A Tale of Two Nakbas
Is a victim any less a victim because his tragedy has been the longest enduring?
There has certainly been much suffering in this world, and I don’t mean to downplay any of it. But, in light of what Arabs accuse Israel of today–and the rest of the world’s apparent lapse of memory–it’s time to put some things into a much broader perspective.
Listening to news coming out of the Middle East, it’s nearly impossible to hear reports about terrorist atrocities against Israeli civilians without also hearing some journalist justifying them in the name of alleged Arab grievances. Richard Cohen, Nicholas Kristof, and others have written that the Arabs have been given “no alternatives.” Things are even worse outside of America.
So, when Israel carefully targets the deliberate murderers of women, children, and other innocents–as exemplified in the aftermath of what typically happens after the bombing of an Israeli bus or restaurant–this somehow becomes equated with the next Arab revenge attack against additional Israeli civilians. Furthermore, few and far between are the journalists who even call such Arab acts of barbarity “terrorism.”
When Israel puts its sons in danger by going house-to-house in hunting terrorists in their strongholds to purposely avoid civilian casualties, it gets accused of massacres anyway, while the real massacres–deliberately committed against Jewish civilians both in Israel and elsewhere–are virtually ignored. When faced with their own “problems,” Arabs have gassed, bombed, and shelled their enemies from afar–a la Assad’s Hama Solution in Syria, Saddam’s gassing of Kurds in Iraq, Hussein’s ‘Black September’ in Jordan, etc… and with no calls for investigations by the United Nations or trials in Geneva either.
That Arabs consider the rebirth of Israel a catastrophe — their nakba–is, in reality, merely par for the course. Having conquered and forcibly Arabized millions of non-Arab peoples and their lands in creating most of the twenty-one states they now possess on millions of square miles of territory, at no time did Arabs ever consider that anyone else but themselves had any political rights in the region. This was so when what was promised to become an independent Kurdistan after World War I was turned into Arab Iraq instead (due mostly to the collusion of British petroleum politics with Arab nationalism). Over thirty-five million Kurds thus remain stateless to date…. often at someone else’s mercy. And there’s still no roadmap for them.
Millions of Kabyle and Amazigh people (“Berbers”) in North Africa resisted the Arab onslaught for centuries. Their language and culture are largely outlawed today. Millions in Black Africa have died resisting this forced Arabization as well. The fight goes on in the Sudan as this piece is being written, with millions of Blacks having been killed, maimed, enslaved, turned into refugees and the like.
You see, in Arab eyes, theirs is the only justice.
Read the Kurdish nationalist Ismet Cherif Vanly’s book, The Syrian ‘Mein Kampf’ Against The Kurds (Amsterdam 1968), for further insight into this. The only safe Copt or Nubian in Egypt is one who knows his place. Ditto for the native Semite, but frequently non-Arab, Christian Lebanese.
The concept goes like this: Once a land has been conquered on behalf of the Arab nation and the Dar ul-Islam, it can never revert back to its former status, the Dar al-Harb (realm of war).
Perfect justice is a rarity indeed in the world community. It wasn’t present when scores of millions of people became refugees when the Indian subcontinent was divided into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India (look what’s happening over Kashmir today where, by the way, India is building a security fence), nor when millions of Greeks, Bulgars, and Turks exchanged populations, nor when half of Israel’s 5 million Jews fled Arab/Muslim lands around the same time Arabs were fleeing in the opposite direction during Israel’s war of independence. They’re the other side of the Middle East refugee problem that no one ever talks about…certainly not Cohen, Kristof, & Co. All of these examples–and many more not mentioned–represented imperfect attempts to arrive at compromise solutions so that the rights of both parties to any given conflict could be addressed.
Ze’ev Vladimir Jabotinsky, the pre-and mandatory era, no-nonsense realist and patron saint of the modern Likud, perhaps said it best when he spoke of appetite versus desperation and need.
Love him or hate him, Jabotinsky was honest. And unlike many of his starry-eyed Zionist colleagues almost a century ago, he saw the true nature of the conflict between Arab and Jew in the Middle East.
Leo Pinsker spoke of the need for the “autoemancipation” of the Jews, the perpetual, unwanted guest–never host–ghost people, even before the harsh realities of a supposedly enlightened France opened Theodore Herzl’s eyes. The Dreyfus Affair would soon lead Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, to write Der Judenstat….The Jewish State.
Jabotinsky, likewise, understood all of this as well when he spoke of the Jewish condition both during the pre-and mandatory period for Palestine.
He knew that Arabs also had rights in the region. It was understandable that Arabs, who remembered their own proud, conquering, and caliphal imperial past (imperialism is evidently only a nasty word when non-Arabs so indulge), should want to return to those days of dominance and glory after the collapse of their own rival successor, the over four centuries old Ottoman Turkish Empire.
