Barry Werner – Message to a Well Meaning Westerner
Each side in every dispute has its narrative, if you encounter a dispute and want to understand what’s going on you shouldn’t make up your mind until you understand every narrative. If you walk into a court of law and listen to the lawyers on one side but refuse to listen to the lawyers on the other side, you would most likely be persuaded by what you heard but you would not learn the truth. That is especially true about the Mideast conflict. It’s not a good idea to look at an instance someone directed you to see and generalize quickly from it. People can cherry pick instances that make one side or the other look bad, it should be seen in context.
But well meaning Western visitors brought to Israel by left-wing groups to witness the Palestinian/Israeli conflict are directed to instances of Arab suffering that they are told prove the indifference or brutality of the Jews. They are not given the opportunity to speak with representative Israeli settlers and certainly not given to understand the Israeli narrative. They are given the impression that the Jews are simply heartless and cruel, that’s all there is to it, that’s all you need to know. Left wing Jewish groups even try to persuade Jewish visitors that the Jewish religion itself is against the State of Israel and supports the Arab cause.
But it is not logically correct to assume that because you witness Arabs suffering, it must therefore be that the Jews are responsible for it. You might be witnessing the Israelis defending themselves, or you might even be witnessing something surprisingly different. Some very knowledgeable Arabs and non-Arab Muslims who publish in The Gatestone Institute have a lot to say about that subject. Go to The Gatestone Institute Web site, see their list of authors at https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/authors/ or the archive of published articles at https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/archives/ and read what was written by authors with Arab or Muslim sounding names (of course there are many non-Arab and non-Muslim authors of interest there too). These Arabs and Muslims, who understand the situation intimately and have the best interests of their communities at heart, and whom you are not likely to meet on a left-wing tour designed to denigrate Israel, put the blame for the suffering squarely on the PA and Hamas, the brutal rulers of the West Bank and Gaza. If you know anything about the situation yourself, their credibility will shine through. Is there any culpability on the part of Israelis? Perhaps in some instances. If you can, please make a suggestion about how to improve the situation. But Israel is not the source of the problem.
Israel considers it to be in its own interests to mitigate the hardships of the Arabs while the wider conflict between the Arabs and Israel remains to be settled. The government of Israel and Israeli businessmen proposed many cooperative projects to the PA and Hamas to bring economic opportunities to the West Bank and Gaza. But Arab rejectionists try to block all attempts at what they believe would lead to legitimization of Israel or bring Arabs and Jews together in peace. Arab suffering is a political weapon to turn Westerners and Muslims against Jews.
There is a war going on here. The relative calm is deceiving. Israel experiences only about one stabbing, car ramming, or other multiple injury terrorist event per week these days, not counting the thwarted terrorist events you don’t read about and not counting the terrorist attacks around the world from Europe to Africa to the Middle East to Asia (the jihadi war being fought around the world is the same war being fought in Israel). The Arabs and the Jews have been fighting this bitter conflict in Palestine for over 100 years. There are hard feelings all around. Many Israeli Jews can’t forgive the Arabs for the state of fear they live in and for the many thousands of deaths and maimings due to incessant terror attacks and wars of attempted annihilation (Iran/Hezbollah says publicly that they intend to annihilate Israel). The Palestinian Arabs are taught to hate Israelis, and that the Jews forced them out of their ancestral homes in 1948. They are in a blood feud with the Jews.
Historically, the Arab world bitterly resented the Jews reestablishing their political independence in the Middle East. According to them, only Muslims and Arabs are allowed to have political independence in the lands conquered by the followers of Mohammed in the 7’th Century, which they call the House of Islam; non-Muslims in the House of Islam may be no more than dhimmis, second-class residents ruled by Muslim Arabs. It is racism against non-Arabs and religious fanaticism against non-Muslims. Just like the Europeans who justified their colonial empires by claiming that they had the God given right and responsibility to civilize non-Europeans, extremist Arabs insist that the lands once conquered by the followers of Mohammed in the 7’th Century must forever remain the House of Islam, and those who obstinately reject Islam must live dishonorably as dhimmis under Arab Muslim domination, which is the Arab extremist idea of higher civilization.
But isn’t the war over? You might think so when you hear: “Stop the Israeli occupation of the West Bank! Lift the Israeli embargo of Gaza! The Arabs deserve a sovereign state!” But do the Palestinians say they are ready to finally accept the existence of a Jewish state and end the more than 100 years war against the Jews? No, the PA on the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza have been preparing their people to wage war with Israel as soon as they have the opportunity. What should Israel do?
Let me tell you a parable. Once upon a time an aggressor, let’s call him A (for Arab), attacked a victim, let’s call him J (for Jew). J managed to push A down and restrain him. A cried out “Let me up, you’re hurting me!”. J said to A, “If I let you up will you stop attacking me?”. A said to J, “If you let me up I’ll kill you!”. What, dear reader should J do? Left-wingers, if they were consistent, would say that it is immoral for J to protect himself by keeping A held down, although I doubt they would say that if they were in J’s situation.
If Israel were to stop its military presence in areas B and C of the West Bank (the IDF doesn’t occupy area A), and lift its embargo of Gaza (the IDF has already withdrawn from Gaza), and agrees to the Palestinians forming a sovereign state under the conditions the Arabs are demanding, the Arabs would most likely follow through on their boastings (Hamas in Gaza doesn’t even pretend to want peace with Israel), and a major war would surely follow. That would be vastly worse than maintaining the present situation, as disagreeable as it is.
