ESTABLISHING A FIRM DIVIDE
by Boris Shusteff
The Arab-Israeli conflict is so replete with lies, fictions, myths and half-truths that one might write a book just enumerating them. The hard facts that used to be common knowledge at the beginning of the twentieth century are today completely distorted and obfuscated. One of these myths pertains to the "struggle" of the "Palestinian people" for self-determination. The common misconception in this case is that Israel "owes" the Palestinian Arabs a state. Therefore the terrorist activity of the Arabs is to a certain extent excusable, since they are "fighting for their rights." However, nothing can be more remote from the truth. In reality, any land to which the Palestinian Arabs can claim any rights is already held by other Arabs. And the "struggle for self-determination against Israel" is simply a way for the Arabs to murder and maim more Jews.
The point of this discussion is not to prove or to disprove the existence of the so-called "Palestinian people." For our purposes it is sufficient to know that Palestinian identity did not exist before World War I, as convincingly demonstrated Professor of history Rashid Khalidi, himself a Palestinian Arab. He admits that "Palestinian identity" was the last garb that the Arabs of Palestine tried on when all other possibilities where exhausted. It was shared "by a relatively restricted stratum, and among them as well as among the rural and illiterate majority of the population, the new sense of Palestinian identity competed and overlapped with Ottomanism and Arabism, as well as older religious, local and family loyalties" (1).
The term "Palestinian entity" was introduced by the Arabs for the first time at the Arab League meetings in 1959. However, it was not recognized by the world and was not even mentioned in UN Resolution 242 after the Six-Day War. Moreover, the confusions associated with it became obvious during the voting for UN General Assembly resolution of November 5, 1970. "Among the aspects of this resolution, which split the United Nations and indeed the Arab world itself and marshaled the support of only 57 out of 127 UN members, was the reference to 'the Palestinians' as 'an indispensable element' of a Middle East Settlement" (2).
All this points to the fact that at the time of the distribution of formerly-Turkish territories, which encompassed the whole area of the Near and Middle East there was no distinctive "Palestinian people."
Julius Stone wrote in 1970 a must-read paper entitled "Self-determination and the Palestinian Arabs." His arguments are so clear and convincing that it is most effective simply to quote him in abundance. He explains that "it twists and parodies both history and justice to present the Palestine issue as a struggle between the Jews of the world on the one hand, and the Arabs of Palestine on the other, in which the Jews seized the major share" (2).
The struggle was rather between the Arabs of the Middle East region (including some hundred thousand living in Palestine) and the Jews of the world, in which the Arabs took the lion's share from which in due
course a dozen and more Arab states emerged. Neither at the time of distribution, nor for decades later, moreover, was there any identifiable Palestinian Arab people, much less any center of Arab cultural or political life in Palestine" (2).
Reverend James Parkes reminded in his book "Whose Land?" that during the time of the Islamic conquest Palestine was never exclusively Arab or Muslim. Its Christian and especially Jewish elements of population were always present. The Jews never completely left it, even at the height of persecution and destruction. Parkes writes that,
"Jewish settlement had always been accepted by Moslem rulers until the end of the nineteenth century; and the Jewish population of the country had always been as large as its political and economic conditions made possible."
Therefore, at the end of the World War I, "when conditions made it possible," Jewish nationalism, or Zionism, proudly raised its head. This occurred at the time when a distinct "Palestinian people" did not exist. As Stone puts it,
"It is clear that Jewish nationalism and Arab nationalism, each embracing its own cluster of scattered populations, each sharing specific cultural, religious, traditional, and historical experiences deeply rooted in the Middle East region, came simultaneously as claimants, the former to the part, the latter to the whole, of the territories liberated by World War I from the Turkish sway" (2).
Stone clarifies further that "in historical fact the Arab claimants after World War I embraced Arabs of the WHOLE ARERA of whom... the Arabs in Palestine were merely a peripheral and in no way a 'distinctive' segment, whose interests as such were taken into account" (2). This statement completely coincides with Khalidi's comment that "Arab nationalism appeared to be the obvious successor to Ottomanism as the hegemonic ideology throughout the former Arab provinces of the now-defunct Ottoman Empire" (1).
