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An IDF Veteran Reflects on an Indian Graveyard in Jerusalem

Nov. 13 2017

While Americans observe November 11—the anniversary of the end of World War I—as Veterans’ Day, for the British Commonwealth it is Remembrance Day, and ceremonies are held at military cemeteries around the world. Matti Friedman comments on one such commemoration held near his home:

My most unsettling neighbors here in Jerusalem are Indians: Afzal Hussein Shah, Chulam Muhammad, Mansub Ali. . . . They, [and those buried alongside them], were children of British India, attached to units like the 124th Duchess of Connaught’s Own Baluchistan Infantry. Many were Muslims; others were Hindus and Sikhs. They traveled far from home to fight the Islamic empire of the Ottoman Turks in Palestine. They must have expected, or at least hoped, to make it back to their families. They were instead felled by bullets, shrapnel, or disease, and remained in this cemetery through the improbable creation of a Jewish state.

They could hardly have imagined that the empire that sent them to fight would vanish—that some of their hometowns would lose their connection not only to Britain but also to India and would become part of a different country entirely, Pakistan. How could they have known that the cause for which they died would become nearly incomprehensible within the span of the lives they should have lived? Only the dead are frozen in their old wars. The soldiers who walk away are left to watch everything change. . . .

In my own time in an Israeli infantry company in the last three years of the 20th century, during a small but very long border war against Hizballah, I believed that an isolated hilltop outpost in southern Lebanon was worth my life and those of my friends. But in the spring of 2000 the army withdrew, and soldiers from my company blew up the outpost. Now it was worthless. . . .

Seventeen years have passed. It’s not that today’s Middle East would be unrecognizable only to the soldiers of 1917, like those buried in my neighborhood. Today’s Middle East would be unrecognizable to the younger version of me who reported to a draft office twenty years ago.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, War, World War I

 

In Pursuing Peace with Saudi Arabia, Israel Must Demand Reciprocity and Keep the Palestinian Question off the Table

Nov. 22 2017

The recent, unprecedented interview given by the IDF chief of staff to a major Arabic news outlet has fed the growing enthusiasm in Israel about the prospects of a peace treaty and mutual recognition between Jerusalem and Riyadh. Mordechai Kedar urges level heads and caution, and puts forward ten principles that should guide any negotiations. Most importantly, he argues that the two countries normalize relations before coming to any agreements about the Palestinians. To this he adds:

The most basic rule in dealing with the Saudis and their friends is that Israel must not feel that it has to pay anything for peace. . . . If the Saudis want to live in peace with us, we will stretch out our hands to offer them peace in return. But that is all they will get. Israel [has] been a state for 70 years without peace with Saudi Arabia and can continue being a state for another 7,000 years without it. Any desire for a quick peace (as expressed in the disastrous slogan “Peace Now”) will raise the price of that peace. . . .

[As part of any agreement], Israel will recognize the House of Saud’s rule in Mecca and Medina—even though the family does not originate from the Hejaz [where the holy cities are located] but from the Najd highland—in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel’s right to Jerusalem as its historic and eternal capital city. Israel will recognize Saudi Arabia as an Islamic state in exchange for Saudi recognition of Israel as the Jewish state or a state belonging to the Jewish people. . . .

Israel will not allow incitement against Saudi Arabia in its media. In return, the Saudis will not allow anti-Israel incitement in Saudi media. . . .

It is important to keep the Americans and Europeans away from the negotiating table, since they will not be party to the agreement and will not have to suffer the results of its not being honored—and since their interests are not necessarily those of Israel, especially when it comes to the speed at which the negotiations move forward. The Americans want to cut a deal, even a bad deal, and if they are allowed into the negotiation rooms, they will pressure Israel to give in, mainly on the Palestinian issue.

Read more at Israel National News

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia