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In recent times, we have all been bombarded with innumerable accounts of the barbarity, ferocity, savage, cruel, racist, and “apartheid” nature of Israel’s “occupation” of “Palestinian” lands. We see claims that Israel is “Judaizing” Jerusalem, plotting to take over the “Haram Al Sharif” (aka “The Temple Mount”), that they are going to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock and deny Muslims the right to pray where they want, and much worse. We hear that the checkpoints in the West Bank are SO disturbing to the Palestinians that it is now acceptable, even “heroic”, to walk up to civilian strangers in the street and stab them to death.
That so many accept these claims at face value, in the face of a tremendous, longstanding, clearly true body of evidence is astounding, but no less astounding is the fact that so many otherwise intelligent people deny evidence and simply “pile on”, ostensibly in the name of “human rights”, while completely ignoring every major human rights disaster in the world, calling only Israel to account.
So, a few thoughts and clarifications for those who are inadequately educated, or simply want to believe the worst about Israel.
- Israel is the modern name of an ancient, Jewish kingdom that existed in the area of modern-day Israel, the “West Bank” (aka Judea and Samaria). The ONLY nations that have EVER existed in this specific geography were Jewish nations. There is no evidence of any other nation existing there. Ever. There were many conquests of this land, with migrations of Arabs, Romans, Greeks, and others sweeping across the area, but no nation other than those of the Jews.
- Jerusalem, which President Abbas and others of the Palestinian Authority claim is being “Judaized” has always been the center of Judaism. Always. Jews have prayed every single day for thousands of years to never forget Jerusalem, to return to Jerusalem, and to eventually rebuild the temples that were destroyed there.
While clearly, there have always been non-Jewish residents of Jerusalem, it has always been a Jewish city.
The Old City of Jerusalem is divided, still today, into four quarters – Muslim, Christian, Armenian, and, yes, Jewish. The Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, which falls within what the useful idiots and Palestinians now call “East Jerusalem”, had over 19,000 Jews living there in the early 20th The Jewish inhabitants of the Jewish Quarter were thrown out of their homes in 1948 when Jordan conquered half of Jerusalem, just as were all Jewish residents of the rest of Jerusalem, including what is now euphemistically (and erroneously) called East Jerusalem.
When Israel conquered the “other” half of Jerusalem in 1967, they annexed it and allowed the owners and residents to return to their pre-1948 homes.
Today, we are told that these people, who were forced out of their homes for a whopping 19 years, are “settlers” usurping the lands and properties of “The Palestinians”.
There is only one problem with this narrative. It’s not true. Much of the land around Jerusalem was barren land, uninhabited and unused. Jews purchased most of what they now have from the actual, legal owners.
One can argue that the Arab owners should not have sold the land, that fellahin (peasants) were living on the land as sharecroppers or renting homes, but the bottom line, just as in any country with laws about land ownership, is that land purchases are legal.
- The world continually refers to the division between Israel and the West Bank (and “East Jerusalem”) as “The 1967 Border”. In fact, it is not now, nor has it ever been a “border”. The demarcation line was delineated in 1949 at the conclusion of Israel’s war of independence, and was created based on the battle lines at the time of the cessation of hostilities between Israel and the Arab nations that attacked it in 1948. It is known as either “The Green Line” or “The 1949 Armistice Lines”. In ALL the armistice documents between the parties and at the United Nations, these lines are acknowledged as NOT being a “border”, and very clearly, especially on the part of the Arabs, demand that they NEVER be considered a border. Yet, today, the world continually calls these “borders”. They are not.
- Israel is called an “Apartheid” state. By any stretch of the imagination, this is so far from the truth as to represent absurdity.
Within Israel, ALL citizens have equal rights under the law, with the exception that non-Jewish citizens are not required to perform military service. That exemption is not based on racism, but on a sensibility that many may feel divided in their loyalties and be unwilling to serve a Jewish state.
It does NOT mean that discrimination does not exist in Israel. It does, just like it does in every country in the world. Where people exist among “others”, discrimination, racism, and fear of those who are different exists.
