Israel’s ambassador to Washington is the guest at a prestigious nationally televised interview series, but is soon set upon by his particularly pugnacious host. The strikingly prosecutorial interviewer homes in on “the charge that Israel threatens world peace with a policy of territorial expansion.”
He quotes “a major Arab spokesman” who asserts that “the area of the territories held by Israel today exceeds by about 40 percent the area of the territories given Israel by the United Nations. Most of this added area… was taken by force, and should therefore be relinquished by Israel.”
Ho hum. So what’s the big deal? Aren’t we habitually painted as insatiable gobblers of Arab land, and aren’t we just as routinely required to cede our “ill-gotten” gains?
True, this could all have been a colossal bore, were it not for the date of the above face-off. It took place on April 12, 1958, shortly before Israel’s 10th birthday. And that makes Abba Eban’s appearance on The Mike Wallace Interview program supremely important.
Almost every demonizing and delegitimizing canard to which we have by now grown so inured had already manifested itself back then. It’s almost as if nothing has changed except incidental names of protagonists and the fact that Eban’s suave wit and unflappable poise are no more. Otherwise, what was thrown at Eban by Wallace (born Myron Leon Wallechinsky to Jewish parents) sounds garden-variety familiar more than 53 years later.
But most of our opinion-molders prefer we not develop a sense of historical continuity. They have a vested interest in keeping us from recognizing our travails as a single ongoing saga. Chopping our past into small, disconnected segments helps distort the big picture and warp it to fit political agendas.
This can work because we’re a peculiar folk.
We’re a nation of inveterate kibitzers (meddlesome dispensers of unsolicited and often irrelevant advice). We’re a nation doggedly hankering after indistinct idealized times-that-were. We’re a nation of chronic bellyachers, forever bemoaning the present and bullyragging whoever we put in charge (but who, obviously, has less sense than the least among us does).
We’re experts at being argumentative and contrary, which is perhaps why we already gave our first leader – Moses – such a hard time, why we could never (thankfully) kowtow to a dictator, or even unite behind a cohesive religious authority. Any scholarly rabbinical viewpoint invariably sparks raging debate.
Given our idiosyncratic predilections, it’s no wonder our national pastime is kvetching about how much better things used to be.
For Tzipi Livni, happy days were relatively recent – just before her nemesis Binyamin Netanyahu defeated her. With verbal hocus-pocus, it’s easy to erase the bad memories of Ehud Olmert’s failed premiership, in which she played a starring role.
Further to her left, the good times ended on June 4, 1967, before we won the Six Day War. Israel’s angst-filled peaceniks yearn for that tiny, imperiled, hemmed-in Israel, which they tell us was universally loved and admired. Why? Because we were diminutive, not an ogre empire, not an interloping conquistador, not an oppressive occupier.
As such, nobody could resist our untainted, wholesome charms.
This is seductive. We all wax nostalgic, which is why we can all fall for the fable. Hence it’s imperative that we consider whether we were ever – even as a renascent pioneering people – the darlings of the civilized world.
Once we make allowances for cumulative historical processes and the propaganda-amplifying potential of new technologies (like the World Wide Web), it becomes obvious that the differences we perceive are mostly in detail rather than substance. The bare essence was uncannily the same back-in-the-day.
Just get a load of Wallace’s opening salvo: “In its 10 years as a state, Israel has been involved in repeated violence, major border incidents and two open wars.” The subtext is that there’s something unsavory and belligerent about Israel, that it’s a troublemaker.
But then Wallace pulled out bigger guns – the Arab refugees: “Such men as historian Arnold Toynbee have said this: ‘The evil deeds committed by the Zionist Jews against the Arabs are comparable to crimes committed against the Jews by the Nazis.’”
Are we shocked? What can be more perversely prevalent in our existence than Nazi epithets hurled at the country that resisted annihilation merely three years after the Holocaust?
