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Study history, study history…

Версия статьи на русском языке «Учите историю, учите историю… «

“It’s history, my friend, it’s not relevant for us because we are in the present time now!” You can hear these words again and again from a majority of Israeli journalists, political commentators and politicians, when one talks about the lessons from history that could be helpful to avoid mistakes in Israel’s Government policy and decisions.

Such a position is not new, and our ancestors tried to avoid it by insisting on learning and repeating the lessons from Jewish History. “Remember Amalec and what he did to you” – this is just one of the warnings our ancient wise men have left for us. However, despite this tradition of learning, the story about the “four sons”, read during every Passover Seder, remains as relevant today, as it was almost 3 thousand years ago. There is always a son who does not want to learn it and thinks that he can separate himself from his people and family.

«Study history, study history. In history lie all the secrets of statecraft», — said Sir Winston Churchill. And he added: «The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see».

Indeed, the time is going on forward, and the geographical places and nationalities of the players on the Stage of History could be various and different, but we can see how the scenario of the play repeats itself.


If you examine the speech of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, given in the British Parliament on October 3, 1938 and attached below, just replace  «Czechoslovakia» with “Israel”, “Sudetenland” with «Judea, Samaria  and Gaza» and “Anglo-French” with «Saudi Arabia and European Union proposals» — and you’ll get something very close to the recent speeches of the leaders of the Western World regarding the solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"I believe, it is peace for our time" - Neville Chamberlain holds the paper signed by him and Hitler, on his return to Great Britain as a hero who saved  peace in Europe. This document was later called a "scrap of paper" by Hitler.
«I believe, it is peace for our time» — Neville Chamberlain holds the paper signed by him and Hitler, on his return to Great Britain as a hero who saved peace in Europe. This document was later called a «scrap of paper» by Hitler.

“Before I come to describe the Agreement which was signed at Munich (Oslo)…, I would like to remind the House (Knesset) of two things which I think it very essential not to forget when those terms are being considered. The first is this: We did not go there to decide whether the predominantly German (Arab) areas in the Sudetenland (Judea, Samaria and Gaza Strip) should be passed over to the German Reich (Arab state). That had been decided already.

Czechoslovakia (Israel) had accepted the Anglo-French (Saudi Arabia-EU) proposals. What we had to consider was the method, the conditions and the time of the transfer of the territory.

The second point to remember is that time was one of the essential factors. All the elements were present on the spot for the outbreak of a conflict which might have precipitated the catastrophe. We had populations inflamed to a high degree; we had extremists on both sides ready to work up and provoke incidents; we had considerable quantities of arms which were by no means confined to regularly organized forces.

Therefore, it was essential that we should quickly reach a conclusion, so that this painful and difficult operation of transfer might be carried out at the earliest possible moment and concluded as soon as was consistent, with orderly procedure, in order that we might avoid the possibility of something that might have rendered all our attempts at peaceful solution useless….

I say in the name of this House and of the people of this country that Czechoslovakia (Israel) has earned our admiration and respect for her restraint, for her dignity, for her magnificent discipline in face of such a trial as few nations have ever been called upon to meet.

The army, whose courage no man has ever questioned, has obeyed the order of their president, as they would equally have obeyed him if he had told them to march into the trenches. It is my hope and my belief, that under the new system of guarantees, the new Czechoslovakia (Israel) will find a greater security than she has ever enjoyed in the past. . .

Ever since I assumed my present office my main purpose has been to work for the pacification of Europe, for the removal of those suspicions and those animosities which have so long poisoned the air. The path which leads to appeasement is long and bristles with obstacles. The question of Czechoslovakia (Israel) is the latest and perhaps the most dangerous. Now that we have got past it, I feel that it may be possible to make further progress along the road to sanity”.

According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary «To appease means «to try to conciliate or bribe (a potential aggressor) by making concessions, frequently with implication of sacrifice of principles».

By signing the Oslo agreements, we chose the appeasement of terrorists in a desire to stop the acts of terror. We were ready to give up the territory of our ancient Homeland, liberated in a bloody war imposed on us by our enemies, for peace.

Yet, as a result, we got exactly what Sir Winston Churchill said about the British Government after WWII started: «You chose disgrace in fear of war. You got disgrace and war as well». We gave territory for appeasement and brought the war even closer to our homes.

However, Neville Chamberlain was consistent in his principles, words and deeds. In contrary to his behavior, one can see that in many Israeli Knesset elections it became a routine of sacrificing principles and misleading the voters by conducting the actual policy after elections that contradict to the declared promises.

It is an incredible fact that every one of the Israeli leaders who tried to achieve peace with the Arabs following the policy titled “Territory for peace” and “Our strength in self-restraint”, had finished his career with failure, disgrace and humiliation.

The recent situation during the ongoing “Protective Edge” operation (or as it was named in Hebrew – “Powerful Cliff”) lead to endless discussions and comments by former generals, journalists, analysts, politicians and activists from all spectrum of Israeli political life. The majority of the opinions were formulated as quotes from the speeches and opinions expressed in Great Britain and France before the Munich Agreement.

It is interesting to find out that the British military chiefs had advised Chamberlain that over one million people would be killed by bombing raids in just 60 days and that mass graves would be needed, as there simply would not be enough wood for timber coffins. In their opinion, it seemed right that a negotiated settlement with Hitler should be tried.

As the BBC had informed regarding the number of people who were killed through all 6 years of the WW2: «The final toll of casualties caused by the various air raids on Britain was over 60,000 civilians killed, (30,000 in London), and 90,000 admitted to hospital (50,000 in London)». This number is very far from “one million killed by bombing raids in just 60 days” as it was expected by the British High Command.

Going back to our times and situation, we can hear professional explanations that the ground attack on Gaza Strip will bring to hundreds of Israeli casualties and that it will not stop the terror actions against Israel. Actually, the same military advisors and politicians told the same thing before IDF was forced to engage the terror activity in Judea and Samaria during the operation “Defensive Shield” in March 29 – May 2, 2002.

The UN report on operation “Defensive Shield” says, «Combatants on both sides conducted themselves in ways that, at times, placed civilians in harm’s way. Much of the fighting during Operation «Defensive Shield» occurred in areas heavily populated by civilians and in many cases heavy weaponry was used”.

The territory of Judea and Samara is 16 fold larger than the territory of Gaza Strip. Now, during 47 days of the “Protective Edge” operation, despite very limited ground combat actions, 64 IDF soldiers were killed. It is two fold higher comparing with Israeli losses, which totaled 30 soldiers killed and 127 wounded during the 35 days of «Defensive Shield»- a full scale ground operation, while all the territory of Judea and Samaria was re-occupied by IDF.

It seems that the IDF strategy for the “Protective Edge” operation that tried to minimize losses of the soldiers by avoiding deep ground incursion and re-occupation of the Gaza Strip has failed and brought to the opposite result. As Sir Winston Churchill formulated it long ago:  «However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results»…

In contrary to the opinion, so heavily promoted by Israeli advisers and commentators, Sir Churchill warned that: ”One ought never to turn one’s back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!”

Sir Winston Churchill

Israel had always defeated the enemy following the main task  and strategy also defined by Sir Winston Churchill: “Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival”.

And, finally, here is another quote from Sir Churchill’s sayings that would be worth  to keep in mind: «You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else».

By Yakov Faitelson


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