Thursday, June 02, 2011

Israel And Palestine: Some Facts Please!

This maven has been in an extended period of passive aggression. It took the words of the Richmond Times-Dispatch Correspondent of the Day for May 30 to get me to put word-processor to paper again. The writer was responding to Representative Eric Cantor’s rather strange suggestion that President John Adams was an early Zionist, but in his letter he reveals that he is totally clueless concerning the history of the Middle East. In concluding his letter he states that the State of Israel has been built by the “conquest of Palestinians and the occupation of their land.” The TD writer needs to be educated on the facts.

First, there has never been a political entity called “Palestine.” For several hundred years prior to World War I, the area on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea was an inconspicuous backwater in the Ottoman Empire. On some old maps this area was referred to as “Syria” on others as “Palestine.” However, these were descriptions of geographic areas, not of countries.

Second, the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I and after the war its territory was carved up by the League of Nations to be administered as “Mandates” by the victorious powers. These “Mandates” included the future Arab states of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The League of Nations awarded a mandate over “Palestine” to England with instructions that it be administered as a “homeland” for the Jewish People. The “Palestine” of the Mandate included all the land currently in Jordan, Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

Third, England violated the terms of its mandate over Palestine. Initially, it split off the 2/3 of the Mandate east of the Jordan River Valley and gave it to the Hashemite Tribe. This area later became the Arab state of Jordan. Also, although it permitted unrestricted Arab emigration into the Mandate, England severely restricted the entry of Jews.

Fourth, during the period of the British Mandate, from 1918 to 1948, the only people referred to as “Palestinians” were the Jews living in the Mandate. The Arab residents were referred to simply as “Arabs.”

Fifth, at the end of World War II a three-way civil war among the Arabs, the Jews and the British erupted in the Mandate, and England referred the problem to the United Nations. In the fall of 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the Mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews accepted this partition, but it was rejected by the Arab world. On May 14, 1948, the Jewish state, Israel, declared its Independence. On the next day armies from five Arab countries—Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt—invaded Israel with the declared intent of destroying it. This war cost thousands of lives on both sides and resulted in many people losing their homes.

Sixth, at the end of this 1948-49 war, armistice lines (but not permanent boundaries) were drawn. Although, neither the Gaza Strip nor the West Bank was within the area controlled by Israel, no attempt was made at the end of the war to establish an Arab Palestinian state in these areas. Rather, Gaza was annexed by Egypt and the West Bank was annexed by Jordan. For nineteen years the “Palestinians” in Gaza and the West Bank were quite content to be citizens of Egypt and Jordan.

Seventh, in May 1967 the United Arab Republic (a union of Egypt and Syria) expelled United Nations peacekeepers that had been stationed on the armistice line with Israel, massed tens of thousands of troops along the armistice line, blockaded Israel’s southern port and publicly threatened to destroy Israel. Rather than waiting for an Arab attack, Israel launched a defensive attack against Egypt during the first week of June. Based on false Egyptian reports that it was winning, both Jordan and Syria joined the war against Israel. By the end of the war, Israel had defeated its three Arab neighbors and was occupying previously Arab-controlled territory. Israel acquired Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria and the West Bank from Jordan. It acquired no territory from the “Palestinians.”

Eighth, after the end of the 1967 war, Israel offered to return land to the Arabs in exchange for peace. At a meeting of Arab leaders in Khartoum, in September 1967, a resolution was adopted that there would be no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel. These Khartoum Resolutions meant that, before there were any settlers on the lands Israel occupied in 1967, the Arab world was still concentrating on the destruction of Israel rather than establishing any Palestinian state.

I can add Ninth and Tenth and Eleventh, but I have already shown enough facts to demonstrate that Israel never conquered the “Palestinians” or occupied their land. Prior to the establishment of the League of Nations Mandate there was no “Palestine.” In 1947, Arabs in the Mandate were given the opportunity to create an Arab state, but they rejected the United Nations partition and chose instead to try to destroy Israel. Thus, the “Palestinians” retained no rights under the UN partition plan. After the 1948-49 war, no state for Palestinian Arabs was created. Instead, the Gaza Strip was annexed by Egypt and the West Bank was annexed by Jordan. In the 1967 war, Israel occupied Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian territories but did not conquer “Palestinians.” Perhaps if we agree on history as it happened, rather than as some people wish it had happened, we can start bringing peace to the world.

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