Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Israel: Hero or villan?

I recently had an interesting conversation over on Facebook with Simon Butler, the topic being Israel.  Boy, there's a lightning rod issue if there ever was one!  I've been reading up on Israel recently and have some thoughts....if you do, too, I'd love to hear yours.

People today assume the US has always been a staunch ally of Israel, but that isn't exactly true.  The US was one of the first countries (THE first?) to officially recognize Israel back in 1948.  That really wasn't the giant leap that it sounds like as the United Nations had already officially endorsed the partitioning of Palestine into two states.  The US and other western nations simply fell in line.  Some humanitarian aid was soon forthcoming, but not much else.  Certainly not US government military assistance.

Israel had agents out everywhere looking to clandestinely buy surplus military equipment.  Often the sellers had no idea who they were selling to, only that the check was good.  British small arms and armor were common.  Many aircraft were acquired from Czechoslovakia, ironically knock-off German Messerschmidt designs with western engines.  

 Czech-built Avia S-199 in Israeli service

They were almost as dangerous to Israelis as they were to their enemies, but at least they had an air force.  And the British actively armed the new Jewish state air force, too.

 British-built Gloster Meteor

Soon the French emerged as a major Israeli military supplier, also.

British-made armor supported by French-made aircraft

US-made T-6 (WWII training) aircraft

So where did the money come from to buy these arms?  Likely from wealthy Jewish American donors and organizations....PRIVATE donors and organizations.  As Simon suggested to me, it is doubtful that European Jews contributed much as they had probably been economically emaciated during WWII.

So did the US have much influence over the early Jewish state?  Not as much as you might think.  By 1956 Egypt's Gammel Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, which led the British, French, and Israelis to launch the Suez War.  Not only was this war NOT supported by the US, but President Eisenhower slapped it down by forcing the invaders to cease.  Advantage Egypt.

It was the hugely popular Nasser who was the major sword-rattler in the Arab world against Israel by the mid-1960's.  It was he who kicked out the UN peacekeepers that separated his country from Israel, who had been enforcing a shaky peace.  It is now felt his ultimatum to the UN was a bluff, but when the UN complied, he had no choice but to save face by initiating limited hostility.  (Google the sinking of the INS Eilat by an Egyptian Komar-class missile boat prior to the start of the Six Days War.)

Sensing all-out war against a combined much larger enemy was imminent, Israel attacked first.  The 1967 Six Days War was a huge success for Israel, leading many to think Israel INITIATED the fight with a sucker punch.  (In a fight to the death, the LAST thing you want is a "fair fight".)  Realistically, this was Israel's best hope to prevail over the much more powerful enemy aligned against them on three fronts:  From Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.  They saw it as simply survival.  And for the record, Israel's vaunted air force at the time was equipped with French, not American aircraft.

By this time the Cold War with the Soviet Union was nearing its peak, and the Rooskies became the patron of the Arab nations.  It was a numbers game for the USSR:  There were hundreds of millions of Arabs, and only a few million Jews.  It was only then that the US became Israel's primary backer, not so much because they loved Israel, but because Israel was a tool the US could use to thwart further Soviet advances in the region.  The US also became closely allied with Turkey at about the same time, for the same reason.  

We remained "attached at the hip" with Israel until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's.  After that, we didn't need Israel as much and our support cooled considerably, although not entirely, as the rise of Arab nationalism was still a concern, and the natural counter was....ta-da....Israel!  There was a lot of pragmatism involved there.

Israel is roundly and regularly criticized for the method by which the Zionists gained control of land in the region.  Early settlers legitimately bought their land, but later the Jews became more heavy-handed, simply in many cases rounding up Palestinians and kicking them out.  

Right?  Of course not!  But let's face reality:  This is often how the world works.  The English did it, the French did it, the Germans did it, the Spanish did it, and...wait for it...the Americans did it, too!  (HELLO....Native Americans?)  How do you think Texas came to be where it is today?  And California?  They were WAR PRIZES.  Fact!  While many wrongs don't make a right, I don't see the Israelis as setting any new precedents....they haven't sunk to a new low.  That bar was pretty low to begin with.

