In addition to this essay, as to commentary and clarifying comments in brackets [ ] only: © Mark Rosenblit
Although constituting the absolute Truth, the below essay is so politically incorrect that, to most people (including most Jews), it is very much akin to insisting that the Earth is flat. Nonetheless, one cannot truly comprehend the dimensions of the multi-generational, multifaceted (e.g., military, terror, proxy, propaganda, economic, diplomatic, and judicial) War against the Jewish State unless one first understands that the concept of a "Palestinian” people is a propaganda invention that was designed by the Arab World to be the spearhead of that War. -- Mark Rosenblit
"Palestinian" Identity Is An Elaborate Ruse
"They [the Children of Israel] provoked Me with a non-god, angered Me with their vanities; so shall I provoke them with a non-people, with a vile nation shall I anger them." (Deuteronomy 32:21)
A prime example of Falsehood masquerading as Truth can be found in the modern assertion by the "Palestinian” Arabs and numerous revisionist historians that, even before the dawn of Christianity, an ancient nation-state or kingdom known as "Palestine", inhabited by a people known as "Palestinians", was in existence, and that such polity continued to exist, even under the yoke of successive conquering empires, until the creation of modern Israel brutally usurped it in 1948 -- the implication being that Today's "Palestinian" Arabs are the descendants of those alleged ancient "Palestinians".
Prior to the dawn of the Christian era, as a result of the successful Jewish revolt against the Hellenic-Syrian Seleucid Empire in the second century BCE (Before the Common Era) -- commemorated as the Jewish holiday of Chanukah (also spelled Hanukkah) -- the geographic area identified by these revisionist historians as "Palestine" instead hosted the independent kingdom known as Judea, successor entity to the northern biblical kingdom of Israel and to the southern biblical kingdom of Judah; and it was inhabited, not by Arabs, but by Jews. Several hundred years later, in 135 CE (Common Era), after having long-become a captive province of the Roman Empire, the Jewish people’s third and final revolt against Rome was crushed by Emperor Hadrian; but Rome's army also suffered devastating losses, including the complete annihilation of its illustrious XXII Legion. In furtherance of Rome's costly victory, the Roman Emperor Hadrian renamed the province of Judea to be “Palestine” in honor of the Philistines (an Aegean people who had migrated to the Land of Israel in Antiquity and had subsequently become a fierce enemy of the Jewish people, but who had disappeared from History due to their extirpation by the Babylonian Empire more than 700 years prior to the renaming of the Land), as part of an unabashed effort to humiliate the defeated Jewish people and to delegitimize any further national Jewish claims to the Land.
However, although the
province had been converted from Judea (the Latin-language word for which
was Iudaea, meaning Land of the Jews)
to Palestine (the Latin-language word for which was Palaestina,
meaning Land of the Philistines), and although a vengeful Rome massacred
and expelled much of the Land's Jewish inhabitants, the Land nonetheless continued
to be populated by Jews, together with substantial populations of other ethnic
groups, but hardly any Arabs, at least until the colonialist Islamic Arab
invasion of 638 CE. However, even under
the rule of the Arab and all subsequently superseding empires, the Jewish
people nevertheless maintained a continuous national presence in the
non-sovereign territory of "
In contrast, the ersatz people identified nowadays as the "Palestinians" are a collection of diverse Arab clans plus a smattering of other ethnic groups (such as Serbs -- these are the so-called Bosnian Muslims who were Serbian Orthodox Christians before their forced conversion to Islam -- as well as Circassians and Chechens, all imported by the Ottoman Empire from their lands of origin to the Middle East, including the Land of Israel, several centuries ago), who, for reasons virtually identical to those of the Roman Empire, have, since Israel's Six Day War of 1967, publicly declared themselves to be a distinct ethnic nation named after those very same defunct Philistines -- this despite the fact that the ancient Philistines were not even Arabs.
Moreover, in light of “Palestinian” claims to aboriginal status, it is both ironic and noteworthy that the English-language cognate words “Palestine” and “Philistine”, as well as the Arabic-language word “Falastin”, are all derived (via Latin and, before that, Greek) from the biblical Hebrew-language word “Pelishtim” (“Philistines”), whose literal meaning is: “Invaders”. It is indeed telling that the “Palestinians” have created for themselves a faux ethnic identity whose very name originates, not from their own Arabic language, but rather from the Hebrew language.
That the "Palestinian" Arabs constitute a fictitious people is hardly surprising due to the fact that, by 1948, a substantial portion of the "Palestinian" Arab population resident in British-administered Mandatory Palestine originated, not from that territory, but rather from the surrounding Arab lands which now comprise the modern states of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. The mass immigration of impoverished Arabs to the Land of Israel during the Mandatory period was triggered mainly by the many economic opportunities created by the mass Jewish immigration to the Land authorized by the League of Nations in 1920 via the latter’s creation of the Mandate for Palestine.
In recognition of the recency of Arab immigration to the Land of Israel, UNRWA has defined “Palestinian” refugees as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict” (per the website of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, in the section entitled “Palestine Refugees”, under the heading entitled “Who Are Palestine Refugees”), meaning that any Egyptian, Transjordanian, Syrian, Lebanese or other foreign Arab national who immigrated to Mandatory Palestine during the twilight of its existence and thereafter departed as a result of the pan-Arab invasion of the renascent State of Israel automatically became a displaced “Palestinian”.
In this context, it is noteworthy that none of the foundational international instruments which deal with the Middle East conflict ever referred to the Arab inhabitants of Mandatory Palestine as the "Palestinian" people. For, prior to Israel's resurrection as a Jewish nation-state in 1948, only the Jewish inhabitants of Mandatory Palestine (although sometimes referred to as “Palestinian Jews” by the British and other third parties) actually identified themselves as “Palestinians”, while the Arab inhabitants thereof (although sometimes referred to as “Palestinian Arabs” by the British and other third parties) instead insisted on identifying themselves as “southern Syrians”.
The local Arab identification as “southern Syrian” was succinctly summarized by Auni Bey Abd al-Hadi, Secretary-General of the Arab Higher Committee of Mandatory Palestine, in his testimony to the Palestine Royal Commission of 1936 (commonly known as the “Peel Commission”), created by Great Britain in response to the “Great Arab Revolt” in Mandatory Palestine (1936 - 1939):
“There is no such country [as Palestine]! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was, for centuries, part of Syria.”
In deference to this longstanding non-assertion of “Palestinian” ethnic identity, the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine of 1922 referred to the local Arab population as “existing non-Jewish communities”, and the United Nations Palestine Partition Plan of 1947 referred throughout only to the creation of an Arab (rather than an ethnic “Palestinian”) State and to the prospective citizenry thereof as Arabs (rather than as ethnic “Palestinians”), while United Nations Security Council Resolution no. 242 of 1967 referred to them only as “the refugee problem”. In fact, in the Palestine Partition Plan’s only reference to a “Palestinian” people, the Plan refers to “the two Palestinian peoples” then inhabiting Mandatory Palestine (see U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181(II), Part III, Section C, Paragraph 1(b)), meaning ethnic Jews and ethnic Arabs. Stated another way, the very language of these international instruments confirms that the vaunted concept of a “Palestinian” ethnic identity is, in fact, a propaganda device of more recent invention popularized (together with the nouveau appellation “West Bank” -- a de-Judaizing substitution for the historical names Judea and Samaria plus the eastern portion of Jerusalem) in the aftermath of the Six Day War of 1967.
Moreover, during the 19 years (from 1948 to 1967) that Judea, Samaria, and the eastern portion of Jerusalem, and Gaza were illegally occupied, respectively, by Jordan and Egypt, neither the “Palestinian” Arab inhabitants of those areas nor the larger Arab and Muslim worlds ever asserted the existence therein of either an ethnically distinct "Palestinian" people or a historical nation-state (or kingdom or other sovereign entity) known as “Palestine”. And, tellingly, during those same 19 years, neither the “Palestinian” Arabs nor any nation of the World nor the International Committee of the Red Cross nor any component of the United Nations system ever asserted that the Fourth Geneva Convention was applicable to Jordanian and Egyptian governance of occupied “Palestine”. Moreover, from the termination of Jordan’s Occupation of Judea, Samaria, and the eastern portion of Jerusalem due to the 1967 Six Day War until July 1988, Jordanian maps continued to depict those lost territories as part of Jordan (rather than as Israeli-occupied “Palestine”), while it depicted only Israel (within its 1949 armistice demarcation lines) as “Occupied Palestine”. It is consequently not surprising that during this same period, there was never any demand from any quarter for the establishment in Judea, Samaria, and the eastern portion of Jerusalem, and Gaza of a "Palestinian" state. In fact, the Arabs of Judea, Samaria, and the eastern portion of Jerusalem, after having emphatically insisted that they were “southern Syrians” prior to Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, supinely accepted that they were “Jordanians” from 1948 to 1967 -- only to assert their identity as “Palestinians” after the Jewish people’s reacquisition of these territories in the Six Day War. Moreover, per Article 24 of the original National Covenant of the Palestine Liberation Organization enacted May 28, 1964, the leadership of the "Palestinian" people even went so far as to publicly disavow any claim of sovereignty to these very areas during those 19 years of illegal occupation by Jordan and Egypt. The P.L.O.’s original Covenant operatively declared, in salient part, as follows:
. . .
Article 3. The Palestine Arab people has the legitimate right to its homeland and is an inseparable part of the Arab nation. It shares the suffering and aspiration of the Arab nation and its struggle for freedom, sovereignty, progress and unity.
4. The people of
. . .
Article 11. The Palestinian people firmly believes in Arab unity, and in order to play its role in realizing this goal, it must, at this stage of its struggle, preserve its Palestinian personality and all its constituents. It must strengthen the consciousness of its existence and stand against any attempt or plan that may weaken or disintegrate its personality.
Article 12. Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine are two complementary goals; each prepares for the attainment of the other. Arab unity leads to the liberation of Palestine, and the liberation of Palestine leads to Arab unity. Working for both must go side by side.
Article 13. The destiny of the Arab nation and even the essence of Arab existence are firmly tied to the destiny of the Arab question. From this firm bond stem the effort and struggle of the Arab nation to liberate Palestine. The people of Palestine assume a vanguard role in achieving this sacred national goal.
Article 14. The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national duty. Its responsibilities fall upon the entire Arab nation, Governments and peoples, the Palestinian people being in the forefront. For this purpose, the Arab nation must mobilize its military, spiritual and material potentialities; specifically, it must give to the Palestinian Arab people all possible support and backing and place at its disposal all opportunities and means to enable it to perform its role in liberating its homeland.
. . .
Article 17. The partitioning of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of Israel are illegal and false regardless of the lapse of time, because they were contrary to the wish of the Palestine people and its natural right to its homeland, and in violation of the basic principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, foremost among which is the right to self-determination.
18. The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate system and all that has been based
upon them are considered a fraud. The claims of historic and spiritual ties between
19. Zionism is a colonialist movement in its inception, aggressive and
expansionist in its goal, racist and segregationist in its configurations and
fascist in its means and aims.
Article 20. The causes of peace and security and the needs of right and justice demand from all nations, in order to safeguard true relationships among peoples and to maintain the loyalty of citizens to their homelands, that they consider Zionism an illegal movement and outlaw its presence and activities.
22. The people of
23. In realizing the goals and principles of this Covenant the Palestine
Liberation Organization carries out its complete role to liberate
Article 24. This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in the Gaza Strip [occupied by Egypt] or in the Hammah area [occupied by Syria]. Its activities will be on the national popular level in the liberational, organizational, political and financial fields.
25. This Organization is charged with the movement of the
26. The Liberation Organization cooperates with all Arab Governments, each
according to its ability, and does not interfere in the internal affairs of any
. . .