Even if we assume, as Stone writes, that a specific "Palestinian" consciousness associated with the idea of establishing a "Palestinian entity" has recently arisen, "this factor could not now be a decisive one for judging the rights and wrongs of events which took place half a century or even a generation before, in 1917 or 1922, or 1948" (2).
Actually the Arab falsifiers of history have been trying to eliminate the element of chronology from it. If we compare the situation to a sport, it is as if in the middle of the game one team puts an extra player on the field. However, whereas in hockey, for example, this leads to a penalty for the offending team and a power play for the opposing team, in our case the Arabs instead of receiving punishment demand a reward for the "extra player."
"A nationalism hypothetically just emergent cannot be treated as if it had emerged decades before, for the purpose of facilely overriding entitlements then fixed and acted upon. To ignore chronology in such a way would be an arbitrary reconstruction of events and rights of peoples..." (2).
Stone emphasizes several times that the Arabs and the Jews came forward with their claims to the land simultaneously. Therefore it is absolutely wrong to say that the Jews "invaded" a previously Arab estate.
During the time of land distribution, on January 3, 1919, Feisal, Emir of Mecca, one of the most prominent and influential Arab leaders, signed an agreement with Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the leader of the Zionist movement. The agreement specified conditions for the establishment of the Arab and the Jewish states. Although ten years later, when he became King of Iraq, Feisal was "unable to recall" the conditions stipulated in the agreement, the fact relevant to this discussion did not change. In all the articles of the agreement the future Jewish state was called "Palestine." Thus Article 2 of the Agreement stated,
"Immediately following the completion of the deliberations of the [San Remo] Peace Conference, the definite boundaries between the Arab State and Palestine shall be determined by a Commission to be agreed upon by parties hereto."
This fact is extremely important. It proves without the shadow of doubt that at the time of the Peace Conference, when the Jewish and the Arab sides came forward with their claims, the Arab claimants identified the Jewish side with Palestine. Thus confirming again that a separate "Palestinian people" did not exist at the time.
The emergence of Palestinian nationalism - a new Arab claimant - many years after the fact of the original land distribution, does not give it any right whatsoever to demand its "share" from Israel. The part of land that the Palestinian Arabs might lay their claim to has been, for more than 80 years, firmly in Arab possession. The Arab share of the land that was distributed at San Remo is a hundred times bigger than the sliver of Jewish land. The lands of Judea, Samaria and Gaza were from the very beginning incorporated into the Jewish share of the land and were never destined to become part of an Arab state.
By ignoring this truth the Arabs mix up two issues that must be clearly and thoroughly divided. Only by establishing a firm divide will it be possible to find a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The issue of Palestinian Arab self-determination has nothing to do with the Arab murderous policy towards the Jews. When the Arab terrorists brutally murder the Israeli Jews they commit acts of despicable barbarism, nothing else. Arab terror must be viewed completely outside of the context of the struggle of the Palestinian Arabs for self-determination. It then becomes obvious that terror against Israel is unleashed simply for the sake of murdering Jews and destroying a sovereign state.
Thus, Israel and the world community are obliged to declare War on terror against Israel just as they have declared it on terror against America. The PLO, Fatah, Tanzim, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and their infrastructure must be completely destroyed. Terror should be unequivocally condemned and ruthlessly rooted out. The Palestinian Arabs, manipulated and deceived by their leaders for several decades, must learn the unfortunate truth: they cannot legitimately lay claim to a single inch of Judea, Samaria or Gaza, nor any of Israel proper, since these territories, according to international law, were already allocated to the Jews in 1920. They have as much right to this land as they do to America, Russia, Spain or Germany. If we are to forget that the Palestinian Arabs already exercised their right to self-determination on the territory of Jordan, we might speak of the need to give the Palestinian Arabs one more chance. However, it should be an internal issue for Arabs, and the Jews and Israel should have nothing to do with it.
1. Rashid Khalidi. Palestinian Identity. Columbia University Press, 1998.
2. Julius Stone. Self-Determination and the Palestinian Arabs. From the book "Israel, the Arabs and the Middle East," Bantam Books, 1972.
Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.