Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Poverty and Reapportionment

I started writing this back in April but ran out of steam. Now that Mayor Jones’ redistricting committee has completed its reports and redistricting proposals, it is time for me to fully address this issue.

Written in April


The mayor of our fair city has appointed a committee to provide input into the once-in-ten-years reapportionment process that Richmond is currently engaged in. The mayor’s committee is in addition to the committee that the City Council has appointed to aid it in redistricting. According to an article in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, Mayor Dwight Jones wants the city to consider residents living in poverty as well as the increased number of Hispanics and other minorities before it redraws voter district boundaries this year. Jones says redistricting must involve 2 groups.

The nine districts existing in the City of Richmond were created by Section 30, Article II of the Richmond City Code. They were created under the authority of section 24.2-304.1.B of the Virginia Code, which provides:

“If the members [of the governing body] are elected from districts or wards . . . the districts or wards shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district or ward.”

With respect to reapportionment, the state law provides:

“In 1971 and every ten years thereafter, the governing body of each such locality shall reapportion the representation among the districts or wards, including, if the governing body deems it appropriate, increasing or diminishing the number of such districts or wards, in order to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation on the basis of population.”

So, in reapportioning the city’s nine districts, the City Council needs to come up with districts that are contiguous and compact and give the residents of the city representation base on population.

It would seem to this maven that the nine members of the City Council, assisted by their existing committee, would be able to carry out the mandates of the state law. Why do we need this new committee? Mayor Jones explained it in these words,

“We have basically looked at redistricting through a black-white lens, but this [2010] census requires us to broaden our view and look at it through a multicultural, multiracial lens. Seventeen-thousand five-hundred people will be left out of the discussion if we do it that way.”

Written today

The mayor’s committee has (apparently) finished its task. It submitted a report, a separate document of recommendations and specific reapportionment plans. (The report and recommendations were printed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and you can find them at report and at recommendations ). Surprisingly to this maven, it made no reapportionment recommendations concerning the Hispanic community, which I thought was the mayor’s real concern in appointing the committee. However, the committee made significant recommendations about reapportionment and the poor, including specific redistricting proposals. I will get to those shortly, but first. . .

Even someone who is a newcomer to Richmond like this maven (under Richmond standards I would have to live into my 100s to lose the designation “newcomer”) knows that Richmond has a poverty problem. Recent census data indicates that 22.1 % of Richmond’s population lives in poverty. (According to federal standards, the poverty threshold for a family of 4 is $21,954 per year in family income. For individuals, the threshold is $11,161 in annual income). This poverty population is concentrated densely in a few areas of the city because, in part, of decisions we have made about where to locate public housing projects and where to locate interstate highways. In its report the mayor’s committee reported the poverty populations of the city’s nine City Council districts, which I rearrange to list by poverty level:

6th District…….41%
5th District….…31%
7th District….…29%
8th District…….28%
2nd District……24%
9th District…….18%
3rd District…...14.5%
1st District..…...8%
4th District…....5%

These numbers represent the percentage of the residents of these districts who have annual incomes at or below the federal poverty levels.

In its report the committee discusses the interaction between poverty and politics in the city. Based on this discussion, it sets out two basic principals in its document accompanying the report:

First, the committee recommends that council districts should be “internally diverse and politically competitive,” so as to have meaningful elections that the voters will actually participate in.

I am certainly in favor of competitive elections. I think it is very bad for the health of the city (or of the Commonwealth) for any candidate to run with no, or only token, opposition. In our 2008 city elections, 3 candidates for the City Council and 3 candidates for the School Board ran with no opposition on the ballot. It would be nice to end this kind of election. But I do not see how this problem can be fixed by reapportionment. People live where they want or, in some cases, are required to live. Neighborhoods are established by the patterns of home purchase or apartment rental. You can’t create artificial communities by drawing district lines zigzagging across the city. Moreover, creating “internally diverse and politically competitive” districts by gerrymandering may violate the state law I quoted above that requires districts to be “contiguous and compact.”

