IN HIS latest speech, which infuriated so many people, Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad uttered a sentence that deserves attention: "Every
new Arab generation hates Israel more than the previous one."
Of all that has been said about the Second Lebanon War, these
are perhaps the most important words.
The main product of this war is hatred. The pictures of
death and destruction in Lebanon
entered every Arab home, indeed every Muslim home, from Indonesia to Morocco,
from Yemen to the Muslim
ghettos in London and Berlin. Not for an hour, not for a day, but
for 33 successive days – day after day, hour after hour. The mangled bodies of
babies, the women weeping over the ruins of their homes, Israeli children
writing "greetings" on shells about to be fired at villages, Ehud
Olmert blabbering about "the most moral army in the world" while the
screen showed a heap of bodies.
Israelis ignored these sights, indeed they were scarcely
shown on our TV. Of course, we could see them on Aljazeera and some Western
channels, but Israelis were much too busy with the damage wrought in our
Northern towns. Feelings of pity and empathy for non-Jews have been blunted
here a long time ago.
But it is a terrible mistake to ignore this result of the
war. It is far more important than the stationing of a few thousand European
troops along our border, with the kind consent of Hizbullah. It may still be
bothering generations of Israelis, when the names Olmert and Halutz have long
been forgotten, and when even Nasrallah no longer remember the name Amir Peretz.
IN ORDER for the significance of Assad's words to become
clear, they have to be viewed in a historical context.
The whole Zionist enterprise has been compared to the
transplantation of an organ into the body of a human being. The natural
immunity system rises up against the foreign implant, the body mobilizes all
its power to reject it. The doctors use a heavy dosage of medicines in order to
overcome the rejection. That can go on for a long time, sometimes until the
eventual death of the body itself, including the transplant.
(Of course, this analogy, like any other, should be treated
cautiously. An analogy can help in understanding things, but no more than that.)
The Zionist movement has planted a foreign body in this
country, which was then a part of the Arab-Muslim space. The inhabitants of the
country, and the entire Arab region, rejected the Zionist entity. Meanwhile, the
Jewish settlement has taken roots and become an authentic new nation rooted in
the country. Its defensive power against the rejection has grown. This struggle
has been going on for 125 years, becoming more violent from generation to
generation. The last war was yet another episode.
WHAT IS our historic objective in this confrontation?
A fool will say: to stand up to the rejection with a growing
dosage of medicaments, provided by America and World Jewry. The
greatest fools will add: There is no solution. This situation will last forever.
There is nothing to be done about it but to defend ourselves in war after war
after war. And the next war is already knocking on the door.
The wise will say: our objective is to cause the body to
accept the transplant as one of its organs, so that the immune system will no
longer treat us as an enemy that must be removed at any price. And if this is
the aim, it must become the main axis of our efforts. Meaning: each of our
actions must be judged according to a simple criterion: does it serve this aim
or obstruct it?
According to this criterion, the Second Lebanon War was a
FIFTY NINE years ago, two months before the outbreak of our
War of Independence, I published a booklet entitled "War or Peace in the
Semitic Region". Its opening words were:
"When our Zionist fathers decided to set up a 'safe
haven' in Palestine,
they had a choice between two ways:
"They could appear in West Asia as a European conqueror,
who sees himself as a bridge-head of the 'white' race and a master of the 'natives',
like the Spanish Conquistadores and the Anglo-Saxon colonists in America. That
is what the Crusaders did in Palestine.
"The second way was to consider themselves as an Asian
nation returning to its home – a nation that sees itself as an heir to the
political and cultural heritage of the Semitic race, and which is prepared to
join the peoples of the Semitic region in their war of liberation from European
As is well known, the State of Israel, which was established
a few months later, chose the first way. It gave its hand to colonial France, tried to help Britain
to return to the Suez Canal and, since 1967, has become the little sister of
the United States.
That was not inevitable. On the contrary, in the course of
years there have been a growing number of indications that the immune system of
the Arab-Muslim body is starting to incorporate the transplant – as a human
body accepts the organ of a close relative – and is ready to accept us. Such an
indication was the visit of Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem. Such was the peace treaty signed
with us by King Hussein, a descendent of the Prophet. And, most importantly, the
historic decision of Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian people, to
make peace with Israel.
