Robert Eisenman is the author of James the Brother of Jesus, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, Islamic Law in Palestine and...
Thu,Jul 31,2014 4 Av 5774
I originally wrote this piece a year and a half ago (2/9/11), but every word of it in the author's view still applies today (in spades); so the reader will forgive me if I indulge myself (and him or her) and repost it - especially for those who may have missed it. For those who are looking for something new, indulge me and just pass by; for others, new readers and old, it might just seem prescient - it does somewhat to me. So here it is word-for-word (beginning and ending with the quotes - note, for some reason the "Mohammed Morsi's Rise" parenthesis and "Repost" part of my updated title here was dropped out, probably for economy and handling ease. No matter - regrets).
Then, have a look on "The Eisenman Line", too, at "The Stupidity of Sinai Part II: Turning the Tables" (2/16/11), "If Menachem Begin Wore Swim Trunks, he Would Never have Withrdrawn from Sinai, etc." (10/22/10), and "Israeli Geniuses: a lesson in strategic imbecility" (9/17/11). For those who lived through these things for the last forty or more years, who watched every step of the way; it is important to bear witness, so bear with us (to abuse a homonym), and accord us this little kindness:
"This piece was originally to be called ‘Downhill from Sinai.’ I had been writing it for about 5-10 years. In it, I was going to discuss - in pursuance of my ‘If Begin Wore Swim Trunks…’ article a few months ago at this site - the whole sorry history of the last 35 years when Israel went from ‘heroic’ to ‘pariah’ state. But then the present Egyptian Crisis erupted which made it all the more imperative and a propos.
Many people alive today have either no idea of the circumstances of this withdrawal, nor how it appeared to those caring for Israel‘s well-being yet cognizant of the pitfalls, and get all their ideas by word-of-mouth, from newspaper articles, or occasionally even the odd history book.
Some of us, however, were old enough to have personally witnessed it as grown-ups and saw it transpire on tv screens right before our eyes. At the time I was lecturing for Israel Bonds, the UJA Young Leadership Cabinet, and other groups in America – even the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which had sent me on a trip to Scandinavia to confront ‘New Left’ Student Movements in the early 70’s there.
But after the disappointment of watching those deeply troubling events; so much did they affect me that I never did this kind of lecturing again. I had lost all will and, thereafter, turned my attention to ancient things and archaeology – the Dead Sea Scrolls, Christian Origins and the roots of the issues affecting us to this day, bringing us to the horrific circumstances the Jewish People faced over the last 100 years and, unfortunately, are still confronted with.
Aside from Abie Nathan’s ‘Voice of Peace,’ continuously piping its offshore siren song into the ears of our Jewish young people, what we saw were well-meaning young soldiers – Jewish boys and girls – celebrating their withdrawal by releasing ‘Peace doves’ as, in quick succession, they both freed two surrounded Egyptian Armies and finally crossed back across the Canal into Sinai when – whether they understood it or not – all the world (not least of whom the Arabs themselves) thought or knew they had been discomfited.
The first were the temporary ‘Cease-Fire Agreements’ negotiated by Henry Kissinger, but after these came ‘The Sinai Accords’ negotiated by Jimmy Carter – even though he was a ‘lame-duck’ at the time and this, the only achievement he could ever boast of – Menachem Begin, and Anwar Sadat, for which all three got a Nobel Prize (fortunately, Obama already received his, so perhaps the same thing won't happen under him). After this, of course, were the further withdrawals. To be sure, these young people were very ‘au courant’ fitting in with the hip ‘flower children’ ethos of the time, the ‘Peace’ music of Bob Dylan, the Beatles – you name it; but in my view, they had no idea what they were celebrating.
All ‘Peace Accords’ have to have a quid pro quo. These really did not, except the promise of ‘no more war’ and a tenuous ‘recognition’ of sorts. But what people do not understand about Islamic Law – and this will only be operative should a ‘Muslim’ Regime come into power in Egypt, a not unlikely prospect in the present circumstances – is that treaties with non-Muslims are not binding and can be canceled at any moment by “the Commander of the Faithful’ or what is called ‘the ‘Ummah’ (the Islamic Community). In the best-case scenario, they represent only temporary ‘truces.’ This is what has happened in Gaza under Hamas and, doubtlessly, it will happen everywhere else where this kind of regime comes into being.
But what did Israel relinquish to get to this position? Young people perhaps forget. As I wrote in my above piece for both The Jerusalem Post and The Huffington Post: ‘If Begin Wore Swim Trunks, he would Never have Withdrawn from Sinai and Fidel Castro’s Recent Remarks,’ first they gave up marvelous air bases they had constructed like Etzion, the facilities of which often underground. Then they gave up the early warning time associated with them and this broad expanse of territory. Then they gave up idyllic new settlements like Yamit - the first to go and bulldozed, as later in Gaza, by the ‘great’ Ariel Sharon.
Then, of course, there were the oil and gas fields already being exploited by the Egyptians. These anyhow would have led to energy independence for a country as small as Israel. Then there were the incredible and so-necessary ‘breathing space’ and all recreational opportunities represented by the Red Sea and its coastal towns already under development like Nueiba, Sharm el-Sheikh, and Ophira – and all the present and future tourist sites and incomparable skin-diving locales associated with these. This, not to mention its total and absolute strategic benefit or the presence there of the fabled Mt. Sinai and their own Moses’ holy domain?
