Some truths about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

By | November 18, 2012

I know there’s probably no point, but I finally snapped and dished some truth to some Israel haters in my Facebook feed. What finally set me off was this comment: “I find it inescapable that the Israelis took Palestine from the folks who were living there in 1946. Out of that injustice springs the current strife. I think the Israelis need to (1) apologize and (2) foot the bill for building a viable Palestinian state (a la the Rand plan), and (3) pay reparations. That would be a solid start to ending the conflict.”

Here’s what I wrote:

  • There were no “Israelis” prior to 1948, so “Israelis” couldn’t have taken anything away from anyone in 1948.
  • The United Nations, not “Israelis”, put into place the partition plan which created the state of Israel.
  • There have been Jews living continuously in the land of Israel for over 2,000 years; there were 600,000 Jews living in mandatory Palestine when Israel was created. One could just as easily say that the non-Jewish “folks who were living there in 1946” took their land away from Jews. How far back is it useful to go in history when meting out injustices? Is this a useful strategy for achieving peace?
  • On the day Israel came into being, a Palestine could have come into being peacefully alongside it. The nascent country of Israel agreed to the U.N. Partition Plan. The Arab countries surrounding it — all of them — did not, and on that day, they all attacked Israel, expecting to quickly overwhelm it and, quite literally, drive the Jews into the sea. To their surprise, Israel survived.
  • The winners in a war do not typically pay reparations to the losers, especially when they weren’t the ones who started the war.
  • While it is true that some Palestinians living in what is now Israel were driven from the land in 1948, and while it is true that there were isolated cases of Jewish soldiers evicting Arabs during and in the aftermath of the war, the fact of the matter is that most of the Palestinians who left did so voluntarily, and did so before the war broke out, because the Arab countries made their intention to invade explicit and clear for months in advance and told the Arabs living in the land to leave and that they would be returned to their lands victorious after the land was cleansed of Jews.
  • Between 800,000 and 1,000,000 Jews were forced out or fled for their lives from their homes in Arab countries from 1948 until the early 1970s. No Arab country has apologized to a single Jew. No Arab country has given a single dollar for any of these Jews to find a “viable” place to live elsewhere. No Arab country has paid a single dollar in reparations to any of these Jews.
  • The Arab countries surrounding Israel could have taken in the Palestinians who were made refugees by the war in 1948, but instead they forced them for decades to fester in refugee camps, and to this day Arab countries refuse citizenship to Palestinians. In contrast, every single Jew forced out of an Arab country between 1948 and the early 1970’s was welcomed by Israel.
  • A more viable path to peace might be for both side to acknowledge that when it comes to expulsions, they’re “even,” and get on with crafting a meaningful compromise. The Jews, in effect, have done that — they are demanding neither an apology nor reparations for being expelled. Only the Arabs continue to make such demands.
  • Let’s look at what Israel has done since 1948 in its efforts to make peace with the Palestinians… They agreed to the partition plan in 1948. They signed a peace treaty with Egypt and gave back the entire Sinai. They signed a peace treaty with Jordan. They surrendered to the Palestinians control over the West Bank and Gaza. They refrained from demanding reparations for the 1,000,000 Jews kicked out of Arab countries since 1948. They left behind intact houses and industrial infrastructure in Gaza that the Palestinians could have used to transform themselves into a productive economy overnight (instead, encouraged by the PLO and Hamas, the Palestinians destroyed it all the day the Israelis withdrew). They pumped millions of dollars into the West Bank and Gaza trying to help the Palestinians construct a legitimate government (how’s that for reparations?) (which was often instead used for things like Suha Arafat’s shopping sprees in Paris). They twiddled their thumbs doing almost nothing while Hamas rained down thousands of missiles on them from Gaza for years.