Since the P.L.O.’s original Covenant explicitly recognized the “West Bank” (i.e., Judea, Samaria, and the eastern portion of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount) and Gaza as belonging to other Arab states (per Article 24), even declaring that the P.L.O. “does not interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab State” (Article 26), the only "Arab homeland" of "Palestine" (Article 1) which that organization sought to "liberate" in 1964 was the State of Israel within its 1949 armistice demarcation lines. However, in response to the Jewish people's reclamation in the 1967 Six Day War of those illegally-occupied areas, the Palestine Liberation Organization thereupon revised its National Covenant on July 17, 1968 to, inter alia, remove the operative language of Article 24 therefrom, thereby reversing its prior declaration that those areas did not constitute or otherwise belong to "Palestine" and thereby -- for the first time -- asserting a "Palestinian" claim of sovereignty thereto. Being indisputably based upon the changing status of Jewish territorial reclamation, the “Palestinian” renunciation of sovereignty and subsequent cancellation of that renunciation demonstrate that the “nationalism” espoused by the “Palestinians” has nothing to do with their professed desire to create a “Palestinian” state for themselves in the “West Bank” and Gaza, and everything to do with their actual desire to dismantle the existing Jewish State.
The foregoing merely reinforces the absurdity of the worldwide assertion that Israel is occupying “Palestinian” territory. For, it bears reiterating that, in 1967, Israel took Gaza from Egypt, and took Judea, Samaria and the eastern portion of Jerusalem from Jordan -- not from the “Palestinians”. Consequently, if those captured areas were to actually belong to the “Palestinians”, it would mean that Egypt and Jordan were occupying “Palestinian” territory from 1948 to 1967. Yet, prior to the Six Day War of 1967, not a single United Nations resolution ever claimed that the “West Bank” and Gaza constituted occupied territory -- let alone occupied “Palestinian” territory. Neither did a single U.N. constituent agency or affiliated organization ever made that claim. Neither did a single country ever made that claim. Neither did a single international or national media outlet ever made that claim. And, neither did a single “human rights” organization ever made that claim. Finally, as set forth above, not even the “Palestinians” themselves ever made that claim. Finally, as set forth above, not even the “Palestinians” themselves ever made that claim. However, as soon as Israel reacquired those portions of its historic homeland, all of the foregoing parties, with one notable exception, began to hypocritically and falsely assert that very claim, but only prospectively -- and only against Israel. That notable exception was the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which, from June 1967 to July 1988, continued to insist that the “West Bank” belonged, not to the “Palestinians”, but to it. However, in July 1988, Jordan announced that it was abandoning its claim to the “West Bank” in favor of the Palestine Liberation Organization (then based in Tunis, Tunisia), which soon thereafter declared itself to be the “State of Palestine” in exile.
Furthermore, as regards its dominant Arab element, and as explicitly declared in Articles 1 and 3 of the P.L.O. National Covenant of 1964, the "Palestinian" people is not ethnically distinct from the great masses of Arab clans ranging through 21 sovereign Arab nations from Mauritania in the West to Oman in the East. Moreover, never in the annals of History, did the ancestors of the people who now call themselves "Palestinians" ever rule -- or even reside in -- a nation-state or kingdom of "Palestine", as such a sovereign entity never existed.
Lastly, even the quintessential symbol of the "Palestinian" people, namely, former P.L.O. chairman and former Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat, serves to prove its nonexistence. Arafat was an Egyptian national born in Cairo in 1929 -- some four decades before any assertion of the existence of an ethnically distinct "Palestinian" people -- who continued to live in Egypt through the creation of modern Israel (i.e., he was neither a "Palestinian" nor a refugee). Moreover, the first P.L.O. chairman, Ahmed Shukeiry, was a Lebanese-born Saudi Arabian national.
In truth, the post-1967 descriptor “Palestinian” -- like the descriptors “Texan” and “Californian” -- is geographical rather than ethnic. This assertion is ironically supported by the very language of the P.L.O. National Covenant of 1964, which rarely refers to its constituency as “the Palestinians” or as “the Palestinian people” (precisely because the descriptor “Palestinian” was the detested label by which the resident Jewish population had identified itself during the Mandatory period), but instead almost always refers to its constituency as “the Palestine Arab people” (e.g., Article 3) or “the people of Palestine” (e.g., Articles 4, 13, 19 & 22) or “the Palestine people” (e.g., Articles 17, 21 & 25), thereby describing the latter’s connection to “Palestine” almost exclusively in geographical rather than ethnic terminology. The only consistent ethnic label used by the National Covenant to describe its constituency is the descriptor “Arab” (e.g., Articles 1, 3, 11, 12, 13, 14 & 25). Moreover, it is telling that when the P.L.O. National Covenant of 1964 first employs the phrase “the Palestinian people” to describe the “personality” of its constituency, it emphasizes that its use of such descriptor constitutes only a temporary tactical ploy (see Article 11). Due to the fact that the "Palestinians" are no more a distinct ethnic people than are “Texans” or “Californians”, they do not have a legal right, historical right or moral right -- in derogation of paramount Jewish rights to the Land of Israel -- to establish a sovereign State within any portion of the Land in order to express a distinct ethnic identity that does not -- and has never -- existed.
The bogus claim of “Palestinian” ethnicity is merely an elaborate (and -- thus far -- diplomatically successful) ruse to disguise the true pan-Arab and pan-Islamic goal, which is to dismember and then eradicate the Jewish nation-state of Israel.
Occasionally, even “Palestinian” leaders themselves publicly admit as much. As candidly stated by Zahir Muhsein, then head of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Military Department and a member of its Executive Committee:
“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the State of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality, Today, there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak, Today, about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct Palestinian people to oppose Zionism. For tactical reasons, Jordan -- which is a sovereign state with defined borders -- cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa. While, as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheba and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.” (Excerpt from interview given by Zahir Muhsein to Netherlands-based newspaper “Dagblad de Verdieping Trouw”, March 31, 1977).
And, as subsequently declared by Azmi Bishara, an Arab citizen of Israel and a professor of philosophy and cultural studies who later became the leader of Balad, an Arab political party that was elected to Israel’s parliament (known as the Knesset) based upon its anti-Israel platform:
“Well, I do not think there is a ‘Palestinian’ nation at all. I think there is an Arab nation. I always thought so, and I did not change my mind. I do not think there is a ‘Palestinian’ nation. I think it is a colonialist invention -- a ‘Palestinian’ nation. When were there any ‘Palestinians’? Where did it come from? I think there is an Arab nation. I never turned out to be a ‘Palestinian’ nationalist, despite my decisive struggle against the [Israeli] Occupation. I think that until the end of the 19th century, Palestine was the south of Greater Syria.” (Excerpt from televised interview given by Azmi Bishara to Yaron London of Israel-based Channel 2 TV, circa 1999)
Subsequently, the inauthenticity of “Palestinian” ethnicity was publicly reiterated -- due to economic necessity -- by Fathi Hammad, then Hamas’ Minister of the Interior and of National Security, as part of his demand that Egypt provide more diesel fuel to Hamas-ruled Gaza:
“Allah be praised, we all have Arab roots; and every Palestinian, in Gaza and throughout Palestine, can prove his Arab roots -- whether from Saudi Arabia, from Yemen, or anywhere. We have blood ties. So where is your affection and mercy? . . . Personally, half my family is Egyptian. We are all like that. More than 30 families in the Gaza Strip are called [by the last name] al-Masri [meaning: “the Egyptian”]. Brothers, half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis. Who are the Palestinians? We have many families called al-Masri, whose roots are Egyptian. Egyptian! They may be from Alexandria, from Cairo, from Dumietta, from the North, from Aswan, from Upper Egypt. We are Egyptians. We are Arabs. We are Muslims. We are a part of you.” (Excerpt from Fathi Hammad’s speech aired on Egypt-based al-Hekmah TV, March 23, 2012)
Subsequently, even Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, repudiated the notion that the “Palestinians” are a distinct ethnic people, declaring during a meeting with Jordanian prince Ali ibn al-Hussein in Amman, Jordan:
“Jordan and Palestine are one people living in two States” (as reported in the Britain-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, June 2, 2015)
Consequently, the spurious claim of a separate and distinct "Palestinian" ethnic identity -- together with its corollary claim of contemporary "Palestinian" collective ownership of the Land of Israel (especially Judea, Samaria, the eastern portion of Jerusalem and Gaza, over which territories the “Palestinians” had previously renounced any such claim) -- is merely a modern adaptation by the Arab nations and the larger Muslim world of that ancient propaganda device fashioned by the Roman Empire to delegitimize the almost 4,000-year-old national Jewish claim to the biblical Land of Israel, as the first stage of their revised long-term plan to destroy the resurrected State of Israel.
[Note: Just as the "Palestinians" are not an authentic ethnic group, neither are the "Israelis" (being comprised, not only of resident Jews, but also of Circassians, Samaritans, Arabs, Druze, Gypsies, Vietnamese and other Gentiles who have been permitted to become citizens of Israel) an authentic ethnic group. However, the Jews -- unlike the "Palestinians" -- do constitute such an authentic ethnic group.]
© Mark S. Rosenblit
Below is a multi-part analysis by Martin Sherman [with my bracketed comments and clarifications] which, inter alia, not only debunks the truism of “Palestinian” ethnic identity but also explains that fallacious claim’s origin and purpose as well as the existential danger that it poses to the Jewish State. Read on! -- Mark Rosenblit
Note to Newt (Part I): Uninventing Palestinians
By MARTIN SHERMAN Jerusalem Post, December 16, 2011
The Palestinians aspiration is not to establish a state of their own but to dismantle a state of others
I think there is an Arab nation. I do not think there is a Palestinian nation. I think it’s a colonialist invention... When were there any Palestinians? ...until the 19th century Palestine was the south of greater Syria. – Azmi Bishara, 1994 [a prominent Israeli Arab politician]
I think we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs, and who were historically part of the Arab community. – Newt Gingrich, 2011 [a former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and a contender for the 2012 Republican Party Presidential nomination]
Newt Gingrich is to be warmly commended on his recent statement underscoring the lack of authenticity of Palestinian nationality.
It is rare that someone of such public stature has the courage to give facts precedence over political correctness in his public pronouncements. It certainly has set the proverbial cat among the pigeons, sending analysts and activists scurrying for their history books in feverish search for passages or interpretations of passages that reaffirm or refute Gingrich’s assertion, depending on their political predilections.
Coming from the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination it is a declaration that could have a profound impact, not only as a much needed clarification of Middle East history, but more important, as a vital signposting for Middle East policy in days to come.
For Gingrich is totally correct when he observes that “... there’s a lot to think about in terms of how fundamentally you want to change the terms of debate in the region.”
It is to be hoped his provocative and perceptive declaration will serve as a catalyst for a sorely overdue rethink of that debate’s fundamental issues.
Conditions for lasting impact
Whether or not his depiction of the Palestinians as an artificially “invented people” has a lasting effect depends on two conditions being met.
The first is to demonstrate that Gingrich’s assertion is not only historically accurate, but a policy-pertinent characteristic of the Palestinians today — not because pro-Israeli sources claim it is, but because pro-Palestinian sources concede it is.
The second condition is almost a corollary of the first. For if the Palestinians can be shown not only to be an artificial construct in a historical context, but an inauthentic national entity in the modern political context, then clearly this must strip the notion of a Palestinian state and the “two-state solution” of any validity. What would be the rationale for the establishment of a state for a bogus people?
But for this to translate into practical political action, one must be able to put forward a cogent, comprehensive alternative paradigm for dealing with the issue of the Palestinians Arabs.
