The following article gives some background to the founding of Israel and the causes of the present turmoil. -- Chet LaMerde
Shock and awe a savage reply (title in Melbourne's Herald Sun)
By Correlli Barnett. (Originally published in London's The Daily Mail.)
Several of my good friends are American, but this does not inhibit me from criticising George W. Bush's catastrophically misguided invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Similarly, I have good friends who are Jewish, but this will not inhibit me from criticising the current "total war" being waged on Lebanon by the Israeli state.
The fact that some of my Jewish friends will read this article only makes me the more sad that I have to say, as a military historian, that this war is grotesquely out of proportion to the level of casualties and damage previously inflicted on Israel by Hezbollah.
It is likewise grotesquely out of proportion to the taking hostage of two Israeli soldiers. As are the ferocious Israeli attacks inside the Gaza Strip in response to the taking hostage of just one soldier. Certainly, Israel has the right to defend herself today, as she has done successfully in the past.
But surely her response to Hamas and Hezbollah should have been limited and precisely targeted rather than a version of the "shock-and-awe" bombing that opened the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The Israeli Government should have learned that "shock and awe" may only be a prelude to a protracted guerrilla war.
During the long and bitter struggle against the IRA in Northern Ireland, it never occurred to any British government that IRA bases and arms dumps within the Irish Republic should be bombed by the Royal Air Force.
Let alone that whole districts of Irish cities known to harbour IRA terrorists should be destroyed.
Equally, it has never occurred to a Spanish government that it would be right and proper to respond to the lethal, indiscriminate attacks by ETA (the Basque terrorist organization) by savagely bombing and rocketing San Sebastian and other Basque cities.
Why should Israel regard herself as a privileged exception?
Why should "the West" in general, and Bush and Blair, in particular regard her as entitled to conduct a total war in response to Hezbollah attacks no worse than those of the IRA and ETA?
These questions are the more pertinent because Israel was born out of a terrorist struggle in 1945-48 against Britain, which then ruled Palestine under a United Nations mandate.
The so-called Stern Gang (after its founder, Abraham Stern) specialised in assassination; its most famous victim being Lord Moyne, the Colonial Secretary, shot in Cairo in 1944.
But by far the most dangerous Jewish terrorist group was the Irgun Zvei Leumi (National Military Organisation) led by Menachem Begin who, after the creation of the state of Israel, founded the Likud political party, and even finished up as prime minister.
The group's propaganda stated its political aims with brutal clarity.
First, what it called "the Nazo-British occupation forces" must be driven out of Palestine. Then a Jewish state would be established embracing Palestine and Transjordan (as Jordan was then known). Too bad about the native population of Arabs, of course.
The group's logo, displayed on the fly-posters which I saw as a soldier in Palestine in 1946-47, showed a crude map of Palestine and Transjordan with an arm holding a rifle splayed across it.
The Irgun's successful attacks included the demolition in August 1946 of the wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem housing the secretariat of the British mandatory government and the HQ of British troops in Palestine: at a cost of 91 lives; Jewish, Arab and British, most of them civilians.
Another "success" was the blowing up of the Officer's Club in Jerusalem in March 1947.
In combat with a terrorist group perhaps 3000 strong, a maximum of 100,000 British troops were deployed in a country the size of Wales.
There was a lesson here for George W. Bush and Tony Blair before their invasion of Iraq, but of course a lesson unheeded by men with no interest in history.
In July 1947, the Irgun Zvei Leumi kidnapped two British Intelligence Corps sergeants as hostages to trade against the lives of three Irgun terrorists under sentence of death for an attack on Acre jail.
Here is an exact parallel to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah.
But, unlike the savage reaction of Ehud Olmert's Government today, the British government in 1947 did not seek to apply pressure to the kidnappers by ordering the RAF to destroy large parts of Tel Aviv.
In the event, the three Jewish terrorists were hanged and the Irgun in turn strung up the two British sergeants from a tree in an orange grove and booby-trapped their bodies.
All attempts to negotiate a future for Palestine, which balanced Jewish interests against those of the majority Arab population, came to nothing. A project for a single state with Jewish and Arab cantons was rejected by the Arabs.
An Arab proposal for a single state based on the existing Arab majority and a limit on future Jewish immigration was rejected by Jewish leaders. A two-state solution proposed by a UN commission and favoured by Washington was in turn rejected by the Labour Government, which rightly feared that it would be British troops who would have to impose the settlement on one side or the other, or perhaps on both.
So Britain handed the mandate back to the UN and announced that British rule in Palestine would end in May, 1948.
By the time the last British force had left, this violence had degenerated into anarchic civil war between Jew and Arab. It was just the prelude to the full-scale war between the new state of Israel and neighbouring Arab regimes wanting to extinguish it.
The war ended in the successful conquest by Israel of the larger part of Palestine, and a tidal wave of Arab refugees into Lebanon and Jordan.
Here is the origin of today's bitter Arab resentment of Israeli hegemony, a resentment that powers both Hamas and Hezbollah as they follow the path of terrorism first mapped out by the Stern Gang and the Irgun Zvei Leumi in the 1940s.