But after every huge step forward, there came an Israeli
step backward. It is as if the transplant rejects the body's acceptance of it. As
if it has become so accustomed to being rejected, that it does all it can to
induce the body to reject it even more.
t is against this background that one should weigh the words
spoken by Assad Jr., a member of the new Arab generation, at the end of the
AFTER EVERY single one of the war aims put forward by our
government had evaporated, one after the other, another reason was brought up: this
war was a part of the "clash of civilizations", the great campaign of
the Western world and its lofty values against the barbarian darkness of the
That reminds one, of course, of the words written 110 years
ago by the father of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, in the founding document of
the Zionist movement: "In Palestine…we
shall constitute for Europe a part of the wall against Asia,
and serve as the vanguard of civilization against barbarism." Without
knowing, Olmert almost repeated this formula in his justification of his war, in
order to please President Bush.
It happens from time to time in the United States
that somebody invents an empty but easily digested slogan, which then dominates
the public discourse for some time. It seems that the more stupid the slogan is,
the better its chances of becoming the guiding light for academia and the media
– until another slogan appears and supersedes it. The latest example is the
slogan "Clash of Civilizations", coined by Samuel P. Huntington in 1993
(taking over from the "End of History").
What clash of ideas is there between Muslim Indonesia and
Christian Chile? What eternal struggle between Poland
What is it that unifies Malaysia
and Kosovo, two Muslim nations? Or two Christian nations like Sweden and Ethiopia?
In what way are the ideas of the West more sublime than
those of the East? The Jews that fled the flames of the auto-da-fe of the
Christian Inquisition in Spain
were received with open arms by the Muslim Ottoman Empire. The most cultured of
European nations democratically elected Adolf Hitler as its leader and
perpetrated the Holocaust, without the Pope raising his voice in protest.
In what way are the spiritual values of the United States, today's Empire of the West, superior
to those of India and China, the
rising stars of the East? Huntington himself was compelled to admit: "The
West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but
rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often
forget this fact, non-Westerners never do." In the West, too, women won
the vote only in the 20th century, and slavery was abolished there only in the
second half of the 19th. And in the leading nation of the West, fundamentalism
is now also raising its head.
What interest, for goodness sake, have we in volunteering to
be a political and military vanguard of the West in this imagined clash?
THE TRUTH is, of course, that this entire story of the clash
of civilizations is nothing but an ideological cover for something that has no
connection with ideas and values: the determination of the United States
to dominate the world's resources, and especially oil.
The Second Lebanon War is considered by many as a "War
by Proxy". That's to say: Hizbullah is the Dobermann of Iran, we are the
Rottweiler of America. Hizbullah gets money, rockets and support from the
Islamic Republic, we get money, cluster bombs and support from the United States of America.
That is certainly exaggerated. Hizbullah is an authentic
Lebanese movement, deeply rooted in the Shiite community. The Israeli
government has its own interests (the occupied territories) that do not depend
But there is no doubt that there is much truth in the argument that this was
also a war by substitutes.
The US is
fighting against Iran, because
has a key role in the region where the most important oil reserves in the world
are located. Not only does Iran
itself sit on huge oil deposits, but through its revolutionary Islamic ideology
it also menaces American control over the near-by oil countries. The declining
resource oil becomes more and more essential in the modern economy. He who
controls the oil controls the world.
would viciously attack Iran
even it were peopled with pigmies devoted to the religion of the Dalai Lama. There
is a shocking similarity between George W. Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, The
one has personal conversations with Jesus, the other has a line to Allah. But
the name of the game is domination.
What interest do we have to get involved in this struggle? What
interest do we have in being regarded – accurately – as the servants of the
greatest enemy of the Muslim world in general and the Arab world in particular?
We want to live here in 100 years, in 500 years. Our most
basic national interests demand that we extend our hands to the Arab nations
that accept us, and act together with them for the rehabilitation of this
region. That was true 59 years ago, and that will be true 59 years hence.
Little politicians like Olmert, Peretz and Halutz are unable
to think in these terms. They can hardly see as far as the end of their noses. But
where are the intellectuals, who should be more far-sighted?
Bashar al-Assad may not be one of the world's Great Thinkers.
But his remark should certainly give us pause for thought.