That we in the West have failed to heed our own history is apparent in the approach we take to the Middle East. Observing the escalation of violence in Israel, with seven dead in the latest suicide bombings, the instinctive prayer is for peace. As it was in the Thirties. And hope therefore fixes on the prospect of "talks". As it did in the Thirties.
So determined are we to see "talks" as the solution, that they are held as the one inviolable good in a wilderness of tears. The prevailing media narrative therefore has "renewed violence threatening the talks", as though they were mutually exclusive antagonists, violence the indivisible evil and talks the quintessential good of this drama.
But the truth about "talks" is that they are the product of violence, not its solvent. Munich was a reward for terror. Indeed the more "successful" talks are, the greater the legitimation for further violence. Once Sudetenland fell, who stood up for Prague? The talks which the West demands that Israel continues to hold with the Palestinian Authority will only confer further legitimacy on a terrorist state. It is not just that Arafat's territory harbours terrorists. It is terrorist. Militarily, culturally, spiritually. Just as much as any totalitarian regime from our dark continent's 20th century.
Militarily terrorist? Arafat's own presidential guard, Force 17, and its allied forces engage in regular sniping against Jewish targets, on both sides of the 1967 green line. Force 17 has combined with Hamas to attack Israeli communities in northern Jerusalem, liaised with Hezbollah in attacks from Gaza, and engaged in its own mortar bombings of Israeli settlements in Gaza as well as kibbutzim in the neighboroughing Negev. The Palestinian Authority's summer camps train children to handle weapons with the aim, in the words of one 14-year-old, "to chase out the settlers". In the words of the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Edward Walker, "Arafat has embraced violence as his prime negotiating tactic".
Culturally terrorist? Arafat's newspapers produce a stream of anti-Jewish invective, its cartoons depicting Jews as worms, Nazis and hook-nosed dwarves labelled "the disease of the century". Those same media have accused the Jews of implementing "the protocols of the Elders of Zion", spreading "mad cow" disease by smuggling contaminated chocolate into the Palestianian Authority, infecting Arab children with HIV and engaging in an "organised conspiracy to harm male virility" through poisoned food. Arafat's official school textbooks also practise the same subtlety. A set text for 13-year- old Palestinian children runs "Draw your sword, let us gather for war with red blood and blazing fire. Death shall call and the sword shall be crazed from much slaughter." Lest any child wonder against whom the crazed sword should be unleashed a prose exercise for eight-year-olds makes all clear: "Complete the following blank exercise with the appropriate word: 'The Zionist enemy (blank) civilians with its aircraft'." No gold stars I suspect for any pupil who writes in "salutes".
And spiritually terrorist? How about the sermon of Sheikh Sabri broadcast on the official Palestinian radio in which he declared: "Allah shall take revenge on behalf of his prophets against the colonialist settlers who are sons of monkeys and pigs." Should anyone doubt what fate awaits the children of "monkeys and pigs" another sermon from the same sheikh clarifies doubts: "Muslims, I am sure that Israel will eventually be destroyed and that the settlements will be your spoils."
And it's Israel that the UN thinks is racist? Anyone tempted to condemn Israel for its recent actions should just ask themselves, what would any other state do when, having granted land for peace, it finds that land is being used as a bridgehead for war? Perhaps even more pertinently, what do other Middle Eastern states do when they face any opposition activity on their own soil? If you want the answer consider what the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad did to dissidents in Hama and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq to the Kurds of Halabja. If you can find witnesses alive.
And yet we expect talks with these people to be productive? In contrast to the practice of every other Middle Eastern state, democratic Israel is exercising restraint in the face of provocation. It responds to indiscriminate terror with limited, targeted, military strikes against the instigators of terror. Because, unlike every other Middle Eastern state, Israel is a democracy. And therein lies the inescapable, unspoken, obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
Arab nations, such as Arafat's, Assad's and Saddam's, are tyrannies which need an external enemy to blame for the woes of an oppressed people. Israel is that enemy, as the Jews were for Hitler. It does not matter how much land Israel cedes, or how many settlements are removed to make the West Bank satisfactorily Judenfrei for Chairman Arafat, these tyrannies will still need their enemy. And so the campaign of terror against Israel will continue as long as their tyranny does.
The only way to bring lasting peace to the Middle East is to bring democracy to its peoples. And yet that is a course from which the West is steering away. It is no longer UK policy to back the opposition to Saddam, we place no sanction on Syria for its recent turn back to darkness, and we impose no penalty on Arafat for his reign of terror. All we do is beat up on the victim. When will we learn? Ask Neville Chamberlain.