But perhaps we should all memorize Eban’s timeless retort. He accused Toynbee of “monstrous blasphemy. Here he takes the massacre of millions of our men, women and children, and compares it to the plight of Arab refugees alive, on their kindred soil, suffering certain anguish, but of course possessed of the supreme gift of life. The refugee problem is the result of an Arab policy which created the problem by the invasion of Israel, which perpetuates it… and which refuses to solve the problem which they have the full capacity to solve.”
Just as worthy of recall is Eban’s comment about Israel’s alleged expansionism. He advised everyone “not to lose any sleep at night worrying about whether the State of Israel is too big. Really there is nothing more grotesque or eccentric in the international life of our times than the doctrine that little Israel, 8,000 square miles in area, should become even smaller in order that the vast Arab Empire should still further expand.”
Wallace escalated his provocation: “Mr. Ambassador, do you… foresee further territorial expansion by Israel?” In gentlemanly tones Eban objected: “I don’t like the word ‘further,’ Mr. Wallace… I wonder whether the issue isn’t one of Arab expansion.”
Wallace wouldn’t let go: “Israel benefited territorially from a war, from armed violence.”
Eban was unfazed: “Yes, I’m glad to say that I hope that whenever countries wage a war of aggression, as the Arab States did, they should be the losers.”
Unswayed, Wallace pressed on: “As a member of the Judaic faith, which cherishes social justice and morality, do you believe that any country should profit territorially from violence?”
The entire exchange reveals the pervasiveness of anti-Israel mainstream-media bias long before the Six Day War. Although the Arabs controlled all the territories which Palestinians currently claim for their state, Israel was portrayed, already then, as an occupier – because it successfully fended off a concerted attack by seven Arab armies on the day of its birth.
Eban, it needs stressing, was an out-and-out dove. Yet it was he who on November 5, 1969, told Der Spiegel: “We have openly said that the map will never again be the same as on June 4, 1967. For us, this is a matter of security and of principles. The June map is for us equivalent to insecurity and danger.
“I do not exaggerate when I say that it has for us something of a memory of Auschwitz.
“We shudder when we think of what would have awaited us in the circumstances of June 1967, if we had been defeated… This is a situation which will never be repeated in history.”
What was true then remains true still.
This article should be required reading for every schoolchild in Israel, with teachers of history illustrating each and every statement with examples to bring the message home.
Fifty six years later we have the Muslim on Muslim genocide ongoing in Syria,Libya,Yemen and heating up again in Egypt. Still to this day the focus of the International Community in the face of the insatiable, barbaric Arabs with too much land and too many countries is to downsize Israel as a sacrifice to the demonic god of death and blood lust which the Arabs follow.
The million dollar question is ;
Why are the Jews still going along with this revised Pogrom against Israel ?
When will you say no more ,enough and kick back hard instead of always appeasing and capitulating ?
Israel’s submissive boarding of the 2 state final solution train is prime evidence that secular Jewish leadership has failed miserably.
Sadly the nation which runs to the goyim for peace will keep following the Road Map to hell until the body count becomes astronomical. There is nobody in Israel to stop the train.
I recently watched Wallechinsky “interview “the immensely talented Rod Serling creator of the Twilight Zone from the same era. Myron was a nasty jealous prying pibull at all times.
“what was thrown at Eban by Wallace (born Myron Leon Wallechinsky to Jewish parents)” – those are the people Israel has to fear most. Tragically so.
I don’t recall the specifics but I saw Ted Koppel (surely born to Jewish parents) berate Sharon for not kowtowing to the US President of the time. He was extremely disrespectful and any other public figure would have shown him the door.
Excellent piece. MITZUYAN!! Sarah H. hits the issues square on the nose. For those Jews who have forgotten the basics about Israel, this is a good read. Abba Eban was a brilliant, articulate Singular statesman and spokesman in behalf of Israel. Those old enough to remember him aughta to become recquainted. Those too young, need to learn about him. Mike W. is an inexcusable specimen of the self-loathing Jew, of which there are too many. Keep writing, Sarah.