For even if they were — and are — an invented people, some persuasive program must be advanced for addressing the fact of their physical existence. In the absence of such program being assertively promoted, inertia is likely leave the “two-states-for-two-people” option as the de facto default policy — even if one of those two peoples is a non-people.
Dividing the discussion
The potential ramifications of Gingrich’s bold diagnosis — for both discourse and policy prescription — are so far-ranging and significant that adequate discussion of them would exceed the limits of a single opinion column.
Accordingly, I will split this discussion into two parts.
This week, I will focus on showing that not only is the characterization of the Palestinians as an invented people historically true, but it continues to be politically valid today.
Next week, I will elaborate the components and rationale of a comprehensive alternative paradigm to the two-state principle to resolve the Palestinian issue, and to allow the pursuit of policy that recognizes the futility of establishing a state to accommodate an illusionary people.
These two complementary endeavors are aimed at meeting the previously mentioned conditions required to translate the potential created by Gingrich’s intrepid interview into practical and lasting policy initiatives, to replace conventional wisdom — which has been so regularly disproved but somehow never discredited.
Negation of ‘other’
Gingrich’s reference to “invented people” induced a flood of articles, analyzing the relevant periods of history and convincingly conveying the lack of historical depth for the any claim that the Palestinians constitute a genuinely cohesive national entity.
However, as others have pointed out, similar claims could be plausibly advanced for numerous other entities that emerged from the breakup of empires in general and of the Ottoman Empire in particular, and have — with varying degrees of success — coalesced into functioning nations.
But the case of the Palestinian collective is different.
It is defined not by what it is, but what is not; not by what it wishes to achieve, but what it wishes to prevent; not by what it wants to create, but by what it wants to eliminate.
It has no independent rationale – apart from the denial of Jewish nationhood — to sustain it. As such it is not an affirmation of national “self” but a negation of a national “other.”
Jordan’s King Hussein underscored precisely this when he remarked that the emergence of collective Palestinian identity was merely a ploy to counter Jewish claims to territory considered “Arab.”
At the Arab League meeting in Amman in November 1987, he said: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.”
This is precisely the sentiment conveyed a decade earlier by the now oft-cited and largely uncontested remark by Zuhair Muhsin, former head of the PLO’s Military Department and an Executive Council member, in which he candidly conceded to a Dutch daily: “... the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”
This is not the stuff that real nations are made of, or tenable nation-states founded on.
Historically fictitious, politically fraudulent
The usually dovish former Mossad head Efraim Halevy cast doubt on the Palestinians’ “capability of nationhood” in a 2009 interview with the Canadian weekly Maclean’s. He identified a lack of internal drive for nationhood, warning, “A nation has to be built from within... the Palestinians are not creating their own nation. The nation is being created from without. This... cannot succeed.”
In two recent columns, I addressed the nature and purpose of the Palestinians’ collective identity — on the basis of their own deeds, declarations and documents. These are some of the points made in them:
Even the Palestinians’ own “National Charter” reveals that they are not — and do not see themselves — as a genuinely distinct people or a cohesive nation, with a coherently defined homeland. Thus the Palestinians not only affirm that their national demands are bogus, but that they are merely a temporary ruse meant to annul what they term “the illegal 1947 partition of Palestine” (i.e. Israel in its entirety): “The Palestinian people are a part of the Arab Nation... [and] believe in Arab unity.... However, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity.”
How is any fair-minded person to avoid concluding that at a later stage there will be no need to preserve their identity or to develop consciousness thereof? How is one to avoid concluding that Palestinian identity is merely a short-term deception designed to achieve the political goal of eliminating the Jewish nation-state?
Significantly, the urge for Palestinian sovereignty only seems to arise in response to the manifestation of Jewish sovereignty. Thus the 1964 version of their National Charter unequivocally forswears Palestinian claims to “any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Gaza,” areas which are now stridently claimed to comprise their “ancient homeland.”
Palestinians did not object to almost two decades of Jordanian and Egyptian authority, nor does the solid Palestinian majority in Jordan today seem highly motivated to express its distinct “national identity.”
And while the possibility of a revolution in Jordan cannot be discounted, this would most likely be motivated by the same factors that precipitated revolutions in other parts of the Arab world – dissatisfaction with the regime rather than desire to throw off alien sovereignty.
We are thus compelled to concede that “Palestinian nationality” is devoid of any independent existence, but is fabricated only to counteract Jewish territorial claims.
Indeed, without such claims there would be no Palestinian nationality. As such it is a fictional derivative — an invention — precisely as claimed by Azmi Bishara, Zuhair Muhsin, King Hussein, the Palestinian National Charter — and of course by Newt Gingrich.
If any further evidence of deception were needed, consider the issue of the “statelessness” of the Palestinians – one of the major themes played upon to invoke sympathy for their “cause” and fierce recriminations against Israel.
In reality, however, this state of “stateless” is not a result of callous Israeli malfeasance but of deliberate Arab malevolence.
For the Palestinians are stateless because the Arabs have either stripped them of citizenship they already had, or precluded them from acquiring citizenship they desire to have.
In the “West Bank,” for example, up until 1988, all Palestinians, including the refugees, held Jordanian citizenship. This was annulled by King Hussein when he relinquished his claim to this territory. This abrupt and brusque measure was described by Anis F. Kassim, a prominent Palestinian legal expert, in the following terms: “... more than 1.5 million Palestinians went to bed on 31 July 1988 as Jordanian citizens, and woke up on 1 August 1988 as stateless persons.”
But Palestinians have also been prohibited from acquiring citizenship in their countries of residence in the Arab world, where they have lived for over half a century. The Arab League has instructed its members to deny citizenship to Palestinian Arabs resident within their frontiers, “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland.”
Thus Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef conceded in an 2004 interview to the Los Angeles Times that Palestinians in the Arab world live “in very bad conditions,” but added that this official policy is meant “to preserve their Palestinian identity,” which apparently is incapable of existence without coercion. With breathtaking callousness, he went on to assert that “if every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won’t be any reason for them to return to Palestine.” Indeed.
Clearly, Palestinian nationalism is being preserved and pursued with greater zeal by their Arab brethren than by the Palestinians themselves. How then can it be considered anything but an artificially contrived invention?
Gingrich’s declaration has indeed opened up a chance to “fundamentally change the terms of debate in the region.”
Sadly, Israeli officialdom has not risen to the occasion. Overall, the response to the momentous opportunity that Gingrich has opened up has been met with an embarrassed silence.
This is a lamentable and embarrassing reflection on the state of Israeli diplomacy, which has apparently maneuvered itself into a position of such weakness that it cannot embrace support provided it by the leading Republican presidential candidate.
The captains of Israeli foreign policy would do well to heed his perceptive insight: “This is a propaganda war in which our side refuses to engage... We refuse to tell the truth when the other side lies.... You’re not going to win the long run if you’re afraid to stand firm and stand for the truth.” Precisely.
To have any hope of victory Israel must cease its complicity in Arab duplicity. The time has come for a concerted effort to uninvent the Palestinians.
Can this done? An observation by Daniel Pipes suggests that it may well be possible: “...the fact that this [Palestinian] identity is of such recent and expedient origins suggests that.... it could eventually come to an end, perhaps as quickly as it got started.”
Next week’s column will propose a strategy to pursue this objective.
All rights reserved © 1995 - 2011 The Jerusalem Post.
Note to Newt (Part II): Rethinking Palestine
By MARTIN SHERMAN Jerusalem Post, December 23, 2011
Into The Fray: Some will consider this article provocative – especially if they deem "resettling" as more heinous than "recurrence of war."
Consideration should be given even to the heroic remedy of transfer of populations... the hardship of moving is great, but it is less than the constant suffering of minorities and the constant recurrence of war. – Former US president Herbert Hoover, five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee
With all the money that has been invested in the problem of Palestinians, it would have been possible long ago to resettle them and provide them with good lives in Arab countries. – Andrei Sakharov, 1975 Nobel Peace laureate
The collapse of the Oslo process demonstrate[s] that certain long-held “truths” about the conflict need to be turned on their head.... The US should launch an international initiative that would provide economic support for refugees in neighboring states... [and] incentive packages for patriation to non-neighboring states, including in the West. – Scott Lasensky, 1999, recipient of the Yitzhak Rabin-Shimon Peres Peace Award, Tel Aviv University
As expected, US presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s characterization of Palestinians as an “invented people” unleashed a maelstrom of responses – some commending his daring, others condemning his temerity to challenge the precepts of conventional wisdom.
However, if this pronouncement is not to remain just another headline-grabbing campaign slogan – with a commensurately short “shelf-life” – it must be accompanied by an actionable policy proposal that reflects its political content. After all, what is the point in identifying the Palestinians as a bogus national entity and then adopting a policy that relates to them as a genuine one?
Some will consider this article provocative – especially if they disagree with Hoover, Sakharov, Lasensky, and deem an endeavor to “resettle and provide good lives” for embattled populations more heinous than “constant suffering and... recurrence of war.”
It will raise numerous questions which, because of the constraints of space, will go unanswered here, but which I hope to address in later pieces.
Clearly, the view of the Palestinians as an invented people – particularly one invented for the sole purpose of getting rid of the nation-state of the Jews – makes advocating establishment of a Palestinian state “inappropriate.”
However, it also calls for the presentation of an alternative approach to address the fact of their physical presence – if not as a coherent national entity, then as a diffuse amalgam of individual human beings.
Moreover, since any such policy prescription would constitute a dramatic departure from the “holy grail” of conventional wisdom – the “two states- for–two-people” principle – it would require lengthy public debate to establish it as a legitimate alternative approach.
This would include not only a comprehensive exposition of all its elements, but also a thorough discussion of its ethical justification and operational feasibility, the scope, size and substance of the public diplomacy initiative required to accompany it, its economic costs and international acceptability together with an assessment of its merits relative to other proposals.
This is clearly beyond the scope of a single opinion column. The best that can be hoped for here is to spark a vibrant and sustained public exchange over the proposal that will thrust it into the discourse as a viable – and desirable – option.
To survive as the nation-state of the Jews, Israel must [first] address two requirements:
• The demographic imperative
• The geographic imperative
Second, in contending with these, Israel must contend with two dangers:
• The long-standing danger inherent in “two-state” proposal which – except under wildly unrealistic, and hence irresponsible, assumptions – cannot adequately address the “geographic imperative.”
• The emerging and arguably, more severe danger inherent in the “one-state” proposal which even under the most benign assumptions cannot adequately address the “demographic imperative.”
Only the obsessive or the obtuse would dispute that it is highly implausible that the geographic imperative could be addressed if Israel withdrew from large portions of Judea and Samaria; or that the demographic imperative could be addressed if it incorporated large portions of the Arab population resident there. And the highly implausible is a perilous basis for policy.
So, if the underlying sine qua non for any acceptable policy proposal is the long-term preservation of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, it must address both the geographic and the demographic imperatives – and the dangers that the two-state and the one-state approaches entail.
Avoiding tunnel vision
To effectively address the Palestinians issue it must be approached in a comprehensive, systemic manner.
Maintaining near exclusive focus on the populations in “the territories” ignores the huge “overhang” of the Palestinian “diaspora,” who outnumber their brethren living in the areas deemed “occupied.”
Without a conceptual road map for the fate of this “diaspora,” any agreement with the “domestic” Palestinians will be futile.
On the one hand, if it disregards their fate, such an agreement will be politically untenable; on the other, if it provides for their large-scale resettlement within a putative micro-mini Palestinian state, it will render that state physically untenable.
Composing a comprehensive alternative
The working assumption must be that it is not plausible that a Palestinian state could “deliver the goods” as a durable solution to the Israel-Palestinians conflict. Prudence dictates it be removed from the agenda as a political goal.
