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The Repeal of Israel
Will Howard is a climate scientist and long-time webdiarist commenter, though this is his first published full post. He says of this piece: "Some of it is material I have posted previously, but I wanted to bring it all together in what I hope is a more coherent piece."
by Will Howard
"The past isn't dead; it isn't even past." - William Faulkner.
On few other issues is the battle over history so intense as on the Israel-Palestine conflict. On few other issues has history been so turned from an academic discipline to a weapon of war. This is a war by "other means," one fought not with guns but with apparently scholarly essays in respectable journals and magazines. This is a war in which even "pacifists" too squeamish to actually act out their animus, can participate and persuade themselves they've kept their hands clean. In which history is no longer about "what happened and how can we understand it?" but about "how can use use this to advance our political agenda?" In few other conflicts has history been used as such an effective, if sometimes fraudulent, tool of conflict. In few other conflicts has so much effort been put into laying the intellectual groundwork for the delegitimisation of a single state. You-know-who.
One tactic is to muse about how much nicer the world would be if the illegitimate state of Israel had never existed.
Commentator Josef Joffe has written on this issue far more articulately than I am able to. The topic of "A World Without Israel" (the title of Joffe's essay in Foreign Policy Magazine) was taken up by Foreign Policy in their March/April 2005 issue, with the cover story Debating a World Without Israel. (You may need a password to view this but registration is free). There Joffe's viewpoint is debated by authors such as Ilan Pappe, Anatol Lieven, and Fouad Ajami.
Let’s go with this premise for a bit: Israel should never have existed. How would we shove the historical toothpaste back in the tube?
First, we will need to repeal UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which provided for the partition of British Mandatory Palestine into an Arab (what we now call Palestinian) and a Jewish state. No Arab state, nor the Palestinian Arabs themselves, accepted this partition, vowed to drive the Jews into the sea (their words – “Jews,” not “Zionists”) and destroy them. Not exile them back to Europe. Kill them. All of them.
The smoke clears in late 1948/early 1949 and pre-1967 Israel is in place. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees are outside Israel, and hundreds of thousands of Jews have been expelled from their homes in Arab countries. Oh by the way – want to talk about Palestinians "right of return?" OK, then we’ll have to talk about Jews’ right of return to homes they were expelled from, businesses expropriated from them, in Amman, Cairo, Damascus, etc. So if you really want to see a world without Israel, you will need a proposal for what to do with all the Jews there now? Send them back to Yemen, Iraq, Poland, Hungary…? A big ask, but not impossible.
There are a few other loose ends as well. The matters of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and their supercedents through UNSCR 1515, all of which affirm and reaffirm Israel’s, as well as Palestine's, rights to exist within secure borders. (The web site Ariga has the texts of these UN resolutions and many other documents related to Israel- Palestine, such as the Balfour Declaration).
Then we’ll need to decide what to do with Palestine. Shall we restore the British Mandate? Or do you prefer the Ottoman Empire? Maybe Turkey would be happy to resume control over most of the Mideast. It’s a question of how far back you'd want to go. There would be no independent Palestinian state, though, be aware of that. It’s interesting to note the plain fact that in 19 years of occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, neither Egypt nor Jordan offered the Palestinians their own state in accordance with UNGAR 181. All Arab states also refused to honor the UN resolutions calling for Jerusalem to be an "open city" with access for Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike to their holy places. Indeed, the Arabs went on a spree of desecration in the Jewish Quarter they had emptied of Jews. They turned the base of the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, into a latrine, and destroyed synagogues and Jewish grave sites.
OK, now we’ve removed Israel, and the Mideast can go back to its Pre- Zionist peaceful idyll. Let’s explore that Edenic state, in a nice “It’s a Wonderful Life” what-if scenario.
The current genocide in Sudan, mainly of Darfur Muslims, is not occurring. This atrocity is because of Israel, right? (It is interesting to note that the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference have been largely silent on the genocide of their fellow Muslims in Sudan. Hundreds of thousands have already died, and now hundreds of thousands of thousands, if not millions, face death in Darfur and neighboring Chad as the rainy season approaches, and aid agencies pull their people out of the region because of the spreading violence. Again, we are talking about more Muslims dying than have been killed in all the fighting of all the wars and skirmishes of the Israeli-Arab conflict.)
Massacres of hundreds of Algerian villagers at a time in Algeria? The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait? Syrian President Assad’s 1982 destruction of (at least) 20,000 people in the town of Hama because of their political opposition to his regime (all done with Russian weapons)? The attacks by Eqypt on Yemen with chemical weapons in the early ‘60s (mainly Russian weapons). The war between Iraq and Iran and all the lives it consumed (mainly Russian, French, German, and Chinese weapons if memory serves)? I'm sure the Iranian children sent to clear minefields are resting peacefully knowing they died or lost limbs striking a blow against the "Zionist Entity." (I include the sources of the weaponry for those who hold the US and Israel responsible for all the armed conflict in the Middle East).
The stifling of intellectual, political, and economic development in the Arab world, even with all those billions of dollars of oil money? “Sorry, people (especially you women!), we’d love to advance your freedoms, educational opportunities, and economic possibilities, but we can’t, you see, because of Israel. Well, our Royal Families’ kids can all go to Harvard and Princeton and ski at Vail and Davos and be corrupted by that evil Western decadence, but you can’t.” And it's Israel's fault, of course.
I could go on. There are a lot of problems in the Mideast and one of them is related to Israel.
I don’t seek to justify Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and I am very publicly and passionately committed to seeing the Palestinians have their well-deserved state implemented as soon as possible, for the sake of Jews, Muslims and Christians alike in Israel-Palestine. Organisations such as Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, Tikkun, and Peace Now committed to ending the occupation and fostering a peaceful solution. These three examples are Jewish initiatives, and they have their counterparts among Christian, Muslim, and non-religious groups. You really want to do something for the Palestinians? Support these organisations or others like them.
It’s a disservice to the Palestinians to make every problem in the world related to their just cause and legitimate gripe. Both Israel and its antagonists bear some of the blame for the continuing strife, and most of the responsibility for the solution.
But just as the road to Jerusalem does not go through Baghdad, neither do the roads to Riyadh, Damascus, and Khartoum go through Jerusalem. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a problem that deserves to be solved on its own, for the sake of Israelis and Palestinians. Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Lebanon, all represent problems that deserve to be solved for their own peoples’ sakes as well, not held hostage to the Israeli-Palestinian entanglement.