What about Israel’s
‘right of conquest’?

By WND Staff

As the hostilities in the Middle East continue to rage, the question of Israel’s right to its land consistently surfaces. One controversial notion connected to this ongoing conflict is whether or not the state of Israel has a “right of conquest” to its land. Does Israel have the “right” to its land the same way the Americans do today, after having defeated the Indians? To discuss this phenomenon and other aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, WorldNetDaily.com welcomes Richard Poe, a New York Times-bestselling author and cybercolumnist who currently runs the popular blogsite RichardPoe.com and Eric Margolis, an internationally syndicated columnist and broadcaster who is the author of “War at the Top of the World – The Struggle for Afghanistan and Asia”; and its own founder and CEO, Joseph Farah.

The moderator for this discussion is Jamie Glazov, the associate editor of Frontpagemag.com.

Question #1: Gentlemen, there exists a notion that the state of Israel has a “right of conquest” to its land. (See, for instance, Robert Locke’s Frontpage column, “Hobbes and the Middle East” and Richard Poe’s “Israel and the Right of Conquest.” If we assume that this notion is valid, then the Israelis have just as much right to their land “by conquest” as the Americans have to theirs.

In the context of this theme, let me begin with this question: Is it hypocritical for anti-Israeli Americans to question Israel’s right to the “occupied territories” when they, at the same time, show absolutely no inclination to return their own nation’s “occupied territories” to the Indians?

Farah: I think the whole premise of the question is wrong. If there are indeed “occupied territories” in dispute in Israel and the so-called Palestinian territories, they are occupied by Yasser Arafat’s forces, not Israel. Gaza was under Egyptian control until 1967, not “Palestinian.” Judea and Samaria, historically Jewish communities, were under the control of Jordan until 1967, not “Palestinian.” Yet there was no movement to create Palestinian homelands of those territories until after Israel’s defensive victory in the Six-Day War.

Poe: I have never met an American, no matter how “liberal” or left-leaning, who seriously proposed returning his own house or land to the Indians. We should not demand of others what we ourselves are unwilling to do.

Farah: I agree with Mr. Poe, of course. But in the case of the Israelis, they are not only analogous to modern-day Americans, they are also analogous to the Indians. They were there first and they are there now. They not only have the claim of the current title deed to the property, their ancestors also had it.

Margolis: And here I thought we’d seen the last of 19th-century German geopolitics. Welcome back Baron General Haushofer. So … Israel has every right to its Volkstadt and lebensraum, and the right to invade and colonize lands of lesser peoples. Didn’t we fight World War II to end such evil notions? This discussion is another sad example of just how far to the extreme right neo-conservatives have gone. America’s treatment of its native peoples was criminal; that does not somehow justify Israel’s oppression and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Farah: Enough name-calling here, Mr. Margolis. I don’t know where you get the idea I am a neo-conservative, but that is a highly inaccurate description of me. I let my ideas speak for themselves. As far as the “lesser peoples” remark, you are obviously suggesting that’s the way people like me feel about the Arabs. Let me give you a news flash: I am an Arab-American. And I am putting my life on the line every day because I feel so strongly that Arabs deserve the same human rights as other people.

But Israel has invaded and colonized no land. If you disagree, use some facts to make your case. Let’s discuss specific lands, specific times and specific acts of colonization. Otherwise, keep your overblown hyperbole to yourself. It’s embarrassing. “Oppression”? “Ethnic cleansing”? Sounds like old-left rhetoric. As someone who has spent time as a journalist reporting from the Middle East, I can tell you that Arabs living within Israeli borders experience more freedom than their ethnic cousins in any part of the Arab world.

Poe: No, Mr. Margolis, we did not fight World War II to end the “evil notion” of conquest and colonization. We fought World War II in order to determine who would rule the world. More precisely, we fought that war in order to defend our turf against people who were trying to infringe upon it.

As for the American Indians, I am sure they are gratified to learn that Mr. Margolis empathizes with their plight. I invite Mr. Margolis to use this bully pulpit to explain to the Indians why – instead of taking up their cause right here at home – he chooses instead to pour his time and energy into defending a foreign people, the Palestinians, who live thousands of miles away in a distant land.

Question #2: Let’s be truthful: The Israelis don’t own their land “by conquest” because it was no one else’s land to begin with. We all know that the Palestine Mandate was never a nation, let alone even a political entity of any kind. It was a “mandate” created by the British from the remnants of the Turkish Empire after World War I. Ten percent of it was given to the Jews and 90 percent was given to the Palestinian Arabs. We all know where roughly 90 percent of Palestine actually is. The tiny minuscule piece of land that Israel “occupies” now was never officially “owned” by anyone in the first place. This is just a historical fact, right?

