Uri Avnery – The Watch on the Jordan



The Watch on the Jordan

… by  Uri Avnery, Tel Aviv      … with  Gush Shalom


Rare photo - Gaddafi with Arafat after his plane crash
Rare photo – Gaddafi with Arafat after his plane crash

[ Editor’s note:  Uri weighs in on Israel and its head cheerleader Bibi Netanyahu’s new bogeyman toy… the ISIS.

Left out of the story is how Israel, along with several key Westerns countries, has been actively involved with the Muslim extremists going all the way back to when they funded them to be an opposition to Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.

The plan was to watch them assassinate each other so their leaders were constantly being killed off. And it was partially successful.

But Arafat had nine lives, including surviving the plane crash in the Libyan desert in 1992. When they took a break from killing each other, the CIA and Mossad would step it up to arrange something, like a bombing at a mosque, which would trigger a retaliation.

The Beirut station chief was captured and tortured to death for one of these bombings. But that part of the story was left out when told on this side of the pond. Afterward, you saw the Westerner kidnappings take off so they could be used as bargaining chips, that if the West made one more bogus terror attack, the hostage might be killed.

Jerry Levin...around the time I interviewed him about 12 years ago
Jerry Levin…around the time I interviewed him about 12 years ago

Jerry Levin, the CNN Bureau chief in Beirut who was kidnapped by Hezbollah and held a year, filled me in on all of this years later in several hours of video interviews.

I hope to get some highlight clips on VT this fall. Some gracious helpers are building an editing computer for me now, as I could not use my old 32-bit Dell box to edit HD footage.

This bogeyman-threat game is still with us today, as Uri describes below. The Israeli people, rumored to be really smart folks, never seem to be able to catch on, or don’t want to.

Bibi is now pitching his “ISIS barbarians at the gate” scam, spinning it as reason to maintain military control over the West Bank, which would kill any chance of a peace deal, exactly what the Likudites want.

As a failed leader, Bibi is off the charts. And that puts the Israelis at the top of the chart for electing such. They should have to bear the responsibility of that alone, and not with the American taxpayers as the goat tied to the stick to feed the night jackals… Jim W. Dean ]


First published  …  July 5, 2014


Jordan River
Jordan River

The Arab world is in turmoil. Syria and Iraq are breaking apart, the thousand-year old conflict between Muslim Sunnis and Muslim Shiites is reaching a new climax. A historic drama is unfolding around us. And what is the reaction of our government?

Binyamin Netanyahu put it succinctly: “We must defend Israel on the Jordan River, before they reach Tel Aviv.” …Simple, concise, …idiotic. Defend Israel against whom? Against ISIS, of course.

ISIS is the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham – a new force in the Arab world. Sham is Greater Syria – the traditional Arab name for the territory that comprises the present countries of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Together with Iraq, it forms what historians call the Fertile Crescent, the green region around the top of the desolate Arab desert.

For most of history, the Fertile Crescent was one country, part of successive empires. Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans and many others kept them united, until two foreign gentlemen, Sir Mark Sykes and M. Francois Georges-Picot, set about cutting them up according to their own imperial interests.

This happened during World War I, which was set in motion by an assassination that happened 100 years ago last week.

With sublime disregard for the peoples, ethnic origins and religious identities, Sykes and Picot created national states where no nations existed. They and their successors, notably Gertrude Bell, T.E. Lawrence and Winston Churchill, put together three quite different communities and created “Iraq”, importing a foreign king from Mecca.

“Syria” was allotted to the French. An imperial commissioner took a map and a pencil and drew a border in the middle of the desert between Damascus and Baghdad. The French then cut Syria up into several small statelets for the Sunnis, Alawites, Druze, Maronites etc. Later they created Greater Lebanon, where they set up a system that installed Maronite Christians on top of the despised Shiites.

The Kurds, a real nation, were cut up into four parts, each of which was allotted to a different country. In Palestine, a Zionist “national home” was planned in the middle of a hostile Arab population.

The country beyond the Jordan was cut off to provide a principality for another Emir from Mecca. This is the world in which we grew up, and which is crumbling now.


Vision of a Unified Sunni-Muslim Caliphate

What ISIS is trying to do now is simply to eradicate all these borders. In the process, they are laying bare the basic Sunni-Shiite divide. They want to create a unified Sunni-Muslim Caliphate.

They are up against huge entrenched interests, and will probably fail. But they are sowing something much more lasting: an idea that may take hold in the minds of many millions. It may come to fruition in 25, 50 or a hundred years. It may be the wave of the future. Seeing this picture developing, what should we do? For me, the answer is quite clear: make peace, quickly, as long as the Arab world is as it is now.