However, even if spurious Palestinian political demands for statehood are extracted from the discourse, this will not obviate the harrowing humanitarian realities of the Palestinians’ daily life. This is the issue that Israel and the international community should focus on.
The conclusion, however, should not be that the only alternative is a one-state-of-all-its-citizens option, which would almost inevitably descend swiftly into a Muslim-majority autocracy – despite the hopes of some well-meaning souls that this could be averted by introducing regional elections and gerrymandering the boundaries of constituencies.
How can all these elements be incorporated into a coherent, non-coercive alternative that preserves Israel as the nation-state of the Jews – and addresses the twin imperatives needed to sustain this status, the fate of the “diasporic” Palestinian Arabs, and the fact that the contrived Palestinian national identity was invented solely to undermine the notion of Jewish nationhood?
To be comprehensive it must have three elements, all firmly founded on the bedrock of liberal political doctrine.
Two involve the elimination of discriminatory practices vis-à-vis the Palestinians as (a) refugees and as (b) residents in Arab countries. The third involves facilitating free choice for Palestinian breadwinners to determine their future and that of their families.
A brutally condensed tour de raison of the elements of the proposal begins with the Palestinian “refugee” issue and the body responsible for dealing with it, UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency).
The pernicious, obstructive role UNRWA plays has often been described, so it suffices to stress it is a highly anomalous organization that perpetuates a culture of Palestinian dependency and the unrealistic narrative of “return.”
Every refugee on earth is under the auspices of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – except for the Palestinians.
For them a separate institution exists – UNRWA.
While a more comprehensive analysis of this anomaly must also be delayed for another occasion, it is can be condensed into an astounding fact: If the universally accepted UNHCR criteria for refugees were applied to the Palestinian case, the number of “refugees” would shrink from close to 5 million to fewer than 200,000.
These figures starkly illustrate that the scale and durability of the Palestinian refugee problem is fueled by the anomalous parameters of it definition.
There is growing consensus – in Israel and abroad – that without abolishing UNRWA and folding its operations into those of UNHCR, no way out of the Palestinian-Israeli impasse is possible.
Folding UNRWA into the framework of UNHCR would of course have significant ramifications for large Palestinian populations resident in the Arab countries, who would no longer receive the anomalous handouts paid them.
This leads to the second element of the proposal: The grave ethnic discrimination against the Palestinians resident in the Arab world where, as I recently pointed out, severe restrictions are imposed on their freedom of movement, employment and property ownership.
But most significant, they – and they alone – are denied citizenship of the countries in which they have lived for decades.
Palestinians overwhelmingly want to acquire citizenship of the countries of their long-standing residence, opinion surveys indicate.
With the abolition of UNRWA and the accompanying reduction in the number of people eligible for aid, a diplomatic drive must be mounted to pressure Arab governments to end their discrimination against the Palestinians; to stop perpetuating their stateless status and to allow them to acquire the citizenship of countries where they have lived for decades.
This brings us to the third and final element of the proposal: Allowing individual Palestinians under Israeli administration to exercise free will in determining their destiny.
While the first two elements of the proposed solution are directed toward addressing the plight of the Palestinians in the Arab world, this measure is aimed at those in Israeli-administered areas.
It involves allowing individual Palestinians free choice in charting their future and that of their families.
These efforts should focus on two elements:
(a) Generous monetary compensation to effect the relocation and rehabilitation of the Palestinian Arabs residents in territories across the 1967 Green Line, presumably mostly – but not necessarily exclusively – in the Arab/Muslim countries.
(b) “Atomization” of the implementation by making the offer of compensation and relocation directly to the breadwinners and family heads, and not through any Palestinian organization that may have a vested interest in thwarting the initiative.
Although some may raise a skeptical brow as to the acceptability of the proposal to the Palestinians and its economic feasibility, two points should be underscored.
First, substantial statistical data exist indicating that such a measure would be enthusiastically embraced by a large portion of the Palestinian population.
According to one poll, only 15 percent would refuse any financial offer that allows them to seek a better life elsewhere, while over 70% would accept it.
Other surveys – by Palestinians bodies – substantiate the existence of wide-scale desire/willingness to emigrate.
As for the overall cost, it is easy to show that the price of the proposed plan would be comparable to any alternative under discussion, involving the establishment of a new state, developing its infrastructure, and presumably absorbing a large portion of a relocated Palestinian “diaspora” within its constricted frontiers.
Windfall for hosts
Finally, it should be remembered that for the prospective host nations, the plan has a distinct economic upside. Given the scale of the envisioned compensation, the Palestinians would not arrive as destitute refugees, but as relatively wealthy immigrants in terms of average world GDP per capita. Their absorption would bring significant capital inflows to the host economies – typically around half a billion dollars for every 2,000 to 3,000 families given citizenship.
The time has come for new, imaginative initiatives to defuse one of the world’s most volatile problems, one for which remedies hitherto attempted have proved sadly inappropriate.
There seems ample reason to seriously consider an alternative proposal, which at least prima facie, would defuse the Palestinian humanitarian predicament, inject billions of dollars into the economies of host nations, and ensure the continued survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Israel, the Palestinians and the international community can ill-afford to dismiss it without a serious discussion of its potential payoffs and its possible pitfalls.
All rights reserved © 1995 - 2011 The Jerusalem Post.
Into the Fray: Palestine: What Sherlock Holmes would say
By MARTIN SHERMAN Jerusalem Post, December 30, 2011
Responding to the response: Answers to questions raised by my ‘Notes to Newt.’
When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. – Sherlock Holmes in This Sign of the Four
There has been much talk in Palestine about emigration, especially among the young people...in search of a better life abroad. Many are continuing to rush to the gates of the embassies and consulates... with requests for visas in order to reside permanently in those countries. – the PA’s mufti of Jerusalem, 2007
My past two columns, focusing on the authenticity (or lack thereof) of the Palestinian’s national identity following Newt Gingrich’s characterization of them as an “invented people,” generated a brisk public exchange.
Numerous questions were raised and reservations expressed as to the various aspects of the operational program I proposed, especially regarding the prospects of implementation.
The proposal had three interlocking components:
• Ending discriminatory treatment of the Palestinian refugees by abolishing the UN’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), or bringing it into line with international practice for all other refugees on the face of the globe.
• Ending discrimination against Palestinians in the Arab world and abolishing the prohibition on their acquisition of the citizenship of the countries in which they have been resident for decades.
• Providing generous relocation finance directly to Palestinian breadwinners resident across the 1967 Green Line, to allow them to build better futures for themselves and their families in foreign countries of their choice.
Some readers, even those who commended the proposal, were skeptical. For example, one talk-backer remarked, “It’s a nonstarter, for the simple reason that no Arab state would agree to it.”
This comment, entirely correct factually, is equally irrelevant strategically and reflects a common misunderstanding of the proposal which it is important to dispel.
For – as I hope will become clear later – the agreement of Arab states – or indeed of any Arab collective – is totally immaterial to the implementation of the proposal.
Eliminating the ‘impossible’
In establishing what is “impossible,” it is crucial to define one’s point-of-departure.
For, in terms of policy decisions, what is admissible given one point-of-departure, may well be unacceptable given another.
Thus, if the conceptual point-of-departure is the imperative to preserve Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, policy choices that entail forgoing this aspiration would be deemed “impossible” to accept.
Accordingly, proposals whose rationale is that the Israel-Palestinian conflict could be resolved by transforming Israel into a multi-ethnic state-of-all-it-citizens would be unacceptable on a conceptual level – quite apart from the fact that they would be unworkable on a practical one.
Likewise, proposals that suggest a resolution could be arrived at by reducing Israel to unsustainable territorial dimensions which, as Shimon Peres once remarked, “would create a compulsive temptation to attack Israel from all sides” must also be deemed “impossible.”
After all, Israel cannot be preserved as functioning nation-state if its metropolis is exposed to ongoing Sderot-like bombardment by alleged “renegades” [whose existence would be manufactured and nourished by the rulers of “Palestine in order to create a satisfactory level of plausible deniability and, consequently, a diplomatic shield against justified military and economic reprisals by Israel].
Indeed, even the palpable threat of primitive rockets fired on the country’s only international airport, congested highways, major ports and rail links, not to mention 80 percent of the population and commercial activity, would make the maintenance of socioeconomic routine impossible, or at least highly improbable.
Recognizing ‘whatever remains’
So if territorial concessions entailed in a two-state approach would make the Jewish nation-state untenable in terms of security, and if absorbing a large Muslim population entailed in a one-state solution would make the Jewish state untenable in terms of demography, “whatever remains – however improbable” – must be the only alternative.
Since the geography is immutable, the focus must be on the demography.
It is thus no more than “elementary” that the long-term preservation of the Jewish state must involve the relocation of the non-Israeli Arabs between the river and the sea. Any other option is self-deluded wishful thinking – or at least the burden of proof to show otherwise is on the proponents of such an option, especially in view of the post-Oslo/post-disengagement experiences.
It is either hopelessly myopic or hypocritically malevolent to profess support of a Jewish state and then advocate policy that makes its long-term survival impossible, or at least highly implausible. Note that there is nothing remotely “racist” in this purely “Holmesian” deductive process, unless the very notion of a Jewish nation-state is considered racist, something which itself is the epitome of racism.
For as Chaim Herzog, the late president of the state, once pointed out: “To question the Jewish people’s right to national existence and freedom is... to deny to the Jewish people the right accorded to every other people on this globe.”
Is the ‘improbable’ really improbable?
In principle there are two way to effect such relocation – coercively or non-coercively.
In the proposed alternative, coercive options are rejected for a variety of moral and practical reasons and a noncoercive approach is adopted, with economic inducements to enable Palestinian breadwinners to seek a better future for themselves and their families elsewhere.
To suggest that this is unfeasible is to fly in the face of facts. It is to ignore the fact that the number of international migrants today is approaching a quarter of a billion, and is growing rapidly. Although this is partially a byproduct of wars, political conflicts and natural disasters, it is predominantly motivated by economics. It would be absurd to suggest the Palestinians are immune to such motivations.
Indeed, to make such a claim is to ignore compelling evidence – both anecdotal and statistical – that a desire to seek a better life elsewhere is widespread among the Palestinians, even without the availability of generous relocation grants, as both the above citation from the Palestinian Authority’s mufti of Jerusalem suggests and as numerous opinion polls indicate. It would highly implausible to hold that the perception of tangible and credible prospects for a better life would not greatly enhance this desire.
Rejecting intellectual surrender
Some claim that a sense of national pride would override the desire to accept material gain as an inducement to emigrate.
In the case of the Palestinians, this claim would be extremely tenuous. For as has been amply demonstrated recently, is there no basis for the claim of the Arabs of Palestine to genuine history of nationhood. But more important, and more policy-pertinent, the claim is as much a prevailing political pretext as it is a historical hoax.
Sadly, this has not been grasped by many, including several prominent pro-Israeli pundits such as Elliott Abrams, who recently said: “There was no Jordan or Syria or Iraq... so perhaps [Gingrich] would say they are all invented people as well and also have no right to statehood. Whatever was true then, Palestinian nationalism has grown since 1948, and whether we like it or not, it exists.”
With all due respect, I strongly disagree.
There is no obligation to accept the fabrications of adversaries merely because they are insistent.
Indeed, it is neither pragmatic nor progressive to acknowledge “Palestinian nationalism.”
To the contrary, it reflects either inordinate credulity or complicity in undisguised duplicity.
Acceptance of Palestinian nationality is a symptom of either intellectual fatigue or intellectual laziness that has sapped the will to resist this pernicious ruse.
As such, it reflects intellectual surrender and an abject admission of the inability to oppose political duplicity – openly conceded by the Arabs.
