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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

October 12, 2002

Appeasement, Concessions, Inaction, “Going Wobbly”

The articles I posted on October 10 and 11, entitled, “Don’t go wobbly, Israel”, expressed my concern about attempts to appease terrorists and their supporters by making concessions to them. It may be useful to put these concerns in a broader context.

The “mother of all appeasements” was, of course, Munich, September, 1938. All democracies paid a horrible price for this attempted appeasement, with Canada alone losing 40,000 lives out of an army of 1.2 million. Even this toll dwarfs in relation to the losses suffered by the Jewish people and the people of the former USSR.

But in relation to Israel, it is instructive to note the history of British attempts to appease the Arabs in the region, and the Palestinian Arabs in particular. In her monumental opus, From Time Immemorial, Joan Peters documented the British vain attempts to appease the Palestinian Arab population at the Zionists’ expense, between 1920 and 1940 (see complete reference at article’s end). The list includes:

1920 - Arabs engage in Anti-Jewish “Easter riots” - British set immigration quotas on Jews to appease Arabs.
1921 - May riots by Arabs against Jews - British suspend Jewish immigration temporarily, then (1922) lop off “Trans-Jordania” from Jewish National Home.
1929 - Arab riots against Jews, Hebron massacre - British attempt to appease Arabs with the Passfield White Paper (1930), restricting Jewish immigration AND Jewish land purchases.
1936-1939 - Large scale riots by Arabs against Jews AND British, including the assassination of a British District Commissioner, Lewis Andrews. Further British attempt to appease Arabs by the Peel partition plan, giving most of Palestine’s territory to Arabs, and reducing the Jewish National Home to a tiny sliver. Arabs reject, will not be appeased. New British White Paper (1939) cuts Jewish immigration to virtually zero, at a time when Jews must flee Nazi occupations. Land purchases by Jews further restricted (1940).

Clearly, these and all subsequent British attempts to appease the Arabs were equally unsuccessful. For example, during WW II, Britain had to use brute force to squash pro-Nazi governments in both Iraq (April, 1941) and Egypt (February, 1942). During Israel’s War of Independence, Britain intervened on the Arab side numerous times, including an ultimatum on December 30, 1948, that eventually forced Israel to relinquish the Gaza strip into Egyptian hands. This attempt to appease Egypt (then under British influence) was so “successful”, that within a few years Britain was ejected from her Suez Canal bases by her very own Egyptian proteges.

Britain met the same fate in Transjordan, the very state Britain created at the expense of the Jewish National Home. Britain may have created the Transjordanian army and provided it with funding, hardware and commanding officers (notably, John Glubb “Pasha”), but this did not stop King Hussein from expelling the British officers, including John Glubb (March, 1956).

The attempts of the US to curry favour with the Arabs were just as “successful” and honourable (or, in this case, should I say ‘honorable’?). In 1956/57, Eisenhower’s brutal pressure forced Israel to withdraw unconditionally from the Sinai, sowing the seeds of the 1967 War. But Egypt (and Syria) still fell into the Soviet orbit: the West gained nothing from bullying our sister-republic and appeasing the Arab world.

And then there is the book of Western appeasement by non-action. For the three decades prior to 9-11 (2001), the West was subject to a long list of terrorist attacks by Islamists against Western (non-Israeli) targets, none of which met with an appropriate response on the part of the Western democracies (terrorism against Israeli targets since 1948 warrants a separate chapter). In an article posted on Dawson Speaks on August 16, 2002, I listed 30 major attacks that occurred in the period 1973-2001, including the murder of the US ambassador to Khartoum, Cleo Noel (1973), the hijacking of an Air France plane to Entebbe (1976), the attacks in Lebanon against the US embassy and the US Marines (1983), the Lockerbie airborne bombing (1988), the (first) bomb at the World Trade Centre (1993), the Khobar Towers bomb (1996), and the bombing of two US embassies in Africa (1998). In the face of Western inaction-for-appeasement, 9-11 was inevitable.

Will we ever, ever learn?


Peters, Joan. From Time Immemorial - The origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine . New York: Harper and Row, 1984. The incidents cited in this article are listed in pp. 318-320.

Contributed by Joseph Alexander Norland