  • Now let’s look at what the Palestinians have done since 1948 in its efforts to make peace with Israel… Wait a minute, I’m sure something will come to me… Hold on… Still thinking… Nope, sorry, can’t think of anything. Can you?
  • The Palestinians have intentionally destroyed every single Jewish holy site in land under their control, and they refuse to allow Jews to visit these sites. In contrast, Israel not only provides government funds for preserving and protecting Christian and Muslim holy sites under its control, it allows Muslims complete control over Muslim holy sites and Christians complete control over Christian holy sites. They even allow Muslims to control the Temple Mount, which was a Jewish holy site over a thousand years before Islam existed.
  • There is a Palestinian on the Israeli supreme court. There are Palestinians in the knesset. Palestinians living in Israel are full citizens with full voting rights. Are there any Jewish judges in any Arab country? Are there any Jews serving in any capacity in any Arab government? [UPDATE: The answer to this question turns out to be yes. See below.] Are there any Arab countries which allow Jews to be citizens at all, let alone vote?
  • Speaking of the courts, the Israeli courts have ruled in favor of the Palestinians in lawsuits filed by them or on their behalf on many occasions. Have you ever heard of a Palestinian court or a court in any Arab country ruling in favor of a Jew in a dispute with the government. For that matter, have you ever heard of a Palestinian or Arab court even allowing the government to be sued by or on behalf of Jews?
  • There is an active pro-peace movement in Israel of people who are constantly pushing the government to talk to the Palestinians and try to make peace with them. There are left-wing members of the knesset who advocate these positions. In contrast, pro-peace activists in the West Bank and Gaza are executed in the middle of the street and signs are hung around their corpses announcing that this is what happens to collaborators.
  • Meir Kahane’s anti-Arab political party was banned in Israel for inciting violence against Arabs. Have you ever heard of any person or movement being banned in the Palestinian territories or any Arab country for advocating violence against Jews?
  • LGBT are accepted openly in Israeli society. Gays have been serving openly in the Israeli military since 1993. Homosexuality is a capital offense — a sentence which is still carried out to this day — in the Palestinian territories and all the Arab countries surrounding Israel.
  • Israeli children are taught songs about peace. There is, quite literally, not a single Hebrew children’s song or a single Jewish prayer glorifying war — if you know of one, feel free to point it out. Palestinian children are taught that the highest accomplishment they can aspire to in life is to martyr themselves while killing Jews. They are taught songs which glorify the martyrs whose blood will coat the road to Jerusalem when they conquer it. Soccer fields in the West Bank are named in honor of suicide bombers. To this day, the Palestinian Authority provides permanent financial support to the families of suicide bombers.
  • In synagogue for the past several Sabbaths, we have prayed for peace. Answer honestly: do you think the Palestinians have been praying for peace in their mosques on Friday?
  • When Israel is forced to take military action against the territories, not because they want to but because they must do so to protect their own safety, they take more precautions to protect the lives of civilians than any army in the history of the world. They have, on too many occasions to count, sent in Israeli soldiers to perform door-to-door operations in Palestinian towns, putting those soldiers’ lives at risk, when they could have just carpet-bombed the entire towns instead.
  • Palestinians from the territories in need of medical care are regularly treated in the best Israeli hospitals.
  • When Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Quandil announced that he wanted to visit Gaza during the current conflict, Israel promised to cease fire during his visit. Hamas kept firing missiles into Israel during the Israeli cease fire, and yet Israel honored their promise.
  • Israel’s current campaign against Gaza began for one reason and one reason only: because Hamas has shot thousands of missiles from Gaza into Israel, endangering the lives of Israeli citizens, and shot hundreds of such missiles into Israel just in the weeks leading up to the campaign. If the missiles had stopped, Israel would not have started the campaign. If the missiles were to stop now, Israel would stop the campaign. It’s really, literally, just that simple.

