Another Tack: Rude awakening

The man who founded and then abandoned the first "Peace Now."

Arthur Ruppin, the famed "father of Jewish settlement," was one of the founders - in 1925 - of Brit Shalom, forerunner of Peace Now and assorted allied outlets of unflagging Jewish liberality, naivete, trust in the essential goodness of man and in the destiny of reasonable compromise to triumph over all adversity. Such utopian sentiments - then especially prevalent among the more refined and urbane Jewish intellectuals of Western Europe and America - gave rise to pacifist dreams of kinship, cooperation and harmony with local Arabs. "Mutual voluntary non-domination," it was envisioned, would facilitate the creation of a bi-national state with a joint government and blissful communal coexistence. Pretty sweet and alluring stuff - if you can get it. By 1929, though, Ruppin realized that all that sweetness and light was - alas - unattainable. His rude awakening followed the bloody jihad set off by preceding Arab exhortations to "holy war to protect al-Aksa from Jewish conquest." To fan the flames, provocative photomontages of Herzl (then deceased for 25 years) seemingly near the Aksa compound were circulated. Ruppin wouldn't have been surprised had he heard Raed Sallah inflame passions last weekend and rouse "believers to launch a third intifada to liberate al-Aksa" from Jewish predations. It would all have sounded unpleasantly familiar to Ruppin, already accustomed to ferocious shouts charging, as Sallah just did, that "Jews want to build their Temple in place of al-Aksa, while our blood drenches their clothing, stains their doorposts and saturates their food and drink." True, Ruppin died before Sallah was born, but harangues identical to the above were delivered by Sallah's spiritual forebears, foremost among them avid Nazi collaborator Haj Amin el-Husseini. There isn't an iota of originality in any of the calculated hysteria Sallah whips up. It's all been done before and because of it Ruppin quit the very Brit Shalom in which he invested so much gullible cerebral energy and wishful thinking. The fanatic Muslim agitation sprouted with the British Mandate's inception, when Muslims suddenly evinced emotional attachment to the Western Wall, claiming it to be the hitching post where Muhammad tethered his winged steed Burak. Jewish wailing was tolerated there occasionally, after remittance of exorbitant fees for the privilege - providing Muslim sensibilities weren't offended. The problem was there was no telling what would give offense. TODAY IT'S replacing a collapsed walkway. In 1919, wooden benches for the old and infirm were cited as the insufferable affront. The British promptly removed them, but Arabs then began to regularly drive cattle and laden donkeys through crowds of Jewish worshipers. From 1920 the muezzin was dispatched to bellow his loudest chants precisely during Jewish services. In 1921, the sound of the shofar blown on the High Holy Days in front of the Wall became the next pretext for unrest. The British obligingly forbade the annoying blasts. The shrillest Arab outcry was raised in 1928 over a flimsy partition put up to segregate male and female worshipers at the Wall. The British lost no time in removing the insulting screen right at the climax of Yom Kippur services. From then on premeditated disruptions at the Wall grew increasingly violent, till trumped-up tales of Jewish attempts to take over the Temple Mount sent Arabs rioting on August 23, 1929. The bloodbath lasted a full week and left 133 Jews slaughtered. The rampages began in Jerusalem, but the most notorious massacre was in Hebron, where 67 men, women and children were hacked to death in homicidal frenzy. The centuries-old Jewish community was uprooted, as were smaller Jewish enclaves in Gaza, Jenin, Tulkarm and Nablus. THAT'S PRECISELY what Sallah has in mind when he urges "a third intifada." The carnage of 1929, still reverentially dubbed by Arabs as "the Burak Battle," is Sallah's jihadist model for liberating the holy site from the presence of Jews (who sanctified it in the first place). When he barefacedly accuses Jews of "aiming to raze al-Aksa," he knows that such falsehoods have already instigated horrific vendettas for counterfeit causes. Worse yet, Sallah isn't the oddball firebrand. When the entire Arab/Muslim world refuses to condemn flagrant deceptions, it assumes culpability for the calumny and unbridled hate-mongering. The fact that even non-radical peace partners like Jordan and Egypt, and non-Arab Muslim states like Turkey, chime in with Sallah's screeching chorus ought to send shivers down our spines. The fact that Israel's Arabs rushed to hostile judgment, without allowing easily verifiable facts to interfere with their knee-jerk inimical opinions, ought to deprive us of sleep. If Israeli-Arab leaders score popularity points via incitement, then we're in unimaginable trouble. If Arab Knesset members profess to believe without reservation or hesitation that Israel's ultra-broadminded democracy has nothing better to do than kindle an explosive religious conflict, then we have dangerously deluded ourselves about coexistence even within Israel's pre-1967 borders. It's time to stop babbling about judicious Arab moderates, about boosting nonexistent Arab restraint with enticing concessions, about the feasibility of deals with those who know full well that we contemplate nothing like what they assert, yet have no inhibitions to furiously fabricate libel. If we retain any residual self-preservation instincts, we need to own up to the fact that the lies so brazenly spread about us also, inadvertently, impart a critical truth - every bit as bitter as the one Ruppin was man enough to admit: "The conciliatory tone" of the Brit Shalom he led, Ruppin candidly conceded, "was interpreted by the Arabs as weakness." Nothing new under our sun.