Turning Back the Clock
In a single day in May, the border between Israel and South Lebanon known as “The Good Fence” became a bad place to be. Forces hostile to the very existence of Israel set up shop just meters away from Jewish towns, eerily reminiscent of life prior to the 1967 Six-Day War. Before Israel cleared the Syrians out in 1967, nearby Israeli farmers suffered daily harassment and intimidation of the kind now promised by their new neighbors on the border with Lebanon. Now the clock has been turned back, giving Israel’s implacable enemies another shot at killing Jews and making life miserable for people on both sides of the border who want peace.
When is Enough Enough?
Since the War in Lebanon ended and the southern security zone was established in 1978, the Muslim Arabs, the United Nations, and Western leaders have all contended that Israel occupied the territory of a sovereign country, and they demanded the Jewish nation implement UN resolution 425, calling for the Israel Defense Forces to evacuate the area. Yet, while Israel maintained the security zone, there was not one successful infiltration into northern Israel by terrorists. The Hezbollah had to lob their Katyusha rockets into Kiryat Shmona and other Israeli towns from the other side of the zone.
Understandably, the Israelis wanted out of the quagmire now being referred to as Israel’s Vietnam. They hoped that giving the Lebanese, Syrians, and Western politicians what they demanded would open a window for peace. Perhaps, they reasoned, sacrificing another slice of security might be enough. But the Jewish people, of all people, should know that enough is never enough for virulent anti-Semites—be they Muslims, Nazis, or the like. Such people have but one goal—a world with no Jews and no Israel. The immediate aftermath of the IDF pullout makes the point.
More Land— The moment Israel announced it would return to the international border, the Hezbollah declared that the border actually was much farther south. Furthermore, Hezbollah declared that it would keep up the fight for the Shaba farms near Mount Dov, which have never been a part of Lebanon.
Prisoner Release— Another demand was that Israel release imprisoned terrorists. The UN, of course, supports putting some of Israel’s worst enemies back on the street. The gesture, according to UN sources, would demonstrate Israeli goodwill.
Resettling Refugees— When interviewed on television, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud had few words of appreciation for the IDF’s withdrawal. His own failure to immediately dispatch Lebanese forces south to control the Hezbollah was not a major topic of discussion. What he did want to talk about was disposing of the 300,000 “refugees” housed in Lebanon who want to return to Israel. The refugee issue has become another excuse for terrorists to keep up the armed resistance in hopes of further decimating Israel.
What everyone conveniently seems to have forgotten is that the Arab world has carefully nurtured the entire refugee issue for half a century. Israel has agreed to pay reparations to all former landowners having legitimate claims. But returning land forfeited by Palestinians who fled the country in 1948 at the behest of their Arab leaders should be out of the question.
One might ask why the Arab world has allowed its brethren to languish in such squalid circumstances for so many decades. These “refugees” could easily have been resettled in Arab countries. But not allowing resettlement and retaining the refugee camps keeps alive the issue of taking back the entire land of Israel.
The argument that Israel is culpable for the displacement of Palestinian Arabs and dispassionate toward their plight is gaining momentum among some sincere but uninformed people in the West. Why, they reason, shouldn’t Israel be responsible for resettling the refugees or at least paying a heavy penalty for appropriating their properties? Some contend that Germany’s reparations to Jewish families from the Holocaust era should serve as a model for Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
But at least two salient facts stand out here: (1) Israel has said it will pay all legitimate claims registered with the state; (2) Germany has paid some reparations but has made no move to restore land or properties owned by Jews before World War II. Nor, we might add, has the UN or any other nation pressured Germany to do so.
Finally, there is one question almost no one raises. What about Arab reparations to Jews who became refugees because of the Arab wars against Israel? Half-a-million Jewish people fled Arab countries as a result of the wars of 1948 and 1967—approximately the same number as Arabs who fled Israel. Those half-million Jews left with little more than the clothes on their backs. Yet these Jewish refugees were assimilated, at great expense, into the tiny State of Israel—with little notice from those decrying the Palestinian plight. Certainly, no Arab country is amenable to doing for displaced Jews what it demands for displaced Arabs.
Syrian Intransigence— A key component in Israel’s continuing struggle for survival is Syria. Why the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad was regarded as a legitimate, potential peace partner by Israel, the United States, or the UN remains a mystery. His intentions were never a secret. He demanded every inch of the Golan lost as a result of his aggression against Israel. Since his death, Syrian demands have remained unaltered.
