Op-ed: Discourse on Israel-Palestinian conflict based on urban myths, not historical fact
“Indeed, at the very heart of the Palestinian struggle is a determination to win back (the) very rights and protections long denied us by Israel.”
Hanan Ashrawi – Palestinians, America and the UN, NYT Jan 20, 2011
“…no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.”
The “Three No’s” of the Arab League in Khartoum, August 29, 1967
“The appearance of a distinct Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.”
King Hussein, Arab League Summit Amman, Nov. 1987
‘There is no middle road’ The above citations from Hanan Ashrawi’s recent Op-Ed in the New York Times, Palestinians, America and the UN, and the 1967 Arab League Summits demonstrate just how intellectually corrupt the discourse over the Israel-Palestinian conflict has become; just how much it is driven by false axioms, historical amnesia and the norms of social bon-ton that are woefully dethatched from reality. Indeed, it has become discourse that is based far more on cultural mores and urban myths than on historical fact. It has become a dramatic production where political correctness has taken over the starring role; while that of political truth has been reduced to one of a minor “extra.” Ashrawi’s accusations regarding Israel’s actions reflect the quintessential reasons why the Palestinians find themselves in the miserable state in which they are today: a chronic and cavalier disregard for the truth; an enduring propensity to blame others for their fate; and an obdurate refusal to take responsibility for their own actions – and inaction. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the history of the conflict must be wondering precisely what “rights” the Palestinians are striving to “win back.” After all, until Israel’s presence in the “West Bank”, they not only had no rights as a collective there – they did not even claim any! In fact, they expressly eschewed any such rights! In Article 24 of their 1964 national covenant they explicitly declare that they had no aspirations to “exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (sic), on the Gaza Strip …” Indeed, prior to any Israeli presence in these areas, it was quite clear on which territory Palestinians focused their demands for their “rights.” On November 18, 1965, Egyptian President Nasser declared: “Our aim is the full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people. In other words, we aim at the destruction of the State of Israel …The national aim: the eradication of Israel.”
Echoing this sentiment in a premature flush of triumph, on June 1, 1967, Arafat’s predecessor, PLO leader Ahmad Shukairy crowed: “This is a fight for the homeland. It is either us or the Israelis. There is no middle road…..We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants and as for the survivors – if there are any – the boats are ready to deport them
This resonated well with his previous pronouncements. For example, on May 27, 1967, Shukairy gloated: “D-Day is approaching. The Arabs have waited 19 years for this and will not flinch from the war of liberation.” The use of the words “liberation” and “homeland” is revealing – for at the time, the notions of “occupation” and “settlements” had neither conceptual significance nor practical relevance. Accordingly they could not possibly account for this ferocious hostility towards the Jewish nation-state by the Arabs, who clearly were not seeking “liberation” for the Palestinians in the then Arab-ruled “West Bank” and Gaza which in no way were perceived as the” homeland” targeted for such “liberation” efforts. Furthermore, the allusion to the fact that “Arabs have waited 19 years” is also pregnant with significance – too often ignored or obscured. Indeed, although the West Bank and Gaza were under Arab rule for almost two decades, not the feeblest of efforts was made to establish a Palestinian state on them. Quite the opposite, King Hussein annexed the West Bank in 1950 (an act formally recognized by both Britain and US and de facto by the Arab League) and Palestinians residing in it were granted Jordanian citizenship. Three years later, he annexed east Jerusalem declaring it the “alternative capital of the Hashemite Kingdom” and an “integral and inseparable part” of Jordan. It was not until 1988 when King Hussein relinquished his claim to the territory, now portrayed as the “ancient homeland” of the Palestinians – and stripped its residents of their Jordanian citizenship. Accordingly, a persuasive claim can be made that the “stateless” status of the Palestinians was brought about not by any Israeli action but by that of the Jordanian monarch. In the words of a prominent Palestinian legal expert, Anis F. Kassim: “…over one-and-a-half million Palestinians went to bed on 31 July 1988 as Jordanian citizens, and woke up on 1 August 1988 as stateless persons.”
Take back the narrative
The Gaza example shows how ludicrous Ashrawi’s accusations are, for all Gaza settlements were razed to the ground, hi-tech greenhouses trampled, synagogues desecrated and even cemeteries uprooted. Yet none of this brought any peaceable Palestinian initiative, irrefutably demonstrating that the settlements are an excuse for Palestinian enmity, not a reason for it. Any attempt to ascribe this hostility to” the blockade” should be summarily dismissed with the contempt it deserves. After all, the quarantine of Gaza is a consequence, not a cause, of Palestinian violence against Israel.
So if Israel cannot be blamed for the fate that befell collective rights of the Palestinian – what about their rights as individuals? In this regard the facts are irrefutable and documented. The lot of individual Palestinians improved beyond recognitions under Israeli administration, from 1967 until the early 1990s when “Oslophilic” wisdom began to dominate the discourse and induce the retraction of Israeli presence in the “West Bank” (and Gaza).The hard facts are unequivocal. Israel elevated Palestinian living standards from the virtually medieval levels under the Hashemite regime into those of the 20th Century.
Under Israeli administration, GDP per capita soared by over 10-fold to overtake nearly all Arab countries other than the major oil-exporters, life expectancy climbed from barely 40 to over 70, Infant mortality (deaths per 1000 births) plummeted from 60 to 15 (18 for Gaza), access to safe water grew by 500%, and agriculture underwent a modernizing metamorphosis, adopting modern methods of cultivation irrigation, and processing. Output increased dramatically, transforming it from a subsistence enterprise to a commercial industry.
Similarly, Palestinians were given access to due process within the Israeli judicial system, which often ruled in their favor. Thus although Ashrawi contends that Palestinians “rights and protections enshrined under international law” are trampled by Israel, they were in fact safeguarded manifestly more effectively than under any other regime – whether the Hashemite predecessor or the Palestinian successors. Just ask any Fatah member who was pitched off a multi-storey Gaza high-rise, or had his kneecaps blown away by a kindred Hamas “militant.”
Surely the time has come for Israel to take back the narrative – and rewrite it on the basis of historical realities, not political distortions; on the basis of prevailing realities rather than fabricated fantasies; on the basis of events as they actually occurred, not as they are deceitfully contrived.