With Friends Like These …

To complete the above expression, one usually adds “who needs enemies”. And in today’s world, unfortunately, when we look to our friends in the Mid-East, we can readily perceive circumstances which endanger what the United States stands and hopes for, circumstances that are inimical to the interests of the United States.

From the very moment I typed the above words, I heard a voice, no, voices, of individuals – as well as all those opportunistic politicians – who immediately began to grumble ‘be careful what you say, they’re our friends’. Grumble or not, it appears more each day, unfortunately, to be true that the situation in the Mid-East is becoming ever more dangerous, in no small measure because Israel adamantly refuses to withdraw from land that it captured during the war of 1967, insists on not permitting more than 5 million Palestinians to be self-governing, basically containing those yearning to be free in what is tantamount to a huge concentration camp.

Many people wonder what this Middle East conflict, this maelstrom that has fomented suicide bombers, hatred of Americans, September 11th, is all about.

It’s both complex and simple. Perhaps, and perhaps not, it goes back to the Crusades, when Europeans invaded the Mid-East to recover the Christian shrines from those who were considered infidels. Don’t bother to point out that Jesus Christ was from the people native to those lands around Jerusalem and Bethlehem, so that Europeans taking back (?) the lands close to Christian fundamentals was preposterous and illogical. From that time forward, Middle-Easterners had a great wariness, if not downright dislike of westerners – a group into which we fall, aligned as we are with Europe and all its peoples.

In 1947, right out of the heart of those Arab lands, the British carved a homeland for the world’s Jews, the nation, Israel. The Arab nations who held that land for close to 2000 years mightily resented that forced incursion. And from that day to this, the United States has been both the most stalwart friend, protector, supplier, and defender of the existence of Israel and the people second most hated by Arabs world-wide. “Who is the friend of my enemy, is my enemy’ as well.

In 1967, Israel peremptively struck and in 6 days found itself occupying lands that had been held by Palestinians and Arabs. It decided, in order to have a buffer of protection against the surrounding Arab nations to remain in those occupied lands. That occupation is the centerpiece of the unrest that exists today in the Mid-East. Of course, you can add, as a little spice to this sauce, the U.S. gluttony for Arab oil – which is a whole ‘nother story. But all together, this makes for a cocktail of explosive and unstable ingredients.

If nothing else, we consider ourselves friends and protectors of democracy and freedom of all people, which creates a huge conflict for the United States when a people, the Palestinians, millions strong, yearn, cry, shout for the right to govern themselves, to have their own state, to have a right to exist without the military intrusion or occupation of Israel.

In 1967, the U.N. passed Resolution No. 242, which demanded that Israel pull back from the occupied territory, permitting Palestine to have its own state. This, as we know, was not done.

In 1973, the U.N. passed another resolution, No. 338, again calling for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied land. This, too, has not been done.

In 1993, the Oslo Accord was brokered by President Clinton, arranging for the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied states and the recognition of two separate states, Israel and Palestine. While the pact was signed, it was never implemented.

In 1995, Oslo 2 was signed, providing, one way or another, for the same attempt to bring peaceful coexistence to the area. This has not been implemented.

Rather than comply, what had then been about 10,000 Israelis living in the occupied territories has swelled in direct proportion to the clamor for withdrawal, to 200,000 settlers, even the establishment of a university in the occupied territory.

Yet another pact was hammered out in 1998, the Wye Accord, calling again for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, and the establishment of a Palestinian state. Rather than comply, Israelis elected Sharon, a hawk amongst hawks, as their Prime Minister.

Now, after September 11, 2001, we have been engaged in a war against terrorism, which has its roots in the hatred of certain Middle Easterners against the United States. The President has even had his commanders drawing up plans to invade Iraq in the name of peace (?)). But the President has found that the Arab world will not, NOT, support the U.S. in this further incursion into an Arab state unless the U.S. does something about its friend, the Israelis.

Yet the U.S. foreign policy plods on. A war against Iraq is on the U.S. drawing board. Aware of this, the Arab world digs in its heels. Both sides are shaking their sabers.

In order to gain support for its intention to start a war against Iraq in order to preserve peace, the U.S. has asked Israel to withdraw its troops and tanks from the Palestinian areas. Israel says its will -it’s going to, soon, but not right away. President Bush again asked Israel to withdraw. And Israel says it will. But it doesn’t. Prime Minister Sharon, in fact, is on record that Israel will never withdraw from the occupied lands.

Now, when all the world has asked your friend to relinquish its hold on territory that it has occupied for more than 30 years, when you yourself have asked the same, when Palestinians throw rocks at rocket armed jet planes and tanks, hammered to death by the armament the U.S. has supplied, when you yourself have some of your most precious possessions destroyed by those who resent the acts of your friends, when you ask your friend to desist, to accommodate, when your friend says it will, when it signs documents with your President, agreeing to desist, when it reneges on the written promises, plunging further into the occupied territory, when it brings more and more settlers to occupy that territory – the question must be asked. Is this our friend?

And if indeed, they are, then the next question may be: “Do we need any enemies’?