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The Arabs play "bakshish" card

Joseph Farah

Dec 14, 2005

You've all heard of Arab traders. They are famous throughout the world. It's not an ethnic stereotype. It's a cultural reality. I say this as an American of Arabic heritage someone with close to 30 years of journalistic experience covering this part of the world.

Just when you think you have finally struck a deal with an Arab, he plays what I call the "bakshish" card.

There are many ways to explain the term "bakshish." It can mean a bribe for the seller for cutting you such a great deal. It can mean a "tip" or gratuity. Or, more precisely, I have always thought of it as a way to up the ante, raise the stakes, even nix a deal that is already all-but consummated.

Here's the way it works in the real world. Picture yourself at an Arab bazaar. You find a nice item you wish to purchase. You haggle back and forth over the price for what seems like an interminable time. Finally, when you think you have agreement on the purchase price, the seller says: "You forgot about the bakshish." Then it starts all over again.

Last weekend, the Palestinian Authority played its bakshish card in its continuing efforts to raise the stakes in demands on Israel for land concessions. The PA's Office for Religious Affairs claimed the Western Wall revered by Jews since A.D. 70 as the last structural remnant of the Second Temple.

You've seen the pictures of Jews worshipping at the Western Wall, sometimes called the "Wailing Wall." You've seen the TV video streams of Jews sticking prayers scrawled on tiny pieces of paper into the cracks of the wall. For nearly 2,000 years, it has been considered along with the Temple Mount it supports the only truly holy site for Jews all over the world.

Now, the Arabs say it legitimately belongs to Muslims only. Bakshish. This shouldn't be surprising, given Muslims claim no Jewish temple ever stood upon the Temple Mount, despite overwhelming archaeological and historical evidence to the contrary. So now the Western Wall, the most Jewish piece of real estate in the world, is on the negotiating table.

It's a move so audacious, it is mind-boggling. But, ultimately, Israelis have only themselves to blame. A little history is in order. In 1967, Israel was surrounded by Arab armies hell-bent on a coordinated attack by Egypt, Syria, Jordan and other Arab countries. Badly outnumbered and outguned, Israel's only hope was a pre-emptive attack, which was launched June 6. In a fightning-like strike, Israeli forces attacked first on three fronts. In what we now call the Six-Day War, Israel rolled up the Egyptian Army, the Syrian Army and captured Judea and Samaria from Jordan, Gaza and Sinai from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria. Israel could have gone much further all the way to Damascus and Cairo if the Jewish state had desired.

Most significantly, however, Israel captured all of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount.

And what did the Israelis do with the only Jewish holy site in the world? Nearly immediately, after this miraculous, hard-fought victory, Israel's secular leaders turned administrative control over the Temple Mount to Muslims.

They apparently believed this act of "good will" would be perceived as a demonstration that the Jewish state only wanted to live in peace with its neighbors. But the Arabs saw it as an act of appeasement, a show of weakness, not strength.

In effect, Israel turned over the most Jewish piece of real estate to the Muslims a move that chipped away at Israel's very legitimacy. You see, if the Jews don't have an absolute claim to the Temple Mount, how can they defend Jewish control of Tel Aviv or anything else?

It was not only a huge strategic and political blunder that has never been rectified, it was also, in my personal opinion, an offense to the God of Israel the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Most Israeli political leaders don't really believe they have a biblical mandate to the land. They don't want to defend that. They don't want to stand on that promise. They prefer to rely on their own military might and compromise.

If Israel has a claim to any land in the Middle East, and I believe it does, that claim begins with the Temple Mount. Turning over control to radical Muslim clerics hasn't bought any good will for Israel. On the contrary, it has brought the Jewish state 38 years of terror and strife.

Every time Israel makes a land concession to the Arabs, it encourages more demands, higher stakes, the dream of annihilation more of the old bakshish.

Joseph Farah, a Christian Arab-American journalist, is founder, editor and chief executive officer of WorldNetDaily, a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host, and a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate.