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Howard’s End: Origins Of A Crisis

The Middle East crisis today had its genesis over eighty years ago, when Western politicians interfered in something they didn't understand. In 1919 US President, Woodrow Wilson said, " To think that I, a son of the manse, should be able to help restore the Holy Land to its people." John Howard writes.

The Middle East crisis is not predominately about oil, it is not essentially about land, it also has a highly charged spiritual and religious dimension which few Western politicians, who attempt to broker peace today, understand.

They have either forgotten history or distort it and use the Jews and Arabs for their own political advantage.

It seems to me that voters in the West are more easily convinced in a climate of economic and political uncertainty and by a Western leader who takes a so-called hard line over real or created "terrorism" - and it can't be all that bad for your arms manufacturing industry either.

At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and at the San Remo Conference in 1920, political agreement was reached firstly, through the British mandate and Balfour Declaration for Palestine, and then the later 1947 UN resolution for the establishment of Israel.

The record shows that at the 1919 Peace Conference, Council of Ten, a Mr Sylvan Levi representing France expressed concern saying, " First, that Palestine was a small, poor land, with an existing population of 600,000 Arabs, and that the Jews, having a higher standard of living than the Arabs, would tend to dispossess them; second, that the Jews who would go to Palestine would be mainly Russian Jews; third, that the creation of a national home in Palestine would introduce the dangerous principle of dual loyalties."

Mr Lansing, the American Secretary of State at the time, asked of Dr Chaim Weizmann, " What do you mean by a Jewish national home?" Dr Weizmann said that what was meant was "always safe-guarding the interests of non-Jews, Palestine would become as Jewish as England is English."

In the 1919-1922 period Jews already living in Palestine regarded the plans as ignorant and malevolent. Dr Weizmann says he was "rather horrified to discover how remote from them we remained." He says "we were only anxious to make conditions a little more modern and comfortable for them."

Protests were also more generalised coming from the chief Zionist leader in America, as well as Jews in America and England, the British officials and soldiers in Palestine, British and American official investigators and a large body of the press.

Nevertheless, the protests were ignored by the politicians at Paris and San Remo, including those from the native Jews and native Arabs in Palestine.

The Arabs saw from the start what they believed was in store for them, for they knew the Torah, and Dr Weizmann had said at the 1919 Peace Conference, "The Bible is our mandate."

In 1945 King Ibn Saoud told President Roosevelt, "You have fought two world wars to discover what we have known for two thousand years." In 1948, with the establishment of Israel, the literal fulfillment of the Torah and the deed of intention, became the reality.

To understand the deep-seated spiritual dimension in the Middle East we need only look back to August this year, when Israeli rabbis began discussing the possibilities of building a synagogue on rubble of the First and Second Temples.

Islamic Arabs throughout the Middle East reacted explosively with Ikrema Sabri, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, warning that the building of a synagogue would set off major chaos in the region and start a war "that only God knows where it would lead."

If the Koran and the Torah-Talmud (and the Bible) has no real meaning, then Israel has no legitimacy as a nation, it has no special place in history. Jews and Arabs understand this - but few Westerners do.

Many Westen politicians and their populations still seem to think the Middle East conflict is reduced to a materialistic struggle over what they see as a piece of worthless real estate and oil.

But the Holy Land of Israel now exists as a State and we have to deal with it. The peace of the world rests on it.

Let Ehud Barak address himself to the PLO executive committee. Let him say, "I want to negotiate with you, but not on the destruction of Israel" and let him hear their answer.

We also need to understand that for the PLO to recognise the right of Israel to exist we must tell them just where that right is to be exercised. And we need guarantees that Israel itself will accept that territorial stipulation.

A border is only secure when those living on the other side do not have sufficient motivation to infringe on it. We have to remind ourselves that the roots of security are in the minds of people and that is where the source of insecurity also lies.

We have fallen into a vicious circle since there is no trust in the desire for peace from either side.

The term 'border' ceases to be an honest one when you expand settlements up to the new border so that in order to make the new line 'secure' you then need another strip of some ten kilometers. In this way encroachment continues in what could be described as the salami method in reverse.

How is it today that we seem to have all forgotten that Moses and Abraham, as well as Jesus, are recognised as prophets in the Islamic faith, the Koran refers to Jews as "people of the book" and one of the holiest places in Islam is the Rock of Jerusalem where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.

How is it that Jews could live for millennia side-by-side with Arabs and serve as counsellors and advisers to sultans and pashas, gaining civic prestige and financial position while enjoying for centuries economic and religious freedom.

In Babylon (now Iraq) the Babylonian Talmud was written and the Jews found the 'peace of the city' prophesised by Jeremiah. There were Jewish finance ministers in various Cabinets and 125,000 Jews attended some sixty synagogues.

The situation was the same in Egypt where Jews had lived side-by-side with the followers of Islam. Some of them were descendants of the ancient Hebrews while others had fled to Egypt following the first destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians in 250 BC.

Jews gained sanctuary in Egypt from Christian persecution in Spain and Portugal in the 15th century, from Soviet excess at the time of the Russian Revolution and from Hitler's racial persecution in the 1940's.

"We sang together and we wept together," my grandmother once told me.

Surely, it is difficult for the seeds of bigotry to grow in such an atmosphere.

In November 1974, Dr Nahum Goldmann, President of the World Jewish Congress writing in New Outlook said, " If we had invested in the Arab problem a tenth of the energy, the passion, the ingenuity, the resourcefulness which we developed in order to gain the support of Britain, France, the US and Weimar Germany, our destiny in the development of Israel may have been quite different.....We were not ready for compromises; we did not make sufficient efforts to get, if not the full agreement of the Arabs, at least their acquiesence to a Jewish state, which I think would have been possible. That was the original sin."

Nobody should be permitted to exploit Jews and Arabs so as to obstruct the final hope of assuring true justice and real security for all peoples of the area.

Arabs and Jews are semite cousins - and like in all families, at some stage we must extend the hand of tolerance and friendship to each other.

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