Israel Palestine Infos
January 15, 11
The Crown and the Coals
Since the founding of the state, 90 years ago, the word “crisis” has been inseparably linked with its name.
From the Israeli perspective, this crisis has a double significance.
First, it endangers the
quiet on the Northern border. Every internal crisis in
Lebanon War III, if it
breaks out – God forbid! – threatens untold destruction on both sides. Lebanon
War II will look, in comparison, like a picnic. This time, all Israeli towns and
villages will be within range of Hezbollah’s rockets. During the big
But this Lebanese crisis
is also significant on quite another level. It holds an important lesson
concerning the existential question facing us now:
The Lebanese crisis calls out to us: Look, you have been warned!
THE LEBANESE malaise started with a crucial decision made on the very day the state was set up.
In Arab eyes,
During the hundreds of
years of Ottoman rule in the region, there were no real borders between these
provinces. The administrative divisions changed from time to time, but were
unimportant. One could travel from
Lebanon is a country of high mountain ranges, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. This topographical reality encouraged persecuted minorities from all over the region to look for refuge there. They established themselves between the mountains, organized for all-round defense, fiercely resolved to hold on to their special character. The very tolerant Ottoman rule gave each community far-reaching autonomy (the “millet” system).
Thus the Druze
established themselves in the Chouf mountains, the Christian Maronite sect in
THE HISTORIC change in
the annals of
In 1860 the local
conflicts escalated disastrously, and the Druze massacred the Christians. The
Jews, too, were in danger, and the British Jew, Moses Montefiore, rushed to
their aid in his coach. The world was shocked – that was a time when the world
was still shocked by massacres – and the situation was exploited by the French,
who had always cast covetous eyes on the “
With the collapse of the
Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the region was divided between the two
victorious powers –
The Muslims, who constituted the overwhelming majority in united Syria, hated the French conquerors and continued to hate them until the last day of their rule in Syria, when the British evicted them in the course of World War II (with the help of the “illegal” Jewish forces in Palestine. It was in this campaign that Moshe Dayan lost his eye and gained his trademark eye patch.)
THE MAIN aim of French
rule from its first day was to turn the
Then there arose the
crucial question that casts its shadow over
Every Israeli can easily recognize this dilemma.
There is a Jewish legend in which Pharaoh was told that a newborn baby called Moses was destined to become a king. In order to test him, Pharaoh offered the baby, side by side, a golden crown and a heap of burning coals. The baby extended its hand towards the crown, but God sent an angel who pushed the hand towards the coals. Pharaoh was satisfied and Moses was saved.
When the Christians in
Acceding to their
demands, the French included in
EVEN AT the founding of
This, of course, happened soon enough. The Muslims did give up their dream of turning the wheel back and returning the “disputed territories” to their Syrian homeland, but they started to struggle against the total domination of Lebanon by the Christians. In the course of time, the Christians were forced to surrender some of their privileges to the other communities. An iron-clad communal division was put in place: the president (with extensive executive powers) was always a Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and so forth, down the line. But within a short time, this division ceased to reflect the demographic realities.
To use Israeli terms:
The short history of
The struggle reached one
of its peaks in the great civil war that started in 1975. The Syrians invaded
the country in order to defend (how ironic!) the Christians against the Muslims,
who were reinforced by the PLO which had established a kind of mini-state in the
south, after being expelled from
Into this mess blundered
the leaders of
The Israeli intervention
had only one lasting effect, and a totally unexpected one. The Shiites in the
THE PRESENT crisis is a
continuation of all the former crises. But during the 90 years of
The present crisis
started with the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the Sunni Prime Minister,
whose place was filled by his son, Saad al-Din Rafiq al-Hariri. (The word
assassination, by the way, is derived from the medieval Shiite sect of
Hashishi’in.) An international investigation was set in motion, mainly in order
The Americans resemble –
and even upstage – the Israelis in their arrogance and ignorance, which border
on fatal irresponsibility. Their intervention this week, emanating from a
frivolous contempt for the incredible complexity that is called
All this would have been prevented, and 90 years of suffering might have been avoided, if the Christians had been satisfied with their part of the country. When they chose the option of “Greater Lebanon” – a clear parallel to “Greater Israel” – they condemned themselves and their country to 90 years of struggle and pain, without an end in sight.
At the decisive moment, no angel diverted their hand from the golden crown to the burning coals. Now we Israelis face a very similar choice.