Second, the committee argues that “poverty should be sufficiently disbursed across districts such that a majority of districts have poverty rates close to or exceeding the citywide average.”

The committee gives four rationales for this principal:

“First, distributing poverty across districts expresses the idea and the reality that poverty is a shared problem for the city as a whole, not just an issue affecting a few neighborhoods or areas of the city.”

This is a symbolic rationale. I think that anybody who lives in the City of Richmond and who gets news from the Times-Dispatch or our weekly newspapers or television or radio or the Internet knows that Richmond has a poverty problem. Unfortunately, if there is no visible poverty in their neighborhood, most residents are not going to consider poverty to be an issue that affects them. Gerrymandering poor people to distribute them across districts will have no real affect on people’s perceptions.

“Second, if poverty is indeed to be addressed as a major policy priority over the next decade, it is crucial that a strong majority of Council and School Board members have a direct stake in the issue.”

This argument is counter intuitive. Generally, when we want to increase the political clout of a minority group we try to concentrate them in a small number of districts. The committee recognizes this fact in the portion of its report and recommendations that deals with the city’s Hispanic population. This strategy is the basis of majority-minority districts—we create districts in which a minority group constitutes a majority of the residents to assure they can elect a candidate of their choice. If we applied the committee’s rationale, we would conclude that African Americans in the Commonwealth would be better served if we reapportioned the state so they are a small presence in all districts rather than a majority or near-majority in one or two. I fear that dispersing poor people by reapportionment will weaken rather than strengthen their political influence.

It also does not recognize the fact that numbers of people in a district does not necessarily translate into votes. If a “strong majority” of City Council or the School Board is going to have a “direct stake” in the poverty issue, the individual members need to know that failing to deal with this issue will cost them reelection. The unfortunate fact, which the committee recognizes in its report, is that poor people seem to turn out to vote at a fairly low rate. The committee looks at rates of registration and voter turnout rates in reaching this conclusion. Instead I look at the total number of people voting in our 2008 mayoral election in the city’s two districts with the least number of poor and compare them with the number voting in the four with the highest concentrations of poverty. I chose the mayoral election because the candidates and the issues were the same across the city. I chose to look at the actual number of people voting because that number deals both with registration percentage and turnout. What did this maven find?

District………………Poverty Rate……………..Votes Cast
4th…………………….…...5%..................................12,503
1st………………………..…8%..................................11,714
6th…………………………41%...................................6,392
5th…………………………31%...................................9,582
7th……………………..….29%...................................7,834
8th………………………..28%...................................6,702

Although the numbers do not show an exact correlation, it is clear that fewer people voted in the districts with the highest poverty rates as compared with those with the lowest rates. The question that the committee did not answer is whether a poverty population of 20% in a district is high enough to give the incumbent in that district a “direct stake” in the poverty issue.

“Third, having a majority of members who are invested in poverty increases the potential leverage of low-income residents and supportive organizations when they engage in advocacy; they can make their case to many elected officials, not a small number.”

This rationale is merely an extension of the previous one. And the same points I made above relate here. Further, these two arguments are based on the assumption that elected officials will only be “invested” in the issue of poverty if there are election consequences for them. I am not sure that this assumption is true for all elected officials.

“Fourth, distributing poverty widely is an equal public services issue, insofar as direct attention from council members and school board members to neighborhoods or blocks experiencing severe problems is an important public service.”

This rationale is based on the assumption that it is the job of a councilperson or a board member to obtain public services for their constituents. Both the City Council and the School Board are legislative bodies. The functions of a legislative body are to set public policy through the enactment of legislation—ordinances in the case of the City Council, policies in the case of the School Board—and to oversee the operations of the city’s administrative offices. Gaining public services is not part of the job. In fact, it creates inequality in delivery of city or school services depending on the influence of one’s elected officials. During the administration of Mayor Douglas Wilder, the administration made it clear that citizens must obtain city services by contacting the proper person in the administration not through their councilperson. I have no reason to assume that the policy is different under Mayor Dwight Jones.

