National Security?

By Hitchens, Christopher | The Nation, December 31, 2001 | Go to article overview

National Security?


Hitchens, Christopher, The Nation


Toward the end of the futile British colonial war in Cyprus in the late 1950s, the great Labour leader Aneurin Bevan got up in the House of Commons and asked the Tory government directly: Did they want a base in Cyprus? Or all of Cyprus as a base? Those at the debate say it was a real historical moment, and that you could see the change of expression on the faces of the Cabinet ministers. Was it possible they could maintain a position on the island without committing themselves to an endless regime of repression over a people who neither wanted them nor recognized their legitimacy? What had once seemed an impossibly bloody dilemma was resolved in about a year.

The peace movement is always trying to do favors of this kind to intransigent authorities. And Cyprus, as it happens, was one of the territories canvassed by Theodor Herzl when he began the search for a Jewish national home (the British government finally told him there were too many Turkish Muslims in their colony). There isn't space here to rehearse all the subsequent contradictions of the Zionist enterprise. The most salient one at the moment is this: Having gone to the Arab world in search of security, and having begun a colonizing process in the Middle East just as Europe was giving it up, the Israelis now tell us every day of their insecurity and of the daily imminence of their destruction. They are now at war--bitter and intimate war--with the fourth generation of those they originally offended. So the question becomes, as it was when the Balfour Declaration was promulgated in 1917: Do they want a Jewish homeland in Palestine, or all of Palestine as a Jewish state?

If it is the former then the solution is a relatively simple one. An Israeli state of roughly 1948 dimensions can easily be brought inside the defense perimeter of the West, however defined, and have its frontiers internationally guaranteed. It's idle for Israeli hawks to protest that they can only rely on their own resources in a time of crisis. The rest of the time they insist on a constant flow of arms and aid from the outside powers upon whom they have always depended. This is not an argument they can expect to have, indefinitely, both ways (independence from the vagaries of gentile goodwill is yet another of the original Zionist aims that has turned into its own obverse).

If General Sharon were offered or promised such a solution, accompanied by the most solemn international guarantees, he would not wish to accept it. This is because, in the original inscriptions of his movement and his party, Judea and Samaria are not required for security but as the vindication of a messianic, expansionist dream. Nobody in search of Jewish safety would place Jewish settlements in Gaza at a time like this, or indeed any other time. It follows that an international commitment to Israeli security would have, as its necessary counterpart, an absolute refusal to pay a single cent for colonization or expansion. Then we would see who really wanted what, and at what risk, or price.

You can do the same thought experiment in a different way by following the alarming rhetoric swirling through Washington. Seeking to cash in on the only just war they have ever supported, Israel's more extreme partisans insist that the PLO and the other Palestinian movements are the equivalents of Al Qaeda. …

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