Friday, August 7, 2009

History (Part 3) - Partition and War

Modern Zionism was born around 1900. Theodore Herzl in his book, The Jewish State, claimed that Jews could have no safe place in which to live other than in their own state. Of course, millions were safely living in the United States, but he wanted Palestine. He promoted the slogan, “A people without a land for a land without a people.” Neither side of it was true. Jews were living all over the world with security and dignity and were not a people without a land. Neither was the other side of it true. Herzl’s personal delegation to Palestine reported back to him, “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.”[1] Palestine was occupied.

I ask myself, how I would feel in a similar situation. I can’t imagine it but it would be as if suddenly, without knocking, a government official came into my house and announced, “The United Nations has decided to give Georgia back to the Indians.” He then said, “The government has provided for your safety by establishing a refugee camp in Texas. No, you will not have time to gather your things or get in touch with relatives. A bus will be leaving at 3 o’clock today. Your house, land and business now belong to the Cherokees.” When I start to argue, he holds up his submachine gun and says, “Get on the bus. It’s for your own good.”

And what if that same officer announced that France thinks this whole program is a good idea and will donate, in the interest of democracy, huge sums of money to help the Native Americans landscape this backward territory into the garden they always dreamed it could be?

That’s pretty much the way it happened to the Palestinians and many of those refugees are still living in camps behind barbed wire fences and cement barrels. They wait for the world community to recognize the injustice of it.

Other than a self-serving interpretation of the Bible, there seems to be little rationale and even less justice in giving 56 percent of Palestine to the State of Israel. When I imagine myself in a similar situation, I become outraged by the thought of being dispossessed. I may be forced to yield to such a fate, but I would never accept it, even if the rest of the world looks away in indifference.

Mahatma Gandhi said,

What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct…A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. As it is, they (the Jews) are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them.[2]

Post World War II brought a migration explosion. Meanwhile, political leaders searched for a painless way to make it up to the survivors of the holocaust. Zionism had a plan…a homeland for Jews. They had even picked the place: Palestine. Everyone seemed eager to compensate Jews. What did not enter into the guilt mix was what to do with the Palestinians already living in Palestine. Zionist chose to claim, and the non-Arab world chose to believe, that there were no “non-Jewish populations” in Palestine of any significance.

In February 1947, the British Government referred its Palestine problem to the U.N. One year later, the U.N. announced a plan to partition Palestine. Israel accepted the plan. The Palestinians rejected it, claiming that the Holocaust was not their doing. Why should Arabs be forced to suffer for Hitler’s crimes? Why should Arabs have to give up 56 percent of their land, including nearly all of the best agricultural and citrus lands, 80 percent of the cereal areas, 40 percent of all Arab industry, and all the sea shore to some 560,000 Jews who actually owned less than 6 percent of the land, while only 43 percent would remain for the 1,320,000 Palestinians?

Until this day, that question has not been addressed. In fact, it is not even discussed in the United States. Yet, that question is the heart and cause of all the present day Arab/ Israeli conflicts.

On May 15, 1948, the State of Israel was established on land partitioned by the United Nations. (Of course, the UN did not own it nor were Palestinians invited to the vote.) They were up-rooted from their homes forever, given no compensation and many were separated from their families, including parents who never again saw their children.

Israel called it the War of Independence and it is celebrated all over Israel and the United States as a great day to remember. Palestinians called it Al Nakba which means, The Catastrophe.

Within a few days, Israel had 60,000 troops in uniform and armed to the teeth. All the Arab resistance forces added up together were only about 25,000. Palestinian villages were reduced from 550 to 121. The Palestinian population was reduced from 700,000 to 125,000. Many of those who survived are still there, looking across the hills at the homes that used to be theirs, now occupied by Jews.[3]

Arnold Toynbee said of it:

The treatment of the Palestinian Arabs in 1947 and 1948 was as morally indefensible as the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis...though not comparable in quantity to the crimes of the Nazis, it was comparable in quality.[4]

And, Golda Meir could say:

It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine...and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.[5]

Just a bit of history, easily ignored by most Americans including many of our friends and neighbors.

Thomas Are
August 7, 2009

[1] Avi Shliam, The Iron Wall, Israel and the Arab World, (W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 2001) p.3.
[2] The Origin of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, Published by Jews for Justice in the Middle East, P.O. Box 14561, Berkeley, CA. 94712, p.7.
[3] Exact figures are hard to obtain. However, I have been conservative in my numbers which are based on the history cited by Fred J. Khouri, The Arab Israel Dilemma, Third Edition, (Syracuse, N.Y., Syracuse University Press, 1985), p.77. and Paul Findley, Deliberate Deceptions, (Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago, Illinois, 1993.) p. 13.
[4] Na’im Ateek, Justice and Only Justice, Orbis Press, Maryknoll, New York, 1989.) p.32.
[5] Na’im Ateek, Justice and Only Justice, Orbis Press, Maryknoll, New York, 1989.) p.36

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