And what did they keep – is it possible to believe? They kept ‘Gaza,’ already a population nightmare, not to mention the whole of the cramped ‘West Bank,’ another potential population morass, the status of which was left un-resolved – an issue which was immediately picked up by the newly-formed P.L.O. under the Leadership of Yasser Arafat who had hardly ever lived in ‘Palestine’ at all. His only claim to fame was a likewise tenuous family connection to the former Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj al-Amin al-Husseini – certainly nothing to be proud of.
The Mufti, during his ‘exile’ from Palestine four decades before, pushed Hitler to exterminate all the Jews even probably with more zeal than the latter himself; and his words still resound and are still being promoted around the Islamic World by organizations like al-Qaeda, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Nor is this to take note of that, once Israel had returned everything to Egypt and completely withdrawn from Sinai, no future Arab country would settle for anything less and none ever has.
So where were the guarantees? The guarantees were Anwar Sadat himself, rapidly gunned down by this very ‘Muslim Brotherhood,’ from which Hosni Mubarak barely escaped with his life. No wonder the latter quarantined the Brotherhood for 30 years thereafter, only to see the world press, al-Jazeera, and Barak Obama himself now promote it to a recognized ‘player.’ No wonder he is angry.
And where will these kinds of accords stand, should it manage to gain power - a not unlikely prospect when one recalls that Hitler himself only joined the Hindenberg Government in Germany in 1933 with about 30% of the vote before rapidly kicking it aside in favor of his Nazi tyranny and an extermination regime more ghastly than ever recorded by history. All Sadat had to do was ‘kiss’ Menachem Begin - who had then come to power in place of Golda Meir and Itzhak Rabin’s failed Government - ‘on the cheek’ as it were. My last words in the above-mentioned article three months ago were: ‘a fool and his money are soon parted’.
And what has happened to Israel in the meantime? Why in the meantime, facing endless terrorist threats and acts, in the last 30 years there occurred a series of local quasi-police actions across Jordan, the several Lebanese Wars starting with the attempts to root out the PLO and Yasser Arafat but ending with the creation of Hezbollah and an Iranian puppet State both there and, in effect, now in Syria – and much of this done by Sharon himself to personally compensate for the weakness he showed in the Sinai withdrawals and the tragic bulldozing of Yamit; and finally, of course, the endless warfare over Gaza itself, ending up as an Islamic mini-state while all the time Israel’s reputation deteriorated until now almost considered ‘a pariah state.’
So how could this have happened and Israel go - in the face of its obvious attempts to cope with such threats and for the most part, trying to be ‘humane’ - from ‘heroic’ to being considered by perhaps half the world (or more) illegitimate; and what was achieved by all these withdrawals? Why almost nothing – the opposite.
The answer? Unfortunately, as I tirelessly wrote and tried to explain some 35 years ago and will explain further below, ‘all the world loves a winner.’ Everyone abhors ‘a loser,’ but the Jewish People has not and, perhaps rightly so, never could learn such a lesson. A huge expanse of open territory with endless resources and development possibilities and virtually no population whatsoever was given up in favor of a quasi-ghetto with almost indefensible borders - especially when under the threat of endless rocketry and almost certain future nuclear attack.
And what would have been a ‘fair’ agreement? A ‘fair’ agreement would have been - as already averred in the above-mentioned article - ‘you take half and we take half,’ or even perhaps (since Anwar Sadat was almost immediately murdered and Israel has depended on the longevity of his successor Hosni Mubarak, whose future viability is now only months at best), no agreement at all. Just sit tight and stop chasing rainbows, stop trying to be ‘the cow jumping over the moon.’ Know when one is well off and give thanks to God for that.
To repeat a third and last time: how could Israel have given up the broad, virtually uninhabited, expanse of Sinai with all its resources and limitless potential for - as the Biblical story would put it - ‘a cup of pottage’ (only this time it was not Esau who was doing the giving, but Jacob)? Nor is this again to mention the presence of the Biblical Mt. Sinai where the pre-eminent Israelite of all, Moses, was revered as receiving the Law? No other people would or could have imagined doing all these things. Certainly the Muslims, to say nothing of Christians, never would have – and particularly after just having gone through ‘the valley of the shadow of death.’
Sinai was never really reckoned as being part of Egypt. It was always a kind of no-man’s land – ‘belonging,’ if one could be so bold, only to ‘beduin’ or, as it were, ‘Hebrews.’ Its ‘borders’ were never really demarcated until Egypt became a British and not an Ottoman Colony – and even then, this was done only later by the likes of T.E. Lawrence under the urgency of the coming First World War. Traditionally, in Arabic song and story, it began rather non-descriptly somewhere ‘west of el-Arish,’ which it really did not include - El-Arish being part of this quasi ‘no man’s land.’
How could one give up this unpopulated wonderland for a crowded cacophony? Even the developments it now has were mostly those begun by Israel from 1967-1975; and Mubarak himself, when he wants to feel safe or meet foreign visitors, usually retreats to the Israel-constructed resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. What kind of fools would have done this and then celebrated it as ’Peace’ falling willy-nilly from the Heavens? Only some one like the late lamented Abie Nathan, but the almost immediate assassination of Anwar Sadat soon put paid to this.
Well now Israel will soon, unfortunately, learn the hard way about ‘the Stupidity of Sinai’ and how Islamic Regimes do not feel compelled to honor treaties with non-Muslims and how dissimulation in such cases is permissible – nay recommended. But now this same Israel has in the last 35 years in the meantime sacrificed the awe, wonder, and admiration of much of the world. She will now learn how foolish one might be to sacrifice a world of plenty for ‘a cup of pottage’ – ‘that was all Esau (now cum Jacob) cared for his heritage,’ as the Bible puts it."