The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):


  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”


Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A tale of two lands in the Eastern Mediterranean

This posting refers to two areas which, at the start of the 20th century, were both parts of the Ottoman Empire. They were both taken from the Ottoman Turks at the end of World War I by the British, but their subsequent history is rather different.

The first is the island of Cyprus. Because it is an island, there is no question as to what its boundaries are, so there will be no question as to what area I am talking about. It is populated with a mixed population: one group, the majority, speaks Greek and belongs to the Greek Orthodox Christian religion; the other group is Turkish-speaking and Moslem by religion. After World War II, both groups agitated to get the British colonizers out, but with very different goals: the Greek speakers wanted the island to be transferred to Greece: their cry was "Enosis (union [with Greece])!" The Turkish speakers wanted a partition ("taksim") into Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking areas, though I'm not certain whether they contemplated union of each part with Greece and Turkey respectively, or separate independence of two states. Neither got their way, but an independent Cyprus, whole (except for a few military areas that Britain retained) and unattached to Greece or Turkey, was created. The Greek-speaking majority showed their power: the first president chosen for Cyprus was not just a Greek-speaker, which might be expected, but an archbishop of the Orthodox Christian church, Makarios. The Turkish speakers were, not surprisingly, not too happy with the situation where they would be outvoted on every important issue; they had a revolt and established an area in the northeast part of the island that they call the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. They now govern themselves peacefully, but pressure by Greece has led to a situation where no country in the world, except only Turkey, recognizes TRNC as an independent state.

The second area I am about to describe is harder to name. It was once called Judea, but after the Romans conquered the area, they named it Palæstina, which we Anglicize to Palestine. It eventually, like Cyprus, came under the control of the Ottoman Turks, who never considered it one single unit, so they did not give it a specific name, but divided it into a number of administrative districts, and, after World War I, the British and French divided up the territory in that part of the Middle East and Britain took it over, restoring the Roman name of Palestine. The League of Nations gave Britain a mandate to govern it, with the ultimate goal of giving it to the Jewish people as a homeland, but about 60% of the territory was given to an Arab king in the 1920s and established as the Kingdom of Jordan. In 1948, the United Nations approved a plan whereby the Jewish people would have one state, and the Arabs another, in the 40% that was left, though both proposed states were a patchwork of disconnected lands; the Jews accepted this but the Arabs did not, and a war began. In 1949, when fighting temporarily ceased, an armistice line was created, similar to that now existing in Cyprus, though, unlike the one in Cyprus, the world generally decided to recognize this one as an international boundary. No Arab state was ever created in the remainder of the former Palestine Mandate; Jordan took the eastern part (sometimes called the "West Bank," though Israelis tend to call it by the historical name of "Judæa and Samaria"), and Egypt the much smaller part around the city of Gaza (the "Gaza strip"). Subsequent fighting in 1967 and 1982, however, gave the Israelis control of the entire area and even a bit more. (A large area to the southwest, the Sinai Peninsula, was also taken from Egypt in the wars, but as part of a treaty agreement with Egypt, they returned it. Egypt did not, however, include the Gaza strip in the area they took back.)

After many years, many of the Arabs in the area decided they did want an Arab state in the area, though to this day there are others who insist that the whole area, including all of Israel, must be an Arab state. The rest of the world, which was so indifferent to the cause of the Turkish Cypriots, is clamoring to have the 1949 armistice line declared the boundary between Israel and an Arab state of "Palestine," though such a state has no historical basis. There never has been one, the Arabs rejected the idea in 1948, and the Israeli army took the territory only after the Arabs attacked Israel in 1967 and 1982.

I don't know. It seems to me the Turkish Cypriots have more of a claim to a state than the Arab "Palestinians." Yet the world denies them recognition as a state, and pushes for an Arab "Palestine." Can anyone explain this to me?

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