As a fourth rocket threatens the new truce between Israel and Hamas, Scott Dunmore's delving into the problems is timely. Scott's last piece for Webdiary was "Trying to understand."
A Dog's Breakfast
-by Scott Dunmore
I’ve covered a lot of ground since first starting to redress my lack of knowledge on the circumstances that have lead to the current situation in Israel/Palestine. Wandered many a time to some strange places, as one does and became acquainted with events of which I could have happily remained ignorant. Such is the strangeness of this new reality I thought it might serve some purpose to communicate it.
From the outset UN Resolution 181 was, unless carefully managed and controlled by force of arms, ever going to lead the bloodbath that eventuated.
The British, from bitter experience of their mandate, knew it to be unworkable and abstained from voting for it. Rather like the self destructing record of the old TV series “Mission Impossible”, it was dead the moment it came into force.
Apologists for the Israelis cite the fact that while the Jews accepted the resolution, the Arabs rejected it but this is hardly surprising. The Jews had nothing to lose, the Arabs a considerable amount.
Arab rejection was...based on the fact that, while the population of the Jewish state was to be [only half] Jewish with the Jews owning less than 10% of the Jewish state land area, the Jews were to be established as the ruling body - a settlement which no self-respecting people would accept without protest, to say the least...The action of the United Nations conflicted with the basic principles for which the world organization was established, namely, to uphold the right of all peoples to self-determination. By denying the Palestine Arabs, who formed the two-thirds majority of the country, the right to decide for themselves, the United Nations had violated its own charter. -Samipeople Hadawi, "Bitter Harvest."
Further, that the Jews accepted the resolution in good faith is called into serious question.
"While the Yishuv's leadership formally accepted the 1947 Partition Resolution, large sections of Israel's society - including...Ben-Gurion - were opposed to or extremely unhappy with partition and from early on viewed the war as an ideal opportunity to expand the new state's borders beyond the UN earmarked partition boundaries and at the expense of the Palestinians." -Israeli historian, Benny Morris, in "Tikkun", March/April 1998.
"In internal discussion in 1938 [David Ben-Gurion] stated that 'after we become a strong force, as a result of the creation of a state, we shall abolish partition and expand into the whole of Palestine'...In 1948, Menachem Begin declared that: 'The partition of the Homeland is illegal. It will never be recognized. The signature of institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel (the land of Israel) will be restored to the people of Israel, All of it. And forever." -Noam Chomsky, "The Fateful Triangle."
Other statements by senior members of the Israeli administration include “Why should we feel obliged to observe the terms of the resolution when the Arabs don’t?" and the pithy “The Palestinians already have a country, it’s called Jordan.” (Trust me on this, at least as far as I trust my memory.)
To this end the Jews were totally ruthless, even going to the extent of assassinating the UN envoy Count Folke Bernadotte. While several were arrested after the crime none were brought to trial.
Part of another story:
“Count Bernadotte endeavoured to save Jews to the best of his ability, but in the end he was assassinated by Jews in the land of Israel. When you think about Bernadotte's projects involving finding refuge for the Jews of Denmark, sending 70,000 food packages to Jews in the camps and arranging convoys of white buses that took people out of the camps to Sweden; when you think about his efforts to mediate between the Israelis and the Palestinians and about how he succeeded in achieving a truce for one month in the War of Independence and suggested plans for peace that both sides rejected; and when you think about how he was assassinated, together with his French aide as a result of his aim to bring about peace in the land of Israel - it is impossible not to be disgusted and not to see how little has changed since then. Bernadotte, a man who was among the most worthy of the title "Righteous Gentile," was murdered - just like former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin - by the concept that peace is unthinkable...”
This leads me to the conclusion that for the Israeli body politic, peace will only be agreed when they have extended the border of Israel to the bank of the Jordan and in my estimation, the opposite bank. More disturbingly, John McCain, potentially the next president of the USA has endorsed the idea.
What then of the Palestinians?
This serves the purpose as well as anything else. Stripped of its’ Scottish nationalism and contemptuous dismissal of the Palestinians we are left with a salient point.
If even the most devoted supporters of Palestinian nationalism were asked to identify a famous representative of that nationality who had gained notoriety prior, say, to 1950, who could they name?