Farah: It is indeed a historical fact. The proof that there is indeed a Palestinian state in Jordan came in 1973 when King Hussein offered Arafat the prime minister position in his country to avoid further internecine violence and mayhem. Arafat turned it down because it came with a condition — stopping the terrorist attacks on Israel, which were certain to lead to reprisals upon Jordan. Israel has always been the prize for Arafat. The conflict is not about a homeland for the “Palestinians.” They could have had that anytime since 1948. Instead, it is clear that they don’t want a Palestinian homeland unless it is a homeland that deprives the Jews of their tiny homeland in the Middle East.

Poe: Historical arguments are useless in settling disputes. They are just a slightly more sophisticated way of banging one’s spear against one’s shield. When the battle is over, nobody cares who beat his shield the loudest. All that matters is who won.

The United States has a right to its current territory not because we have some legal or historical claim to this land superior to that of the Indians — we don’t — but rather because there is no force on earth, at the moment, capable of forcing us to give it back.

Farah: Mr. Poe’s point is fine, except that many of the arguments of the Arabs are based on history — even if it is faulty history.

Margolis: I agree with Mr. Poe that historical arguments are useless in dealing with current problems. But I disagree strongly with his Darwinian might-makes-right argument. Applied to 1930’s Europe, that would mean it was right for Hitler to slaughter the Jews because he had the power and they did not. Please.

It’s also high time to junk the old Zionist canard that Palestine was “a land without people for a people without land.” There are 5 million Palestinian refugees today, the legacy of 1947-48 and 1967. Israel has imported one million Russians, many of the most dubious Jewish ancestry, or not Jews at all, while claiming there is no room for any Palestinians. Arafat and moderate PLO leaders have repeatedly agreed to respect a Jewish state – provided they get a viable one of their own.

Poe: Might does not make right. However, force is the only means that exists for determining who will control a given piece of real estate. Right and wrong simply do not enter into the equation.

Mr. Margolis knows this. That is why he defends the right of Arabs to take up arms against Israel. That is also why he wants the extremely well-armed United States to side with the Arabs. Mr. Margolis does not oppose the use of force. He simply wants to make sure that his side has more firepower than the other side.

Farah: In terms of what Mr. Margolis is saying, it’s difficult to debate arguments that amount to anything more than a written exclamation, “Oh yeah?” But I’m not going to let this name-calling continue unchallenged. This man is hysterical. Take a deep breath, Mr. Margolis, and concentrate on making a coherent statement with some substance and backed by facts.

Question #3: Israel’s mystique as a nation of warriors and conquerors strongly appeals to conservative American patriots, such as G. Gordon Liddy — one of the most pro-Israel voices on the air waves, and an exemplar of bedrock American virtues. Would not Israel win greater support from middle America by portraying itself as a winner, rather than as a victim?

Farah: Israel would do well to recognize from where its bedrock of support in the U.S. comes. The Jewish population in America is too small to make a difference. Israel’s core support is the evangelical Christian community — some 40-50 million strong. They support Israel because the Bible, the best history book in the world, gives the Jews a clear title deed to the land.

Poe: Leftist agitator Saul Alinsky advised: “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.” Israel is acutely vulnerable to this sort of ideological attack. The founders of Israel established the principle that their victimhood gave them the right to a homeland. Now the Palestinians parrot the same argument. It is long past time to jettison the Marxist notion that “oppression” confers special rights. Ordinary, non-Marxist people respect winners, not losers. Israel will gain far more supporters – and a far better quality of supporter – if it abandons the cult of victimhood.

Margolis Re Farah: The Jewish population in the U.S. is too small to make a difference? What planet is he living on? I suppose Congress gives Israel $3-4 billion annually – about 40 percent of total U.S. foreign aid – because it likes Israeli culture?? Re Poe: OK, let’s back Israel and America Uber Alles – your winning team to take over the world. To me (and I’m a conservative), such nonsense sounds like the ravings of the ultra right that I thought had been stamped out in 1945.

America used to be respected around the world as a champion of decency, law, and human rights. Today, thanks to the neo-conservatives who have hijacked our government, we are being seen as a dangerously unstable, aggressive nation bent on reversing all the progress we have made since 1945.