If there is a single factual statement above you believe to be false, please point it out and provide evidence, and I will happily retract anything I’ve said which can be shown to be untrue.

Is Israel perfect? No, not by a longshot. Have Palestinians suffered injustices at the hands of Israel? Undoubtedly. Are there some racist Israelis who would love to just kill all the Arabs? Unfortunately, yes, though they are a small minority. Is the situation the Palestinians are in terrible and sad? Absolutely. Have Palestinians died at the hands of Israelis? Absolutely, just as Israelis have died at the hands of Palestinians. But to place the majority of the blame for the genesis of the conflict or its current state on Israel is a perversion of history and objective reality.

In the past 64 years, Israel has transformed itself into a thriving, successful, “first-world” country. The Palestinians could have had a “piece of that” any time they wanted, with billions of dollars in international aid at their beck and call, by doing one thing and one thing only: stopping trying to destroy Israel. And it’s not just me saying that, it’s an Arab:

UPDATE: On the topic of Jews serving in Arab governments, my erudite friend Daniel Miller points out, “Dr. Siamak Morsadegh is the sole Jewish member of the Iranian Majlis, with a seat reserved by the 1906 Persian Constitution, along with two Armenians, one Assyrian, and one Zoroastrian. But I agree, it’s still really not fun for Jews in Iran. Also, André Azoulay remains a senior adviser to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, and Morocco, while still not excessively fun for Jews, remains rather freer for Jews than virtually anywhere else in the Arab world.”

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9 thoughts on “Some truths about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

  1. Jon Carlson

    Thank you for your analysis on this, Jonathan. I haven’t found these facts laid out so clearly before.

  2. Tom L.

    Dear Mr. Kamens:

    I was interested in learning more about the prospect of reparations being made to Palestine as a potential resolution to what has been generations of war/terrorism.

    So your review, though clearly openly personally biased offered much information to digest, review, learn from and consider.

    Your phrase though “The Palestinians could have had a “piece of that” any time they wanted,” seemed for me to show this bias. As the Palestinians did not want ” a piece” of what was initially theirs.

    I think that what the world powers need to do, with Israel contributing as well, is consider paying fair market reparations for the impact that the establishment of Israel has had on their country.

    If, as sensible, sensitive reasonable governments feel that the re-establishment of Israel was a necessary humanitarian effort, then an equal, equitable humanitarian effort by all world powers as well as Israel should make this payment so that we may move forward in peace.

    Mr. Kamens, you have explained why you feel this is not possible, why this should not occur.

    But now we all must consider and continue to look for the discussions on how this can occur. As if one group or groups may forcefully remove another from the land they occupy, then it is difficult for reasonably minds to justify another group from pursuing the same.

    It is not enough to occupy a land. Without peace, any occupation seems to be temporary.

    There must be a better way, a more reasonable way, perhaps by remitting reparations to achieve that peace.

    1. jik Post author

      The land was not initially theirs. And there was no country there when Israel was established. In other words, the narrative that there was a Palestine which belonged to the Palestinians and was taken away from them in 1948 is simply false.

        1. jik Post author

          Your question is nonsense.

          “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”
            — Daniel Patrick Moynihan

          As fond as the Palestinians are of inventing facts and revising history to support their narrative, not everyone is so stupid or gullible as to grant them free rein to do so.

  3. Manny J

    Good summary. A few minor points:
    1) I think you’re understating the extent to which expulsion of Arabs during the 1948 War of Independence was policy. And even those Arabs who left beforehand were not just doing so because they were confident that the Arabs would win, they likely also thought — correctly — that they might be forced out much more abruptly when the war broke out.
    2) Your point about there being no “Israelis” before the state officially came into being is something of a semantic quibble, which detracts from the rest of this good post.
    3) The Yiddish Chanukah song “O Ir Kleyne Lichtelach” expresses nostalgia for Jewish warmaking in the last verse. So that’s one, sort of.

    4) You might also want to spell out, for the ignorant, that there has never been a Palestinian state, which an astonishing number of people do not realize. This fact is important because, among other things, there cannot be an ‘occupation’ of land that no other nation-state claims. The West Bank was supposed to have been the Palestinian state territory, but they decided not to create a new state. Instead, they joined up with Jordan, and Jordan relinquished all claim to the land after the Yom Kippur War.

    5) Speaking of Jordan, Jordan was and is where most of that distinct ethnic group — Palestinian Arabs — live. By all the usual measures for national self-determination — common history, family ties, language, religion, culture — these are the same nation. Meaning that there already is a Palestinian nation-state: Jordan. Why do they need two?

  4. Scott

    I’m a big lefty but I break with many of my liberal acquaintances over the Israel/Palestine issue. It comes down to a pair of simple questions for me:

    * If Hamas et al just hung it up and went home, what would happen?
    * If the IDF stood down and Israel opened its borders (to normal international-border standards), what would happen?

    The answers are pretty obvious, which is why if I have to pick a side I think Israel is in the right.

  5. Greg

    Well Iran isn’t actually an Arab country so you’re clear on that on semantic grounds.


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