Why Palestinians are different
The Palestinians are qualitatively different from other new “nations” that emerged from the breakup up of empire. They are the only collective whose manifest raison d’etre is not the establishment of their own political independence but the denial of that of others. As such they can more appropriately deemed an “anti-nation” rather than a “nation.
The fact that Palestinians have shown they are capable of cohesive action against another collective does not prove they are a nation. Virtually their entire collective effort has been directed at an attempt to annul the expression of Jewish sovereignty rather than assert their own. Indeed, were they to achieve that goal, the entire point of their distinct collective identity, which hitherto has only been maintained by exogenous factors – international naiveté and Arab coercion – would be obviated.
This lack of endogenous national drive explains their monumental failure at state-building.
For almost two decades after the Oslo Accords – despite massive financial aid and political support – they have produced nothing but a deeply divided entity, crippled by corruption and cronyism.
The result is a dysfunctional polity unable to conduct even the semblance of timely elections, and a puny economy, comprising a minuscule private sector and a bloated public one, totally unsustainable without massive infusions of foreign funds.
Failing the test of history
In every meaningful aspect, the Palestinians claim to statehood has failed the test of history, as has the two-state principle.
This in itself should be no cause for celebration by its opponents. For while I find myself in total disagreement with virtually all of Jerusalem Post columnist Gershon Baskin’s positions, his latest opinion piece raises a question of great relevance and urgency which his ideological adversaries will ignore at great peril.
Baskin asks, “What now? What happens when there really is no longer a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?” and warns, “We better start coming up with answers because we are almost there.”
Baskin is right in his analysis and right to demand answers. For such a scenario may indeed be upon us, with little warning.
The [Fatah-controlled] PA could well implode when the fraudulent façade of Fayyadism [by which a significant portion of annual international aid to the P.A. is redistributed by P.A. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as government grants to the “Palestinian” people] – with disposable income reportedly almost double GDP – grinds to an inevitable halt; it might collapse if foreign funding is curtailed because a Hamas-dominated administration emerges from the conciliation talks [between Fatah and Hamas]; or it might dissolve itself, unwilling to face public wrath at its inability to deliver promised goods.
Depoliticizing and atomizing
If the two-state solution is nearing extinction as a viable option and the “one-state-of- all-its-residents-between-the-river-and-the- sea” principle is unacceptable, what remains? Israel must gear itself to deal with this emerging dilemma.
Fortunately, once the inauthenticity of Palestinian nationality is acknowledged, the answer is “elementary.”
It lies in shifting the focus from the Palestinian collective to the Palestinian individual, from the political to the humanitarian, from an endeavor to solve the problem to an endeavor to dissolve (i.e. disperse) it.
Depoliticizing the context (by underscoring the humanitarian issues) and atomizing the implementation (by engaging individual breadwinners) provide two significant operational advantages.
It renders the question of “who will accept them” moot.
It does not require the agreement of any Arab state to effect implementation. Since the envisaged compensation will be large enough to allow recipients to comply with immigration criteria in numerous countries – not necessarily Arab or Muslim – and since they would be coming as adequately funded private individuals, what would be the possible basis for refusal of entry – other than ethnic discrimination? And if they were refused entry despite their desire to seek a better future, on the grounds that it would undermine the prospects of a Palestinian state, would this not further confirm that Palestinian nationality can only be sustained by artificial constraints? Likewise, the provision of relocation finance is a measure that can be implemented unilaterally by Israel and requires no agreement or approval of any Arab country/collective. All that it requires is for the individually needy to accept help.
Clearly, steps would have to be taken by Israel to prevent reprisals against recipients by their kinfolk, but would not politically motivated fratricide against Palestinians seeking to improve their lives again demonstrate that Palestinian nationality is artificially imposed rather than naturally desired? And how would that fratricide be portrayed as more morally justified than Israeli largesse in helping Palestinians extricate themselves from their socioeconomic predicament?
‘Elementary, my dear Israel’
Although I have exhausted the generous word quota assigned by the editor, many questions remain without the answers I owe my readers. Accordingly, and because the Palestinian issue and alternatives to the two-state principle constitute what is arguably the most crucial issue on the national agenda, I will devote one more article next week to address further aspects of this humanitarian alternative, its economic feasibility and political acceptability, and endeavor to demonstrate that the response from Sherlock Holmes would be “Elementary, my dear Israel!”
All rights reserved © 1995 - 2011 The Jerusalem Post.
To be or not to be – that is the question
By MARTIN SHERMAN Jerusalem Post, January 6, 2012
Into the Fray: It is time to have a clear-headed, hard look at reality: The two state solution is dead.
The maximum any Israeli government can offer is less than the minimum any Palestinian leader can accept. The real gap between both sides is much greater than perceived, and that gap is growing – Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council, 2009
The land-for-peace idea has now collapsed. We have to find another way, and a new concept is urgently needed – Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, former head of the National Security Council, 2007
It is time to have a clear-headed, hard look at reality: The two state solution is dead. Where do we go from here? – Prof. Carlo Strenger, columnist for Haaretz, 2011
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Even if one strongly disagrees with his ideological predilections, Jerusalem Post columnist Gershon Baskin was nonetheless correct in assessing the magnitude and urgency of the emerging danger when he recently stated, “We have a very short period of time remaining before we come to the conclusion that there is no longer any resolution to this conflict that enables us to have a Jewish nation-state in the Land of Israel. If this happens, it will be the end of the Zionist dream that so many have worked so hard for so long to create and sustain.”
The Jewish people is rapidly approaching a crucial juncture. It will soon have to decide whether or not it is willing to maintain its nation-state; whether it is willing to forgo over a century of unparalleled sacrifice, effort and achievement to satisfy the cynical and hypocritical dictates of political correctness; whether it is prepared to surrender substance for form; to forsake real national freedoms for the artificial facade of feigned individual equality.
As the infeasibility of the two-state paradigm becomes increasingly apparent, even to the staunchest of its erstwhile supporters, the need to formulate a cogent alternative that will preserve the Jewish nation-state is becoming increasingly pressing.
It is not only the disillusioned among the Israeli Left who are expressing ever-more despair at the prospect of implementing the two-state solution. It is increasingly being dismissed as a realistic – or even desirable – aspiration by Palestinians, and not only radical Islamists who reject it because it entails recognizing a Jewish state. Thus for example, in his recent book, What is a Palestinian State Worth?, even Sari Nusseibeh, a show-case “moderate,” expresses “heretical” doubts as to whether the struggle for statehood merits the effort.
This should be seen against the shift in the general Palestinian attitude toward the two-state principle, reflected in a strangely underreported and grossly misreported poll conducted recently for The Israel Project by Stanley Greenberg together with Palestinian Center for Public Opinion.
According to the poll, there was a “huge drop in acceptance of a two-state solution.” Fifty-two percent said they would not accept such a solution – up from 36% less than a year previously – while two-thirds rejected the principle that one of the states should be a Jewish homeland.
A similar proportion said, “The real goal should be to start with two states but then move to it all being one Palestinian state,” and 84% said that “Over time Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state.”
Only the grossly undiscerning will fail to notice the tangible change in official Palestinian negotiating strategy in recent years. The pursuit of a two-state solution has become a leisurely distraction rather than a seriously sought after end-of-conflict arrangement. Far-reaching concessions – difficult for Israel to accept even as part of a final agreement – are being presented as conditions for merely resuming negotiations, delaying them for extended periods – hardly a rational tactic for a people eager to extricate themselves from onerous “occupation.”
Facing the inevitable
In view of accumulating evidence, it would be imprudent for Israel to continue deluding itself that Palestinians entertain any serious intentions as to the two-state solution – other than in the two-stage sense. Indeed, the accelerating erosion of support for the idea makes the formulation of operational alternatives a pressing imperative.
The alternatives that have been discussed most often fall into two categories. Those which entail: (a) conferring Israel citizenship on the Palestinians – i.e. various versions of the one-state approach; and (b) transferring civilian rule over the Palestinians to some non-Palestinian Authority Arab administration – such as Jordan or prominent local clan-leaders traditionally well-disposed to Israel, who would preside over scattered enclaves.
For a variety of reasons, neither of these offers a stable long-term formula. As a detailed critique of these alternatives is beyond the scope of this article, I will restrict myself to the following observations.
Regarding the first category, the inclusion of the Palestinian Arab population across the 1967 Green Line into Israel as fully fledged citizens would create an unbearable socioeconomic burden on the country that would not only jeopardize its character as a Jewish state but as an advanced Western democracy as well – a problem many EU countries are beginning to experience, even with proportionately far smaller “discordant” populations.
It is a measure that would create difficulties far more complex and profound than could be dealt with – as some naively hope – by adopting a regional electoral system and gerrymandering the boundaries of the constituencies to minimize the impact of non- Jewish voters. Quite apart from the legal challenges – before an inherently amenable Supreme Court – as to the equity of such an arrangement, and possible mass relocation of voters to other constituencies, the cultural and economic disparities would tear Society apart.
Regarding the second category, it is wishful thinking – especially in the wake of the Arab Spring – to hope that any “traditional” regime would consent to be seen as “pulling the Zionists’ chestnuts out of the fire.”
It is more than doubtful that any Arab ruler – whether a clan leader or the Jordanian monarch – would be willing, or indeed able, to function for any length of time as what would certainly be perceived as a perfidious “prison warder.”
Moreover, in light of the instability in the region, it would irresponsible to adopt a long-term policy based on the assumption that the regime in Amman would not be replaced or at least dominated by elements inimical to any cooperation with Israel.
In both cases, the consequences of these alternatives are liable to be worse than those they are designed to avoid.
The humanitarian paradigm
These factors – the eroding relevance of the two-state paradigm, the ominous emergence of the one-state paradigm and the inadequacy of proffered alternatives – led to the proposal in my two preceding columns of the humanitarian paradigm, which addressed the fate of the Palestinian Arabs in a comprehensive, non-coercive manner. Operationally it comprised three constituent elements.
• Ending discriminatory treatment of the Palestinian refugees by abolishing/transforming UNRWA.
• Ending discrimination against Palestinians in the Arab world and the prohibition on their acquiring citizenship of countries in which they have been resident for decades.
• Providing generous relocation finance directly to individual Palestinian breadwinners to allow them to build better futures for themselves in third countries of their choice.
Unsurprisingly, numerous reservations were raised as to the feasibility of the proposal. These will now be addressed – at least in part.
The feasibility factor – I
The proponents of the Oslowian two-state principle are the last who can invoke feasibility as a precondition for the admissibility of an operational proposal –at least as an item on the agenda of public debate.
After all, this is a formula that has been tried for almost two decades, and despite massive international endorsement and financial support, has wrought nothing but death, destruction and despair. Surely a proposal that has proved so disastrous should by any rational yardstick be branded unworkable and hence unfeasible.
And if the demonstrable infeasibility/ futility/failure of the two-state paradigm has not disqualified it as meriting serious consideration, why should a conceptually consistent, untried humanitarian paradigm not be accorded the same opportunity – at least as a legitimate topic for debate.
The feasibility factor – II
Inevitably, any radical departure from long-established conventional wisdom will be met with stiff resistance. However, the existing configuration of public opinion should not be considered immutable.
Indeed, imagine how hopeless the notion of a Palestinian state was in the late 1960s in the wake of Israel’s sweeping Six Day War victory. Even in the late 1980s the idea was dismissed as unrealistic, unreasonable radicalism by all but a minuscule albeit determined minority on the far Left.
However, it was a minority that managed to enlist the resolve, resources and resourcefulness to transform the marginal into mainstream in remarkably short order.
