My almost 5-year-old son overheard us talking about Jews being attacked and Israel fighting its enemies. He could tell it was a disturbing conversation yet did not discern all of the current particulars. Instead he pulled on my shorts in order to get my attention, had me lean over to him and whispered to me, “Is it the Pharaoh daddy?” Though I found this slightly humorous it did remind me that the Jews have been struggling for centuries to secure a peaceful homeland. This time it was not the Pharaoh or the Egyptians. No, in fact Israel has had a long and “warm” peace with Egypt, as well as Jordan, Morocco, Turkey and many other Muslim countries. A warm peace is defined as one where there are cultural and economic exchanges. Where there is free travel between the countries and even diplomatic relations. A “cold” peace is the type that existed between Southern Lebanon and Israel for the past 25 years.
First Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian movement used the area for a base of operations against the Israelis until they were forcibly removed. Israel left Lebanon nearly a decade ago with the hope that international peacekeepers would demilitarize the area. Instead, during that time Hezbollah shipped fifteen thousand rockets into the area. It is reported that Hezbollah services the needs of many Lebanese which is a good thing. Unfortunately, they are financed and equipped by Iran and Syria who do not wish for peaceful relations with Israel. In fact, they want no Israel at all. Try and negotiate with that.
It saddened me to see Haifa being terrorized. Of all the cities in Israel, Haifa has had the most remarkable blending of Arab and Jewish cultures. It was, for the most part, free of the Intifada and suicide bombers that plagued Israel. It was also sad to see parts of Lebanon that had finally rebuilt itself be used as shields and for weapon placement. For what? So Hezbollah can kill and kidnap Israeli soldiers – in Israel? So Iran can flex its muscles and frighten the world? I am afraid not. Their goals are not in line with the forces of peace in the world.
The scary part of all this for Israelis is the face of the future when Hezbollah, Iran and Syria obtain more sophisticated guided weaponry. Imagine if they had chemical or nuclear weapons? Imagine petrochemical plants being targeted?
The best that can come of all this is a true international military force, similar to the one that fought for peace in Bosnia that will police Southern Lebanon and ensure that the area is not militarized again. It would also be good if the international community assisted the central Lebanese government in having one army and not separate militias. Israel can then negotiate a warm peace with Lebanon through the international community.
I have not told my son of the Spanish Inquisition, the Russian Pogroms or the German Holocaust. One needs to be older to hear the truth of these historic virulent anti-Semitic attacks against the Jewish people. He did just see Fiddler on the Roof, where the whole village must be abandoned because of the Czar’s attacks. He innocently asked why everyone had to leave.
My mother taught me her understanding of the Jewish people being “chosen” was not that they were God’s favorite, but that he chose us so the world can see itself more clearly. The history of the Jews shows just how horrible humanity can be towards itself. The history of the Jews makes for a compelling read, and has ample examples of vanity, power hungry leaders, religious fanaticism as well as great scholars, artists and a rich cultural tradition.
It is sad but true that there will always be enemies of the Jewish people and of Israel. The reality of the past decades shows however that most Arab countries have accepted the state of Israel, including the Palestinian people. The great challenge now is for the peaceful forces in Palestine and Jordan to compel their brethren to join them. As crass as it seems the people of Gaza have been offered billions of dollars in reconstruction money if they stop suicide bombing and disavow their stated aim of destroying Israel. Same goes for Lebanon, where the Cedar Revolution showed just how powerful the forces of peace can be in the Middle East. Beat their swords into plowshares. Where have I read that?