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The March of Folly

By       Message Uri Avnery       (Page 1 of 4 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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From Gush Shalom

From Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel {MID-146489}
Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel
(Image by yeowatzup)
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MY LATE friend, Nathan Yellin-Mor, the political leader of the LEHI underground, once told me that a certain politician is "not a great thinker and not a small fool."

I remember that sentence every time I think about Gilad Erdan, our Minister of Public Security. His part in the events of the last few weeks, in which the entire Middle East almost exploded, confirmed this judgment.

On the other hand, Binyamin Netanyahu reminds me of the saying: "A clever person is one who knows how to extricate himself from a trap which a wise person would not have gotten into in the first place."

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About Netanyahu I would have said: "A very clever but not a very wise person."

THERE ARE two ways to look at historic disasters. The one sees them as plots of evil persons, the other as acts of folly.

It is easy to understand the first school. After all, it cannot be possible that our very lives depend on a bunch of fools, who have no idea about anything.

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For example, it is easy to believe that Binyamin Netanyahu sent a secret order to a security guard at the Israeli embassy in Amman to kill two Jordanians, so as to enable him (Netanyahu) to negotiate with the King of Jordan to release the guy in return for the removal of the metal detectors from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Pure genius.

The other version is much more prosaic. It says that the people who determine the lot of nations and countries -- emperors and kings, statesmen and generals, leftists and rightists -- are almost all perfect fools. A frightening idea. But it was always so, and still is. All over the world, and particularly in Israel.

One of my friends said this week: "There is no need to put cameras on the Temple Mount, as is now suggested. We should put the cameras in the cabinet room, because that is the source of the greatest danger to the future of Israel.


BARBARA TUCHMAN, the American-Jewish historian, originated the phrase "the March of Folly." She researched several historic disasters and showed that they were caused by sheer stupidity.

One example: Word War I, with its millions of victims, which was the result of a sequence of incredibly imbecilic acts.

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A Serbian fanatic killed an Austrian archduke, whom he accosted by accident, after the planned attempt on his life had failed. The Austrian emperor saw an opportunity to show his prowess and delivered an ultimatum to little Serbia. The Russian Czar mobilized his army to defend his Slavic brothers. The German general staff had a contingency plan that provided that once the Russians started to mobilized their cumbersome army, the German army would cross into France and smash it before the Russians were ready to fight. The British declared war in order to help the French.

Not one of these actors wanted a war, least of all a world war. Each of them contributed just a little piece of folly. Together they started a war which left millions dead, wounded and disabled. In the end, they all agreed that the only person to blame was the German Kaiser, who was not a little fool either.

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)

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