Peace activist and
ex member of the Israeli parliament
Media Monitors Network - November 30 2005.
A GERMAN poem tells of the giant's daughter, who found a peasant plowing
his field and brought him home in her handkerchief to show to her
father. But the father said gravely: "The peasant is no toy!" and told
her to put him gently back where she had found him.
The United States reminds me of the giant's daughter. Unfortunately, she
has no grandfather to tell her that nations are not toys.
WHEN GEORGE W. Bush became president, he brought with him a bunch of
Neo-Conservatives who believed, in their incredible arrogance, that it
is possible to overturn nations, change their regimes at will, and take
control of their resources.
For starters, they intended to put Iraq, Iran and Syria in their
handkerchief. Iraq and Iran because of their oil, Syria because of its
strategic location. Quite incidentally, these three countries were also
considered a strategic threat by Israel, and the neo-cons, most of them
themselves Jews, were glad to do the "Jewish State" a favor.
The question was which of the three to conquer first, and the choice
fell, as we know, on Iraq. Since the neo-cons were sure that their army
would be received there with flowers (how else?) and the war would be
over in a jiffy, the next question was who would come next, the eastern
or the western neighbor.
Today, in retrospect, one can wonder which was the greater: the
ignorance of the neo-cons or their arrogance. They had no idea about
Iraq, and it seems that this did not bother them. After all, they knew
that one stroke would suffice to finish the job and allow them to move
If they had consulted their British allies, they might have learned
something about the country they were about to attack, for example that
Iraq had never been a real state. It was composed of three distinct
regions which had been joined together by the British Empire to suit its
interests. It always needed a dictatorship to keep the package intact:
first the British rulers themselves, later on assorted local dictators.
Saddam Hussein was only the latest in the series.
When the US army destroyed the power that held it together, the whole
thing fell apart. Today, two parallel wars are tearing the poor country
into shreds: the Sunni rebellion against the American occupation, and a
three-fold civil war. In Washington, politicians blabber about the new
Iraqi army that will, at any moment now, take over responsibility for
security and allow the withdrawal of most American forces. In practice,
there is no real Iraqi army at all, only separate militias of Kurds,
Shiites and Sunnis, each of them ultimately loyal only to their
The Americans would like to withdraw most of their forces from Iraq and
leave behind only a small garrison, to secure their hold on the oil
resources. This is a rapidly fading dream. The end will probably be like
Vietnam. American public opinion will come to detest the hopeless war
and the army will withdraw with its tail between its legs, and leave
behind a general state of anarchy.
AS FOR the neighbors:
The Washington Neo-Cons have already dispersed in all directions, and
military action against Iran and Syria is out of the question. Iraq is
eating up the American military, which is composed of mercenaries, and
already a shortage of soldiers is becoming acute. So what to do? Well,
one can try to undermine the two states in other ways, turning
Clausewitz's famous dictum on its head: "Politics is nothing more than
the continuation of war by other means."
At this moment, a world-wide American campaign is under way, aimed at
overthrowing the Syrian regime by non-military means. The General
Secretary of the United Nations, who has become His (American) Master's
Voice, is playing his role, together with many governments which are
dependent on the mercies of the United States.
The murder of Rafik al-Hariri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, is
being exploited for this purpose. I don't remember Washington ever
getting so excited about a political murder in another country, whether
of a progressive Bishop in Central America or a Muslim Sheikh in Gaza.
This sudden urge to see the murderers brought to justice is really quite
Our government is one of the most active partners in this campaign for
the demolition of Syria. It renders assistance in a hundred ways. Syria
is blamed for the actions of Hizballah in Lebanon, for helping
Palestinian "terrorists", and what not. The Chief of our military
intelligence department, who frequently voices almost infantile opinions
in our media, is floating all kinds of conspiracy theories.
On the face of it, that is logical. In return, Washington has wiped the
occupation of the Golan Heights from the international agenda.
Condoleezza Rice is active in Gaza and the West Bank, but never utters a
word about our occupation of the Golan, an area of sovereign Syrian
territory. The acquisition of territory by war is, of course, a severe
violation of international law and the UN Charter, but George and Condi
couldn't care less.
In spite of this, I would suggest that our government think twice
whether we are really interested in destroying the Syrian state. If this
happens, how will it affect our northern border?
I REMEMBER a conversation with Rabin in 1976, when the Syrians were
invading Lebanon. Nowadays it is generally forgotten that it was the
Christians who invited them in and requested their help against the PLO
and Muslim forces.
When the Syrians were approaching the Israeli-Lebanese border, all hell
broke loose in Israel. Defense Minister Shimon Peres and his minions
clamored for a "red line" in Lebanon to stop the Syrian advance well
away from the border. Prime Minister Rabin saw it quite differently.
"That's idiotic," he told me. "On our border with Syria on the Golan
Heights there are no problems. If the Syrians take hold of the Galilee
border, quiet will reign there, too."
Rabin was, of course, quite right. Unfortunately, he gave in to Peres
and the public hysteria. The Syrian army was stopped by our threats at a
distance from the border. The vacuum thus created between it and Israel
was filled first by the PLO, and later by Hizballah.
Much the same can happen now on the Syrian border, if the present Syrian
regime collapses and anarchy takes over.
Syria is a very fragile state. True, this is not a case of three
different peoples, as in Iraq, but there are profound, ancient rivalries
between Damascus and Aleppo, Arabs and Kurds and many different
religious denominations. The Syrians have resigned themselves to the
dictatorship of the Assad family because they are afraid of anarchy.
(The Assads belong to one of the smallest sects, the Alawites, who are
followers of Ali, the son-in-law of the prophet. This reminds one of the
Biblical story about the selection of the first Israelite king. When
Saul was invited by Samuel, he asked in wonderment: "Am I not a
Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the
least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?" (1. Samuel 9). When
the largest and strongest tribes cannot agree on a candidate, they often
prefer to pick one from the smallest and weakest, who poses no danger to
For 33 years now, there have been no problems on our border with Syria,
in spite of the unresolved conflict over the Golan. Who knows what will
happen if Syria falls prey to anarchy? OK, that's no problem for
America. But it certainly is for us.
IRAN IS a very different matter.
The Iranian nation is united and strong. They may produce a nuclear
bomb. Many believe that this is a nightmare: a fanatical Islamic state,
hating Israel, in the possession of the ultimate Weapon of Mass
Destruction and the means to deliver it.
I am less worried. The extreme anti-Israeli slogans of Iran have not
prevented it from engaging, quietly, in business with Israel, and not
only in the Iran-gate affair. In practice, the terrible Ayatullahs do
behave in a very sober way.
But if we want to avoid a nuclear Balance of Terror, there is only one
way: to use the time left, while we still have a monopoly in this field,
to make peace - first with the Palestinian people, and then with all the
nations of the region. In the framework of peace, a nuclear-free zone
with mutual inspection can be established.
The trouble is that it is impossible to discuss this issue here, as long
as the matter is classified "top secret". I propose opening it up for
debate and finally getting to grips with the problem. The time has come.
As for the giant's daughter, it is time to tell her: Leave the nations
of this region alone! They are not toys!