Well meaning Westerners should not blindly support Palestinian sovereignty without regard to the form it takes. Instead, they should try to persuade the Arabs to finally decide to live in peace with the Jewish state. Peace should be the goal, Palestinian sovereignty should be a step toward peace, not the end point itself.
Or, instead of working so hard to create a Fatah-Hamas thugocracy (rule by thugs) or kleptocracy (rule by thieves), which would be an antisemitic terrorist state on the West Bank and Gaza intent on murdering Jews and taking over what’s left of Israel, well meaning Westerners could turn their fervent support for independence to the much more deserving Kurds of Iraq. But why stop there? They could advocate for Kurdish independence in Turkey, Syria, and Iran as well. As for their fervent desire to oppose illegal occupations, why are they working so hard to undo Israel’s 1967 completely legal liberation of the parts of Palestine that were illegally occupied by Jordan (renamed the “West Bank” by Jordan) and Egypt (Gaza) in 1948 (by the way the West Bank and Gaza were liberated in a defensive war)? They could be speaking out against the illegal Russian occupation and land grab of the Crimea from Ukraine, and the illegal Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus, and the illegal Chinese occupation of Tibet, and …, you get the idea. That would truly be speaking truth to power. As for their fervent desire to alleviate suffering to civilians in war zones, they could be speaking out against the much greater suffering in Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan, or people suffering drought in East Africa, etc. There are many worthwhile causes for well meaning Westerners to support instead of encouraging the Palestinians to reject peace with the Jewish state.
Zionism is not colonialism. The Jews came back to their homeland to escape murderous persecution in Europe fully intending and expecting to share the land with the indigenous Arabs living there at the time. When Zionism started Palestine didn’t support a large population because there was not much arable land. The land was mainly parched where dry, malaria infested where wet, generally rocky, barren, undeveloped, and denuded of trees (it is just the opposite today, now even the deserts are cultivated). There were indigenous Jews as well as indigenous Arabs in Palestine before the start of Zionism (Jews lived in Palestine continuously for over 3,000 years, long before the 7’th Century Arab invasion, and Jews continued to migrate to Palestine to live out their lives in the Holy Land throughout the Arab occupation; in recent centuries the Jews lived mainly in the four cities holy to Jews, Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias). Most Palestinian Arabs are descendents of immigrants from Egypt or present day Syria who came to find work in the economy the Europeans, especially the Jews, established. Since Zionism is an understandable response to the persecution of the Jews in Europe, and since both Jews and Arabs are indigenous to the land, and since most of the Arabs and Jews who live in Palestine today descended from people who migrated there during the last 150 years and the migrations were interconnected and peaceful, and since the Jews have clear historical roots in the land that go back long before the 7’th Century Arab invasion, it is incorrect to call the migration of Jews to Palestine a colonial invasion.
The Zionists did not and would not have oppressed the Arabs because most of the leaders of the Zionist movement in Palestine were socialists. Even if they had wanted to they would not have been able to oppress the Arabs: before WWI, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire and the Ottomans would not have allowed it; after WWI Britain had a mandate to administer Palestine and the British would not have allowed it; after 1948 Israeli law would not have allowed it. Israeli Arabs have the same rights as any other Israeli citizen, and they participate at all levels of Israeli society. The claims of Arab oppression and apartheid are false.
The displacement of Arabs in 1948 was the unfortunate result of the war of annihilation the Arabs initiated against the Jews. Had the UN included population exchange in its 1947 partition plan for Palestine as it had in its partition plan for India that same year, perhaps the self-imposed population exchange that resulted when the inevitable war broke out might not have happened. Instead, after the UN voted to partition Palestine in 1947 Arabs who were expected to live peacefully in the Jewish portion attacked their Jewish neighbors. When the British army left Palestine in 1948 the countries of the Arab world invaded to destroy the newly created Jewish State. Local Arabs fought alongside the foreign Arab invaders against the Jews and fled with the defeated armies. Israel did not them allow them back.
What is Palestinian morality? Do they believe that only Arab suffering matters, and that Jews have no right to defend themselves if attacked by Arabs? Is there no compassion for the Jews fleeing to their ancient homeland to escape murderous persecution in Europe? Is there no compassion for the Jews fleeing to escape murderous persecution in Arab countries because of the establishment of the State of Israel? Is there no recognition that the Zionists intended to build an economy in Palestine that would benefit everyone living there? Is the need to dominate non-Muslims and non-Arabs so strong that is impossible for the Arabs to imagine living in a country not run by Muslim Arabs? Do they realize or even care that in 1947 the Arabs of Palestine started an all-or-nothing war of annihilation against the Jews and lost, that mainly only the Arabs who were considered a military threat to the Jews lost their homes, and that the rest of the Arab community was allowed to remain (roughly 20% of the Israeli population is Arab today after a lot of subsequent Jewish immigration)? Do they realize that in 1949 when the war ended the Jews could not have possibly allowed the Arab refugees back because they were a threat? Do they realize that given the intense antisemitism in the Palestinian community Israel could not possibly allow a large number of them back today? The Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza have been taught a morality that should seem perverse to well meaning Westerners.
The establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state must be a step toward peace, not an end in itself. Establishing a Palestinian state with the conditions the PA demands today would release the Arabs from the restraints they are presently under but would not lead to peace, it would lead to a resumption of war. Peace with the Jewish State must be a necessary condition for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza.
Well meaning Westerners should support Israel and the moderate Arabs who want peace, not the Arab rejectionists who are trying to violently separate Muslims from everyone else, not only in Israel but everywhere else