Question #4: Let me get back to the issue of land. Whatever the historical record is about who owns what, here is the bottom line: Israel has beaten the Arabs four times, in four different wars. Doesn’t this fact alone give Israel a “right of conquest” to its land?

Farah: Whether it is a “right” or not is beside the point. It is a reality. It is just. Israel is the only self-governing nation in the Mideast. It is the only nation where the human rights of Arabs are respected. If the goal is freedom and self-determination for Arabs, Israel is a model and a beacon of freedom for the rest of the region.

Poe: Israel has the same “right of conquest” that every other nation possesses. Few, if any, nations exist in the world which have not come into being by displacing others. The only reason that Israel’s rights are disputed is that many nations have an economic and geopolitical interest in playing Middle Eastern peoples off against each other. If there were no oil in that region, outsiders would show no more inclination to feign pity for the Palestinians than they did for the Tutsis of Rwanda.

Farah: I would like to stress that all of this is not about oil at all. Israel doesn’t have any oil. So why would the Arabs want Israel’s land? Israel is not coveting the Arabs’ land. It is the Arabs who are coveting Israel. Israel cared so little about oil that it returned the Sinai for a piece of paper.

There’s much more at work in the Middle East than oil, though I don’t disagree with its importance. There is a strong spiritual dimension to this conflict. It has been raging in one form or another since the days of Isaac and Ishmael. Not to get overly mystical, but it is really a blood feud started in the tents of Abraham. Oil wasn’t a factor, for instance, when Mohammed slaughtered the Jewish tribe who lived in pre-Islamic Mecca.

Poe: I don’t believe the Israelis and Arabs are fighting over oil. I do believe that many foreign powers meddle in these Middle Eastern blood feuds — and sometimes help intensify them — primarily because said foreign powers seek to gain leverage in the competition for oil by playing off various Middle Eastern belligerents against each other. Surely Mr. Farah does not believe that anything as vaporous as “sympathy” or even ideological “solidarity” with the Palestinians would move nations such as France to risk challenging the United States over its Middle East policy. Nations take such risks only for money and power.

Farah: There is another motive for nations like France — pure, unadulterated, raw-boned anti-Semitism. Let’s be honest. This is at the root of all the opposition to Israel internationally. There is no other explanation for it. Even nations very secure in their energy needs vote against Israel in the United Nations. How do you explain that? There were a total of 175 Security Council resolutions passed before 1990. More than half — 97 — were directed against Israel. There were 690 General Assembly resolutions before 1990. Two-thirds, 429, were directed against Israel. Why is Israel of such concern to the nations of the world? Why is it branded racist? Because it is a Jewish state.

Poe: Global hostility toward Israel certainly demands analysis. I am not convinced, however, that simply condemning this sentiment as “anti-Semitism” does the job. What exactly is “anti-Semitism?” Many Jews see it as an inevitable by-product of Christianity. Hyam Maccoby of the Leo Baeck Institute for Jewish Studies in England stated, “I don’t blame Germany for the Holocaust. I blame Christendom for the Holocaust.” Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s new book reportedly condemns Catholicism as intrinsically anti-Semitic.

Yet, Mr. Farah, as you note, Israel’s greatest support comes from devout Christians, and Jews have found no friendlier haven than the overwhelmingly Christian USA. Meanwhile, anti-Jewish feeling flourishes in Mongolia, Japan, India, Thailand and many other countries with no significant Christian or Muslim heritage. It seems to me that the term “anti-Semitism” lacks explanatory power. It describes a phenomenon, but fails to explain it.

Farah: What explanation is there for racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism? I don’t feel I need to explain it, just expose it and condemn it.

Margolis: Enough Talmudic hair-splitting. If Israel wants to live in peace, it must make a fair deal with the Arabs it has conquered. If not, expect another 50 years of misery – until Israelis finally decamp to the U.S. and what was Israel is re-occupied — might makes right, remember … and occupation is nine tenths of the law, remember … by the Arabs.

Poe: This is the first honest statement we have heard from Mr. Margolis. Though he camouflages his words beneath a veneer of sarcasm, Mr. Margolis is now plainly stating his true position. He threatens to drive the Israelis into the sea, if they do not yield to his demands.

Spoken like a true conqueror, Mr. Margolis. Attila the Hun would have been proud.

Question #5: Unfortunately, even if we agreed that the Israelis did not owe any land to anyone for any reason, it would not take the conflict away. Even if we agreed that Israel deserves its land because of historical reality or the “right by conquest,” the bottom line is that it has to give up land for some kind of peace. Right?