But, in Israel, these fears are addressed by laws that guarantee equal rights for all. These rights have been upheld time after time after time by Israel’s courts, including the Supreme Court. ANY citizen has the right to live anywhere, to go to any public school, to serve in the military, become a politician, or enjoy any of the rights and responsibilities of other citizens. There is constant improvement in the lot of minorities, which not only include Arabs, but Jews from Ethiopia and others, as well. It is not perfect, but the country, as a whole, strives for unity and is, certainly, better than most “melting pots” around the world in terms of acceptance and integration of minorities.
In the “Occupied Territories”, life is a bit different. The West Bank is divided into three areas – Area A, Area B, and Area C. This was agreed upon by the Arabs and the Israelis in the Oslo II Accords in 1995, and was intended to be temporary pending “peace” negotiations between the parties.
Area A and Area B were created to contain the vast majority of Arabs living in the West Bank. It comprises about 40% of the land of the West Bank, and the vast majority of the Arab population living in the West Bank. Almost all these Arabs are governed in EVERY way by the Palestinian Authority, NOT by Israel. Israel’s only authority in these areas is military/security related. Israeli forces enter these areas only in pursuit of those either planning attacks, or who have carried out attacks against Israel. The laws in these areas are Arab/Palestinian, not Israeli, and the government was elected by the Arabs living there.
It is important to note that the Palestinian Authority has declared that NO JEWS are allowed in these areas.
Area C is the rest of the land, most of which was NOT occupied by Arab inhabitants, although there are about 3000 Arabs living in this area (as of 2013), vs. 2.8 million Arabs living in Areas A and B. For comparison, there are about 350,000 Jews living in Area C as of 2013.
- The historical connection of Jews to many of the places within “The West Bank” is so well documented as to be irrefutable, in spite of the claims of the Arabs. A quick glance through an old testament will give you a flavor of the history of the Jews in this area.
The city of Hebron (the name comes from the Hebrew word “Chaver”, or “friend”), for example, which now has a small enclave of Jews living there, is the site of the oldest Jewish community in the world. King David reigned there 1000 years before the Romans conquered it, and the tombs of the Jewish “patriarchs”, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and “matriarchs”, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah are all there. There was a continuous Jewish presence there until 1929, when the Arab residents killed 67 Jews and drove the rest out, until 1967, when some Jews returned. For more details, see http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/hebron.html.
What is ironic about Jewish “settlement” in the “West Bank” is that some areas, such as Gush Emunim, were Jewish-owned land and villages, settlements, etc. in the 1920’s and ‘30’s, interrupted only by Arab neighbors forcing the owners, who had purchased the land, off it, only to return after 1967. The Jewish owners of Gush Emunim had clear title to the land, having purchased it under the real estate laws established by the Ottomans and continued by the British. They bought the land from the owners, with clear title going back hundreds of years. Yet, today, they are called “settlers”, and somehow, we’re supposed to believe that they stole the land from someone.
- The Palestinians, who, as a separate “nationality”, never existed before the mid-1960’s, claim that Israel stole “their” land. Unfortunately for them, it was never “their” land in a nationalistic sense.
While many Arabs living in the area were landowners, the land in which the state of Israel was founded in 1948 was purchased from the legal landowners. In some cases, this resulted in the eviction of Arab tenants on the land when the new owners took possession, in the same way that new owners have taken possession of their property for as long as civilization has recorded land and property sales. Someone buys a property, decides that they no longer want to rent to the tenant, and the tenant is forced to move. This is the norm in every country in the world, and has been for many, many centuries.
In recent times, the land in question was controlled by the Ottomans from around 1299 until the British acquired control of it in 1918 at the conclusion of WWI. Before that, it has been controlled by a laundry list of peoples, most of whom are no longer in existence. These include the Canaanites, Amorites, Ancient Egyptians, Moabites, Ammonites, Tjeker, Philistines (who are NOT the ancestors of the Palestinians), Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, etc. etc. etc. And, of course, there have been Jewish/Israelite kingdoms, as well, which are the ONLY recorded instances of nations existing there.
