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Survival Against Peace: For the Margins of an Unfolding Near Eastern Tragedy
by George de Poor Handlery, Ph.D.
03 March 2004The Thinker

In retrospect it is painfully clear that Saddam and Iraq never posed any threat either in terms of intention or capabilities against either American civilians here at home or even to US troops which were invading their own country.


The alert reader will remember the recent exchange of captives between Israel and the Hamas. At the moment this was celebrated as an act of peace and good sense on the part of Israel. It might have been all that, unless, of course, you consider the rest of the unfolding story. In case your media did not report it, here are some facts blended with a brief commentary.

The Israeli gave about 400 captive and kicking terrorists for 3 cadavers and one live chap of questionable credentials. As a pawn for the future, the case of Mr. Arad, a shot-down pilot, was kept in cold storage. One might consider this to be quite a concession. Quite in the interest of peace and reconciliation that nice folks of good will at a safe distance from the story’s venue, in Europe and America, advise Israel to engage in. In the aftermath of this unequal deal, Sheikh Yassin, a prophet of Hamas, felt prompted to agree with a Hisbollah “Commander” from the field. The one is meant who suggested that more kidnappings should take place to free more terrorists. In itself, the act and the reaction it elicited might make further commentaries superfluous.

Hamas decreed that it feels that “combat” brings more benefits than (peace) negotiations. While I spit, I must admit that in a distorted way the “terrs” are right. There is an important lesson to learn that is supported by countless other examples. Terrorism pays. It pays because those who should stand up against let it bring dividends. However, this is so only given a weak enemy. One that doubts the moral premises he officially embracec, and who is willing, through lobotomy, to have that part of his brain extricated that computes the input of experience into the folder “reason.”

I used to think that the conclusions from “negotiating” with Nazis and the less publicized deductions from our dealings with Lenin/Stalin Inc., will mature into conclusions regarding proper future comportment. In my lectures I had the apparently erroneous habit to insinuate that the cited failures prove to all: dealing with ruling murderers one should not proceed under assumptions that drove humanistic rationalists of the Enlightenment. Mea culpa! How wrong I was!!

Granted, concessions made in the name of reason, aimed at compromise and reconciliation are commendable virtues. When I got to America as a twenty-year-old this practice impressed me deeply. Therefore I became convinced me that the success of the society I had the privilege to join is a derivate of these principles of common-sense dealing with differences forged into practice. The sad fact remains, and I would suggest that the responses above prove the allegation, that compromise –a tool of successful societies- to totalitarians only serves to demonstrate the weakness of their enemy (consciously, I did not say “opponent”). In this case, Israel’s generosity did not result in grudging appreciation. Giving in (to Europe’s peaceniks?) conjured up contempt for weakness. More demands supported by more terror actions threaten to become the direct result.

While the “Palestinian” radicals celebrate a victory –and not a step that takes them closer to peace with the Israel. So, while they aremain committed to erase it (ausradieren, in the original) there is the Smyrek story for me to report. If you have not heard about Stephan (Steve) Smyrek it is not your fault. For the mainstream media it is a bad tale because it does not fit PC stereotypes. Let a retired altar-boy, one who harvested unpopularity in the late 50’s and the 60’s by trying to set straight the undifferentiated tale that all Germans are mass murderers, fill you in. Smyrek is a German. This is not a fact to prove guilt –only one to identify a perpetrator. Smyrek is a radical who got himself caught at the wrong place. Anyhow, Smyrek was among the exchanged terrorists. To my best knowledge, the Israelis had some concern releasing the man. Given the fact that he showed no regrets this is understandable. Since the Germans promised to keep an eye on this person, he was released.

Upon his arrival in Germany –according to a fair account of this matter in a Left-Liberal weekly, a to me funny incident occurred after Smyrek’s landing on German soil where the exchange of prisoners took place. Someone discovered that Smyrek had a conviction for theft. He either pays the fine or goes to jail. The returnees quickly collected the money and Smyrek’s account with Germany was settled. Once free, he made matters perfectly clear: he will resume his participation in “military” combat. Once he got away he logically declared that he would immediately go to Lebanon. (Not to plant cypresses or to move sand dunes!) The latest seems to be that the German Federal republic’s Ministry of Interior assured the world that Smyrek will stay in Germany.

Do you care to make bets regarding the future? Well, I do not steal chewing gum from between the jaws of small kids. So I will not take your money.

1. What does this leaves us with? While I believe in compromise as a technique, in this instance, Israel’s concessions to the wrong party have not brought peace nearer.
2.  Peace in the Near East does not depend on whether it creates two states, or only one secular state for Arabs and Jews. The matter hinges on something more fundamental. It is the expressly recognized and internationally guaranteed right of Israel to survive. As things stand we are not even near to getting the Palestinian side –and all those who stand behind it- to concede this precondition. Peace without survival is no peace. Furthermore, given Israel’s commendable resolve, without assured survival there will be no peace. To ask for anything else is not only folly: it is criminal.


George Handlery is a recently retired professor of European and American history. He has lived and taught in Europe since 1976.

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