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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/21/11

A Dirty Word

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Message Uri Avnery
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ON THURSDAY EVENING I could not think of anything except Libya.

First I heard the blood-curdling speech by Muammar Qaddafi, in which he promised to occupy Benghazi within hours and drown the rebels in a bloodbath.

I was extremely worried and extremely furious with the international community and especially with the US, which had wasted days and weeks of precious time with empty phrase-mongering, while the dictator reconquered Libya bit by bit.

Then there was the almost incredible sight of the UN Security Council convening within the hour, dispensing with speeches and unanimously adopting the resolution calling for military intervention.

The scene that ensued in Benghazi's central square and broadcast live on Aljazeera reminded me of Mugrabi Square in Tel Aviv on November 29, 1947, just after the United Nations General Assembly had adopted the resolution on the partition of Palestine between a Jewish and an Arab state. The feelings of Joy and relief were palpable.

THE HESITATION of the United States and other countries to intervene militarily in Libya was scandalous. More than that -- it was monstrous.

My heart is with the Libyan people. (Indeed, in Hebrew "libi" means "my heart.")

For me, "non-intervention" is a dirty word. It reminds me of the Spanish civil war, which took place when I was very young.

In 1936, the Spanish republic and the Spanish people were viciously attacked by a Spanish general, Francisco Franco, with troops imported from Morocco. It was a very bloody war, with untold atrocities.

Franco was decisively aided by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. German Air Force planes terrorized Spanish cities. The bombardment of the town of Guernica was immortalized in a painting by Pablo Picasso. (The story goes that when the Nazis occupied Paris a few years later, they were outraged by the painting and shouted at Picasso: "Did you do that?" "No," he answered quietly: "You did!")

The Western democracies adamantly refused to help the republic and coined the term "non-intervention." Non-intervention meant in practice that Great Britain and France did not intervene, while Germany and Italy did, and did their worst. The only foreign power to help the beleaguered democrats was the Soviet Union. As we learned much later, Stalin's agents exploited the situation in order to eliminate their fellow fighters -- socialists, syndicalists, liberals and others.

At the time, it looked liked a clear fight between good and absolute evil. Idealists from all over the world joined the International Brigades of the republic. If I had been only a few years older, I would without doubt have volunteered, too. In 1948, we sang with gusto the songs of the International Brigades in our own war.

FOR SOMEONE who was alive at the time of the Holocaust, especially for a Jew, there can be no doubt at all.

When it was over, and the awful extent of the genocide emerged, there was an outcry that has not yet died down.

"Where was the world? Why did the allies not bomb the railway lines leading to Auschwitz? Why did they not destroy the gas chambers and crematoriums in the death camps from the air?"

These questions have not been satisfactorily answered to this very day. We know that Anthony Eden, the British foreign minister, asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt: "What shall we do with the Jews [who manage to escape]?" We also know that the allies were mortally afraid to be seen as conducting the war "for the Jews," as Nazi propaganda proclaimed from morning to evening. Indeed, the Germans dropped leaflets over American positions in Italy with the picture of an ugly, crooked-nose Jew dilly-dallying with a blond American woman, with the caption: "While you are risking your life, the Jew is seducing your wife at home!"

Using military force to prevent the Nazis from killing the German Jews -- as well as the Roma -- would definitely have constituted interference in the internal affairs of Germany. A very strong case could have been made that it was not the business of other countries, certainly not of their armed forces.

Should it have been done? Yes or no? And if the answer is yes, why does it apply to Adolf Hitler and not to this little Fuehrer in Tripoli?

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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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