Furthermore, Syria maintains a military occupation force of some 35,000 troops in Lebanon; and few, except Israel, seem to mind. The U.S. State Department has asked Syria to remove its troops, but there is no indication it plans to do so. Syria has declared Lebanon a part of Greater Syria and evidences no desire to leave. One reason for Syria’s determination to stay in Lebanon is the rich harvest of heroin it reaps from the Bekaa Valley and sends West at enormous profit. How ironic that while America fights a desperate battle against drugs, American diplomats court one of the world’s biggest suppliers of heroin to addicts in the United States.
Add the fact that Syria plays host to the world’s most notorious terrorist groups, and the mystery thickens. In a report published by the Jerusalem Post on May 29, it was revealed that “officers of the 14th Syrian commando division have been training Palestinian guerillas at camps near Damascus. . . . The Syrians are believed to have created a new terrorist organization called the Izzadin Kassam Brigades . . . This new Palestinian organization consists of people who oppose Yasser Arafat’s peace agreement with Israel.”
Syria also has received new Scud-type missiles from North Korea capable of reaching any chosen target anywhere in Israel.
Peace With Security
Many political factions lambasted former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling him an intransigent obstructionist because he insisted on a negotiating policy based on security and reciprocity. But these principles are not difficult to understand. Negotiation demands that each party be responsible to respond in kind, quality, and spirit to every concession made by its opponent. When the Palestinians refused to uphold its end and abide by its promises, the negotiations were halted. This move so incensed those who sought peace through one-sided concessions that they demanded Netanyahu’s demise as prime minister. Furthermore, the administration of President Clinton dispatched its top political operatives to Israel to help insure his defeat.
Liberal thinkers who are attempting to manipulate the peace process harbor at least two major misconceptions. First is the matter of the nature of man. In their view, humanity is inherently good. They believe that if Israel’s adversaries are shown enough goodwill, forbearance, and prosperity, they will embrace social and political civility and become neighbors with warm hearts and helping hands. However, this view is at odds with all that Scripture teaches and history certifies about man’s capacity for evil. Jeremiah the prophet knew something about the human proclivity toward unseemly conduct and commented thusly:
The heart [of man] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jer. 17:9).
That statement sums up the substance of the Hitlers, the Sadaam Husseins, and all like-minded tyrants who walk among us.
The next misconception—one widespread in the West—is that religion is incidental to the basic conflict between Israel and her Islamic antagonists. Islam, however, differs from Judaism and Christianity in that the Koran sanctions the right to kill in the name of Allah. While millions of Muslims may not be disposed to killing those who disagree with them, the radical Islamic elements operating in the Middle East and places like the Sudan are driven by Jihad (“holy war”). For them, Christians represent infidels to be subjugated or eradicated in the name and for the glory of Allah. Jews in the Middle East are painted with the same brush and marked for eventual annihilation.
Palestinian leaders articulate this commitment many times daily. Abu Ali Mustafa, the heir apparent to the leadership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said it again in the immediate aftermath of Israel’s pullout from south Lebanon. In an interview published on the Web site of the Middle East Media and Research Institute [MEMRI], Mustafa said,
“We do not view the Palestinian State that may be established now, and that we are told will have the June 4  borders as the final goal of the Palestinian people. This is a more forward point on our way to . . . the Palestinian and Arab unified democratic state.”1
In simple terms, he was echoing what Yasser Arafat and others have declared consistently: The fight will continue until the Palestinian flag flies over Jerusalem and, indeed, the whole of Israel.
Winners and Losers
The most notable losers will be the Arabs and the Palestinian people. One reason why Assad hesitated to make peace with Israel is that he would no longer be able to squander national resources in the name of protecting Syria against the “Israeli aggressor.” Instead, he would be forced to address the needs of his poverty-stricken people who, in the process, might defect to more benevolent forces. The Palestinians have lost much already and will continue to pay an exhorbitantly high price because of their belligerent leaders who consistently create hysteria then manipulate it, driving these people and their children to the streets on rock-throwing escapades and terrorist campaigns against Israel.
Nevertheless, there can be winners. The key lies in the hands of the Palestinians and Arabs themselves. If those who long for peace, as did Egypt’s late President Anwar Sadat and Jordan’s late King Hussein, will assert themselves and deal decisively with the radical elements in their midst, they can have a better day. Neither Israel, America, nor the United Nations can do this for them. As long as they chose to be intimidated or sympathetic to these types, the conflict will continue.
We who are Christians continue to pray and labor earnestly for the peace of Jerusalem today and for the time when the entrance of the Messiah will ultimately turn the clock forward to a pristinely better time.