If a people who claim that their origins stretch back into “the mists of time” can’t identify a single famous figure as one of their own – no, not one -- what does it say about the authenticity of their historic nationality?
The absence of any notable figures in the arts and sciences, religion or politics, who were known to history as “Palestinian” isn’t just a reflection of the fact that the Arab villages like Al Quds (Jerusalem), Hebron and Yaffo represented under-populated, destitute backwaters in the larger (and culturally dynamic) Arab world. It’s also an indication that the people who grew up in those dusty settlements in the ancient Holy Land of the Bible never identified themselves as “Palestinian.” They were content to see themselves as Arabs, part of larger Islamic empires like those of the Caliphate, the Mamluks, and the Ottoman Sultanate. The ethnic identity “Palestinian” didn’t exist – and the term “Southern Syrians” continued to characterize the inhabitants of the Holy Land up through the early twentieth century.
In terms of identifying famous (or notorious) Palestinians through the long march of recorded time, the one name that inevitably emerges is the late Yasser Arafat—despite the fact that he was born and raised in Egypt and educated in Kuwait, and his “Palestinian roots” have always looked questionable. Serious challenges as to his origins also surround the late Edward Said, an Arab-American scholar who spent nearly all his life in New York City but chose to identify as a Palestinian.
But both of these famous figures achieved their notoriety, and sought to label themselves as “Palestinian” after the deliberate creation of the synthetic Palestinian identity, confirmed with the official launch of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1965. Prior to that time, the leaders of the populous, local Arab communities in Gaza and the West Bank (which had been annexed by Egypt and Jordan, respectively, in 1949) made few demands of their Arab overlords for a separate state to express their distinctive national aspirations. The insistence on an independent Palestinian Arab state (offered explicitly as part of the UN Partition in 1947, but peremptorily turned down by all Arab leaders) only became a fixation on the world scene after Israel’s victory in 1967 gave the Jewish State control of the Arab communities in the West Bank and Gaza.
During the first Arab-Israeli war, even as hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees fled from their homes to escape the raging conflict, these “Palestinians” hardly viewed an independent state and an expression of local nationalism as a necessary element in solving their problems. In the summer of 1948, after Israel’s declaration of Independence, the UN dispatched the Swedish nobleman Count Folke Bernadotte to the region to try to negotiate a truce. During his visit, he wrote in his diary: “The Palestinian Arabs had at the present no will of their own. Neither have they ever developed any specifically Palestinian nationalism. The demand for a separate Arab state in Palestine is consequently relatively weak. It would seem as though in existing circumstances most of the Palestinian Arabs would be quite content to be incorporated in Transjordan.”
In dismissing the Palestinians claim to a homeland the author fails to recognise that they had been in Palestine a lot longer than the mentioned Robbie Burns’ people, one of the many Viking tribes that settled in the Lowlands a few hundred years after the Palestinians filled the vacuum of the Diaspora.
This doesn’t leave out the question of whether a Palestinian state is either viable or desirable but regardless, the rights of the Palestinians in a land they have occupied for a period longer than the Jews before them, (allowing for the fact that there was a continuous Jewish presence in the area,) should be protected from further erosion.
In conclusion, it seems sensible to me to return to the situation that existed before the ’67 war with Egypt incorporating Gaza and similarly, Jordan the West Bank. At least that way the Israelis could not continue surreptitiously, to expand their border displacing more people and straining the pitifully low refugee resources.
This of course, would meet with stiff opposition, not only from the Israelis but both Hamas and the PLO; nobody relinquishes power easily.
All this will seem small beer in the face of the real “Holocaust” that is already unfolding and the ability of our civilisation to cope with it is dependent on a spirit of cooperation that transcends racialism and nationalism. I know where I’d put my money but wouldn’t be able to spend my winnings.
With any luck I will have offended nobody or everybody; that way I know I’ve done my job.
None of the above is a tenet of faith, merely my musings and if other evidence is tendered that can convince me otherwise, I’ll accept it.
I have quoted from three reference sources for no other reason than they suited my purpose; I have spent no little time putting this together and all the material presented is backed up by other sources.