By Yoram Getzler
Let us assume that we are truly trying to understand the foundations of this conflict between the Jewish people and the Palestinian/Arab/Muslim world which Prof. Shenhav challenges us to do, (One space for two people, Haaretz, Magazine, Feb 19 ’10 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1150822.html ). The professor calls for a re-imagining of the past in order to understand when and at which moment in history we, the Jewish people, could have acted differently, made decisions unlike the ones we made, which, according to him, would have been more just, and have led to less suffering for the Palestinian people. OK, I accept the challenge. I suggest we expand the possibilities beyond the usual, which is to place the blame on the Jewish people in general and the Zionist enterprise in particular.
So in the quest for the possible different scenario between the two peoples, I would like to suggest a few original, innovative, unheard of, politically incorrect ideas about the moments when a different response, a more enlightened policy might have made all the difference to both peoples.
If we are to re-image the past here, lets go back to the first important opportunity to fulfill the desperate need of the Jewish people with a minimum of violence. I realize that this is the most profound through unlikely rewriting of history imaginable. For some reason this rewriting is never imagined by the political intellectuals of the Left! Had the Arab world accepted the Peal Commission recommendation of 1938 and encouraged the recommended partitioned the land into Jewish / Arab sections back then, what an amazingly different world it might be. A place of refuge for some of the six million who were trapped might have been created. The tremendous creative power of this group may have changed the course of different medical history for one example. Perhaps a “cure for cancer” would already be a reality. We can also contemplate that the tremendous advances already achieved by Israeli alternative energy companies would be even greater. A brief list of the contributions to various human needs and well-being contributed by the battered survivors could have been multiplied by a non-traumatized cadre of Jewish immigrants.
I can not even begin to understand the potential to the entire Arab world had the Palestinian people been busy these past seventy plus years developing their abilities and talents.
… or to jump forward again, had the same Arab world that rejected the partition plan of 1938 accepted the plan of 1947, who knows there might be a flourishing Palestinian state today and all that misery and wasted energy could have been channeled into making the world a better place for all living beings.
I think it’s indicative of the true understanding by a certain class of historians and political activists, that of all the possibilities for different reactions and outcomes no one seriously considers the possibility that the Arab world or could act any differently than it has towards the Zionist imitative. No one seems ready or able to think so far out of the accepted tragic narrative we know.
What if; the people of islands west of France (known today as Britain) had revolted against the Romans at the same time as the Jews did? As consequence the 10th Legion would not have been free to be dispatched to Judea to suppress the Jewish revolt. There may not have been the mass extermination/ethnic cleansing of the Hebrew people and we may still have been here as a national entity when the Arab/Muslims invaded seven hundred years later. (Of course we may not have survived that!)
But then let’s make a major jump into modern times. The rise of Hitler and the Holocaust that followed might have been averted had the two left wing political parties of that oh so democratic Wiemar Republic understood the real dangers to democracy and decency and joined together to fight the (Nazi) Social Democratic Party of Adolph Hitler…or had the western powers, Britain, France, the US etc understood the danger of appeasing Hitler and had stopped his government early into their governance. Tens of thousand if not hundreds of thousands of mostly young Jews who were inspired by the Zionist movement could have reached Eretz Yisrael, then known as Palestine and changed the demographics which contributed to the state not fulfilling its natural historic mandate to settle all of the ancient land, from the river to the sea. (Unfortunately now it’s really too late)