Because I do not think the committee’s recommendations will be beneficial, and in fact may be counterproductive, I will not spend any time on evaluating its three specific reapportionment plans.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The School Board Must Oversee Richmond Public School Operations


Each student will graduate ready for college and career as a thoughtful reader, an effective writer, a critical thinker, and a creative problem solver.
Richmond Public Schools Strategic Plan, Objective 1

In recent weeks there has been a lot of attention focused on the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, Richmond’s first and only public charter school. There was an allegation of criminal wrong doing, followed by an audit saying there was no criminal problem but that the school was mismanaging some of its funds. Then there was this flap over between-semester enrichment sessions (Patrick Henry operates on a modified year-round schedule) and who is required to hold them.

With regard to all of these issues, our school board in Richmond has been out there holding Patrick Henry’s foot to the fire. Members of the board called hearings, wrote letters, and requested more audits. In calling Patrick Henry leaders to a closed door session, school board chair Kim Bridges indicated that the board was engaged in an evaluation of whether Patrick Henry was in compliance with its charter agreement. As quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bridges said “the recent disclosure of a state police investigation at the charter school and ensuing charges through the end of the year have brought issues forward that require our immediate attention.” Richmond board wants fast action on Patrick Henry. In an earlier TD article about the Patrick Henry audit, board Vice Chair Dawn Page indicated that the board was reviewing the audit report with a “sense of urgency.” She added that the board was “deeply concerned.” No evidence of fraud at charter school, but problems cited.

Supporters of Patrick Henry have been accusing the School Board of over-reacting, of picking on the school, of looking for excuses not to renew the schools charter and of micro-managing the school’s operations. This maven must disagree. Although I know that some members of the School Board were and are opposed to charter schools and would like to see Patrick Henry disappear, it is clear that the board is just doing its job. Since Patrick Henry is Richmond’s first public charter school (and one of the first in the Commonwealth) it is not surprising that the School Board is paying it special attention. It is also not surprising that Patrick Henry is suffering from growing pains. Anybody who really expected that the development of our first public charter school would go flawlessly is a dreamer.

What some people may find puzzling about the board’s actions with respect to Patrick Henry is how inconsistent it is with the board’s attitude toward the Richmond Public School’s administration. For the nearly three years that the incumbent board has been in office the emphasis has been on avoiding oversight of RPS operations. In fact, on those occasions when one or two board members insist on asserting their right to ask the Superintendent of Schools or her subordinates difficult questions, that member or members is accused of trying to micromanage the school system. And yet, oversight is one of the key functions of any legislative body, including the Richmond School Board. Oversight is the only way that the School Board can assure itself that RPS is operating properly. As far as this maven is concerned, when something “scandalous” about RPS is reported in the media the board is as culpable as the administration for not uncovering it sooner.

Which brings me, finally, to what I really want to talk about. Recently there has been a lot of noise about the fact that RPS included scores of students attending Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Relations in reporting the attainments of Richmond highschoolers on Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT). Maggie Walker is an honors high school that, although physically located within the City of Richmond, is a multi-jurisdictional school that is not operated by Richmond Public Schools. The inclusion of the SAT scores of Maggie Walker students greatly inflated the overall scores of Richmond students. Both former and present politicians attacked RPS for including the Maggie Walker scores, accusing it of racism and depriving Richmond highschoolers of their constitutional and statutory right to a quality education. In response to all this criticism, RPS put a bunch of asterisks on the statistics on its website and excluded the Maggie Walker scores from the “District Mean Score” chart.

And how did our school board react to this? As reported in the Times-Dispatch, school board chair Bridges said, “The board’s issue has been, with or without the Maggie Walker scores, the RPS scores are too low . . . Nobody was trying to hide anything; either way, it wasn’t where we want to be.” After criticism, city schools revise district SAT scores. Bridges indicated that the board would be monitoring SAT improvement efforts with the district that are aimed at boosting achievement on the college-admission test. Bridges went on, “We will continue to look for and connect with those who reach out the hand of partnership to give RPS children these additional opportunities.”

