If wars first begin in the mind and with one’s imagination, then so does peace and security. I was reminded of this when President Barack Obama sent a request to Congress to pay Israel more than $200 million to fund a new missile shield called the “Iron Dome.” It will consist of a weapons system that will intercept rockets and artillery shells. But much like the Maginot Line, it will never solve the real problems surrounding the causes of war, nor will it guarantee ultimate peace and security.
The Maginot Line was the name given to a system of fortifications built by France after World War One. It consisted of a complex system of underground bunkers, anti-tank systems, field fortifications, outposts and artillery fire, and included areas that could be flooded before the system came under assault. Having taken more than twelve years to build, the Maginot Line was portrayed in French propaganda as impregnable. It was also built to defend provinces that were won back from Germany and the Alpine frontier. (1)
Reinforced concrete and armor plates, along with gun turrets that could be retracted underground, spanned the countryside between France and Germany. In the much larger fortified complexes, facilities and barracks were equipped with their own power plants and stores of food, water and ammunition. The Maginot Line boasted of an internal railway network and lifts for troops and artillery. With interlocking fields of fire, theoretically it was impossible to destroy the defensive fortifications. (2)
When Germany invaded France at the start of World War Two, the fortifications held-up well in the Alps. However, smaller complexes were easily overrun or surrounded, proving to be inadequate. Individual casements, unsupported by major fortifications, fell quickly. Germany outflanked the Maginot Line too by marching through the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg. It is estimated that the failed Maginot Line cost over three billion French francs and tens of thousands of men working hundreds of thousands of hours.
The colossal breakdown of the Maginot line, though, mainly lay in unresolved grievances. The Treaty of Versailles that ended World War One humiliated Germany by forcing it to accept sole responsibility for the war. The victors also punished Germany by making it pay $33 billion dollars in reparations. While the Allies kept overseas colonies, Germany had to surrender theirs. Germany also had to turn over Alsace-Lorraine, parts of the Rhine and Sudetenland, and the Danzig Corridor, which divided Germany.
If dictating a harsh peace leads to conflicts, then so do unresolved injustices, especially against those who are irrationally wronged and are innocent. When Israel was founded in 1948 – after years of rule by a British mandate in which more than 50,000 Palestinian-Arabs were killed – 750,000 Palestinian-Arabs were forced from their land. Massacres occurred in some villages too. Until Israel recognizes this human catastrophe, or the Nakba, President Obama’s and Israel’s Iron Dome will never provide peace and security. In truth, what was done to Palestinian-Arabs was a transcendent wrong that has enveloped nearby nations.
Still, Israel (and the United States) will never experience security until justice and restitution for Palestinian-Arabs becomes a major political and social priority. National security can never be realized through seizing one’s territory and then imposing military bases and checkpoints, nor can it be sustained by taxpayers in a distant empire. In other words, until the United States and Israel realizes security is a home, food on the table, employment, equality, and human dignity, Iron Domes and those military bases in 150 nations will only be imaginary. They will continue to fail miserably like the Maginot Line.
If President Obama is committed to Israel’s security, the Nakba will have to be addressed and resolved. Expansive Jewish settlements and U.S. military aid ($3 billion dollars per year) to Israel will have to cease. Israel and the U.S. will have to explore better ways in talking to Palestinian-Arabs and be committed to an independent Palestinian State. If they are truly serious about security in the Middle East, they will value Islamic values, along with Judeo-Christian ones. In doing this, the threat of war will likely be eliminated.
It is said that the Maginot Line had its imitators and competitors. Belgium followed with above-ground fortifications, as did Czechoslovakia. Germany built the Siegfried Line. (3) One has to wonder if, instead of building fortifications and imagining war, what if all of this money, time, manpower, energy, and resources had been used to build trust and material equality between peoples and nations? If the U.S. and Israel can imagine an Iron Dome – which assumes a future war – surely they can imagine a future peace with justice and lasting security. Righting the historical wrongs against Palestinian-Arabs would be a good start.