(August 15, 2018 / JNS) Few issues have been covered as extensively as the Israel-Arab conflict. Jerusalem has more foreign newspaper and TV correspondents than almost any other country in the world. Hundreds of books have been written on the subject. And yet few conflicts have been so universally misunderstood.
The reasons for this confusion are manifold. No matter how objective the good reporter tries to be, bias is part of the human condition, and some journalists have allowed their bias to become propaganda tools. Also, information sources are not always reliable. Furthermore, journalists located in any Arab town know that if they write anything not favorable to the Arabs, they can face physical danger. Jews have always been a controversial issue. Arabs are not hesitant to employ the age-old tradition of taqiya, loosely translated as “fooling the other side.” All of this leads to confused conclusions.
A book published last December, The Middle East and World War III by Michael Calvo, challenges the mendacity. It is written in a comprehensive, sober, factual style, with no histrionics or hyperbole. The subtitle of the book poses the question: “Why no peace?” Calvo offers answers as he explains the seismic clash between two groups of people in 11 chapters.
One group is the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, latterly dubbed the “Palestinians,” whose leaders, clerics and teachers have led their people to believe that they are entitled to sole dominion of the land. They represent one of the largest populations in the world, with Arab states possessing major energy sources and dwelling on a land mass larger than Canada or the United States—second only to Russia in size, with a population nearing 400 million and backed by most of the billion other Muslims in the world.
Facing all this mammoth power is Israel, one of the smallest nations in the world, with some 7 million Jews sharing the land with Arabs and other minorities totaling another 2 million. With few natural resources, this tiny area contends constantly with the genocidal hostility of its neighbors, armed largely by Russia, jihadist Iran and other weapons-manufacturing countries. Whenever Israel defends itself against attack or invasion, it faces the opprobrium of the democracies of the West and much of the rest of the world. It is an uneven battle, to say the least.
The book presents a detailed account of the unremitting offensive of the Arabs against Israel, who use every means of attack—from all-out war, terrorism, propaganda against Israel around the world, diplomatic warfare, and the use of local and international law courts. It shows how successfully Western naïveté and gullibility has been used by Israel’s enemies, capitalizing on the tendency of the supposedly enlightened states of the West’s eagerness to abide by rules of “political correctness” and their usual pro-Arab, anti-Israel sentiment. Thus, an adjunct to Arab hostility is a hinterland of international diplomatic and financial support, no matter how much Israel’s enemies flout international law or plain morality in their quest to destroy Israel. The book also shows how Arab leadership has conditioned its people to hate Israel and be prepared to die for the cause of destroying the Zionist entity.
In the last few decades, the conflict has been narrowed down in the minds of most of the international community to the struggle of the Arabs of Palestine, trying to reclaim their lands from Israeli occupation and acquire national independence. Whether through ignorance or bias, the actual cause of the plight of the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza is never mentioned. Disregarded is the millennia-long connection of Jews to this land or the League of Nations resolutions to set up a national home for the Jews in post-Ottoman Palestine—or the fact that the wars (1947-49 and 1967) that led to the tragic Arab refugee problem and their failure to acquire national independence and their loss of territory were launched by the local Arabs themselves, who were joined by the rest of the Arab world.
Had the Arabs not sought to destroy Israel, there would probably have been no Arab refugee problem resulting from their wars with the Jewish state; neither, in all likelihood, would they have lost any territory to Israel. Also generally disregarded by world leaders, the United Nations and the mainstream media are the countless agreements meant to foster or implement peace with Israel that the Arabs—and especially, the Palestinians—have broken over the years. Also very seldom mentioned by the media or in books on the conflict is the fact that Israel has repeatedly relinquished territories it had conquered in defensive wars in order to achieve or foster peace.
Seldom is anything that might be seen as putting Israel in a favorable light mentioned by the mainstream media in Europe, America and other democracies. Considerations of ensuring steady oil supplies—together with shrewd, intensive propaganda campaigns by Israel’s adversaries, and possibly 2,000 years dislike of Jews for not having accepted the divineness of Jesus or the status of Muhammed—have pushed a large part of humanity to see Israel as a pariah state.
With two competing sets of claims by the two sides saying very different things about each issue connected with the confrontation, the big question is: Who to believe? How to assess the factual truth about each claim? How can anyone come to conclusions regarding the moral integrity of each side and about their respective legal rights?
The only way to verify any claim is to look up all relevant references to it, including the counter-claims. Herein lies one of the strengths of Michael Calvo’s book. It has multimedia references to most of the assertions made in the book in the form of links to digital sources, including many videos showing Arab, Israeli and other leaders as they speak in their respective parliaments or to other audiences or in TV interviews. The reader can access them with their smartphones. You can’t get closer than that regarding historical facts.
In addition to all this, a large section of annexes shows copies and facsimiles of official records of all the relevant international and national and agreements, and also correspondence between statesmen.
Calvo is well-qualified to deal with the legal aspects of the conflict. His credentials include a doctorate of law specializing in international organizations and international economic relations (Pantheon Sorbonne University, Paris). He is a former member of the ICC International Court of Arbitration.
The book challenges the disingenuous stand of world leaders (and their enablers in the media) and post-modern intellectuals playing havoc with common sense. It also challenges the Arabs to tackle their problem with Jewish existence in the Middle East in a more honest manner. That is the only way that peace can be achieved.
Ralph Dobrin, who lives in Israel, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a retired freelance writer.