Israel is buildt on the achievements of 1948 AND 1967, these TWO dates mark the birth of the Jewish nation, which was only completed with the full inclusion of the whole of Jerusalem and it’s ancient heartland of Judea and Samaria.
This is history and a matter of fact and cannot be undone by the propaganda machine of Israels enemys, not from the outside and not from within !
This political propaganda which is directed against the very existence of the Jewish state has not changed since the year of 1958, because it is in COMPLETE disregard of any perception about the true nature and legitimacy of Israel, it is simply a fantasy of it’s annihilation.
This fantasy is the heritage of 2000 years of Antisemitism, it is the old dream of the Antisemites to get rid of the Jews, once and for all…their dream will NOT come through !
Excellent article! You hit the nail right on the head! I think this article should be required reading not just for every Israeli schoolchild but for every Jewish man, woman and child. But I still don’t understand WHY we are so “peculiar”…why is the left so filled with Jews who want to see Israel destroyed? Why can’t we get more people to come out to a demonstration to support Israel? Why do lefty Jews (including feminists & gays) support such oppressive Arab regimes? Why were 30% of the Americans on the flotilla Jewish?
Everyone skirts around the issue. The issue is antisemitism, that is Jew hatred or defamation of Jews for doing the same as any other nation or nation state. Or the expectation that Jews continue to carry the cross for the world. Or that Jews should maintain their victim status forever. There is not one nation on the globe that did not acquire its present territory by invasion and overpowering the local residents, who had domne the very same at some earlier time. The only exception is the Jewsih resurrection which mov3ed stateless Jews into a place that was not a state, but a rather a wasteland backwater of a broken up empire. Eban was just stating the obvious to enyone who is not antisemitic, as most Americans are.
Thank you Sarah for reminding world Jewry that Jews were indeed never the world’s darlings, even before the Six Day War. Bias against Israel existed among the world’s “elite” even in 1958, as you showed. As for Mike Wallace, he has always been a self-hating Jew. In the 1970s, he referred to the Palestinians as “the new Diaspora,” and after a visit to Syria, he put together a segment for 60 Minutes which towed the Syrian government propaganda line that Syrian Jews were under no persecution, and claims to the contrary were “Zionist propaganda.” In the 1980s, he did a story on Soviet Jewry that downplayed their plight and stated that if Soviet Jews truly wanted autonomy, all they had to do was go to Birobidzhan instead of rocking the boat and demanding visas to go to Israel or other countries. In conclusion, Mike Wallace continued to act as a traitor to the Jewish people long after his 1958 interview with Abba Eban.
Regarding my last comment, Mike Wallace accused Soviet Jews of simply wanting “autonomy” instead of freedom in his 1980s story on the plight of Soviet Jews. He also interviewed Menachem Begin in 1982 and had the nerve to ask Begin why Israel was alone then after so many people supported Israel before the Six Day War. Sarah shows us that this wasn’t true, and that Wallace himself was one of the people afflicted with a hatred of Israel before 1967. What chutzpah. Furthermore, a few years ago Wallace interviewed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and asked mostly softball questions, and actually agreed with Ahmadinejad’s answer that if Jews needed a country of their own, why did it have to be in “Palestine”? The interview with Ahmadinejad ended with Wallace telling Ahmadinejad, “You look great!” (the interview was interrupted when an aide of Ahmadinejad’s wanted the Iranian president to change his shirt, and when Wallace asked what was happening, Ahmadinejad explained, and Wallace responded, “Well, let me just tell you that you look great!”).
“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly. But the traitor moves among those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the galleys, heard in the very hall of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor – he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and wears their face and their garment, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation – he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city – he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared.”
– Cicero, 42 B.C.
I couldn’t said it better – regards from ISRAEL
Don’t listen to the Jewish whining minority making 90% of the noise – we will prevail, as we had it in the last 2000 years !!!
wjth compliments – Roby
Sounds like Cicero was describing Shimon Peres.
6,000 years, the Jews never started it. One time they finish it in their favor and they have paid the price ever since. Now to outlast the current occupant of the White House.