Beware of Arabs Bearing Gifts

As a decades long student of classical history, as well as contemporary Middle Eastern Affairs, the chance to see the tragic clash between Achilles and Hector on the big screen was too much to resist.

Gerald A. Honigman

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I had to see this movie.

As a decades long student of classical history, as well as contemporary Middle Eastern Affairs, the chance to see the tragic clash between Achilles and Hector on the big screen was too much to resist.

With all the fuss over Brad Pitt as Achilles in Troy, I didn't realize that one of my favorite actors, Peter O'Toole, starred in the movie as Priam, the Trojan king.

I had recently been able to locate a set of video tapes of a made-for-television movie starring a much younger O'Toole as the Roman general who besieged the Jews in their last stronghold at Masada in 73 CE, during the first of two major revolts the Jews launched for their independence from the Empire. It was another tragic war, but one fought for far more important reasons than raging sexual hormones.

The contemporary Roman-sponsored historians such as Tacitus, Josephus, Dio Cassius and others lived right around the time of those latter revolts. A reading of their extensive works shows that the amazing story of the quest of the Jews for their freedom against the conqueror of much of the known world played second to none.

The fortress of Masada overlooks the Dead Sea to this very day and appears just as those ancient historians described it. The Arch of Titus stands tall in Rome as well, depicting the Roman victory over the Jews and the conquest of Jerusalem. Judea Capta coins can be found in museums all over the world, minted by Rome to commemorate its subjugation of the Jewish nation. So, if anything, there's far more historical corroboration for this story than that told by the Greeks' Homer. All that awaits is for some producer doing the story justice and putting it on the big screen.

But briefly, for now at least, back to the Greeks.

Virgil, the most famous poet in Ancient Rome, wrote one of the greatest epics of all time, the Aeneid. In Book II, the priest Laocoon warns the Trojans not to accept the giant wooden horse placed outside the impenetrable walls and gates of Troy. His legendary speech has been paraphrased in the now common saying, "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts."

We all know how ignoring Laocoon's advice turned out for Troy. Now let's turn the clock ahead some three thousand years for a look at another Trojan Horse.

On June 24, 2001, the much-showcased model "moderate" of the Palestinian Arab team, the late Faysal Al-Husseini, gave an interview in the Egyptian newspaper Al Arabi. He was commenting about the so-called Oslo Agreements in which Israel was largely expected to yield concrete tangibles, essential to its security, in return for vague Arab promises. As it turned out, the more Israel gave and ceded for the sake of peace, the more it bled. Arabs predictably interpreted the moves of the Jews as a sign of weakness. More Jews were deliberately disemboweled and butchered by Arab terrorism -- blown up at Passover seders, at Bar Mitzvahs, on buses, in pizza parlors, teen night clubs, etc. -- during this time of the Oslo "peace" than at any other. Arabs see the currently much touted, if moribund, Roadmap as Oslo II.

Listen to how Al-Husseini himself described the earlier unfolding events:

"When we are asking all the Palestinian forces and factions to look at the Oslo agreement and other agreements as 'temporary procedures,' or 'phased goals,' this means that we are ambushing the Israelis and cheating them.... Our ultimate goal is the liberation of all of historical Palestine from the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) Sea, even if... the conflict will last for another thousand years...."

Now I'd like to ask all of those many international critics and hypocritical masters of the double standard (including our own State Department and other American officials as well) - who still insist that Israel cave in to all that Arabs demand for the creation of their state #22 or #23 - if they really believe that those currently running the Arafatian/Hamas good cop/bad cop team have changed their approach towards "peacemaking" with the Jews for the better since Faysal Al-Husseini gave his by-now infamous quote.

Any fair, sane person knows what the answer to this is.

If amnesia has set in and one needs an additional reminder, just look at the well-publicized Arab "rage" at President Bush's fleeting April 2004 remarks -- since largely and pathetically retracted -- which suggested that, just maybe, the sole, microscopic state of the Jews shouldn't have to return to its 1949, UN-imposed, nine-mile-wide armistice line existence again, or be overwhelmed by absorbing millions of real or fudged Arab refugees after all. Half of Israel's Jews were refugees from Arab/Muslim lands, albeit without some two dozen other states to potentially choose from.

While it's long past due for a fair and just peace to finally be worked out between Arab and Jew in the Middle East, true justice does not demand that the resurrected state of the Jews deliver itself on a silver platter, a la Czechoslovakia 1938, so that the Arabs can have their 22nd or 23rd state, and second -- not first -- one in "Palestine". In case you don't know, just ask the Hashemites in "Jordan" what this last comment is all about.

And in case you can't get an audience with the young Abdullah II, or find other "Jordanians" to be deaf, dumb and blind regarding your question, just find yourself a map of the original Mandate for Palestine as Britain received it on April 25, 1920, before Colonial Secretary Churchill decided to give his Hashemite World War I allies from the Arabian Peninsula (who were in the process of getting their own derrieres booted out of the Peninsula by the rival clan of Ibn Saud) a "reward" in 1922.

As for now, unfortunately, there's a good piece of advice Israel simply cannot afford to ignore - and shame on those calling themselves Israel's "friends", or even just objective observers, if this is what they demand the Jews do: Beware of Arabs bearing gifts.