Given the paltry funding and the puny efforts that have characterized Israel’s public diplomacy in the past two decades, the current public perception can hardly be taken as persuasive gauge of what might be achieved with adequate financing and appropriate focus. Today the entire public diplomacy budget is reportedly of the order of magnitude of what a medium-to-large Israeli corporation spends on promoting fast-food or snacks. If one does not invest in winning hearts and minds, it is no wonder that they are not won.
The feasibility factor – III
According to the IMF, Israel’s GDP is approaching a quarter trillion dollars. If it were to allot less than one half of 1% of GDP to public diplomacy, that would be over $1 billion – enough to swamp anything the George Soroses of the world devote to Israel’s delegitimization.
Given the nation’s achievements in nearly every other field of human endeavor, one can only surmise what impact a determined assault on the authenticity and legitimacy of the Palestinian narrative, financed by an annual $1b. budget over two decades – the length of the post- Oslowian era – might have on the acceptability of a humanitarian rehabilitation of Palestinian Arabs, cruelly misled by their leaders for decades.
Indeed, important elements of the humanitarian paradigm are already gaining international legitimacy. The anomalous and detrimental role of UNRWA – a pivotal element in the proposal – has been recognized by countries such as Canada and the Netherlands which have either curtailed their funding to the organization or are considering doing so. It is distinctly plausible that the US could be convinced – especially in these days of austerity – to terminate its funding for this wasteful and counter-productive body which perpetuates the Palestinians’ dependency and statelessness.
Likewise, the brutal discrimination against Palestinians in Arab states, allegedly to “help preserve their identity,” is also the subject of increasing international attention and censure. Pressure should – and could – be brought to bear on Arab regimes to end this unacceptable practice, even if it means temporarily channeling budgets formerly allotted to UNRWA to facilitate their integration as citizens of the countries of their longstanding residence.
These elements cannot be detached from the overall thrust of the humanitarian paradigm, which is to focus on ameliorating the situation of the individual Palestinian rather than promoting the nefarious goals of an invented national entity.
The estimated cost of implementation is strongly dependent on the level of compensation and the size of the Palestinian population in the “territories,” which is the subject of intense debate.
A few years ago, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducted a survey on the level of compensation Palestinian refugees considered fair to forgo the “right of return.” If we take more than double the minimum amount specified by most pollees as fair compensation for relocation/rehabilitation, and if we adopt a high-end estimate of the Palestinian population, the total cost would be around $150b. for the West Bank Palestinians (and $250b. if Gaza is included). This is a fraction of the US expenditure on its decade-long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have produced results that are less than a resounding success.
Spread over a period equivalent to the current post-Oslo era, this sum would comprise a yearly outlay of no more than a few percentage points of current GDP – something Israel could well afford on its own.
If additional OECD countries were to contribute, the total relocation/rehabilitation of the Palestinian Arabs could be achieved with an almost imperceptible economic burden.
From Hamlet to Herzl
I began this column on the humanitarian paradigm with a short excerpt from Hamlet – to convey why it is needed.
It is perhaps appropriate that I end it with one from Herzl – to convey why it is feasible: If you will it, it is no fantasy.
All rights reserved © 1995 - 2012 The Jerusalem Post.
[Note: I also believe that removal of the hostile Arab population is the only solution to the local geographic-demographic threat facing Israel. However, as a matter of principle, I do not support the notion that the State of Israel should spend even one penny to enrich the “Palestinian” Arabs, as this would essentially be compensating them for their serial attempts to annihilate the resident Jewish population of Mandatory Palestine (from 1920 to 1948) and, later, the Jewish nation-state of Israel (from 1948 to the present time). The “Palestinian” Arabs’ present predicament is the direct consequence of their great grandparents’, grandparents’, parents’ and their own hostility and acts of belligerence towards the Jewish people and Israel. If anything, the “Palestinian” Arabs should pay reparations to Israel (for redistribution to the victims of “Palestinian” Arab aggression), as did Nazi Germany after its defeat in World War II. -- Mark Rosenblit]
Into the Fray: Disputing Dershowitz
By MARTIN SHERMAN
Support for a two-state solution has sown the seeds for the international delegitimization of Israel
(Jerusalem Post, March 15, 2012) It would be obnoxious for there to be a conference here [Harvard] on the subject of whether the Palestinians are a real people. They are, and so are the Israelis. The quest for a Palestinian state is a legitimate one, as is the need to preserve Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. – Alan Dershowitz, “Should Harvard Sponsor a One- Sided Conference Seeking the End of Israel?” (February 28)
Prof. Alan Dershowitz is a committed, articulate supporter of Israel. He has defended the Jewish state with eloquence and passion on numerous occasions, displaying commendable resolve and poise despite torrents of hostile reaction. The courageous, principled stance he has taken – regrettably rare among academics of his standing – should be greatly appreciated by Israelis across the political spectrum.
Ensnared by political correctness
However, in embracing several central precepts of politically correct but factually impaired conventional wisdom, Dershowitz has, along with many other well-meaning pro-Israeli figures, severely undermined the efficacy of his “Case for Israel.”
This is particularly true regarding his unquestioning endorsement of Palestinian claims for statehood within the two-state paradigm, which for Dershowitz has seemingly become the litmus test for admission to civilized debate.
Thus in February 2010, when Palestinian hecklers prevented Ambassador Michael Oren from addressing students at the University of California, Irvine, Dershowitz rightly denounced this as anti- Israel censorship. However, what appeared to make this action particularly egregious in Dershowitz’s eyes was the fact that Oren was “a moderate supporter of the two-state solution,” thus hinting – perhaps without meaning to – that had Oren opposed this policy, silencing him might have been more understandable.
Indeed, as the citation above demonstrates, Dershowitz would consider any challenge to the authenticity of Palestinian national claims “obnoxious.”
Conundrum for the future
Future historians will be baffled as to why such a manifestly disastrous, unworkable concept came to be embraced by so many prominent, allegedly well-informed pundits, politicians, and policy-makers. They will be particularly perplexed why the two-state solution was so enthusiastically endorsed not only by those who had a vested interest in feigning support for it, but by those who had a vested interest in exposing it as the duplicitous subterfuge it is. They will be mystified why – despite the fact that it proved devastating for both Arabs and Jews – it became the hallmark of enlightenment.
Recent events have brought home dramatically not only how futile it is for Israel and Israel-supporters to adhere to the two-state paradigm, but also how counterproductive it is.
For by pursuing the “vision” (read “fantasy”) of two states, they will not only fail to reap the intended benefits this policy is purported to yield, but will precipitate outcomes highly deleterious to Israel – indeed the very outcomes the two-state policy was supposed to prevent.
The latest round of rocket fire from Gaza underscored just how ill-considered it would be to relinquish more land to the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. The recent Harvard one-state conference demonstrated how clinging to an unfeasible formula has merely generated the opportunity to promote even more menacing alternatives.
Demonstrating the obvious
The 300 rockets that rained down on southern Israel since last Friday, forcing a million civilians to huddle in shelters, proved for the umpteenth time what by now should be seared into the cognizance of all Israelis and all Israel supporters abroad: Ceding territory – any territory – to the Palestinians – any Palestinians – is unacceptably risky. For while one might fervently hope that events in the “West Bank” would turn out significantly better than in Gaza, there is little basis for such optimism. Hoping – however fervently – that tangible dangers will fail to materialize is hardly a formula for responsible risk management.
The consensus among security experts – strongly corroborated by the precedent in Gaza – is that without the presence of the IDF, the Abbas administration would be swiftly dispatched and replaced by an Islamist successor.
What is the significance of such a prospect? Clearly, the repercussions would be far more severe than in the case of Gaza.
For whatever the final contours of a putative Palestinian state, it would entail a frontier of at least 300 kilometers – approximately six times longer than the Gaza front – much of which would be adjacent to Israel’s most populous urban centers, from the environs of Haifa in the north to Beersheba and beyond in the south. (Significantly, Beersheba is much closer to the pre-1967 border of the “West Bank” than it is to the Gaza Strip).
Moreover, unlike in Gaza, a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would reduce Israel’s width in its most populous areas to a minuscule 11-25 km. [7-16 miles] – roughly the distance from Beverly Hills to Malibu along Sunset Boulevard.
Even more important than geographic expanse – or the lack thereof – is topographical structure. Unlike the flat Gaza Strip, the limestone hills that comprise the “West Bank” dominate the urbanized Coastal Plain, together with much of Israel’s vital infrastructure, its only international airport, vital centers of civilian government and military command – and 80 percent of its population and commercial activity.
All of this would be in range of the weapons that forced a million Israelis into bomb shelters last weekend, now deployed along a much longer front and in far superior topographical positions.
Even given the impressive performance of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system, this would make any semblance of economic or social routine untenable.
‘One does not have to a military expert’
Ever since Abba Eban characterized the pre-1967 Green Line as the “Auschwitz Borders,” it has been widely accepted that such frontiers cannot, except under wildly optimistic and unrealistic assumptions, afford Israel acceptable levels of security.
Even iconic Labor Party moderate Yigal Allon declared: “One does not have to be a military expert to easily identify the critical defects of the armistice lines that existed until June 4, 1967,” warning that they risk “the physical extinction of a large part of [Israel’s] population and the political elimination of the Jewish state.”
Numerous military experts have endorsed this position. In one recent study, a host of senior military and diplomatic figures, including a former IDF chief of staff, a former head of Military Intelligence and the National Security Council, and ambassadors to the UN, US and France, concluded that to meet minimum security requirements, Israel must retain control of the high ground in Judea and Samaria, as well as the Jordan Valley and the air space up to the Jordan River.
What do these minimum requirements, necessitating Israeli control of wide swathes of territory in the “West Bank,” entail for the viability of Palestinian statehood?
The myth of defensible borders
The answer is provided by an article, “The Myth of Defensible Borders” by Omar Dajani and Ezzedine Fishere in the January 2011 edition of Foreign Affairs.
The authors – an adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team and an adviser to the Egyptian foreign minister, respectively – point out: “A policy of defensible borders would... perpetuate the current sources of Palestinian insecurity, further delegitimizing an agreement in the public’s eyes. Israel would retain the discretion to impose arbitrary and crippling constraints on the movement of people and goods.... For these reasons, Palestinians are likely to regard defensible borders as little more than occupation by another name.”
Recent events in the Mideast – a triumphant Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the ever-ascendant Islamist influence in Jordan – are hardly likely to reduce Israeli threat perception, thus only increasing the incompatibility between a viable Palestinian state and minimal requirements for a secure Israel.
Dershowitz’s call that “Israel should recognize the right of Palestinians to establish an independent, democratic Palestinian state with politically and economically viable boundaries” appears increasing like a hapless attempt to “square the circle.”
‘Moderation’ begets delegitimization
The point many well-intentioned friends of Israel seem be to missing is that it is precisely “moderate supporters of the two-state solution” who have, in large measure, sown the seeds for the delegitimization of Israel.
While this contention may appear counterintuitive, the logic behind it is unassailable. Once the legitimacy of a Palestinian state is conceded, the delegitimization of Israel is inevitable.
The chain of reasoning is clear: If the legitimacy of a Palestinian state is accepted, then any measures incompatible with its viability are illegitimate. But, Israel’s minimum security requirements necessarily obviate the viability of Palestinian state. Thus, by accepting the admissibility of a Palestinian state, one necessarily admits the inadmissibility of measures required to ensure Israeli security.
Conversely, measures required to ensure Israeli security necessarily negate the viability of a Palestinian state.
For the notion of a secure Israel to regain legitimacy, the notion of a Palestinian state must be discredited and removed from the discourse as a possible means of resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Indeed an invented people
This, of course, is easier said than done.
Rolling back the decades of distortion, deception and delusion that have become entrenched in the collective international consciousness will be a Herculean task.
