyrant’s thumb. Despots like Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad and Muammar Gaddafi kept a tight lid on their respective non-nations until the West arrogantly-cum-ignorantly sought to democratize those who didn’t quite yearn to be free (leastways not as we conceive of freedom).
The upshot of the misnamed “Arab Spring” – as many uncool Israelis had the temerity to warn from the outset – is that the counterfeit nationalities of the Arab sphere disintegrate chaotically before our eyes.
As things stand, the global jihad spawned five relatively recent Islamist mini-theocracies.
There is a much overlooked Islamic dominion in Libya and in Nigeria Boko Haram controls sizable swathes. Al-Qaida’s breakaway outfit ISIS does likewise in parts of Iraq and Syria. Al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra runs its own separate Syrian bailiwick. Finally, and chronologically the first of the five, is the Hamas hegemony in Gaza.
The world prefers to avert its gaze from Hamastan despite its irrefutable aggression, rigid radicalism and homicidal fanaticism. Worst of all, Hamas, every bit as barbaric as ISIS, is significantly stronger – both in terms of manpower and military hardware.
The fact that Hamas executes by firing squad rather than by beheadings is incidental. It’s as immaterial as is Hamas’s predilection is for public execution in the streets versus ISIS’s fondness for parched desert backdrops.
There are other minor disparities. ISIS decapitates its victims without blindfolding them while Hamas wraps sackcloth around the heads of the unfortunates selected for summary capital punishment.
The differences perhaps arise from whom the particular executioners seek to horrify. When severing foreign heads, ISIS aims to shock the West. Hamas intends to instill fear in the hearts of fellow Gazans which makes the shooting of the regime’s alleged enemies a must-see communal spectacle.
These superficial differences apart, Hamas executions are no less draconian than the headline-grabbing ISIS variety and as deficient of even the faintest shadow of a hint of the façade of legal due process.
So why does the international community not view Hamas with the same repugnance and dread it reserves for ISIS? Pardon us for suspecting that this has everything to do with whom ISIS opposes and whom Hamas attacks.
ISIS’s primary enemies were Iraq’s Shiite government and Assad’s Alawite-led regime. The world could countenance this. Barack Obama never stomached Iraq’s elected leadership and his cold-shoulder is considerably more than an anecdotal factor.
No one fetes Assad anymore, though Obama’s America once lauded him as a “reformer” and pressured Israel to cede the Golan to him. Israel’s own cognitively-challenged leftwing also hoarsely clamored for handing the Golan to Assad’s celebrated stewardship. Our homegrown “peaceniks” now prefer we forget their ill-counsel, even as they advise us to turn Judea and Samaria to Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah cohorts.
ISIS only started to trouble the smug democracies when Western volunteers became increasingly visible among the renegade ranks and starred as the decapitators of prominent Western hostages. The specter of transplanted terror now haunts Europe.
Hamas, in contrast, only lobbed thousands of rockets at Jews, the abiding dislike for whom (to resort to understatement) is the one reliably unchanging theme in two millennia of European history. That’s why four-square-kilometers of inherently Jewish land generate such unanimous acrimony abroad.
Much as we might resist unpalatable conclusions, we regrettably cannot but infer that deep inside Europe’s heart (as well as in some US settings) there still reverberates hostility to the national revival of the Jewish people, i.e. to Zionism.
Since it’s a decided faux-pas to own up to what incontrovertibly smacks of anti-Semitism, the alternative is to censure the Jewish state over any and all pretexts.
This is the ongoing betrayal against the region’s one unquestionably bona fide and distinct nation – a betrayal that continues unabated since Abdullah was ensconced in Amman and Faisal in Damascus.
Feisal, by the way, conferred with Dr. Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, on January 1919 and they produced the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement for Arab-Jewish Cooperation. Thereupon Faisal issued the following statement, which appears quite fantastic in view of all that ensued:
“We Arabs… look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement… We will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home… I look forward, and my people with me look forward, to a future in which we will help you and you will help us, so that the countries in which we are mutually interested may once again take their places in the community of the civilized peoples of the world.”