When Jordan attacked Israel in 1967 and was beaten by Israel, Israel acquired the West Bank. Unfortunately for the Arabs (or perhaps, fortunately, since they are so much better off under Israel than they were under Jordan that the comparison is ridiculous), even though Israel offered to give it (or part of “it”) “back” in exchange for peace, Jordan refused, and Israel has been “stuck” with it ever since.
Israel cannot simply withdraw from it, as that would leave a vacuum. The area would not survive very long without Israeli support, water, electricity, and all the other services that Israel provides. Nor, apparently, can Israel negotiate successfully with the Arabs. They’ve tried, even offering 97% of the land (with some land swaps), only to be completely rebuffed.
The world forgets that initially, there were NO checkpoints, no special roads for Israelis (NOT for Jews only, but for all Israeli citizens, of whom 20% are Arab). The checkpoints came into existence only after the rate of Arab terror became unbearable and Israel limited travel from place to place. There is no doubt that checkpoints are burdensome, but they are not tantamount to “genocide”, which the Arabs continually claim, nor are they “racist” or “apartheid”. They are quite simply there for security purposes. Had the Arabs negotiated in good faith and reached an agreement, those checkpoints would have disappeared overnight.
- Current Issues. So, where are we today?
I started with the title “Just how sorry should we feel for the “Palestinians”?”.
We have a “community” of Arabs calling themselves Palestinians. That’s ok, they are entitled to call themselves anything they like. They are perfectly entitled to have nationalistic aspirations and to want to have their own country, just like many people around the world. Certainly, “Americans” are not a homogeneous entity, nor are all Americans from America. Many, like many of the “Palestinian” Arabs, came from other places.
The bigger question is “To what are ‘the Palestinians’ entitled?”
My answer is “nothing”.
Israel and the world do not owe the Palestinians a state, roads, an economy, water, ports, railroads, schools, hospitals, or anything else. In light of the Palestinians’ desire for a country of their own, the world has recognized that desire, as has Israel, and both have agreed that the Palestinians are welcome to have their own country.
That, however, does NOT give the Palestinians specific land rights, rights to holy places, rights to displace people who have bought the land on which they live, or to conduct temper tantrums in the form of terror campaigns to get what they claim they want.
Of course, what they REALLY want is quite clear. They want the state of Israel to disappear, to be replaced by a state of “Palestine”, in which Jews will not live, or, will be relegated to the status of “Dhimmi”, or second-class citizens with limited rights.
The Palestinians have had many opportunities to erect a state, and have had ample assistance from the rest of the world, including Israel. They have walked away from EVERY effort to negotiate security, borders and “settlements”, and have made ever-increasing demands for preconditions to even talk to Israel, all, apparently, in the hopes that the “useful idiots” and anti-semites of the world will make their case for them.
If they REALLY wanted a state, they could have had it at almost any time since 1948, by simply negotiating in good faith and compromising, as Israel has shown over and over again that it is willing to do, on some of their demands.
No matter how much the Palestinians demand a “right of return” for all descendants of “refugees”, it simply is not going to happen, since that would effectively end the status of Israel as the Jewish homeland. No Israeli government is ever going to agree with that, nor will 99% of Israelis.
It is highly unlikely that Israel will agree to evacuate major settlement “blocs” near Jerusalem, particularly those in strategically important areas and/or that were Jewish-owned before 1949, although it IS likely that Israel would be willing to “gerrymander” the border to include some of the Arab towns currently within its borders in exchange for these “settlements”.
All the protests in the world will not change that fact.
The bottom line is that I DON’T feel sorry for the Palestinians. They have made their bed and continue to make and lie in it, daily. If they renounce the use of violence and sit down at the table, they could have a state tomorrow. The issue of the “settlements” being an impediment to negotiation is beyond ridiculous. That “issue” would be clearly settled within the discussion on borders.
So, why should I feel sorry for the Palestinians? They clearly have exactly what they want.