But the immense scale of the task cannot diminish the imperative of its implementation.
The first – and most crucial – step along this arduous road is to expose the Palestinian claim to nationhood for the hoax it is.
For the Palestinians are indeed an “invented people.” Not because Newt Gingrich deems them to be, but because they themselves declare this to be so.
The historical record is replete with proclamations from Arab and Palestinian leaders, echoing the frank admission by the late Zuheir Mohsen, former PLO Executive Council member, that a “separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons,” and that the “the establishment of a Palestinian state is a new tool to continue the fight against Israel.”
Indeed, the Palestinian National Charter (Article 12) concedes that the endeavor to “safeguard... Palestinian identity” in merely a temporary ruse.
Moreover, not only was the territory, now claimed as the age-old Palestinian homeland, under Jordanian rule for two decades prior to 1967, without even a feeble effort to establish a Palestinian state in it being made; but the Palestinians eschewed any sovereign claim to it, explicitly conceding (Article 24 of the 1964 National Charter) that it belonged to another sovereign entity – Jordan – which only in 1988 relinquished its claim to it.
It was only after these territories came under Jewish control that Palestinians began to see them as a location for their state.
A spiteful echo
Nothing could underscore more dramatically the fundamental truth about the Palestinian claim to nationhood.
It is a claim devoid of any substantive positive content. It is no more than the negation of Jewish claims to nationhood, merely a contrary – and spiteful – echo of Zionist achievement, without which it would have neither the conceptual rationale nor the practical capacity to exist.
As the late King Hussein – not Newt Gingrich – stated: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.”
What could be clearer? No claim that Israel is Jewish, no Palestinian national personality.
It thus astounding that Dershowitz would suggest there is any semblance of equivalency between Jewish and Palestinians claims to nationhood. Indeed, by any accepted criteria for political self-determination, the two are antipodal opposites. The Jews have a unique language – the Palestinians do not; the Jews have unique script – the Palestinians do not; the Jews have a unique religion – the Palestinians do not. The Jews have a unique heritage and documented history dating back thousands of years; the Palestinians – at best – have a contrived history dating back a few decades and supported largely by archeological vandalism and “creative” chronicling of the past.
Imperative not ‘obnoxious’
Dershowitz is gravely mistaken in dismissing debate on the authenticity of Palestinian claims to statehood as “obnoxious.” It is difficult to conceive of any more proper and pressing imperative.
Refraining from such discussion has inflicted devastating damage on Israel and its international legitimacy.
By desperately adhering to a paradigm that is unworkable – because it would make Israel untenable geographically – the two-state advocates have not only made Israel appear insincere and conniving.
By shunning discussion on other Zionist-compliant alternatives, they have – unintentionally – catalyzed debate on far more ominous proposals that threaten to make Israel untenable demographically.
The recent Harvard conference is the harbinger of things to come.
All rights reserved © 1995 - 2012 The Jerusalem Post.
Into the Fray: The alchemy of Palestinian nationhood
By MARTIN SHERMAN
Poof! Suddenly Jordanian nationals were transformed into a ‘Palestinian nation', Jordanian territory into a ‘Palestinian homeland'.
(Jerusalem Post, August 9, 2012) Alchemy: a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation – The Oxford Dictionary
I do not think there is a Palestinian nation at all. I think there is an Arab nation. I think it’s a colonialist invention – a Palestinian nation. When were there any Palestinians? Where did they come from? I think there is an Arab nation. – Azmi Bashara
The Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.... The Palestinian people believe in Arab unity. In order to contribute their share toward the attainment of that objective, however, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity. – The Palestinian National Charter [of 1964, Article 11]
A recent op-ed article in The New York Times by Dani Dayan, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, titled, “Israel’s Settlers Are Here to Stay,” reignited the debate on the viability and desirability of the two-state solution.
In it, Dayan correctly points out something that should be evident to any unbiased observer of the events of the past two decades: “The insertion of an independent Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan would be a recipe for disaster.”
He warns that “the new state [would become] a hotbed of extremism. And any peace agreement would collapse... Israel would then be forced to recapture the area.”
This is not an implausible scenario, given the precedent of the Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon, the seizure of power by Hamas in Gaza, and the ever-tightening grip of assorted Islamists on Sinai. In the absence of persuasive arguments to the contrary, there is no reason – other than unsubstantiated hope and unfounded optimism – that a similar fate would not – sooner or later – befall the “West Bank,” were the IDF to evacuate it.
The question then arises: Why would any rational person embrace a policy that so clearly threatens to wreak tragedy on Israelis and Palestinians alike?
In the course of modern history mankind has often been afflicted by political perspectives and policy prescriptions that were manifestly misguided, and by doctrinal dogmas that were demonstrably disastrous. Few, however, have been so transparent in their undisguised trickery as what has come to be known as the “two-state-solution” (or TSS).
Based on the flawed and failed notion of land-for-peace, whose validity has repeatedly been disproven, but somehow never discredited and certainly never discarded, it has inexplicably monopolized the debate on the Israel-Arab conflict in general, and the Israel-Palestinian conflict in particular, for decades.
What makes the dominance of the TSS-approach so difficult to fathom is that it is not anchored to empirical fact or to logical consistency, and that the Arabs openly admit that it is nothing but subterfuge.
This assertion cannot be dismissed as some radical right-wing rant. It is the unavoidable conclusion that emerges from the deeds, declarations and documents of the Palestinians.
Nationhood as alchemy
To understand how unmoored the TSS-approach is from fact and logic, consider how devoid of substance the key elements which allegedly underpin it are, such as the “Palestinian nation” and “Palestinian homeland.”
To illustrate this seemingly far-reaching assertion, suppose for a moment that the Arabs had not launched the war of annihilation against Israel in 1967. Who then would have been the Palestinians? More important, what would have been Palestine? At the time, the Arab Palestinians resident in the “West Bank” were not stateless.
Until 1988, all were Jordanian citizens.
Moreover, the 1964 version of the Palestinian National Charter explicitly proclaimed, not only that the “West Bank” was not part of the Palestinian homeland, but that it was part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. (Article 24). Don’t take my word for it. Check it.
So had the Arabs not launched a war of annihilation against Israel, the Arab residents of the “West Bank” would have been Jordanians, and territory of the “West Bank” would have been Jordan.
Of course, this leaves unanswered the previously posed question of who the Palestinians would have been, and where Palestine would have been. Let me urge patience. There will be more on that later.
After all, the Arabs did launch their overtly genocidal aggression against the Jewish state, which resulted in spectacular failure.
From this mixture of defeat and disappointment, “a seemingly magical process of transformation/creation” began to emerge before our very eyes. Poof! As if by some mysterious alchemist mechanism, Jordanian nationals were transformed into a “Palestinian nation” and Jordanian territory was transformed into a “Palestinian homeland.”
Palestine is where the Jews are
On May 27, 1967, barely a week before the outbreak of the Six Day War, Ahmed Shukairy, Yasser Arafat’s predecessor as chairman of the PLO, bellowed: “D-Day is approaching. The Arabs have waited 19 years for this and will not flinch from the war of liberation.”
On June 1, he crowed: “This is a fight for the homeland – it is either us or the Israelis. There is no middle road. The Jews of Palestine will have to leave... We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants and as for the survivors – if there are any – the boats are ready to deport them.”
Even for the most avid adherent of the TSS-approach, Shukairy’s use of the words “liberation” and “homeland” should be revealing. For they certainly did not –and could not – apply to the “West Bank” (or Gaza), since both were under Arab rule and clearly did not comprise the “homeland” towards which Palestinian “liberation” efforts were directed.
The conclusion appears inescapable.
Rather than defining any specific territory as homeland, “Palestine” is a highly fluid geographical entity used to designate any territory where the Jews exercise control, from which Arabs have a “scared duty” to “liberate” it.
Palestine: Pre-1967 vs post-1967
Following the debacle of June 1967, the thrust of Arab “liberation” efforts changed.
Whereas prior to this date, the focus was on the land west of the “Green Line,” Arab endeavor now switched to that lying east of it, and which had fallen under Israeli control as a result its victory in the defensive war forced upon it – despite Israel’s entreaties to Jordan not to join the planned Arab onslaught against it.
This, however, was only an intermediate aim in a staged strategy to eliminate the Jewish State entirely, whatever its borders.
Perhaps the most explicit – but certainly by no means, the only – articulation of the post-1967 design was that of the oft-quoted, but yet-to-be repudiated, Zuheir Muhsein, former head of the PLO’s Military Department and a member of its Executive Council.
Echoing the identical position set out in the introductory excerpt by Azmi Bishara, a self-proclaimed “Palestinian” who represented the anti-Zionist Arab list Balad in the Knesset until forced to flee because of allegations of treason, Muhsein also opined that “the Palestinian people does not exist.”
He elaborated: “The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity.... It is only for political and tactical reasons that we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.”
He then clearly elucidated the rationale of the post-1967 staged strategy, and the crucial role the construct of a “Palestinian identity” had to play in implementing it: “For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beersheba and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”
Temporary tactical construct
It would be a grave error to dismiss this as merely the opinion of a single, long-forgotten Palestinian leader.
It is a view that has been expressed by many Arabs, Palestinian or otherwise, from [the Palestine Liberation Organization’s “Foreign Minister”] Farouk Kadoumi to [Jordan’s former] King Hussein.
More recently it was alluded to by no less a figure than [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas in his speech at the UN last September, when he implied that the Jews had no connection to the Holy Land, and insinuated that Palestinians had been denied their homeland for 63 years – i.e. since the inception of Israel and not by the alleged post-1967 “occupation.”
But more important, it is a sentiment that permeates the entire Palestinian National Charter, according to which, “The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time...”
But no less significant and revealing is the proviso conveyed in the citation from the Charter in the introductory excerpt above, regarding the need for the Palestinians to “safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity,” which is to be limited to “the present stage of their struggle.”
Think of it. What other nation declares that its national identity is merely a temporary ploy to be “safeguarded” and “developed” for the “present stage” alone? Does any other nation view their national identity as so ephemeral and instrumental? The Italians? The Brazilians? The Turks? The Greeks? The Japanese? Of course none of them do.
The merging of ends and means
But what is the purpose of this temporary ruse? The Charter is quite explicit: For Palestinians “...to contribute their share to the attainment of [the] objective of Arab Unity.” And Arab unity, to what end? The liberation of Palestine, “illegally partitioned” in 1947, which is both the goal of, and the vehicle for, Arab unity.
Again, check for yourself. Article 13 says it all: “Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine are two complementary objectives, the attainment of either of which facilitates the attainment of the other.
Thus, Arab unity leads to the liberation of Palestine, the liberation of Palestine leads to Arab unity.”
So there you have it: The Palestinians’ political philosophy in a nutshell... and in their own words. The aspiration for the liberation of Palestine – a.k.a. the destruction of Israel – is the force for Arab unity, while the achievement of such liberation/ destruction will provide the impetus for pan-Arab unity – presumably via the sense of empowerment and achievement it will generate.
Debunking a dangerous dichotomy
So while Dani Dayan is right that the implementation of the TSS will in all likelihood bring tragedy to both sides, that is not the only reason to oppose it.
It is a proposal that has no foundation in fact, morality or logic; it is devoid of any justification in history or in present politics.
Dayan makes this case in part, stating, “Giving up this land in the name of a hallowed two-state solution would mean rewarding those who’ve historically sought to destroy Israel, a manifestly immoral outcome.”
But it is precisely because the TSS-paradigm is so unfounded, no more capable of resolving the conflict than alchemy is capable of transforming base-metal to gold, that its dominance of the discourse constitutes a huge indictment of the intellectual competence of the Israeli leadership.
