Sunday, February 01, 2009

Nothing is New Under the Sun


A friend of the Hedgehog sent Lowell this yellowed copy of a political cartoon published in Zurich on November 28, 1958, over 50 years ago. (Click on the image to enlarge.) It depicts Egypt, personified by its then President and dictator, Gamal Abdul Nasser, repeatedly provoking a peaceful Israel, which just wants to go about development of its land, personified by David Ben-Gurion, its founding Prime Minister. Other Arab countries, Turkey and the Soviet Union watch Nasser's repeated attacks with great amusement until Israel finally retaliates. Immediately the international community reacts with shock and protest at the disproportionate Israeli response. Truly, King Solomon was right; there is nothing new under the sun.

The inclusion of the caricature of Turkey, on the far right of the international spectators, is especially timely given the crisis in usually good Turkish-Israeli relations over the Gaza fighting, highlighted by the outspoken attacks on Israel at Davos last week, by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.

What is interesting is that in 1956, when Nasser's Egypt harrassed Israel from Gaza and the Sinai, Egypt controlled Gaza and the Kingdom of Jordan governed the so-called West Bank. There were no "occupied territories," other than the State of Israel within the 1949 ceasefire lines, no settlements and no "obstacles to peace." Indeed, there was not yet even a Palestine Liberation Organization, to say nothing of Hamas. Yet there was no peace. Also, no one was pressing for creation of a Palestinian Arab State in the West Bank and Gaza. Funny about that. As George Will once memorably wrote, "Israel is not being provocative. To the Arab world, Israel's being is provocative."

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