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Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell
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Cease the Cease-Fires


Many years ago, on my first trip around the world, I was struck by how the children in the Middle East — Arab and Israeli alike — were among the nicest looking little children I had seen anywhere.

It was painful to think that they were going to grow up killing each other. But that is exactly what happened.

It is understandable that today many people in many lands just want the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians to stop. Calls for a cease-fire are ringing out from the United Nations and from Washington, as well as from ordinary people in many places around the world.

According to the New York Times, Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping for a cease-fire to "open the door to Israeli and Palestinian negotiations for a long-term solution." President Obama has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have an "immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire" — again, with the idea of pursuing some long-lasting agreement.

If this was the first outbreak of violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis, such hopes might make sense. But where have the U.N., Kerry and Obama been during all these decades of endlessly repeated Middle East carnage?

The Middle East must lead the world in cease-fires. If cease-fires were the road to peace, the Middle East would easily be the most peaceful place on the planet.

"Cease-fire" and "negotiations" are magic words to "the international community." But just what do cease-fires actually accomplish?

In the short run, they save some lives. But in the long run they cost far more lives, by lowering the cost of aggression.

At one time, launching a military attack on another nation risked not only retaliation but annihilation. When Carthage attacked Rome, that was the end of Carthage.

But when Hamas or some other terrorist group launches an attack on Israel, they know in advance that whatever Israel does in response will be limited by calls for a cease-fire, backed by political and economic pressures from the United States.

It is not at all clear what Israel's critics can rationally expect the Israelis to do when they are attacked.

Suffer in silence? Surrender? Flee the Middle East?

Or — most unrealistic of al — fight a "nice" war, with no civilian casualties? General William T. Sherman said it all, 150 years ago: "War is hell."

If you want to minimize civilian casualties, then minimize the dangers of war, by no longer coming to the rescue of those who start wars.

Israel was attacked, not only by vast numbers of rockets but was also invaded — underground — by mazes of tunnels.

There is something grotesque about people living thousands of miles away, in safety and comfort, loftily second-guessing and trying to micro-manage what the Israelis are doing in a matter of life and death.

Such self-indulgences are a danger, not simply to Israel, but to the whole Western world, for it betrays a lack of realism that shows in everything from the current disastrous consequences of our policies in Egypt, Libya and Iraq to future catastrophes from a nuclear-armed Iran.

Those who say that we can contain a nuclear Iran, as we contained a nuclear Soviet Union, are acting as if they are discussing abstract people in an abstract world. Whatever the Soviets were, they were not suicidal fanatics, ready to see their own cities destroyed in order to destroy ours.

As for the ever-elusive "solution" to the Arab-Israeli conflicts in the Middle East, there is nothing faintly resembling a solution anywhere on the horizon. Nor is it hard to see why.

Even if the Israelis were all saints — and sainthood is not common in any branch of the human race — the cold fact is that they are far more advanced than their neighbors, and groups that cannot tolerate even subordinate Christian minorities can hardly be expected to tolerate an independent, and more advanced, Jewish state that is a daily rebuke to their egos.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



4 Comments | Post Comment
"Israel must persuade its Arab neighbors and the world community that Israel has no expansionist designs on their territory... the political independence and territorial integrity of all the states in the area must be assured."

- President Lyndon B. Johnson, September 10, 1968

"My Government regrets and deplores this pattern of activity [Israeli "settlement" expansion], and it has so informed the Government of Israel on numerous occasions since [the "settlements" began in] June 1967."

- President Nixon's UN Envoy Charles Yost, July 1, 1969

"Indeed, the presence of these settlements is seen by my Government as an obstacle to the success of the negotiations for a just and final peace between Israel and its neighbors."

- President Ford's UN Envoy William Scranton, March 23, 1976

"The role of our Government—our position has always been that the settlements in occupied territory are illegal and are an obstacle to peace."

- President Jimmy Carter, October 10, 1978

"The United States will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements during the transition period. Indeed, the immediate adoption of a settlement freeze by Israel, more than any other action, could create the confidence needed for wider participation in these talks. Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated."

- President Ronald Reagan, September 1, 1982

"It would make a big contribution to peace if these settlements would stop... We don't want it expanding like this. There's nothing new in this. This isn't new. This is the age-old policy... I'm stating the policy of the United States of America... we would like to see those settlements stopped."