That Arabs would want to make Palestine their 6th, 7th, or 8th state (today no. #22) made perfect sense to Jabotinsky.
But Jews didn’t have this luxury. For them, the familiar pattern of millennial existence– most lately and violently manifested in the pogroms of Eastern Europe and Russia and hints of what was yet to come in Germany–added desperation and necessity to the quest for the rebirth of their own sole state. And while the frightened mellahs of dhimmi Jewish existence in the Arab/Muslim world experienced no “Holocaust” per se, their experience over the ages was also not without memories of massacres, forced conversions, subjugation, humiliation, and existence as kilab yahud “Jew dogs” of their neighbors.
While it is true that the Arab suicide/homicide bomber who today deliberately kills innocents also does this out of “passion” and perhaps “desperation,” Jabotinsky, long ago, saw the difference…something that too many others today still don’t–or won’t– see:
There was no need for this situation to have arisen among the Arabs. Honorable solutions had repeatedly been offered–and turned down– by the Arabs themselves.
There are those today who like to make the argument, “if Jews can have a state, why not Palestinians?” For some, this is simply honest ignorance. But for far too many others–academics included–it represents something far worse, for they know better.
While I won’t get into argument over whether a distinct Palestinian Arab nationalism exists today, it certainly didn’t exist before the rise of modern political Zionism. In fact, the former arose specifically to negate the latter. There’s volumes of evidence to support this. Virtually all the writings of politically conscious Arabs on the eve of the collapse of the Ottoman Turkish Empire spoke of a greater Syrian Arab or Pan Arab identity. The “Palestinians” were the Jews.
When the Middle East and North Africa were being divided after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the hopes and dreams of many diverse subject peoples were reawakened. Britain’s Sir Mark Sykes, America’s President Woodrow Wilson, and others fueled the fires with talk of self determination for those populations. Arabs made out very well in the long term aftermath. Unfortunately, they refused to grant anyone else even the right to think in such terms in what they declared to be “purely Arab patrimony”… be they Kurd, Jew, Berber, Black African, etc.
And, ironically, their own subjugating attitudes and greed sired what they call their own nakba.
In 1922 Colonial Secretary Churchill, to reward Arab allies in World War I, chopped off 80% of the original Palestinian Mandate issued to Great Britain on April 25, 1920 – all the land east of the Jordan River – and created the purely Arab Emirate of Transjordan, today’s Jordan. Emir Abdullah, who received this gift on behalf of the Hashemites of Arabia, attributed the separation of this land from the area promised to the Jews to an ‘act of Allah’ in his memoirs. Sir Alec Kirkbride, Britain’s East Bank representative, had much to say about this as well.
The Jordan-Palestine connection is just one of many well-documented facts (not ‘Zionist propaganda’) completely ignored or distorted by Arab spokesmen and, unfortunately, little known by the rest of the world. Arab spokesmen such as the PLO’s Marwan Barghouti, for example, typically claim that Jews got 78% of all of the land, the standard Arab line. Leading newspapers typically prepare segments on the Middle East ignoring this crucial Jordan-Palestine connection as well.
In reality, not only do Arabs today have twenty-two states, but they’ve had one in most of “Palestine” for well over half a century. What’s now being debated is the creation of a 22nd Arab state, their second one in “Palestine.” And for this to occur, they expect Israel to consent to national suicide.
As it has been rehashed many times, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat 97% of the territories, half of Jerusalem, etc. for the sake of peace. U.S. chief negotiator Dennis Ross, who was present at Camp David and subsequent negotiations at Taba, revealed that a $33 billion fund was also to be made available to the Palestinian Arabs as well in a contiguous state… not “disconnected cantons” as Arab spin doctors now claim.
This, of course, all begs the question: What compromises did Arabs make with any of their non-Arab competitors mentioned above? Did Kurds get a state in at least part of Iraq? Are Blacks in the south of the Sudan to be free of forced Arabization? Am I going to be elected the next pope?
The Arab response to Barak and Clinton was to tell Israel to agree to take in millions of Arab refugees, real or alleged, so that the Jews would be overwhelmed. Despite recent allegations to the contrary, the Arabs haven’t given up on this issue in the recent so-called “Geneva Initiative” either.
Keep in mind that if Arabs had agreed to the 1947 partition, which divided the 20% of Palestine left after Arabs had already received the lion’s share in 1922 into another Arab and a Jewish state, there would not be one Arab refugee today. Instead, surrounding Arab states immediately attacked a reborn Israel, told their people to clear the way for a quick victory. The rest is history.
