Appointment in Rafah – Washington Examiner

Appointment in Rafah – Washington Examiner

In an old Middle Eastern tale, a servant is jostled by Death in the marketplace in Baghdad. The servant borrows his master’s horse and flees to Samarra, about 80 miles away, “so Death will not find me.” The master goes to the marketplace and asks Death why she threatened his servant. Death says that she didn’t threaten him; she had given a start of surprise. “I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

This version is Somerset Maugham’s. In 1934, John O’Hara used it as the epigraph to a novel called The Infernal Grove. O’Hara thoroughly Americanized the story: Julian English is a successful Cadillac dealer in Pennsylvania. When Dorothy Parker told O’Hara about Maugham’s version, O’Hara changed his story’s name to Appointment in Samarra. It made no difference. You cannot dodge fate.

Appointment in Rafah – Washington Examiner
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike on buildings near the separating wall between Egypt and Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Monday, May 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Ramez Habboub)

There are Arabic and Persian versions and a retelling by Jean Cocteau from which Maugham probably borrowed it, but the original version, or at least the oldest version, is in the Babylonian Talmud. Solomon sends two court scribes away to Luz, where he believes the Angel of Death has no dominion. The Angel does. The scribes die. Solomon, usually known for his wisdom, denies his part in their deaths. “The feet of a person are responsible for him,” he says. “To the place where he is in demand, there they lead him.”

President Joe Biden has an appointment in Rafah. Death is already waiting there, in the infernal groves, the hidden tunnels, the booby-trapped homes and schools, and the death cult that is Hamas. The road was laid by decades of self-delusion and bad policymaking, Democratic and Republican, American and European. Like Solomon dooming his scribes, American presidents first condemned the little people, Israeli and Arab, to the fatal fiction of a “two-state solution” and now to the fatal reality of its collapse.

The administration tried to placate Death in the talks that broke down in early May. It seems that CIA chief William Burns assured Hamas, via Qatari and Egyptian interlocutors, that the ceasefire would become permanent. This would have meant Hamas remaining armed and in power in Gaza. That would amount to victory for Hamas and Hamas’s inevitable rise to power in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the suburbs of Jerusalem.

The administration failed to tell the Israeli government before it trumpeted its “peace deal” in the media. When the Israelis refused to be bullied into surrender, the administration, like Solomon, blamed them for its own mistake. Delaying the delivery of smart bombs to Israel is like hobbling the horse that carries the servant. It extends the journey without changing the destination. It also means that the Israelis will use dumb bombs and kill more civilians than they otherwise would. They know they must defeat Hamas. The Palestinian Arabs’ century-long war against the Jews is nearing its Samarra. There can only be one winner.

Hamas is one of Iran’s proxies. Iran’s biggest backers are China and then Russia. A victory for Islamism would be a victory for Iran’s terrorist empire and a strategic surrender to America’s rivals. That will be disastrous for American allies across the region — apart from Iran, which the Democrats have convinced themselves is America’s best friend. The United States’s position in Western Asia would collapse, and its credibility would decline globally. The idea of ​​the West as a coherent military-political force would be dead.

America’s road to Samarra is paved with “path dependency,” the institutional sleepwalk to disaster. The Biden administration says it wants Israel to win, but it does not want Hamas to lose. For the Democrats and the State Department, a Palestinian state is an article of faith: an ideal immune to the vulgar corrections of reality. They see that Hamas is the only force capable of holding this fictional Palestine together. They know, but will not admit, that the “Palestinian national movement” is a racist farce, a kleptocratic clan carve-up that agrees about nothing beyond killing Jews. They would rather preserve their delusions and indulge America’s enemies than admit their mistakes and admit that a Palestinian state is not in the American interest.


The administration tells us not to confuse the Palestinians with Hamas, then conspires to impose Hamas on the Palestinians. It pours money into Iran and strives to preserve Hamas, but it blocks munitions transfers to Israel and tries to subvert Israel’s elected government. The president tells us that American support for Israel is “ironclad” while his bungling minions conspire against an American ally with America’s enemies. The president condemns the Jew hate that is now the Ivy League’s most notable product, then slurs out of the other side of his mouth about “Islamophobia, or discrimination against Arab Americans or Palestinian Americans” — as if these phenomena are commensurate, or equally relevant to the disgraceful scenes on blue-state elite campuses.

These cowardly deceptions cannot delay the appointment in Samarra. All of them have the reckoning in Rafah. The march of folly has led us to where we are, and there is nowhere left to go. Perhaps Solomon was wise after all: “The feet of a person are responsible for him. To the place where he is in demand, there they lead him.”