A columnist in The Washington Post has figured out the big problem in the Middle East: the state of Israel.
Yep, it should never have opened for business. It's an historic mistake. To quote Richard Cohen:
"The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself."
For the full column, see The Washington Post, Tuesday, July 18, 2006. You've got to read it to believe it.
What a pity time travel is still only theoretical. Because it would be interesting to take Brother Cohen gently by the hand, as one would a small child or an amnesiac patient, and lead him back to the founding of Israel in 1948 as another war was raging in the Mideast.
He could tell all those Jewish refugees disembarking in Haifa after years in a DP camp in Europe, or maybe behind barbed wire in a British detention camp on Cyprus that they were making a big mistake.
He could tell them they needed to turn back and go to . . . well, come to think, there was no other place that much wanted them, was there?
Or we could transport Mr. Cohen to a beach outside Tel Aviv some moonless night in, say, 1938 to greet a boatload of Jewish refugees who had just run the British blockade. He could urge them to go back to warm, friendly gemutlich Germany. Or head for some other place in charming, continental Europe, which was about to become one big Jewish cemetery. Only without the formality of tombstones.
Bless his heart, Richard Cohen also seems unaware of the Jews from Arab countries, not just Europe, and from darkest Africa, too, who have had to take refuge in Israel over the years and helped build the Middle East's only functioning democracy, embattled as it is.
Nor does Mr. Cohen seem aware that Israel's roots in that part of the world go back not just a century or so but millennia; Israel is actually the third Jewish commonwealth to spring up on that much disputed parcel of land. If it's a mistake, it's one history keeps repeating. You'd almost think it was fate. Or even Providence.
Columnist Cohen is right about one thing: History has been giving Israel a hard time ever since there was such a thing as history.
The Babylonians ended the first Jewish state, the Romans the second. Both Babylon and Rome were great powers in their day, but somehow they're no longer with us. Israel is. Who would've thought? What a stubborn, stiff-necked people as every one of its leaders has discovered.
If there really were any rational laws of history, laws that predetermined the rise and fall of successive civilizations, as Professor Toynbee kept telling us in all his wisdom, the Israelites should have disappeared along with the Canaanites and Jebusites and Amalekites and all those other -ites. But they're still hanging around, as if they were some kind of sign.
Talk about historic mistakes, what about the Jewish presence in Europe? Look at how it turned out after only a couple of thousand years. Why, oh why, did the Jews let a bunch of Romans drag us up there? Maybe because the captives had no choice?
And if ancient accounts can be believed, it seemed to take old Pharaoh near forever to decide whether he wanted the Israelites to leave Egypt or to stay, to keep them as slaves or tell them to get the heck out for G-d's sake, at least after all those plagues hit.
Maybe the Israelites should have stuck it out in Egypt with all its fleshpots. Instead they opted for the wilderness with nothing to eat but manna and nothing to do but get in trouble. But what choice did they have? The story is they were following some kind of divine imperative, and there's no questioning the mythical. It's as futile as second-guessing history.
Then, when you think of all the other problems the very creation of the world has led to . . . well, the Almighty has a lot to answer for to Mr. Richard Cohen.