Palestinian boy climbs through an opening in Israel's wall near Jerusalem
Palestinian boy climbs through an opening in Israel’s wall near Jerusalem

“Peace” means not only peace with the Palestinian people, but with the entire Arab world. The Arab peace initiative – based on the initiative of the Saudi (then) Crown Prince – is still lying on the table.

It offers full and unconditional peace with the State of Israel in return for the end of the occupation and the creation of the independent State of Palestine. Hamas has officially agreed to this, provided it is ratified by a Palestinian plebiscite.

It will not be easy. A lot of obstacles will have to be overcome. But it is possible. And it is sheer lunacy not to try. NOW. The response of our leadership is the exact opposite. The historic events and their background interest them “like the skin of the garlic”, as we say in Hebrew.

Their interest is totally focused on the effort to keep hold of the West Bank, which means to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state. Which means to prevent peace.

The surest way to prevent peace is to hold on to the Jordan valley. No Palestinian negotiator will ever agree to the loss of the Jordan valley – either by direct annexation to Israel or by the “temporary” stationing of Israeli troops in the valley for any length of time.

This would mean not only the loss of 25% of the West Bank (which altogether constitutes 22% of historical Palestine) and its most fertile part but also the cutting-off of the putative Palestinian state from the rest of the world. The State of Palestine would become an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory. Much like the South African Bantustans.

When Ehud Barak proposed this at the Camp David conference, the negotiations broke down. The most Palestinians could agree to was the temporary stationing of UN or American troops there.


ISIS on the move - Where will it all end?
ISIS on the move – Where will it all end?

This week, suddenly, the Jordan Valley demand popped up again. The picture was simple. ISIS is storming south from its Syrian-Iraqi base.

It will overrun all of Iraq. From there, it will invade Jordan and pop up on the other side of the Jordan river.

As Netanyahu said: if they are not stopped by the permanent Israeli garrison there, they will appear at the gates of Tel Aviv (except that Tel Aviv has no gates).

Logical? Self-evident? Inescapable? Utter nonsense!

Militarily, ISIS is a negligible force. It has no air force, tanks or artillery. They are opposed by Iran and the US. Compared to them, even the Iraqi army is still a potent force. Next, the Jordanian army is far from a pushover.

If ISIS came even near to threatening the Jordanian kingdom, the Israeli army would not wait for them on the Jordan River.

They would be requested by the Jordanians to come to the rescue – as happened during the Black September of 1970, when Golda Meir, acting under the orders of Henry Kissinger, warned an approaching Syrian army column that Israel would invade to forestall them. That was enough.

The very idea of Israeli soldiers manning the ramparts in the Jordan valley to defend Israel from ISIS (or anyone else) is sheer idiocy. Even more idiotic than the famous Bar Lev line, which was supposed to stop the Egyptians along the Suez Canal in 1973. It fell within hours.

Yet the Bar Lev “line” – reminiscent of the (futile) French Maginot Line and the (futile) German Siegfried Line of World War II – was far away from the center of Israel.

Defending the Gates
Defending the Gates

The Israel army has missiles, drones and other weapons that would stop an enemy in his tracks long, long before he could possibly reach the Jordan. The bulk of the Israeli army could move from the sea shore and cross the river within a few hours.

This whole way of thinking shows that our Right politicians – like most of their persuasion around the world, I suspect – still live in the 19th century. If I were in a less charitable mood, I would say in the Middle Ages. They might as well be equipped with bows and arrows.

The whole thing reminds me, somehow, of a 19th century German army song: “To the Rhine! To the Rhine! To the German Rhine! / Who wants to be the watchman of the River! / Dear Fatherland, don’t worry / Steady and true stands the watch on the Rhine! / The German youngster, pious and strong / Protects the German borderland!”

The Crusaders established their kingdom in Palestine when the Arab world was splintered. Their great adversary, the Kurd Salah-al-Din al-Ayubi (Saladin), devoted decades to unifying the Arab world around them before vanquishing them on the battlefield of Hittin.

West Bank Wall
West Bank Wall

Back to the future. Today, the Arab world seems more splintered than ever. But a new Arab world is taking shape, the contours of which can be conceived only dimly. Our place is within the new reality, not outside, looking on.

Alas, our leaders are quite unable to see that. They are still living in the world of Sykes and Picot, a world of foreign potentates (now American). For them, the turmoil around us is – well, just turmoil.

The founder of modern Zionism wrote 118 years ago that we shall serve in Palestine as pioneers of European culture and constitute “a wall against Asiatic barbarism.”

Our leaders still live in this imagined reality, re-phrased as “a villa in the jungle”. So what to do when the predators in the jungle are approaching and roaring? Build higher walls, of course. What else?


Editing: Jim W. Dean and Erica P. Wissinger

Sunset over Tel Aviv
Sunset over Tel Aviv



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Jim W. Dean was an active editor on VT from 2010-2022.  He was involved in operations, development, and writing, plus an active schedule of TV and radio interviews.