Yesterday (May 16, 2011), the New York Times published an Op-Ed piece by Mahmoud Abbas, the erstwhile leader of half the Palestinians (I say half because clearly, he holds no sway in Gaza, and in spite of the new “unity deal with Hamas, he still isn’t running to visit Gaza. I can only assume that it’s because Hamas still can’t guarantee his safety there – their words, not mine).
Abbas’ piece is titled “The Long Overdue Palestinian State” and can be read at the following link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/17/opinion/17abbas.html?_r=2&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha212
As I read it, while not surprised at the broad historical license Mr. Abbas has taken, I was annoyed enough to sit down and provide some context and comment on the article. I hope it will help my readers understand a more objective truth, and pay attention to the subtleties of the Arab narrative, which has evolved quite maliciously over the years to something quite distant from actual history (most of which can be easily found by taking a look at older history books and documents related to the Middle East).
In the first paragraph, Mr. Abbas states that he and his family “were forced to leave” their home in Safed. The implication is that they were forced to do so by the Israelis. The reality is that some Arabs were forced to leave, mainly in areas where they presented significant security risks, or where there were Arab troops firing on Jewish positions and convoys. But, the vast majority left following exhortations by Arab leaders to get out of the way of the invading armies until the Jews had been pushed into the sea. Then, the “refugees” could reclaim both their own homes and those of the Jews.
In paragraph two, Abbas states that they will declare their state “on the 1967 border”. Unfortunately, no such animal exists. What he calls “the 1967 border” is, in actuality, the 1948 ceasefire lines. On one side of those lines was Israel, on the other, Jordan, which (illegally) occupied the West Bank and large parts of Jerusalem following Israel’s war for independence.
It is telling that Abbas mentions that there is value for all Palestinians in doing this, and specifically mentions “those living in the homeland, in exile and under occupation”. The implication of this is that ISRAEL HAS NO RIGHT TO EXIST. The “homeland” he so blithely mentions is what is recognized by the world to be Israel proper. NOT the “Occupied West Bank”. NOT Gaza. This declaration is important, because it quite clearly indicates that Abbas does not recognize the right of Israel to exist.
Abbas states that after the UN partition plan, “Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued”.
Seriously? The “Zionists” simply decided to expel the Arabs to ensure a Jewish majority? The fact that seven (7) Arab armies immediately invaded the new country of Israel AFTER the Arabs rejected the partition plan had nothing to do with it?
How might Abbas explain the copious evidence that Jewish leaders pleaded for the Arab population to remain calm, stay in their homes, avoid the fighting, and be part of the new country as citizens with full rights? How might he explain the Arabs who DID stay and are today citizens of Israel, most of whom want nothing to do with living in a Palestinian Arab state (based on any number of surveys)?
Abbas also mentions that although the US recognized Israel immediately, the Palestinian state “remains a promise unfulfilled”.
Yet, whose fault is that? The boundaries of the Jewish state “granted” by the UN in 1947 was indefensible, and looked like something a disturbed child might draw, BUT, it was based upon extensive surveys of population, and the land was divided based on population density. The Jews accepted it, the Arabs rejected it, and then invaded, promising to kill all the Jews, down to the last man, woman and child.
This is not an “interpretation” of history – these are well documented, easily verifiable facts. The newspapers, recordings of radio, etc. still exist and can be found quite easily by anyone who wishes to do so. While one can certainly debate intent of the various parties, the actual facts of what occurred should NOT be so open to interpretation (i.e. revising to make the “facts” fit your own desires).
Mr. Abbas is jubilant at the prospect of pursuing “legal claims” against Israel at the UN, Int’l Court of Justice, etc. and believes that declaring a state will enable them to do so. Unfortunately, the actual rule of law will almost undoubtedly fall on Israel’s side, given the various treaties, UN resolutions calling for Israel to have secure borders, and on the facts of the case, namely that Israel, like many countries, repelled multiple invasions by foreign armies and gained territory necessary for defensible borders.
However, since I am not a lawyer, I prefer to leave those arguments to the lawyers. But, the PA should beware. The facts are not all on their side, and possession is a powerful tool in the lawyer’s arsenal.
Mr. Abbas quite disingenuously claims that “Negotiations remain our first option”. Unfortunately, his actions over the past several years belie this statement. He has been utterly unwilling to sit with the Israelis unless they meet his conditions for increasingly impossible demands BEFORE negotiating. My interpretation of his reasoning is that he believes that the Palestinians will win the the courts of the media and popular opinion, forcing Israel to acquiesce in the end. Unfortunately for him, Israel has no intention or obligation to withdraw from major settlement blocks in the West Bank, or Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, many of which were Jewish BEFORE 1948, and from which Jews were expelled by Jordan, only returning after Israel claimed the territory in 1967 while defending itself from an unprovoked attack by Jordanian forces. Israel then proceeded to annex those parts of Jerusalem, leaving the PA high and dry.
It is interesting that Mr. Abbas claims that they have met all the prerequisites for statehood listed in the Montevideo Convention. Clearly, it is arguable, considering that he is still in office years after the expiration of his term of office, and that, despite the appearance of “unity” with Hamas in Gaza, there is clearly no sharing of power, no free elections, and no intention of living peacefully with their neighbor – Israel. In fact, they still claim ALL the land of Israel, a fact easily seen in their official graphics, maps, on TV, Radio, etc.
He claims that the Palestinians intend to be a peace-loving nation, committed to human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and the UN Charter. Where, in all this, is there room for the very clear racist demands that there not be a single Jew in the new state of Palestine? Or rockets and mortars from Gaza, supposedly part of the new Palestinian state? Of the integration of Hamas (and its sister organizations, such as Islamic Jihad, etc.) which all call for the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of the Jews? Do these “principles” meet the intent of the charter of the UN? Or of human rights? I doubt it….
Mr. Abbas’ belief that he will be negotiating from “the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another” is somewhat premature. The fact that the PA declares a state, based on some arbitrary border (which was NEVER intended to be a border – something clearly stated in any number of ceasefire agreements and UN resolutions), does not, in any way, obligate Israel to recognize those borders, and in fact, opens the door for Israel to take any number of unilateral actions, including annexation of whatever areas they believe they need for their defense. Abbas’ act will abrogate any and all interim agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, which will, in all likelihood, not work in their (the Palestinians’) favor.
Finally, Mr. Abbas complains that the international community has not kept “the promise it made to us six decades ago”, and calls upon them to keep it now.
I actually can sympathize with this statement. I believe that the Palestinians are entitled to self-determination if that is what they want. Their plight as a political football is the product of the Arab countries using them to keep alive the “cause” of the Arab and Muslim world to stamp out what they consider to be a cancer in their midst – namely Israel.
The fact that they have never accepted the legitimacy of Israel’s existence is, I believe, the root cause of the ongoing conflict, and the reason the Palestinians do not have a state.
Of course, their rejection of every offer of statehood along the way has something to do with it, as did their refusal in 1947 to accept the UN partition plan.
Unfortunately, Mr. Abbas’ “vision” of a “just solution for Palestinian refugees” involves millions of descendants of refugees swarming into Israel, effectively ending its ability to remain a Jewish state.
That is not something the Israelis are going to countenance, nor should they.
The Palestinians need to wake up and smell the coffee. They are a political football, unliked by the rest of the Arab world, and in reality, unable to survive as a state without massive infusions of money from the rest of the world.
They need Israel’s goodwill if they wish to be a viable state. They will not get it this way.