Letters to the Editor

January 19, 1999|By Laurence Sharpe

Charley Reese's recent article purporting to be a "background" on the Middle East is an egregious example of what one can do with "facts" when one has an obvious agenda to prove. A history of that part of the world is, and has always been an extremely difficult study, even for learned scholars, to write about. Yet Reese attempts in just a few hundred simplistic, out of context words and by many omissions of historic facts, to mislead and thereby convert the reader to his view of history.

His statement that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict "is over land" is the only item deserving credence in his article. The rest is a distortion of the facts, half truths, self serving history and his usual canards against Jews.

His article omits the fact that Christians, Muslims and Jews have lived together in that area for centuries. Even during the worst of the Diaspora there was a Jewish presence in Jerusalem and in what is today called Israel. He neglects to say the promise made to the Arabs by the British, regarding Trans-Jordan now (Jordan) did not include what was then Palestine, nor Jerusalem. Those territories were to remain under the British mandate and were taken by Jordan through acts of war in 1948.


"Secular Zionism" as Reese refers to it, was organized at the turn of the century by Theodore Herzel as an answer to the virulent anti-Semitism brought to his attention by the Dreyfus Affair in France. It was a movement not intended to displace the Arabs from "their lands." The Arab Emir, Feisel Hussein on January 3, 1919, signed an agreement with Chaim Weizman, representing the Zionist movement, calling for "all necessary encourage the immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale. . ."

Reese also distorts the facts regarding the UN Partition Plan adopted November 29, 1947. The General Council of World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency, despite the fact that the plan offered much less than they had hoped for, voted to accept the compromise. The Arabs did not accept the plan as they wanted the entire mandated land. Meeting in Cairo on December 9, 1947, the Arab premiers declared that they would do everything possible to bring about the collapse of the UN partition plan.

On May 15, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed. The next day the armies of all the Arab states invaded the newborn Jewish state. They failed to destroy the tiny State of Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria signed armistice agreements with Israel in 1949. Reese infers that as a result of that war Jerusalem was seized by Israel. He should check his dates. Israel did not capture East Jerusalem until June 1967. Until then it was under Jordanian control and freedom of access was forbidden to Jews and many others.

One of the many tragic consequences of that war was the fate of 500,000 Arabs who fled their homes, mainly due to the urging of their leaders. They were told that if they fled now "they would return in triumph." These people remain refugees because they were not permitted (except for Jordan) to become citizens of the countries to which they fled. They left to remain in camps mainly as tools for propagandists. Reese does not mention that more than 500,000 Jews who had lived in Muslim states for centuries, both in the Middle East and Africa, were forced to flee for their lives. They, and more than 1 million Jewish refugees from other nations of the world were, with great sacrifice, absorbed into the State of Israel.

The 1956 War was not an Israeli "operation" as Reese said, but included France, and Great Britain. The aim of Britain and France was to reopen the Suez Canal that had been closed and arbitrarily nationalized by the Egyptian government. The Israelis moved into the Sinai peninsula to clear out the feyadeen Islam bases, to forestall a combined attack by Egypt, Jordan and Syria and to remove the blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba. All of these operations were in accordance with international law which guarantees open "waterways." Reese is correct in noting that President Eisenhower forced the withdrawal of British French and Israeli troops, but fails to mention that certain "assurances were given the invading parties by the United States" and that these assurances where later violated by the Egyptian government.

Reese sees fit to omit the reason for the Israeli attack and defeat of Syria, Jordan and Egypt in 1967. In response to a false Soviet intelligence report that Israel was massing troops in the north Egypt moved 90,000 troops into the Sinai peninsula and ordered UN peace keeping forces out of Egypt. Nasser then ordered a blockade of the Gulf of Ababa and stated "our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel." The preemptive attack by Israel on June 5, 1967 prevented an Israeli "Pearl Harbor."

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