And look at what the Israelis have done with their land:  It has blossomed, with a robust civilization, educations of higher learning, major new agricultural and scientific innovations (out of necessity), and more.  What did the Palestinians do with that same land prior to the Zionists arriving?  Not much.  Look it up.

So yes, I'm a supporter of Israel.  Do I follow their every lead with enthusiasm?  No, not at all.  I believe the Palestinians deserve their own homeland, too.  But the problem for Israel is how to give the Palestinians Carte Blanche to run their affairs as they see fit when they have vowed to destroy Israel?  

It isn't like Hamas can't control their extremists who regularly lob crude missiles at Israel.  THEY are the extremists doing the lobbing!  When they can act like law-abiding members of the international community and live side-by-side in peace with their neighbors, THEN they should be allowed to run their own affairs.  Until then it would IMO be suicide for Israel to NOT defend themselves.  

And building new settlements in the "occupied territories"....I understand why the militant Zionists want to do it, but why can't cooler heads see the problem this is causing?  That's crazy!

Here's the really sad part:  The Palestinians are so full of hatred for Israel they DON'T WANT peace with Israel.  As long as they are willing to launch an attack and sacrifice some of their own people, provoking a response from Israel, they can justify their existence as victims who should have the world's sympathy.  They don't seem to value the lives of their own people.  Their people are just pawns.  *sigh*

Fighting has been raging in the Mideast for centuries, and I doubt we or anyone else can bring peace to them now.  One thing is for certain....our involvement is just adding fuel to the fire.  It's sorta like we have a tiger by the tail and don't know how to let go, or even if we should let go.  Ouch!



  1. I'm on the side of whoever does not chop off peoples heads and celebrate.

  2. I'm not a fan of any government based on a religion, and the State of Israel is based on Judaism. Non Jews have a difficult time in Israel and I'd never want to live there since I'm not a Jew. Also, this country seems quite qualified to defend itself and doesn't need our support. If I were king of the world (shudder at the thought) I'd declare Jerusalem the first world international city. No country or religion gets to have it, and I'd remove the UN from New York and place it in Jerusalem, and defend it with a UN army. It's a sad fact that our devotion to Israel is at the heart of America's Middle East problems, that and our refusal to turn to energy sources more plentiful and environmental than fossil fuels.

  3. I agree with Stephen's last sentence, and if you want a little more to lay at the feet of the US concerning Israel's condition in the early years, look up The Bermuda Conference during WW2, and the US role at the conference.

    1. Sounds like the conference didn't do much of anything....lots of hot air....about what I'd expect of bureaucrats.

    2. What it did, in terms of the US, was deny giving Jewish refugee's entry to the US, except for a token number, at a time when the 'final solution' was well underway, and that was known to the diplomats involved. We could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. I think it is a particularly shameful example of the US taking the 'easy way' out.

    3. Agree...it isn't what they did, but what they DIDN'T do. Yes....shameful. Another of those "talk is cheap" situations politicians are so proud of.

  4. You have humbled me! I should have done more research before weighing in before. That was a well-written article, covering a complex subject with admirable brevity. Of course that’s part of the problem – it doesn’t cover everything. There are some things that still rankle with the British, or at least with an earlier generation. I remember my late father always had a mutter or two about ‘The Stern Gang’ or ‘The bombing of the King David Hotel’ when the Israelis complained about the Palestinians’ terrorist activities. But yes, I’ll settle for your account as a fair summary, and agree with your closing remark. The US is trying to defuse at least some of the aggravation in the Middle East, and it’s made difficult when they’re such an obvious ally of Israel, especially as they have no real strategic need to be so closely tied to it.

    1. No Simon, it was your intelligent insight that inspired me. I always enjoy our exchanges. Thanks. :)