Barack H(ubris) Obama Declares "Peace in our Time"

Cleaning up the Middle East?

There are several wildly divergent views of Mr. Obama's recent speech about the Middle East.  The mainstream media and Europeans thought his "peace plan" was a reasonable starting point; Hamas declared that they'd prefer the 1945 borders which featured no Israel at all; and others thought he'd thrown Israel under the bus.  He's thrown away so many associates that "subvehicularization" was invented to describe his management style; we tend to agree that Obama is moving towards abandoning Israel.

Our article stirred up debate about who "really" owns the land which many, but not all, modern maps show as Israel.  So many conquerors have stomped through the neighborhood and there've been so many wars, terrorist acts, intifadas, and other fuss and bother that titles have become clouded - nobody knows who owns what.

The Middle East is similar to the American property market where mortgages were sliced so many ways that nobody knows who holds the mortgage and thus has the right to foreclose.  In these cases, liberals tend to argue that nobody can foreclose; whoever is in possession of the house gets to stay in it.

By this philosophy, the Jews hold the land and they've persuaded America to give them money to built a fence around large parts of it.  Possession would argue that Israelis win and Palestinians lose.

Conservatives argue that we need to figure out who owns the mortgages and make sure that they come out OK.  That view of property ownership supports the Palestinians who argue their "right of return" based on having kept their door keys when they walked away from their homes back in 1948.

It Isn't That Simple

Unfortunately, the land the Jews and Palestinians are arguing about has the messiest, bloodiest history in the world.  Real estate agents tell us it's "location, location, and location" and that's how it's been.

Scholars tell us humanity originated in Africa and that our ancestors walked from there to every place on earth.  A glance at the map shows that hordes pouring out of Africa are going to follow the Jordan river north through Israel before turning east into the Fertile Crescent where the Babylonians, Assyrians, Medes, Persians, and other empire-builders hung out.  People just keep passin' through.

The Nile river has supported civilization in Egypt for as long as we've had history.  The Tigris and Euphrates rivers fed empires for nearly as long.  Israel is on the main drag for trade between these two markets.  Armies travel the same route.

It's like the provinces of eastern France / western Germany, Alsace and Lorraine, that get passed back and forth as Germany and France's military fortunes go up and down respectively.  When Egypt was up, they'd want whomever lived in Israel to send tax money south.  When Babylon, or Persia, or Assyria, or whomever was up, they'd want the residents of Palestine to send tax money east or north instead.

The Bible tells how David and his son Solomon established a kingdom which was powerful enough that other countries sent tax money to Israel and the king of Egypt gave Solomon one of his daughters.  How did David set up his kingdom?  In the traditional way - he conquered Jerusalem, killed its inhabitants, and moved in.

Some argue that the king of Egypt would never give his daughter to a scruffy provincial like Solomon, but if Egypt was enough weaker than Solomon, it could have happened.

The First Zionists - 2,500 Years Ago

The Babylonian empire got stronger and Israel got weaker after Solomon.  Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem for a year and a half and carried most of the Jews off to Babylon.  Seventy years later, his Persian successor Cyrus let the Jews go back to rebuild Jerusalem.  The people who persuaded the king to issue this decree and to fund their enterprise set an example for the Zionists who helped establish the modern state of Israel.

The people who'd been living in Palestine since the Jews were hauled away were so overjoyed to see them that they wrote letters to Cyrus accusing the Jews of fomenting trouble.  Their lobbying skills were such that the Jews had to stop work all through Cyrus' reign and through his successor's.

Finally, the Jews persuaded Darius to give them permission to build, to pay for the project, and to order their neighbors to help them on pain of death.  One wonders how the king's other taxpayers felt about money being used for that purpose?

In short, around 500 BC, a group of Jews persuaded a non-Jewish government to fund their return to Israel and to guarantee their safety.  This happened just about the time the City of Rome was founded over in central Italy.

One wonders how they did it - did they hire lobbyists to wine and dine the king?  It might have helped that Nehemiah was the king's cupbearer - his official job was to wine and dine His Majesty.

The rebuilt Jewish state stayed part of Darius' empire, and then was ruled by the Seleucid empire which succeeded Darius.  The Maccabees rebelled against the Seleucids around 160 BC and set up a Jewish state which lasted 100 years or so.

The neighborhood was too rough for them to stay independent, though, and the Romans took over.  The Romans destroyed Jerusalem around 80AD when the Jews rebelled.  They weren't able to duplicate the Zionist successes of Darius' day until after WW II.

Location, Location, and Location

The list of conquerors who've ravaged the place, either on their way someplace else or wanting to take over, is endless.  Here's a sample:

  • Alexander the Great
  • Selucids
  • Persians
  • Medes
  • Parthians
  • Egyptians
  • Roman leader Ptolemy
  • Roman general Titus
  • Maccabees (a Jewish splinter group)
  • Babylonians
  • Mongols
  • Philistines
  • Hittites
  • Ottomans
  • British
  • Crusaders

Through all this history, only one group has kept a determined toehold: the Jews.  The Jewish people have been saying, "Next year in Jerusalem" for 2,500 years and have revered the city since David first conquered it over 3,000 years ago.

Christians started caring about Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.  Mohammad, who founded Islam, is believed to have ascended into heaven from Jerusalem around 1,300 years ago.

This makes Jerusalem a Holy City to three major religions.  They claim to worship the same God but differ enough on details that they've been slaughtering each other with abandon since their religions were founded.

The fact that the major group who wants to throw the Jews out are Muslims doesn't help the cause of peace - it can be argued that Muslims don't get along with anybody, not even themselves.  Christians and Jews are making a bit nicer to each other just now than in the past, but how well do they really get along?

The area in contention is about the size of the American state of New Hampshire, but it's been fought over for as long as we've had history and probably before that.

And Mr. Barack Hubris Obama thinks he can step into this mess and, with a wave of his hand, proclaim "Peace in our Time?"  Compared to that, stopping the seas from rising is child's play.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
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