Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Contrary to modern opinion, Israel did not invade Palestine to take back their homeland! In fact, they did not take the land from anyone. There has always been a significant Jewish presence in Palestine but the Jews who immigrated to Palestine in the first “Aliyah” (1882-1903) and second Aliyah (1904-1914) were simply fleeing persecution and looking for a safe place to live. There are unbiased traveler accounts from the 1800’s showing that Palestine at that time was very sparsely populated.  
Although there may be exceptions, generally speaking, the Jews who immigrated purchased land, often at ridiculously high prices, from absentee landlords, many of whom lived in other countries!

The Muslim population only blossomed after Jews began returning to and cultivating the land. By the First World War there were probably 80,000 to 90,000 Jews living in Palestine so even before the famous “Balfour Declaration” of 1917 there was a Jewish homeland of sorts in Palestine.

In World War I, Palestine was controlled by the Ottoman Empire which allied itself with Germany. Germany and the Ottoman’s lost, of course. President Woodrow Wilson said that nations formerly controlled by the Ottoman Empire should be given the right of self-determination.

But what about Palestine? The options were to 1) Give all the land to Arabs—even the parts with majority Jewish population.  2) Give all the land to Jews—even the parts with majority Arab population. 3) Let Syria rule over Palestine. 4) Let Arabs run Arab majority lands and let Jews run Jewish majority lands. The Allies, especially the British and Americans, decided on the fourth option. Palestinians opposed this because they didn’t want any recognition of a Jewish homeland for the Jews already living in Palestine. In fact, they didn’t want Jews in Palestine at all.

Although international law then recognized the right of the Jewish community to live in Palestine, the Arabs got 80% of the land. Jews who already lived in this 80% were violently forced to leave. No Jews allowed! But 80% was not enough for the Arabs. More and more Arab leaders began pushing for the elimination of all Jewish presence in Palestine.

After the Balfour Declaration in 1917, violence broke out against Jews even in the Jewish regions of Palestine. Jewish men were attacked, Jewish women were raped and synagogues were destroyed. The British tried to control the violence by appointing Haj Amin al-Husseini as the leader or “Grand Mufti” of Muslims in Palestine. Unfortunately, this turned out badly. Amin al-Husseini instigated anti-Jewish riots in Palestine, allied himself with Adolf Hitler, and strongly supported Hitler’s efforts to exterminate Jews!

The eventual clash between Jewish David Ben-Gurion and Amin al-Husseini was not about whether Jews should control Palestine. It was about whether Wilson’s solution of allowing both Jews and Muslims in Palestine to have self-rule (Ben-Gurion) or whether all Jews should be ruled or eliminated by Muslims (al-Husseini).  (Summarized from The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz, Hoboken, NJ : John Wiley and Sons, 2003. 13-62).

Fast forward a few decades. Unprovoked Muslim suicide bombers kept blowing up Jewish restaurants, stores and busses killing innocent Jewish civilians. As a way to stop the violence, Jews built a fence. This has caused significant inconvenience for Muslims, but it significantly curtailed the slaughter of Jews (my guess is that if your friends, family and neighbors were being slaughtered by indiscriminate terrorist attacks, you’d support a fence too). Later, the Jewish government forcibly removed its Jewish citizens from their own homes in Gaza to turn the area over to Muslim self-rule. 

This was the perfect opportunity for Muslims to show they could live in peace with Israel. It was the perfect opportunity to prove that a two-state solution would work! Unfortunately, the Muslims elected a terrorist government which for years fired literally thousands of rockets over the border at Southern Israel—all while the world and media simply ignores it!

So how can Jews today support a two state solution when it failed in Gaza and when the Muslims refuse to acknowledge the legitimate right of Israel to exist? If the Gaza experiment had worked, there would be reason to try it in the West Bank as well. It did not work. It still has not worked. And judging from the fact that schools in Gaza teach children to hate Jews from a very early age, it may never work.

I am not saying that Jews are perfect—far from it. I’m not denying that bad things and even atrocities have been committed by both sides. But overall, Muslims are the aggressors and oppressors in this conflict. As someone once said hyperbolically, if Israel’s enemies would lay down their arms today, there would be peace in the Middle East tomorrow. If Israel laid down its arms today, there would be no Israel tomorrow.

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