Farah: It is a mistake to make land concessions. Period. It is clear land concessions do not bring peace. Arabs control 99.9 percent of the landmass of the region. The only land concession that will bring “peace” will be the land concession in which the Jews surrender unconditionally and leave the Mideast or give up their lives. Israel does the Arab people no favors by turning over more land and more people to the control of tyrannical leaders. Just ask the Arabs in Israel where they would prefer to live and under whose control — Arafat’s or Israel’s?

Poe: Appeasement only encourages further aggression. Real peace arises from decisive victory. Thus the U.S. government won a lasting “peace” with the Indian tribes. Thus the Pax Romana, Pax Britannica and Pax Americana arose from overwhelming military strength – not from appeasement.

Margolis: OK, you American Likudnik Rambos. Go march on Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad. Fight to the last Israeli for Greater Israel.

Farah: You first, Mr. Margolis. Then maybe you will find out what real oppression of Arabs — and all others — is like.

Poe: Perhaps Mr. Margolis could explain why he thinks “fighting to the last Arab for Greater Palestine” is more honorable than “fighting to the last Israeli for Greater Israel.” Either way, we do the talking while someone else does the fighting – unless, of course, Mr. Margolis is rendering more tangible assistance to the Palestinians than we realize.

Question #6: I am happy that the French have been mentioned in this discussion. They have always been a little bit of a mystery to me in terms of anti-Semitism.

In Vichy, France during World War II, the French did much more than just co-operate with the Nazis. French security forces took it upon themselves to round up and hand over 61,000 Jews to the Nazis — without even a request from the Nazis to do so. Those Jews ended up in Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka. In the 1970s, France distinguished itself by promising the PLO that it would not arrest its terrorists who used French territory as a base for attacks on Israel. All France required was that the PLO did not inflict its violence on French soil.

Do the French have some kind of problem?

Farah: French anti-Semitism is clearly on the rise. My good friend, filmmaker Pierre Rehov, who lives in Paris, says Jews walking the streets need do no more than wear a Yarmulke to provoke physical assaults. Synagogues are being defaced, vandalized and destroyed. Yes, the French have some kind of problem. But this is not a phenomenon limited to France. If it were, it would not be so significant. Anti-Jewish bigotry is rearing its head in Germany where it has been illegal since World War II. And Richard notes the spread of this mental illness throughout Asia. I don’t believe this can be explained away by oil. This is a deep hatred that existed long before oil was the lifeblood of international industry and commerce.

Poe: It is usually a bad idea to expend too much energy trying to figure out why certain people don’t like you. What is true on the personal level is equally true on the international plane.

The Israelis should cultivate a healthy disdain for the opinions of other countries, and simply focus on the technical problem of securing their borders and pacifying their occupied lands.

Success in those endeavors would present the world with a fait accompli which would render irrelevant any speculation over why certain people may or may not dislike Jews.

Margolis: There is indeed a long tradition of anti-Semitism in France. During the 1930s and early ’40s, many centrist and rightist French viewed all Jews as agents of Soviet communism. Vichy sympathies remain in France. Yet France is also home to Europe’s largest Jewish population, which was largely untroubled until the latest intifada in Palestine, which, in turn, has brought attacks against French Jews by North Africans.

Question #7: Gentlemen, it is clear that most Arabs couldn’t care less about the creation of a Palestinian state; they long for the destruction of the only Jewish one.

Isn’t this really just all about envy and jealousy? Islam is a failed civilization. Arab culture in the Middle East is yet to produce one prosperous, functional and democratic society. Yet the Arabs look over and see that the Jews have accomplished exactly that – in a tiny piece of land that was a desert 50 years ago.

One can only imagine the humiliation the Arabs must feel in this situation. They can never achieve Israeli success on their own, because their religion and culture simply negate prosperity, freedom and success. Thus, they must destroy what is the greatest reminder of their own pathetic failure. Right?

Margolis: My decades in the Arab world have shown me that the Arabs have a love-hate relationship with Israel, holding it in awe, but also fury for its repression of the Palestinians.

Poe: Arabs seem to perceive Israel as a colonial outpost of the United States. Their “love-hate” relationship with Israel echoes their “love-hate” relationship with Western civilization in general. If one must sum up the reason for their hatred in a single word, “envy” would probably do the trick.