It must also be noted that many, if not most, so-called “native Palestinians” were themselves recent immigrants into Palestine. The records of the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission and other sources give ample testimony to this. Sheikh Izzedin al-Qassam, for whom Hamas’ militant wing is named, was from Latakia, Syria. A good amount of evidence exists which points to Egypt as the birthplace of Arafat himself. We know for sure that thousands of Egyptians settled in the land in the wake of Muhammad Ali’s invasion in the 19th century when Jews were starting to pour millions of dollars into it for development.
While it is simply considered to be the natural right of the Arab to settle anywhere in the “realm of Islam,” when hundreds of thousands of native Middle Eastern Jews did likewise –coming from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and other lands as well–Arabs considered this to be an “injustice.” How dare anyone else but Arabs, especially “their” Jew Dogs,” want a degree of national dignity in the region!
To understand the meaning of reborn Israel to the Jew, one needs to know what Jewish history was like for two thousand years after the Jews dared to take on the conqueror of the world for their independence. Most of the world is totally ignorant of this. A reading of the contemporary Roman-sponsored historians–Tacitus, Dio Cassius, Josephus, etc.– gives a ‘non-Zionist’ account of the fervor with which Jews fought for the freedom of their land.
Listen to Tacitus:
“Vespasian… succeeded to the command…. it inflamed his resentment that the Jews were the only nation that had not yet submitted.” This was during the first revolt in 66-73 C.E. The Arch of Titus stands in Rome to this very day to commemorate this victory over the Jews.
The emperor Hadrian became so enraged at the Jews’ persistence that in 135 C.E., after the second major (and even more costly) revolt, he renamed Judaea Syria Palaestina–Palestine–after the Jews’ historic enemies, the Philistines, in an attempt to end the Jews’ hopes once and for all.
Forced conversions, being branded the ‘deicide people,’ inquisitions, demonization, dehumanization, ghettos, blood libels, massacres, expulsions, the Holocaust, and existence as perpetual stranger in someone else’s land became the plight of the “Wandering Jew,”… his own nakba. But not of his own making.
Once again…Is a victim any less a victim because his tragedy has been the longest enduring?
Would that he had possessed twenty-two other states like Arabs have, there would have been no need for the rebirth of Israel. But the Jew did not possess even one state, let alone almost two dozen.
Since “perfect justice” never existed in the community of nations but is now only demanded of Jews, does relative justice demand no state for Jews (as miniscule as that state is…Israel is 9-miles wide by the pre-’67 armistice line) and twenty three for Arabs? If the answer is “yes,” then such media bias against Israel as is frequently experienced on or in CNN, the BBC, National Public Radio, written publications, etc. might be understandable. But if one disagrees with this one-sided vision of justice, then how can one justify much of the media’s (and others’) apparent acceptance of what the Arabs call their nakba–Israel’s rebirth–since whatever catastrophe occurred was primarily of their own making due to an unwillingness to grant anyone else even a tiny sliver of the rights they so fervently demand for themselves?
The borders of any additional state for Arabs must not come at the expense of the security of the sole state of the Jews. Keep this in mind regarding ongoing debates over the path of Israel’s security fence.
In the wake of the ’67 War, UN Resolution #242 did not demand that Israel return to the suicidal armistice lines of 1949. It called, instead, for the creation of “secure and recognized” borders to replace those lines.
Furthermore, those lands where much of the compromising would have to be done after Israel already withdrew from the Sinai–i.e. Judea and Samaria/the “West Bank”–were not “Arab” lands but non-apportioned territories of the Mandate, open to settlement by both Jews and Arabs. Leading international legal scholars such as Eugene Rostow, William O’Brien, and others have written extensively about this. The current demand (now even by our own Government) that those lands, where Jews have thousands of years of connecting history, now become Judenrein–is thus unwarranted and troubling.
The sad reality is that this conflict continues for one reason only: Arabs are fighting the 1948 war for Israel’s rebirth all over again. Even the Palestinian model “moderate,” the late Faisal Husseini, openly admitted that an Arab Palestine from the River to the Sea was the real goal.
At the preliminary meetings for the roadmap, Arabs refused to even talk about Israel being a “Jewish” state, while demanding a 22nd of their own. More recently, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Ahmed Qurei’ and others continue to refuse to recognize Israel’s Jewish identity.
Hence the problem with talk about the creation of a “provisional” Palestinian Arab state, the current roadmap, etc.: The Arabs have repeatedly said since their “one fell swoop” strategy failed as of the ’67 War that they would adopt a destruction in stages strategy instead. They will accept any land diplomacy (i.e. pressure) will yield which will make their real, final goal–the destruction of Israel–easier to achieve. That’s what the earlier Oslo fiasco was all about…in the Arabs’ own words, a “Trojan Horse.”
While many of us want peace, our aim is not the peace of the grave. Israel should not be expected to sacrifice itself on the petroleum-greased altar of international hypocrisy so that the Arabs’ 22nd state –and second one in “Palestine” – can be born.