As "conquerors" Israeli leaders are no Genghis Khans or Napoleons
Reporting yesterday on the Jordanian king's scheduled visit to the West Bank to discuss peace efforts with the Palestinians, the New York Times noted that Jordan ruled that region from 1948-49 until 1967, "when Israel conquered the area, which it still occupies."
Perhaps I'm a nit-picker, but I have always resented the simplistic and common use of the word "conquer" to explain how Israel acquired control of the West Bank. I recognize that the dictionary defines the word: "to gain control by the use of force." But as I see it, the implication is that a "conqueror" is one who launches an aggressive attack to deliberately acquire land. Israel did not do that in the West Bank--or in other Arab territory in Sinai, Gaza and the Golan.
In each of these cases, Israel reacted to aggression by the Arabs. The distinction is significant. Exaggerating Israel's role as a "conqueror" has become a standard term in the Israel-bashing vocabulary.
During the 1967 Six-Day War, for example, Israel was engaged in a war against Egypt and Syria. The war was provoked by the two countries' open mobilization to invade Israel and by Egypt's blockage of Israeli access to the Red Sea. Israel warned Jordan to stay out of the war.
Under the false belief that Israel had been virtually defeated, however, Jordan foolishly disregarded Israel's warning and began to bombard Israeli territory in West Jerusalem. Only in reaction to Jordan's unprovoked attack did Israeli forces move into what had been Jordanian-ruled Palestinian territory. There had been no preemptive Israeli plan to invade the area.
I was so annoyed by the Times' failure to put the situation into perspective that I have written a letter to the editor to complain. Considering the enormous number of letters-to-the-editor that the Times receives daily, I doubt whether mine will be published. But now I have this blog to vent my frustration over the issue.
Four decades later, it seems to have been forgotten that the Israelis quickly offered to return the West Bank to Arab rule. (It had already returned the Sinai to Egypt; subsequently a chunk of the Golan was given back to Syria and Gaza was returned to the Palestinians.)
The response to the Israeli offer to return the West Bank to Arab rule was the historic Sept. 1, 1947 resolution of the Arab Summit Conference in Khartoum, Sudan. It read: "No negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no peace with Israel."
Israel's leaders do not easily fit the description of "conquerors." Genghis Khans or Napoleons, they're not.