Based on these newspaper accounts, the attitude of the School Board seems to be: 1- The situation at Patrick Henry is a crisis that the board must deal with immediately; 2- The SAT scores of our high school students are too low and the board hopes that somebody will step forward to fix them.


So, let’s talk about Richmond Public School’s high schools. Richmond has five neighborhood high schools: Armstrong, Huguenot, John Marshall, George Wythe and Thomas Jefferson. It also has three magnet schools: Richmond Community, Open High School and Franklin Military. RPS also runs an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program at Thomas Jefferson High School. When RPS wants to brag about the accomplishments of its high school students it always refers to these magnet schools or programs. Richmond Community and Open High School are limited-enrollment schools serving college-bound students and are often cited as being two of the best high schools in the country. Both schools educate only a small number of students. Franklin Military is also a limited enrollment school serving students who are interested in military, police or firefighting careers. The IB program is an honors program which allows a limited number of students to do college level work in the 11th and 12th grades. I acknowledge the greatness of these magnet schools and programs. However, they do not serve the average students at our five neighborhood high schools. So, I want to take a look at the five neighborhood schools.

We might as well start with SAT scores, which led to the whole brouhaha. The SAT Reasoning Test (formerly called the Scholastic Aptitude Test) is a three part test administered by the College Board that presumably measures a student’s readiness for attending college. The three tests are Critical Reading, Mathematics and Writing. The tests are graded on a scale of 200 to 800. According to the College Board, the median score for the students taking the SAT tests is about 500. This means that about half the students score above 500 and the other half below.

For all Richmond students taking the SATs in the 2009-10 school year, including those attending the magnet schools and programs, the mean (average) scores were Critical Reading – 413, Mathematics – 407, and Writing-403. If we convert these to percentiles, using a chart published by the College Board, we find that Richmond students were in the 21st percentile for Reading, the 17th percentile for Math and the 19th percentile for Writing. This means that Richmond students performed as well, or better than, only 21% of the total number of students taking the Reading test, 17% of the students taking the Math test and 19% of the students taking the Writing test. (It is not surprising that our School Board chair found these scores to be “too low” and “not where we want to be.”)

Things are worse than the district mean scores if we look only at the five neighborhood high schools. For the 2009-2010 school years, these are the scores and the percentiles for the RPS high schools:

Armstrong: Reading 373/12; Math 377/10; Writing 362/11
Huguenot: Reading 415/21; Math 413/18; Writing 392/17
T.Jefferson: Reading 427/25; Math 413/18; Writing 420/25
J.Marshall: Reading 372/11; Math 371/9; Writing 366/11
G.Wythe: Reading 383/13; Math 383/11; Writing 386/16
On this chart, the scores for Jefferson are inflated because they include the scores of the students in the IB Diploma Program.

Let me make it clear what these scores and percentiles mean. Students at Armstrong scored as well or better than only 12% of the total number of students taking the Reading test. Students at Marshall scored as well or better than only 9% of the total number of students taking the Math test. Students at Wythe scored as well or better than only 16% of the total number of students taking the Writing test.

There is one more upsetting statistic. That is the number of students in each high school who even take the SATs. This statistic is reported in raw form by RPS on its website. Former school board member Carol Wolf reports it on her blog, Save Our Schools, as a percentage of the total enrollment in each high school. It makes more sense to me to report it as a percentage of the total number of students in the 12th grade (seniors). For the five neighborhood high schools the percentage of seniors taking the SATs was Armstrong – 27%; Huguenot – 38%; Jefferson – 53%; Marshall – 25% and Wythe – 25%. In considering the figure for Jefferson it is important to remember the significant number of students in the IB program, most of whom are expecting to attend college. To make sure you understand, I stress that in 3 of our 5 neighborhood high schools less than 70% of seniors take the SATs.

