Report From Israel
The capitulation of the Egyptian forces in Gaza marked the culmination of eight long years of strife along the Israel-Egyptian border.
This tiny belt of land, home for 300,000 Arabs jammed cheek to jowl, extends inland as few as three miles in one place, with an over-all average of five.
The “strip” has been the training ground for the Egyptian fedayeen gangs which have been harassing and killing the civilian population of Israel since 1948. Israel’s roads have been mined under cover of darkness to claim the first victims who would drive by. Private cars and buses have been machine-gunned from the roadside. Grenades have been thrown through the windows of a synagogue while children were at prayer.
Neither the United Nations nor any combination of world powers have been able to prevent Egypt and brother Arab states from pursuing their undercover war against Israel.
In Colonel Nasser’s speeches, he has shouted to the world his intention of destroying Israel. He has successfully contravened United Nations’ rulings on the Suez Canal and, contrary to these rulings, has continued his blockade of Israeli shipping in the canal and the Gulf of Akaba. He has mortgaged the lifeblood of his people for a fantastic quantity of Russian arms—arms which he promised to use against Israel. Nasser’s propaganda machine has been oiled and operated by German Nazis since 1945. It is their desire to help Egypt finish in the Middle East what they failed to complete in Europe.
No country in the world can long endure under the tensions which the Arab states have caused to prevail in the Middle East. Israel has made appeal after appeal to talk peace with the Arabs. Such efforts have been consistently refused.
The United Nations truce supervision organization has been powerless to prevent the Arab raids into Israel. As a result of this impotence, Israel has been forced into the role of policeman. Her punishing attacks against the Arabs have always followed attacks against her own civilian population and have always been directed against military and not civilian establishments.
When it was made clear that Egypt would not stop her commando attacks against Israel, nor sit down at a peace table with her, Israel was compelled to eliminate the bases from which these attacks were made.
Israel is asking Egypt and the other Arab states for a final peace settlement in the Middle East. The world and the states concerned cannot afford to go back to the unworkable truce agreement which was neither a truce nor an agreement.
Israel must help in the resettlement of Arab refugees and compensate those Arabs whose lands have been expropriated. The Arabs, likewise, must cease their undeclared war and establish an era of peace and cooperation with Israel through which all of their peoples might have an abundant life—heretofore unknown in this part of the world.
Report From Egypt
Egypt has tasted war before, but never in this same bitter way.
As a country bordering the combat area in World War I, she witnessed the comings and goings of Allied troops, warships and material. Red Cross trains brought in the wounded to be cared for in military hospitals established on her soil. World War II brought her still closer to the horrors and devastation of modern warfare. In addition to the same troop concentrations, Italian and German planes sent bombs thundering down on British bases. The chief annoyance was that many of the attacks spread far beyond strictly military objectives, resulting in much loss of Egyptian life and property. There was the consolation, however, that the Italians and Germans were striking primarily at Allied forces and had no particular quarrel with Egypt.
The population seemed devoid of apprehension over the consequences of a possible Allied defeat. To many, it made little real difference whether Britain, Italy or Germany held the upper hand in Egypt’s economy and politics.
When fighting with Israel broke out following the re-birth of that nation, there was a marked change of public feeling concerning this thing called “war.” Now it had become a matter of national concern. Fellow Arabs were being dispossessed. Their rich farmlands, orchards, businesses, bank accounts and homes were falling into the hands of an aggressive and ruthlessly efficient alien. Jubilation greeted the news of the Egyptian army’s first successes. A special postage stamp was issued to celebrate the victory at Gaza. National pride sky-rocketed. Subsequent failures and stalemates did little to diminish the new-found sense of “being.” After all, Egyptian soldiers had proved themselves.
The calamities which later befell them were attributed to traitors, who reportedly arranged the purchase of defective arms and ammunition. In the long truce which followed, there was implicit confidence in the revitalized army’s ability to handle any future encounter with Israel’s troops.
Then came November, 1956, and Egypt’s traditionally-bright skies and mild fall weather found little in common with the people’s mood. War had come in a horrible way. Normally complacent attitudes were cast into molds of bitterness, resentment and hatred. No longer was the war on some distant, hard-to-visualize battlefield. The issues had become real, near, vivid—thousands of refugees, the stinging presence of that Western implantation, “Israel,” the stubborn refusal of France and England to recognize the “facts of life” in Algeria and Cyprus, and the Suez Canal, admittedly due to be completely Egyptianized in 1968, becoming a casus belli because the event was pushed up to 1956.
The man-on-the-street began to realize what it means to have the enemy’s planes and panic propaganda directed at him. His understanding has taken in the meaning of the recently imposed defense tax, the frequent appeals for shock troops and guerrilla volunteers, the urgent pleas for blood-bank contributors. With every war news bulletin, with every crack of the heavy ack-ack guns and rumble of bombs, with each succeeding night of air-raid sirens and total blackout, his hatred of the Jews and scorn for the British and French has grown more deep-seated and bitter.
(Shocked by the sudden flight of many Americans, the Egyptians were quick to express their appreciation of those who chose to stay. Early suspicion that the United States must be secretly aiding and abetting the Anglo-French attack soon gave way to undisguised relief and satisfaction that such was not the case. Then came an evident feeling of impatience that America did not exert her authority to bring the aggressors to heel.)
“Israel, we can manage and understand,” was the remark of the average man. “They are congenital troublemakers; nevertheless, the combined power of the united Arab people can take care of them. But the British and French we did not consider so completely mad. Just what type of civilization do they think they represent? Founding members of United Nations, paragons of progress and culture, pace-setting exponents of Christianity, by what right or reason … or special privilege do they, as ‘great nations,’ sidestep the very U. N. laws and principles which they are so zealous to impose on the smaller nations?… Are these the superior types of humanity that we are supposed to emulate?… To us it is becoming more than ever evident that France and Britain are as bankrupt morally as they are politically and economically.
“They may eventually win this war and gain their evil, imperialistic objectives in Egypt, but they have utterly blasted every possibility of winning the trust and friendship of the people of the Middle East. What they are doing at this moment in history will never be forgotten, nor will the flame of hatred they have kindled in our hearts ever be extinguished.”
Reflecting upon words such as these, words heard and read daily, what can a western Christian think? Over a century of missionary work in this and neighboring lands has never, at the very best, been attended by large success among non-Christians. Quite apart from what they have done to help awaken and strengthen indigenous Christianity, foreign missionaries have rendered large service to the population as a whole through education, medical relief and social work. If nothing else, they have won a reputation for the West as humanitarians, kind-hearted servants of the public good, exporters of something more than the showy products of Detroit and Hollywood.
Western standards of fairplay and justice, Western concepts of honesty and integrity, Western crusades for human rights and freedoms, Western systems of equality and democratic processes—all these and more have won the respect of high and low. But that was true only until October. What was true in October was not necessarily true in November.
Have the labors, the dedication, the cost in human life and devotion been wiped out in an outbreak of violence over a 100-mile strip of waterway which happens to cut through Egyptian real estate? A full assessment cannot be made while jet planes zoom overhead and the fevers of patriotism and outraged pride still run high. But Western Christians will do well to keep right on thinking—deeply, searchingly. If the gains of a century, small though they be, are not to be irretrievably lost, what can be, what must be done?
Pray I must, and pray I will. But what more, under God, can I do to make Christ’s way the way of all mankind, and His spirit the motivating and regulating power in every heart?
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