Farah: In one way it is about envy and jealousy, and I have written that. But it is much more than that, too. This is a spiritual conflict. I believe the Islamic world watched the stunning victory of the Jews in the 1967 war and wondered if this was not indeed a miracle — or at least a sign from God. Shortly thereafter we witnessed the Islamic revolution begin in earnest. In one sense, the only way for the Islamic radicals to prove to the world that their beliefs are true is by destroying the Jews. That’s why a Palestinian state will never suffice.

Poe: I agree with Mr. Farah. The Arabs would have had to ask themselves why God gave such a decisive victory to their enemies in 1967. Resort to scripture would have yielded one obvious explanation — that the vanquished had failed to keep God’s commandments.

The more soundly the Muslims are defeated, the more determined they will become to regain God’s favor by embracing ever-more-radical forms of devotion.

Question #8: If the U.S. attacks Iraq, there is a chance, and God forbid, that Saddam attacks Israel with biological and chemical weapons. If he does, Israel might have no choice but to terminate the country of Iraq as a reality. Do you support Israel’s resort to nuclear weaponry in this tragic scenario?

Margolis: Israel has repeatedly threatened to retaliate with nukes against Iraq if it attacks with biowarfare weapons.

Farah: No, I do not. As a practical matter, U.S. troops will be occupying the country in one form of another. There will be no opportunity for nuclear weapons to be used in such a scenario.

Poe: Through the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), America managed to defeat Russia without firing a single ICBM. Deterrence works.

Question #9: For some reason, Bush and Sharon call you tonight on a conference call and ask you for your advice on what strategy they should be pursuing for peace in the Middle East. What do you say to each of them?

Farah: I tell Bush to worry about Iraq, al-Qaida and their allies who are actively killing U.S. citizens, rather than how Sharon protects his citizens. I tell Sharon to do the best job he can defending Israelis — and to stop pussyfooting around with Arafat and the other terrorists. There is no point to negotiating with terrorists. Terrorists need to be destroyed. Period.

Probably only God will bring peace in the Middle East in His own timing. But here’s what I would tell Bush: The United States should act in its own interest as it did in Afghanistan and continue this war on Islamic terrorism in Iraq and any other country hosting al-Qaida. If the Iraq campaign ends as well as Afghanistan did, we will be fortunate indeed — and so will the people of Iraq. The mullah regime in Iran could well fall of its own dead weight as opposition there grows. Lebanon should also be in our sights as a major base of Islamic terrorism. Lebanon and Iran both have fairly recent histories with democratic-style government. I, too, hope a domino effect might be created by these achievable military victories in wars of self-defense and deterrence by the U.S.

Poe: Peace could be achieved in the Middle East simply by holding Muslim nations to a Western standard of human rights.

Note how quickly and forcefully Eastern Orthodoxy rebounded after Communism fell in Russia. If Islamic nations were compelled to honor freedom of religion, a similar bounce-back effect would likely occur in the Muslim world.

North Africa and the Middle East were originally Christian lands, which were forcibly “converted” to Islam by the sword. If people in those lands were given a choice, I suspect that many would renounce Islam. Indeed, the renunciation of Islam would likely spread throughout the region in an exponential “snowball” effect, changing the balance of cultural power decisively within a generation or two.

Question #10: Is there hope for Israel?

Margolis: Until the tragedy of the Palestinians is settled with justice and fairness, they will remain sand in the eye of the Mideast.

Poe: If the Middle East remains overwhelmingly Muslim, Israel’s future is doubtful. The best hope for Israel lies in the re-Christianization of the Middle East.

Farah: Definitely there is hope. Israel has survived far worse crises than this one. It has faced extermination and returned from the dead. All the great empires of the world have come and gone, and Israel is still around — thousands of years later. Believing Christians like me see that as a promise of God being fulfilled before our eyes. Do you think Hezbollah and Hamas are any match for God?

Poe: God is certainly greater than Hezbollah and Hamas, but he is likewise greater than all the rest of us too. As many times as God gave victory to Israel in the Scriptures, he also gave defeat. As a Christian, I share Mr. Farah’s faith that all will unfold in accordance with God’s will. I do not, however, share Mr. Farah’s confidence that God’s plan will unfold in quite the manner we expect. As Romans 11:34 states: “Who has known the mind of the Lord?”

Lacking such assurance, we would do well to remember the Italian proverb, “Chi s’aiuta, Dio l’aiuta” (“God helps those who help themselves”) and its ancient Latin precursor: “Audaces Fortuna iuvat” (“Fortune favors the bold”).

Interlocutor: Mr. Margolis, Mr. Farah, Mr. Poe, thank you for joining this WND Debate on Israel. It was a pleasure and a privilege.