For not only has that leadership been unable to expose it as a flimsy falsehood, openly acknowledged by Arabs, and to consign it to the garbage heap of history, they have allowed the discourse to be needlessly corralled into a false dichotomy.
It is a dichotomy that is as dangerous as it is deceptive, making it seem that the only choices are either a geographically untenable Jewish democracy, or a demographically untenable Jewish ethnocracy.
Israeli intellectual ineptitude
This is a completely misleading and misplaced perception of reality. Indeed, there exists a wide range of Zionist and democratic – compliant alternatives that can provide both Palestinians and Israelis with better and more secure lives, some of which I have discussed at length in previous columns. Only Israeli political ineptitude has prevented serious discussion of their viability and validity.
Unless the Israeli leadership can muster the political will and the intellectual ability to force these alternatives to the center stage of the debate, the consequences will be calamitous.
For the [New York] Times’ [journalist] Tom Friedman did get one thing right in a recent, largely baseless diatribe: “There are real lives at stake out there.”
All rights reserved © 1995 - 2012 The Jerusalem Post.
Into the Fray: Five mendacious myths make one false narrative
By MARTIN SHERMAN
Given the lies and distortions of Palestinian claims, what seems more credible: An offer to buy the Brooklyn Bridge or the Palestinian narrative?
(Jerusalem Post, May 12, 2016)
Of all the Palestinian
lies there is no lie greater or more crushing than that which calls for the
establishment of a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank... Not since the
time of Dr. Goebbels has there been a case in which continual repetition of a
lie has born such great fruits... – Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, formerly education minister, member of
the far-left Meretz faction and dean of Tel Aviv University’s law faculty,
“Palestinian Lies,”Haaretz, July 30, 1976
Telling the truth about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict would affirm American support for international law, democracy, the peaceful resolution of international disputes, and the principle of equal rights for all peoples… [as well as] American opposition to aggression and terrorism. – Prof. Michael Mandelbaum, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, “The Peace Process Is an Obstacle to Peace – and it always has been, because its premises are false,” Commentary, April 14, 2016
I don’t think there is a Palestinian nation at all. I think there is an Arab nation. I always thought so... I think it’s a colonialist invention – a Palestinian nation. When were there any Palestinians?... – Balad party founder Azmi Bishara, Channel 2, 1996
In last week’s column, I
demonstrated how attributing legitimacy to the Palestinian narrative (and hence
to the aspirations arising from it such as statehood) necessarily culminate in
stripping the Zionist narrative of its legitimacy, by delegitimizing the
measures required to sustain the Jewish nation-state.
Consequently, the inescapable conclusion is that the only way to attain legitimacy for measures required to sustain the Jewish state is to delegitimize the Palestinian narrative, according to which Palestinian-Arabs comprise an authentic, identifiably distinct national entity, entitled to all the rights accorded other such entities.
I undertook to trace the outlines of how to address the daunting challenge of discrediting, disproving and ultimately delegitimizing a narrative that due to “decades of distortion, deception and delusion [has] become entrenched in the collective international consciousness” as the received wisdom regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Massive sleight of political hand
As I pointed out in a previous column (UN-nation; un-nation; non-nation; anti-nation, September 16, 2011), while no consensus exists among political scientists as to an exact definition of “nation” and “nationalism,” there is broad agreement over what cannot be excluded from such definition. Thus, whatever other details different scholars might wish to include in their preferred definition, there is little disagreement that:
• A “nation” is an identifiably differentiated segment of humanity exhibiting collective desire to exercise political sovereignty in a defined geographical territory; and
• “Nationalism” is the pursuit, by those identifiably differentiated segments of humanity, of the exercise of political sovereignty in a defined territory.
Even a cursory analysis of historical events in this region will reveal that, in the case of Palestinians-Arabs, neither of these constituent elements exists: Not an identifiably differentiated people, desiring exercise of political sovereignty; nor a defined territory in which that sovereignty is to be exercised.
One need only examine the declarations and documents of Palestinians themselves to verify this, and discover that they have never really conceived of themselves as a discernibly discrete people with a defined homeland.
Accordingly, little effort is required to demonstrate that the Palestinian “narrative” – the ideo-intellectual fuel driving the demands for statehood – is nothing more than a motley mixture of multiple myths, easily identifiable and readily refutable. The inescapable conclusion is – or should be – that the entire edifice of Palestinian national aspirations is a giant political hoax, a massive sleight of political hand to serve a more sinister – and thinly disguised – ulterior motive.
What are the five constituent myths that comprise the noxious concoction of the Palestinian narrative?
The myth of Palestinian homeland
The first – and arguably, the most startling – myth is that of a Palestinian “homeland,” now designated as “the West Bank” (Judea-Samaria) and Gaza. For not only did the “Palestinians” never claim this as their historical homeland, they explicitly eschewed any claims to sovereignty over it until well after it fell under Israeli control in 1967.
Thus Article 16 of the original version of the Palestinian National Covenant sets out the alleged desire of the people of Palestine “who look forward to... restoring the legitimate situation to Palestine, establishing peace and security in its territory, and enabling its people to exercise national sovereignty...”
However, since the covenant was adopted in 1964, well before Israel “occupied” a square inch of the “West Bank” or Gaza, the question is what is meant by “its territory” in which the Palestinians were “looking forward... to exercise national sovereignty”? Significantly, in Article 24, they state specifically what this territory did not include, and where they were not seeking to exercise “national sovereignty,” explicitly proclaiming that they do not desire to “exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan... [or] the Gaza Strip...”
From this we learn two stunning facts: Not only did the “Palestinians” not claim the “West Bank” and Gaza as part of their homeland, but they expressly excluded them from it. Moreover they unequivocally acknowledged that the “West Bank” belonged to another sovereign entity, the Hashemite Kingdom.
Myth of homeland (cont.)
There is, therefore, not the slightest resemblance – indeed not one square inch of overlap – between the territory claimed by the Palestinians as their “homeland” when they first allegedly formulated their national aspirations, and the “homeland” claimed today.
Indeed, the two visions of “homeland” territories are not only inconsistent with each other, but mutually exclusive.
Accordingly it would seem that it is Jewish rule, rather than any “collective historical memory,” that is the determining factor in defining the location of the Palestinian “homeland.” This is starkly underlined by the proclamation of Ahmad Shukeiri, Yasser Arafat’s predecessor, on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War: “D Day is approaching.
The Arabs have waited 19 years for this and will not flinch from the war of liberation... This is a fight for the homeland...”
Shukeiri’s use of the words “liberation” and “homeland” are revealing. They clearly cannot refer to Judea-Samaria or Gaza, now claimed as the “Palestinian homeland,” since these were then under exclusive Arab control.
Indeed, nothing could better vindicate the contention that the concept of a “Palestinian homeland” is a fabricated construct, conjured up to further the Arab quest to eradicate any trace of a sovereign Jewish homeland.
The myth of Palestinian peoplehood
Senior Palestinian leaders
have openly admitted – consistently and continually – that Palestinians are not
a discrete people, identifiably different from others in the Arab world. For
example on March 14, 1977, Farouk Kadoumi, head of
the PLO’s Political Department, told Newsweek: “... Jordanians and Palestinians
are considered by the PLO as one people.”
This statement parallels almost exactly the oft cited, and ne’er denied, position expressed two weeks later by the former head of the PLO’s Military Department and Executive Council member, Zuheir Muhsin, who declared: “There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese... It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity...(Dutch daily Trouw, March 31, 1977).
It was Jordan’s King Hussein who underscored that the emergence of a collective Palestinian identity was merely a ploy to counter Jewish claims to territory considered “Arab.” At the Arab League meeting in Amman in November 1987, he stated: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.”
This necessarily implies that the “Palestinian personality” is devoid of any independent existence, a fictional derivative, fabricated only to counteract Jewish territorial claims.
The myth of Palestinian nationhood
But not only do the Palestinians admit that they are not a discrete sociological entity, i.e. a people, they also concede that as a political unit, i.e. a nation, their demands/ aspirations are neither genuine nor permanent.
Indeed, Zuheir Muhsin candidly confesses: We are all part of one [Arab] nation... The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”
Doesn’t get much more explicit than that – unless you read Azmi Bishara in the introductory excerpt.
Indeed, the Palestinian-Arabs not only affirm that their national demands are bogus, but are merely a temporary instrumental ruse. In their National Covenant they declare: “The Palestinian people are a part of the Arab Nation... [H]owever, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity...”
So how are we to avoid concluding that at some later stage there will be no need to preserve their “national identity or develop consciousness thereof? How are we to avoid concluding that Palestinian identity is nothing but a short-term ruse to achieve a political goal: annulling the “illegal 1947 partition of Palestine” (a.k.a. Israel).
After all, what other nation declares that its national identity is merely a temporary ploy to be “safeguarded” and “developed” for the “present stage” alone? Does any other nation view its national identity as so ephemeral and instrumental? The Italians? The Turks? The Japanese? Of course not.
So as King Hussein said: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.” Nothing more.
The myth of Palestinian statelessness
A major theme exploited to evoke great sympathy for the Palestinians’ cause – and commensurate wrath at Israel – is that they are a “stateless” people. But this condition of “statelessness” is not a result of Israeli malfeasance, but of Arab malevolence.
For the Palestinians are stateless because the Arabs have either stripped them of citizenship they already had, nor precluded them from acquiring citizenship they desired.
In the “West Bank” for example, until 1988, all Palestinians – including the “refugees” – held Jordanian citizenship. This was then annulled by King Hussein, after relinquishing his claim to this territory. This abrupt measure was described by Anis Kassim, a prominent Palestinian legal expert, as follows:”... more than 1.5 million Palestinians went to bed on 31 July 1988 as Jordanian citizens, and woke up on 1 August 1988 as stateless persons.”
But Palestinians have also been prohibited from acquiring citizenship of their countries of residence in the Arab world, where many have lived for over a half-century.
The Arab League has instructed members to deny citizenship to resident Palestinian-Arabs “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland.” Thus, Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef, in an 2004 Los Angeles Times interview, reiterated that this official policy was meant “to preserve their Palestinian identity” – which was apparently incapable of independent existence without external coercion.
He went on to assert that “if every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won’t be any reason for them to return to Palestine.” Precisely.
The myth of Palestinian refugees
Much has been written elsewhere on the anomaly of the Palestinian refugees. I will, therefore, confine the discussion to two short but edifying references.
While all other refugees on the face of the globe are under the auspices of the UN High Commission for Refugees, the Palestinian refugees have their own unique organization, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The two organizations have two different definitions of who is a refugee and different mandates as to how they should be treated. These differences have far-reaching consequences, arguably the gravest being that they spectacularly inflate the numbers of Palestinian refugees, from fewer than 50,000 to around 5,000,000.
Thus, in a letter to former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan (May 18, 2002), the late Tom Lantos, ranking Democrat on the US House International Relations Committee, expressed bewildered disapproval at the prevailing situation: “I am frankly baffled as to why, more than 50 years after the founding of the State of Israel, there continues to exist a UN agency focused solely on Palestinian refugees... No other refugee problem in the world has been treated in this privileged and prolonged manner.”
Over a decade later (August 31, 2014), former Labor Knesset member and ardent two-stater Einat Wilf wrote: “If UNRWA operated the same way as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which is responsible for all other refugee groups in the world, today there would be only tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees, rather than millions...”
Brooklyn Bridge or Palestinian narrative?
So there you have it – or at least part of it. Thus, in light of this overly condensed and admittedly incomplete exposé of lies, distortions and exaggerations of the Palestinian claims, what seems more credible? An offer to buy the Brooklyn Bridge or the Palestinian narrative?
Dr. Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.
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