By Arnold Beichman, April 27, 2000
Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a columnist
for The Washington Times. He is the editor of the recently published
“CNN’s Cold War Documentary: Issues and Controversy”.
No matter how many “summit” meetings occur between Syria and the United States,
Syria’s dictator, President Hafez Assad, will under no circumstances make peace with Israel.
How do I know this? Do I know more than President Clinton, National Security Adviser Sandy
Berger and the New York Times editorial page? How can I be so sure?
I am certain because I have just read a sensational monograph of the Middle East Media
Research Institute (MEMRI) analyzing what Syrian school textbooks say about Zionism,
Israel and the Jews. These books are published by the Syrian Ministry of Education
and are printed by the General Institute for Schoolbook Printing. The books are all part
of the official Syrian school curriculum.
Reading passages from these school texts leads to an inevitable question: How can Mr. Hafez
make peace with Israel when Syrian schoolchildren from the fourth grade up are taught that:
- Zionism is really a form of colonialism similar to Nazism.
- Zionism endangers the Arab world and prevents its unification.
- Israel, an aggressive and expansionist enemy, is responsible for the backwardness of the Arab world.
- When they grow up they must engage in jihad – holy war -against Israel and seek martyrdom, meaning, of course, suicide attacks.
- Real peace with Israel would be treason.
- Arab leaders who negotiate with Israel are spies and traitors.
- Even outside of Israel, Jews are a menace and should be exterminated.
If the above sentence sounds incredible half-a-century after the Holocaust, let me quote in
translation from a textbook called ‘Islamic education for the tenth grade’, 1999-2000, page 116:
“The logic of justice obligates the application of the single verdict
from which there is no escape; namely, that their criminal intentions be turned against them and
that they be exterminated. The duty of Muslims of our time is to pull themselves together,
unite their ranks, and wage war on their enemy until Allah hands down his judgment on them and us.”
In ignoring Syria’s anti-Semitic indoctrination of Syrian children in favor of a misplaced optimism,
the Clinton administration and the NEW YORK TIMES editors, among others, are misleading
American public opinion.
For example a March 30 NEW YORK TIMES editorial began: “Just a week ago, there seemed
a good chance that Israel and Syria might soon resume negotiations and move rapidly toward a
formal peace treaty.”
There never was a good chance for negotiations to resume let alone a peace treaty, formal or
informal, not even with Mr. Clinton’s witless trip to Geneva to meet President Hafez Assad.
Does Howell Raines, the TIMES editorial page editor, really think the Syrian dictator is going to
repudiate the anti-Israeli racism imparted to almost three generations of schoolchildren and that
he is going to tell them everything’s changed: no more jihad, that making peace with Israel is in
accord with Allah’s teachings? His Ba’athist dictatorship rests on the enduring enmity between
Syria and Israel, more than on any other prop.
As the MEMRI monograph states: “Peace with such an enemy is, naturally, impossible,
because any compromise with or recognition of Israel would entail the collapse of the ideological
essence of the Syrian state.”
For decades the Middle East has been a theater of make-believe. Not until Egypt President Anwar
Sadat made the first move after the 1973 Yom Kippur War did peace loom as a distinct Middle
East possibility. Sadat was rewarded for his efforts with assassination. Even so, since the Iraqi
aggression against Kuwait, some Arab states are rethinking their hostility to Israel. But not Hafez Assad.
George Santayana once said: “All problems are divided into two classes, soluble questions, which are
trivial, and important questions, which are insoluble.”
Syrian intransigence is the insoluble important question and not even a lame-duck American
president can do anything about it.