Reader, there are a few caveats. First, because of charges that the SATs are culturally biased, many colleges do not require them as a condition of admittance. Second, some students may take the ACTs, which is run by a rival testing service to the College Boards. The RPS website does not report ACT scores (or I haven’t been able to find them.) Third, the scores are mean or average scores meaning that some children at these schools may be doing considerably better on SATs. Fourth, preparing students to take the SATs is not part of the Virginia Standards of Learning and is therefore not something that high schools generally do. I remember that when I was a high school senior I did no preparation for the SATs. I was told that what I had learned generally in high school would be adequate preparation for the tests. When my kids were seniors and admission to college had become more competitive, most children would at least buy SAT preparation workbooks and some took SAT preparation courses or hired tutors to prepare them. Fifth, not every student in our high schools is planning to go to college. Many of them have their eyes on careers that do not require a college education.

Having said this, I still have serious concerns about whether RPS is adequately preparing its high school students for their futures. I think that the School Board should consider this issue to be as critical as the finances of Patrick Henry School. I would expect that at least one member of the School Board would schedule a meeting and invite the Superintendent of Schools and the principals of the five neighborhood schools to explain why so few students at these schools take SATs and why most of those who take them appear to do so poorly.

About four years ago, I likened RPS to a manufacturing industry. On one end we take in the raw products—those smiling and energetic kindergarteners, so eager to learn. At the other end we produce our end products—graduates who are prepared to pursue their goals and to serve as productive citizens of the world, the nation and the Commonwealth. Looked at this way, the real measure of the success of RPS is not SOL scores or the accreditation of our schools. Rather it is how well we have educated the students who have traveled through our system. That this is true is recognized in the first of the four objectives of the RPS Strategic Plan with which I started this piece. In adopting that Strategic Plan the School Board must have endorsed that objective. I assume that it also endorsed the first of the six parameters contained in the Strategic Plan, which says, “We will base decisions on what is best for students.”

The School Board must take immediate action to determine whether Richmond Public Schools is adequately preparing our high school students for successful futures. The citizens of Richmond will be watching to make sure it does.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CMOR Revisited

I guess my concerns that nobody ever reads this blog were unfounded. Even before the ink had fully dried on my post of this morning concerning the Children's Museum of Richmond, I received a comment from Jackie, a member of the CMOR staff. Jackie assured me that there were no plans to close the downtown CMOR location and that it would continue to operate indefinitely into the future. This is good news indeed. As I indicated in closing this morning's piece, this maven can be a bit of an alarmist. I assure you that the next time the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of CMOR states that "people out in the suburbs find it more convenient if we come to them," I will not take him seriously.

Is CMOR On The Way Out Of The City?

The Children’s Museum of Richmond (CMOR) is one of my favorite places. Over the years I have taken my grandchildren there and we have had great times. One of the really great things about CMOR is the diverse nature of its customers. It is one of the few places in the Richmond area where children of different skin color and economic status can play and learn together.

Last year, while driving from Trader Joe's to Whole Foods in the distant west end, I noticed that one of the new buildings, which had been sitting vacant for months, now held the Children’s Museum of Richmond. On another day I brought one of my grandchildren to this new facility. The west end CMOR is smaller than the one in the city but it has enough activities to keep at least the younger kids quite busy. However, one of the things that I gradually became aware of was that almost all of the children were just like my granddaughter—white.

My mind wandered, as a maven’s mind is wont to do, and I thought of how fortunate the developers of West Broad Village were to get CMOR to take one of their vacant sites. Then I started wondering how this new CMOR would affect attendance at the museum in the city. Then my mind made the final leap: would parents use of this west end CMOR so reduce usage of the downtown museum that it would eventually be relocated entirely out of the city? No, I told myself, you are just being paranoid. But . . .

