Hussein uses Palestinian cause for personal gain
Saddam Hussein and his apologists have recently sought to draw a parallel between the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the current Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Saddam argues that the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait is part of some great Mid-Eastern crisis directly related in some peculiar manner to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and that in order for an agreement to be reached in Kuwait, the Israelis must pull out from the West Bank. This line of reasoning is absurd and is clearly an attempt by Hussein's propaganda machine to portray him as a champion of the Palestinian cause.
Hussein's recent actions, such as Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, have placed him on a low moral ground in the eyes of the world. Saddam is now groping for a position that will split the coalition of nations arrayed against him, and paint himself as a worthy protector of the Palestinians. By playing on world (particularly Arab) sympathy for the Palestinians, he claims the high ground.
The invasion of Kuwait, however, has nothing whatsoever to do with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Saddam has violated international law in countless ways: He has invaded a sovereign nation with no provocation; he has set loose his soldier-thugs who have literally raped and pillaged Kuwait; he has used foreign nationals as hostages and human shields; and recently, he has invaded several foreign embassies, effectively invading those nations as well. Regardless of one's opinion of the exiled Sabah regime in Kuwait, or of the military deployment in Saudi Arabia, the invasion was thoroughly unjustifiable and inherently evil.
By contrast, the West Bank was secured by Israeli forces in a brief and necessary military campaign conducted in defense of their homeland during the Six Day War of 1967. The Israelis attacked first, but only in response to an ominously large buildup of Arab forces along its borders. It would be foolish to suggest that the sudden buildup of Arab forces was not intended to be used in an effort to eradicate the nation of Israel. Had the Israelis failed to seize the initiative, Israel may not have survived, there would have been many more casualties on both sides, and the war would have dragged on like the Yom Kippur War of 1973.
One might think that Israel ought to pull out of the West Bank on the grounds that the territory is an inherent part of the state of Jordan as determined by set national borders. This argument is absurd since Jordan's borders are arbitrary partitions created by European colonialists when they divided the Ottoman Empire. There is no historic state of Jordan and there is no Jordanian ethnic group inhabiting the West Bank. The West Bank is inhabited by Palestinians who faired worse under the Jordanian occupation than under the current Israeli occupation. The nation of Jordan has no legitimate claim to the West Bank.
Many people argue that the Palestinians themselves should control the West Bank. Western ideas about self-government suggest that the Palestinians be given full autonomy. The problem with this reasoning is two-fold. First, the Palestinians have traditionally been hostile to the state of Israel. They, as a people, are no more prepared to accept the existence of Israel today than when they rejected a generous partition plan (which would have created a Palestinian state) in 1947. These people raided Jewish settlements (some settlements contained Jews who had fled the Nazi holocaust) and shed Jewish blood long before there ever was a Jewish homeland and during the war for Israeli independence in an effort to prevent Jewish autonomy.
Furthermore, the current Palestinian leadership poses a security threat to Israel. Despite claims by the Palestine Liberation Organization that it had renounced terrorism, earlier this year a splinter group assaulted the Israeli coastline in an attempt at mass murder. The Palestinians have systematically rejected diplomatic initiatives in favor of more violent means of expression. The current PLO leadership reflects this attitude, and is factional and dangerous, dominated by violent thugs who have tended to abuse the moderates within their ranks. The leadership continues to sponsor terrorism throughout the world, has aligned itself with Saddam, and would pose a huge threat if permitted to take control of, or participate in, a fledgling Palestinian state. How can one expect the Israelis to negotiate or bargain with an organization or a people which remains committed to its destruction?
The other problem with granting the Palestinians in the West Bank political autonomy is a strategic one. Before Israel captured the West Bank, the upper half of Israel was connected to the lower half by a thin strip of land only nine miles wide. Consider the fact that this enabled Jordanian forces to lob artillery shells over the territory of Israel, into the Mediterranean Sea. You don't need to be a military strategist to recognize that this is an extremely precarious strategic situation, and it placed the nation of Israel at great risk. When the Israelis engaged the Jordanian and Iraqi forces in battle during the Six Day War, they truly fought with their backs to the sea. The continued belligerence of Israel's neighbors, particularly Iraq and Syria, demand that this strategically crucial piece of territory be retained until the military threat from the east recedes.
Finally, Saddam's argument for an Israeli pullout from the West Bank equates his invasion to an airplane hijacking, or some other terrorist act. The hijacking at Entebbe (1976), the murder of Israeli athletes in Munich (1972), and the recent seaborne terrorist raid near Tel Aviv were all committed in an effort to force Israel into creating a Palestinian state. Saddam is perpetuating this violent yet traditional method of expressing political opinion by holding the entire nation of Kuwait hostage in exchange for an Israeli pull out from the West Bank. The invasion of Kuwait is terrorism on the grandest scale.
What is the answer then? Should the Israelis pull out? Should the Iraqis pull out? Clearly it is imperative that Iraq pull out of Kuwait or face a justified military response. For the West Bank, I believe that there ought to be a Palestinian state with political autonomy. However, I also believe that the Palestinians themselves have hampered this cause through their intifada and their support for Saddam and other terrorists. We should not pressure the Israelis into doing something rash and jeopardizing their national security, especially if such action represents a capitulation to Saddam's international blackmail. The Israelis have a right to continue their occupation of the West Bank in the name of national security.
Andrew Yablon is a junior in the Department of Mechanical Engineering
The invasion of Kuwait has nothing to do with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.