- President George H.W. Bush, May 23, 1991

“The Israeli people also must understand that... the settlement enterprise and building bypass roads in the heart of what they already know will one day be part of a Palestinian state is inconsistent with the Oslo commitment that both sides negotiate a compromise."

- President Bill Clinton, January 7, 2001

"Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes its road map obligations, or prejudices the final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. This means that Israel must remove unauthorized posts and stop settlement expansion."

- President George W. Bush, October 20, 2005

"The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

- President Barack Obama, June 4, 2009
Comment: #1
Posted by: steveM
Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:33 AM
No, Israel doesn't have the right to defend it's occupation of Palestinian land. They're occupying it with military force and should expect the Palestinians to resist this occupation. The Palestinians in their actions are not different than when the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto shot back at the Nazis; it was useless, but it still made more sense that waiting for their throats to be slaughtered.

Israel is as guilty as any for hiding behind civilians. each time they grab another parcel of the West Bank, build settlements to be occupied by Israelis and then complains when those settlements are attacked. I don't suspect you'd allow me and my family to move into your home displacing your family without resistance.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, "All persons are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights"... when a gov't or entity becomes tyrannical, it is "their right, their duty" to fight that tyranny. You go to some other country, cause you fail to understand the founding document and ethos of this country. According to the UN and Geneva Conventions, as well, Gazans have a right to fight the siege and tyranny they're under. See, it's all about rights; the Israelis deny Palestinians full human, civil and land rights. That's Jewish Jim Crow not democracy. Israel is a theocracy, not a democracy

Gaza was and is still occupied. The Israeli military occupation still controls air, sea, electricity, water, and all goods that come in and out of Gaza. That is called an occupation according to the Geneva convention. Just because Israel has turned Gaza into an open-air mass concentration camp doesn't mean it's not occupying it.

By all international laws and Geneva convention accords, Israel is occupying an unlawful land for the Palestinians and is subjugating a whole population to it's cruel military rule (Think of a Jew ghetto in Nazi Germany). But, when they fight back, they're called terrorists, not Hamas, but all the Palestinians, and they are slaughtered by the hundreds!

Comment: #2
Posted by: steveM
Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:38 AM
Former Israeli minister Shulamit Aloni explained in a television interview, “It's a trick. We always use it. When from Europe someone is criticizing Israel, we bring up The Holocaust. When in this country people are criticizing Israel, then they are ‘anti-Semitic.' And the organization is strong and has a lot of money.”

Hunegs' organization, the Jewish Community Relations Council for Minnesota and the Dakotas, fits both: it frequently cries the “anti-Semitism” wolf, and it has a large annual budget with which to push its agenda.

The main purpose of such organizations is single minded — to keep American tax money flowing to Israel — $8.5 million per day, plus other, hidden gifts that Israel's lobby has contrived to milk from the U.S. This is far more than we give any other country, even though Israel is one of the world's smallest nations. And it is disbursed in a lump sum at the very beginning of the fiscal year.

Because our government is operating at a deficit, this means our government borrows the money then pays interest on it long after it has gone to Israel. The money is deposited into an Israeli interest-bearing account, so Israel actually makes profit from our borrowing. For specifics, see the official Congressional Research Service report, “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel April 11, 2013.”

And to make the financial cost to U.S. taxpayers even worse, a massive amount of foreign aid also is given to Egypt in an arrangement put together in 1979 as nothing more than a bribe to prevent Egypt from opposing Israel's ruthless expulsion of Christians and Muslims and theft of billions of dollars worth of their property.
Comment: #3
Posted by: steveM
Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:43 AM
"When one thinks that this is what is necessary for Israel to survive, that the Zionist dream is based on the repeated slaughter of innocents on a scale that we're watching these days on television, that is really a profound, profound crisis — and should be a profound crisis in the thinking of all of us who were committed to the establishment of the state and to its success," Siegman says. Responding to Israel's U.S.-backed claim that its assault on Gaza is necessary because no country would tolerate the rocket fire from militants in Gaza, Siegman says: "What undermines this principle is that no country and no people would live the way that Gazans have been made to live. … The question of the morality of Israel's action depends, in the first instance, on the question, couldn't Israel be doing something [to prevent] this disaster that is playing out now, in terms of the destruction of human life? Couldn't they have done something that did not require that cost? And the answer is, sure, they could have ended the occupation."
Rabbi Henry Siegman
Comment: #4
Posted by: steveM
Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:23 AM
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