One evening not long ago I was surprised to hear the Italian political analyst, Sergio Romano-a self-defined conservative and ex-Ambassador to NATO-speak of the East as if he were a representative of Communist Refoundation Party, against NATO and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and in favor of negotiations with Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The "liberal conservative" Romano, who in his career once taught at Harvard and the University of California, labeled NATO an instrument of US foreign policy and military strategy, under the control of Washington, and antagonistic to Europe's interests. From the start Afghanistan was America's war, he charged, a war Washington now wants Europe to fight.
He reasoned that if the American goal in Iraq was control of the region, then the USA should have allied with Saddam Hussein. His assessment of Hamas and Hezbollah corresponds to that of the European Left: they are political parties and welfare organizations with armed wings; negotiations with both are desirable and necessary for peace in the region.
But he knows that is not going to happen. For perpetual war is a vital necessity for vengeful Tel Aviv no less than for the Washington neocom nomenklatura and those in the shadows behind them.
THE WRATH OF THE SPIDERS
On that same afternoon I had watched a documentary on the Third Crusade of 1191 led by the Norman King of England, Richard Lionheart, which prompted this essay. Like the disastrous Second Crusade forty years earlier in which German and French armies were massacred, Richard's goal was re-capturing Jerusalem. It was eerie to behold. The setting and atmosphere of the Christian invasion 800 years ago was the same story as today: a Christian-Jewish alliance and Islam battling over control of Palestine and Jerusalem.
"Warriors of the Faith" depicts King Richard's Crusade as fragile as are Road Maps today. So fragile that one of the minor incidents history recalls is the demoralizing effects of the terrifying attacks of desert tarantulas against the armor-clad warriors in Richard's encampments along the coast between Acre and Jaffa.
As the Crusade progressed, both King Richard and King Saladin claimed for their faiths the holy city of Jerusalem. In a missive to Saladin, King Richard stressed that the city was holy for Christians. Ditto for Moslems, Saladin answered. Neither could renounce Jerusalem. Yet each of them, European and Arab, recognized the existence of the other as an equal and the legitimacy of the other's claims to Jerusalem.
The ferocious soldier Richard regarded Arabs as human beings like himself and tried to arrange a marriage of his own sister with Saladin's brother in order to insure peace. How different the story of intoxicated Israeli claims to Jerusalem today, backed by power mad America, two "chosen peoples" engaged in perpetual warfare and for whom everybody else is the enemy! Policies of no compromises: kill all the Palestinians.
Just as Islam stood behind Saladin, the Catholic Church fostered the Western jihads to the Holy Land. Though the city of Jerusalem was indefensible and Saladin's authority waning, Richard, after twice arriving at the gates of Jerusalem, retired to occupied Jaffa without a fight.
Richard could have taken the holy city as easily as America took Baghdad. Yet he wisely concluded that he couldn't hold it long, isolated in the heart of the Moslem world hostile to the infidel invader.
That history passes unnoticed by our brave leaders today.
The two kings however arrived at an accord: the Christians kept Jaffa and Acre and a slice of the coastline; Moslems kept Jerusalem. That the two faiths could share Jerusalem was not even a consideration.
Jerusalem! The city of three faiths, all of which consider it the most holy city in the world and claim it as theirs. Hebrews built it in 1000 B.C. Babylonians captured it in the 6th century B.C. and exiled the Jews. Subsequently Greeks, Egyptian Arabs and Syrian Arabs have controlled it. Moslem armies captured it in 638 and ruled for 450 years and Ottomans held it for another 400 years.
In sum, Islam has had a much greater effect on the city than others. Moreover, it is a geographical fact that the city has always been an island surrounded by Arab lands.
Still, apart from disputes over the Holy Land, the ebb and tide of history, the times of war and reciprocal invasions one of the other, Europe and the Arabic world have gotten along pretty well together. Sergio Romano's point was that they could live as good neighbors today were it not for America's disruption of normal relations. Americans shouldn't forget that the Mediterranean world today is a condominium of peoples where the most disruptive forces are Israeli arrogance and intransigence, America's thirst for world hegemony and Arab desperation.
Israel seems to consider its control over Jerusalem the symbol of its domination over Islam. And precisely that urge for control reinforces the Palestinian urge to destroy their enemy.