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The Map on the Wall

By       Message Uri Avnery     Permalink
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Reprinted from Gush Shalom

From youtube.com/watch?v=cPJFwkuAuNs: World War II
World War II
(image by YouTube)
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A FORMER cabinet minister, an intelligent person (nonetheless) asked me the other day: "Let's assume that your plan is realized. A Palestinian state will come into being side by side with Israel. Even some kind of federation. Then, in a few years, a violently anti-Israel party will come to power there and annul all the treaties. What then?"

My simple answer was: "Israel will always be powerful enough to forestall any threat."

That is true, but that is not the real answer. The real answer lies in the lessons of history.

HISTORY SHOWS us that there are (at least) two kinds of peace agreements. One kind, the stupid one, is based on power. The other, the intelligent, is based on common interest.

The most notorious of the first kind is the Treaty of Versailles that followed World War I.

It was signed four years before I was born, but as a child I was an eye-witness to its results.

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It was a "dictated" peace. After four years of fighting, with millions of victims, the victors wanted to inflict the maximum of damage on the vanquished.

Large parts of Germany were separated from the Fatherland and turned over to the victors East and West. Huge indemnities were levied on Germany, which was already totally exhausted by the war.

Perhaps worst of all was the "war guilt" clause. The origins of the war were manifold and complicated. A Serbian patriot killed the Austrian heir to the throne. Austria answered with a harsh ultimatum. The Russian Czarist Empire, which saw itself as the protector of all Slavs, declared a general mobilization to frighten the Austrians off. The Russians were allied with the French. To prevent an invasion from both sides, the Germans, who allied to the Austrians, invaded France. The idea was to knock the French out before the cumbersome Russian mobilization was completed. Fearing a German victory, Great Britain rushed to the aid of the French.

Complicated? Indeed. But the victors compelled the Germans to sign a clause that indicted them as solely responsible for the outbreak of the war.

WHEN I went to school in Germany, there hung before my eyes a map of Germany. It showed the present borders of the Reich (as it was still called), and around it a prominent red line that showed the prewar borders.

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This map hung in every class in every school in Germany. From earliest childhood on, every German boy and girl was daily reminded of the great injustice done to the Fatherland, when large chunks were torn from it.

Worse, every German child was taught that his or her father had fought valiantly for four whole years against a vastly superior enemy and surrendered only from sheer exhaustion. Germany had played only a minor role in the events that led to the war, yet the whole blame for the war was laid on it. So were huge "reparations" that ruined the German economy.

The humiliation of signing such an unjust treaty was a permanent sting, and became the battle-cry of Adolf Hitler's new National-Socialist party. The politicians who had signed the document were assassinated.

History has blamed the leaders of the victorious allies for their stupidity in dictating these terms, especially after the far-sighted American president, Woodrow Wilson, had warned against it.

Probably they had no choice. The terrible war had bred intense hatred, and peoples were thirsting for revenge. They paid for it dearly when Germany, under the leadership of Hitler, started World War II.

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