Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Opinion (H.D.S. Greenway): Flashbacks of a lost cause

Above: Aftermath of the bombing of British Headquarters in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem at noon on July 22nd, 1946 by Irgun fighters. The attack was ordered by Menachem Begin, the head of the Irgun and later Prime Minister of Israel. 91 people were killed.

At first the template was Germany and Japan in 1945. As we Americans turned those defeated tyrannies into successful democracies, so would we create a new Iraq, and by so doing transform the entire Middle East. Now we are told that Korea might provide an example for a long-term America presence.

As Washington struggles with what to do with a lost war, consider the British experience in Palestine and their 30-year mandate after World War I. The British entered Palestine believing that they were liberating the land from Ottoman tyranny. Britain, "with its technological and military superiority . . . its entrepreneurial and missionary zeal, its largely democratic institutions, was to take the once-great peoples of the East into tutelage and direct their slow but sure progress under stable and just government," A. J. Sherman recalls in his book, "Mandate Days." "This clashed almost immediately with the reality of Palestine."

Although favoring a Jewish homeland under the Balfour Declaration, the British genuinely hoped for national reconciliation and peace in Palestine between Jews and Arabs. But from the beginning the soldiers found themselves in a dilemma because, as Tom Segev writes in "One Palestine Complete," "the government expected the army to impose peace between the Jews and the Arabs, as a result of which it had to fight both of them."

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune