Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Palestinians' self-inflicted wounds

Israel is about to observe its 60th anniversary as an independent state. If the Palestinians had accepted the United Nations partition of the former British Mandate territory into separate Arab and Jewish nations, they would also be celebrating an independence anniversary.

Instead, the Palestinians rejected the partition. They immediately went to war, supported by the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, in an attempt to destroy the infant Jewish state. In a historic military miracle, the vastly outnumbered Israelis soundly defeated the Arabs and acquired territory that significantly increased the size of their tiny new state beyond the UN-established borders.

Thus, while the Israelis are celebrating their 60th anniversary of independence, the Palestinians will be observing the anniversary of the UN partition resolution as a day of mourning, which they call the "Nakba," Arabic for "catastrophe."

In a bizarre historic twist, the autocratic-led Palestinians now bear the international image of victimhood, despite the Arab aggression. But Israel, a democratic nation almost wholly composed of refugees, and their descendants, from centuries of persecution in Christian and Muslim lands, is widely defamed as an aggressor occupying foreign territory and and oppressing its inhabitants.

The 1948 war produced hundreds of thousands Palestinian refugees, very few of whom were allowed to settle as citizens in the countries of their former Arab allies. Meantime, equal numbers of Jews who had lived in Arab and other Muslim countries since ancient times, were also forced to flee. They fled primarily to the new state of Israel and were immediately absorbed as citizens. From their ranks have come an Israeli president, defense minister, army chief of staff, and other Israeli notables.

Abba Eban, the late Israeli statesman, once declared that the Palestinian leadership "never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity." Their rejection of the 1948 partition has been followed by other missed opportunities for the creation of Palestinian statehood.

During the next 19 years, Egypt and Jordan ruled the West Bank and Gaza--territories that were allotted to the Palestinians by the UN partition. The Palestinians, apparently content with Arab governance, did not clamor for independence. Those who may have sought independence were presumably ignored or imprisoned.

Israel acquired control over the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 in a war initiated by Egypt, Syria and Jordan. In an extraordinary historic event, the Israelis offered to return virtually all the territory it had captured from the Arabs in return for diplomatic recognition and a peace treaty. But the response, declared by the 22 Arab countries at the famous Khartoum conference, was "no"-- to negotiation, recognition or peace.

During the Clinton Administration, at a conference at Camp David, the Israelis again offered to withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank in return for assurances of military security and recognition of their right to exist. Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, rejected both the offer and an opportunity to make compromises.

Three years ago, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. Foreign financial aid quickly began to pour into the territory, providing an opportunity for the Palestinians to establish a flourishing mini-state that would be a model of responsible and peaceful statehood in case of Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

In a demonstration of what Israel could expect in terms of security and peace in case of further withdrawals, Gaza quickly descended into political chaos and became a base for rocket assaults on neighboring Israeli civilian communities.

Israel has essentially deviated from the historic pattern in which nations that start and lose wars pay the penalty of territorial loss and possible population transfers. After defeating the Arabs in four full-scale wars and suffering prolonged wars of attrition, the Israelis have offered to return territories acquired in warfare in return for peace and security. They have been consistently rebuffed.

Since Hamas took control of Gaza, Israeli civilian populations have been hit by a growing wave of terrorist attacks. In responding to the terrorism, Israel is once again defamed as the "bad guys." In a strange interpretation by the Israel-bashers, perpetrators of terror directed at civilians are presented as "victims," and the targets of such terror are seen as perpetrators reacting "disproportionately."

The suggestion that both Hamas and Israel are to blame for bloodshed is like saying that a would-be victim who fights off a mugger is as responsible for the violence as the assailant.

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Anonymous liz a. said...

i appreciated this piece...i have often wondered why the palestinian people have not tried to do more for themselves....i realize there are harsh living conditions...but surely no harsher than what the people of Israel have dealt with over the interesting that some peoples prefer poverty and misery to go with their grudges and fighting....and others choose to get on with life and make some thing of it. and, what do i know!!??..... but i enjoyed this blog and plan to share it with family members who could use a bit of an eye-opening message. thank you.

Friday, May 16, 2008 11:30:00 PM  

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