Occupation can be nothing but a temporary victory

 August 24, 2004 12:00 AM

It is said that during the early days of the Crusades, the fishing lines of two fishermen from Acre, one Arab the other Frankish, caught the same fish. Each fisherman claimed the right to the fish and the quarrel started to develop into a physical fight. The Arab, knowing that in any serious fight he would be outnumbered in Frankish occupied Acre, and knowing that no judge from Normandy or Flanders would rule in his favor, had an idea; he told the Frankish fisherman: look my good sir, let the strongest man have the fish, I will hit you with my stick then you hit me with yours, he who bears the hitting longer before he screams can have the fish. The Frank, quite sure of his physical capabilities, agreed. The Arab said that he would start. He hit the Frank as hard as he could for more then fifteen minutes before the Frank finally screamed. The Arab then threw the stick away in the sea, and calmly started to walk away. The Frank said: "Where are you going? It is your turn to be hit." The Arab answered: "Well, you know I do not like fish anyway ... you can have it."

Years passed, and Saladin liberated the lands of Palestine and Lebanon from the Crusaders. Richard Lionheart of England and Philip August of France attacked the Muslim coasts and reoccupied Acre, where they ordered thousands of Muslim captives to be massacred. Jerusalem and the highlands of eastern Palestine, known today as the West Bank, stayed in the hands of Saladin. The king of the English wanted to negotiate.  First he started dictating terms, thinking that the sultan would be scared of his swift victories in the coast. He demanded that Christians take control of Jerusalem, which was rejected outright by the Muslims. Then he demanded that Christians be given access to the city, to which Saladin replied that no access could be given as long as there were Christian armies in the land; only when the crusaders have laid down their arms would they be allowed to enter the city.

Finally Richard, frustrated by his failure to achieve anything holy in his holy war, asked Saladin to hand him the Holy Cross, the very one on which Christ is believed by Christians to have been crucified.

"It is only a piece of wood to you," Richard wrote in a letter read to Saladin. Saladin replied: "Well, it is actually a piece of wood to us, but since you want it so much, you have to give us something in return. We want you to leave our land and go home. Once you do, we can allow you to come and see it, unarmed of course."

The English king lost his temper, and in his last angry letters to Saladin, he asked: "Why is it that you are so stubborn as if you did not know of our victories?"

Saladin's answer was quite calm: "Well may the young king know that he is three months away from his kingdom, sooner or later he will have to return. I, on the other hand, am already at home; every victory you have here is by definition temporary, eventually you will go home and I will be waiting, and if not me then my children."

On this note the English left.  When the envoy of the sultan of Egypt and Syria finally went to Acre to demand the badly defeated Franks to hand the town over, they were nervous, and tried to get the best terms of surrender possible. The generals paraded their forces in front of the envoy. He did not budge, and the terms he dictated were as harsh as they could be.

So one of the generals yelled: "Look at those armed thousands behind you, Saracen."

However, the envoy quickly replied: "Well, I do see them, but I can assure you that, back in Cairo, we have more of your soldiers in chains than you have here in armor." And so the Franks had to leave.

I wanted to write these three stories, because the insistence of the invaders on achieving victory always appeared ridiculous to me. It is totally meaningless, for, as the wise Sultan said, a foreigner's victory is always temporary, no matter how strong the Frank and how weak the Arab.  One will have to leave, and the one who will leave is the one that has that option.

On the other hand, invaders are seemingly destined to live this black comedy of insisting to win meaningless victories. The invaders, because they are foreign, have to tame a hostile land, and to do that they insist on shows of force. They insist to have it their way, but again because they are foreign, this cannot be done - only a funny, temporary semblance of it can.

What do the Americans, and their very sovereign government of Iraq, want from entering the sanctuary in Najaf and disarming the resistance?

Do they really believe that once, they do, they will have a stable Iraq, with no armed youth, and with no mosques?  Don't they know that an American soldier moving his tank in front of mosque is the perfect recipe to have thousands of Muslims ready to fight? There is absolutely no political or military gain in the long run from attacking Najaf, even if they took over the sanctuary, and disarmed the Mehdi Army. Iraqis, angry Iraqis and armed angry Iraqis will always be there and so will the mosques.

Whatever victory the Americans claim in Najaf is like the fish the Frank took from the Arab; the Frank can celebrate the fish as much as he wants but the sea speaks Arabic.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Art/2004/Aug-24/93918-occupation-can-be-nothing-but-a-temporary-victory.ashx#ixzz2wG09U9rE 
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