30 October 2006

"Decades Of Distrust"

My son came home from school today and said the words that every father fears, "Dad, we're studying Israeli/Arab history in social studies." The basis for their study is a single double-sided page of information, with the same heading as this post, put between the Israeli and Palestinian flags. Why simplify, when you can over-simplify.

The summary is not as bad as I feared, but it ain't great. The Palestinians outnumbered the Jews, it admits, but they were still the underdog. The Jews had a "well-trained experienced army" as many Jews had fought with the British in World War II. (No, there's no mention of anything else the Jews might have gotten up to in World War II that would effect how they fought once in Palestine.) The Palestinians, however, "had never recovered from the Arab revolt against the Ottomans." (The summary does not mention that the revolt happened in 1916-1918, or that the entire Arab force was 5000 men, but apparently this was one of those devastating victories that makes it impossible to fight a war against refugees 30 years later.)

Here are the specific acts of terrorism mentioned in the summary: "one massacre of 250 Arabs at Dayr Yasin near Jerusalem"; "There were many Arab terrorist attacks to avenge this victory [the Six Day War], including the 1972 murders of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games"; "Mr Sadat, however, paid for the peace with his life: he was assassinated by Muslim extremists"; "In 1994, an Israeli extremist was responsible for the Hebron Massacre in which 29 Palestinians were killed in an attack on a Muslim mosque"; "In 1995, another Jewish extremist, angered by the Israeli prime minister's peace efforts assassinated Yitzak Rabin." The article does mention Arab terrorism generally, but always attributes the charge to someone: the US government says that Hamas has been responsible for suicide bombings (no specifics, please) or "Israelis blame Palestinians for frequent violent attacks." That last is followed immediately by "Palestinians blame Israel" for violent clampdowns, including the "'assassination' of several of their top leaders."

Far be it from me to claim that the Israelis are angels or the Palestinians devils. The Israelis have made mistakes and lost opportunities. But the important lesson that is missed by this even-Stephen summary of the last 60 years of Israeli-Arab relations is that the Arabs can stop this at any time, and only the Arabs can stop it. By the way, the first question my son had to answer after reading this summary was "What is prejudice?" The second was "How does prejudice arise?" He knew what was expected of him -- be blamed the parents.


Bret said...

At my daughter's school, each kid picked a country, and my daughter picked Israel. In her case it was probably biased a bit the other way, so hey, it all evens out in the end. Soon, there won't be history taught at all because no version of history will be adequately politcally correct.

Peter Burnet said...

Five years after 9/11 and despite interminable blogging ever since, I confess I have no idea how much we or even Israel really have to fear from Islamicism. Somewhat to my embarassment, I often find both sides of that argument persuasive. But one thing I am fairly confident about is that, if "Know thine Enemy" has anything to do with it, they understand us a heck of a lot better than we understand them.

Susan's Husband said...

Mr. Burnet;

I think that depends on whether Iran builds working nuclear weapons. I would consider getting nuked something to fear.

Personally, I find the Palestinian argument anti-persuasive — the more I hear about it, the less I believe it.