This past Saturday the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran an article entitled “Children’s Museum looking at Chesterfield.” According to CMOR president and CEO, Karen Coltrane, the museum’s success with its west end location has caused it to seek to build a new “satellite” in Chesterfield. They are looking at the area near the nexus of Hull Street Road and Route 288 as a place where there are lots of children. Coltrane indicated that in its first year the West Broad Village location had drawn 120,000 visitors, and CMOR membership had increased by 1,500 families. During that same year attendance at the city location decreased by about 5%. (Coltrane attributed this decreased attendance on high gasoline prices.) In the words of Brain Pitney, chairman of CMOR’s board of trustees, “It's been our experience that people out in the suburbs find it more convenient if we come out to them.”

So what happens next? CMOR will raise the money and they will bail out some Chesterfield County developer with a now vacant property by building their next satellite. That location will draw more than 100,000 customers in its first year. During that same year attendance to the museum in the city will drop (because of the high cost of gasoline, of course). And, because “people out in the suburbs find it more convenient if we come out to them,” it will be time for CMOR to consider another satellite this time in Hanover County. Finally, some day, CMOR will notice that far more children are attending their satellites than the museum downtown. Some future CEO or board chair will question whether it makes sense to still operate the city museum when most of the customers are using the suburban locations. CMOR will be replaced by CMOC (Chesterfield), CMOHa (Hanover), CMOHe (Henrico) and perhaps other suburban locations.

But, don’t mind me. You all know the maven is an alarmist.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Is This Christianity?

Just as I was sure that my muse had permanently deserted me, a letter published in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch came to the rescue. The letter entitled “Let’s pray the Fed gets audited” comes from a writer in Hurley (some place way west of here) whose name I will omit to protect his reputation. The writer is responding to the controversial action of the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank in flying a rainbow flag as a symbol of support for its homosexual employees. Our writer refers to the bank’s action as a slap in the face of Christians as it indicates its support for the “Sodom-and-Gomorrah lifestyle.” The letter concludes with “Let’s pray that the Fed will be . . . chastised for its un-Christian behavior.”

I assume that our writer considers himself a good Christian. Yet he seems oblivious to the teachings of Jesus. When asked what was the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus specified two: 1- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deut: 6:5); 2- Love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18) [Matthew 22:37-39].

It seems clear to me that one cannot love God and at the same time have contempt (even perhaps hate) for some of God’s creation. The Bible states that all human beings are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). I have found no version or edition of the Bible that contains an asterisk for this verse excluding those who happen to be homosexuals. Our writer’s attitude and his letter are surely inconsistent with loving God.

As for the second of Jesus’ great commandments, Hillel the Elder, who lived several years before Jesus and with whose teachings Jesus would have been familiar, stated this commandment as “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” I cannot imagine that the attitude displayed by our writer in his letter would fit into any description of loving your neighbor.

I recommend that the writer change his prayer from one seeking chastisement of the Federal Reserve Bank to one seeking help in changing the hate in his heart to love of God and God’s creatures.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Who Shot Liberty Valence?

I was a bit saddened to read in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch that Liberty Valence Restaurant, on Forest Hill Avenue, had closed. This maven has fond memories of the nights that the maveness and I frequented Liberty Valence and came away with our taste buds satisfied and our arteries clogged. Liberty Valence was a place with great d├ęcor and good, reasonably-priced steaks. Liberty Valence was an institution on the south side of the James for many years. So, what happened?

Eating at Liberty Valence always had a downside. Because of the way it was set up, there were only a few tables that were truly smoke-free. The other “non-smoking” tables were always subject to cigarette smoke migrating across the large room. Several times we complained to the management about the smoke permeating the non-smoking area. When nearby O’Tooles opted to be a smoke-free restaurant, apparently without hurting its business, we suggested to the people at Liberty Valence that they might go the same way. But, I guess they felt that a western restaurant with a John Wayne theme could not survive without smoke curling through the room. When the General Assembly voted to restrict smoking at Virginia restaurants, the management at Liberty Valence refused to go along. They put a sign on the front door indicating that henceforth they would be operating as a private club and that smoking would continue. That was the day that this family eliminated Liberty Valence from our future restaurant plans.

Now Liberty Valence is dead. People can suggest many reasons for its demise. To me it is clear. Tobacco shot Liberty Valence.

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.