February 23, 2008: Word to the Wise

Unfortunately, we have a paucity of wise people in charge in Western nations.

David Horovitz, Editor of The Jerusalem Post, did an interview with Martin Gilbert, Churchill’s biographer, on Friday. It should only be that Gilbert’s words would make people sit up and take notice.

Gilbert, a noted historian, in describing the mistakes that were made before WWII, draws potent lessons for today:

When Chamberlain first met Hitler, he declared that "In spite of the hardness and ruthlessness I thought I saw in his face, I got the impression that here was a man who could be relied upon when he had given his word."

In 1938, Hitler’s generals were saying that if Britain declared war, "there’s nothing we can do. We can’t win, we don’t have the resources." However, says Gilbert, "appeasement gave the Germans time to create a war machine which was virtually impregnable," and which couldn’t be…even seriously weakened for the first three years [of the war]. The British weren’t even building up their military in the years from 1936 to 39, because they were busy talking about dealing with Germany, seeking a disarmament, and being "fair." Thus ultimately what might have been a six month war became a six year war.

Says Gilbert, "A grave mistake was made in the 1930s in finding all sorts of reasons for not regarding the Nazi threat as a serious one. When you’re working out your thoughts on the current situation, about fundamentalism, just remember that it is very easy for highly competent, educated, civilized, sophisticated people to find excuses and benign explanations for everything that happens."



The obvious and most potent parallel is with regard to Iran, of course. But I think it also applies to what we are dealing with here in Israel and issues of taking out terrorist infrastructure (say via a serious ground operation in Gaza) before the existing Hamas war machine has a chance to grow even more sophisticated and powerful than it already is.

And how about all of the "benign explanations" offered for what Fatah does?


National Infrastructure Minister and Former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) gave a perfect example of just how deluded some purported leaders can be (not that I’d exactly call him sophisticated and highly competent): He suggests that we cannot have peace with the PA as long as Abbas is in charge because he’s too weak. We need a strong leader and thus should release Marwan Barghouti from prison. This is not the first time this has been suggested, of course, and it never fails to astound me. That there are people so very eager to have that "peace accord" that they would deal with a terrorist and murderer of Jews, assuming that this is someone who could be trusted. (Never mind the immorality of releasing a murderer of Jews and according him respect.)


Another Barghouti, by the name of Majed , who was a Hamas activist and preacher in Samaria, has died in a PA prison in Ramallah of a heart attack after allegations of abuse. Tensions between Hamas and Fatah have been fueled by this incident and Hamas is saying the PA prisons have "become worse than Israeli occupation prisons with regards to prisoners’ rights." Not "have become," but always were — there is no comparison. It’s just that Hamas is only willing to say this now.

(I have no information on Majed’s relationship to Marwan, if any exists, but more often than not the same Arab family name, especially among people from the same region, indicates some extended family link.)


I close with a link to an unsettling — indeed, alarming — article regarding a virulently anti-Israel children’s book out by the United Methodist Women’s Division. This will open eyes to what we’re up against not only in Arab nations, but in certain quarters in the US.

A teachers’ guide that accompanies the book advices teachers to tell their students "to gather a pile of stones. They are to be told that in ‘Palestine,’ stones can represent the rubble left when Israelis have bulldozed Palestinian homes for having done ‘something’ against the Israeli government. Stones can ‘also be the means by which a young person resists the presence of Israeli soldiers in the town.’ Palestinian youth ‘sometimes throw stones at the soldiers.’ Likewise, in ancient times, the stones could ‘mark a holy place,’ the teacher’s guide recalls."


We need to be aware that this sort of material exists, and vigorously challenge it whenever possible. And my thanks to Leif Thorvaldson for calling this to my attention.