Essay, Research Paper: Israeli-Arab Antagonism

Politics

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Western historians are re-examining the troubled 20th century history of Israel
and Palestine. Previously published revelations of Israel's military strength
and aggressive operations during the 1948 Israeli-Arab war remained confined to
a select group of historians: (Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel: Myths and
Realities and Ilian Pappe, The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951).
Now, the established media is beginning to publish similar information.
Washington Post editor, S. Rosenfeld, has published information that Israel's
former Defense Minister, Moishe Dayan, admitted to reporter Rami Tal that Israel
provoked 80% of the border clashes between Israel and Syria and Syrian gunners
on the Golan had only fired on Israel farmers who were illegally farming
demilitarized lands( Israel and Syria: Correcting the Record, S. Rosenfeld,
Wash. Post., Dec. 24, 1999). As the Mid-East "peace process"
approaches its final outcome, the American media and government are becoming
aware that the deliberations may reveal a historical perspective that differs
from a previously accepted perspective, and that an appreciation of this revised
perspective may be essential in forming an acceptable solution to the Mid-East
conflict. The Jewish people, Islam, the American people, and all Mid-East
countries have been continually affected by the daily events in Israel and the
West Bank. An optimistic atmosphere for peace presently prevails. Unless the
optimism translates into reality, the world may accept a longer term pessimistic
scenario which predicts that, (1) Israel will eventually not be able to
successfully repulse the far greater numbers of its antagonists. (2) Israel will
be forced to use its full military capability to maintain its territory and
could bring several countries into an atomic war. (3) Israel's safeguards and
defense will propel it into extreme human rights violations of the Palestinians
and result in their possible dissolution. (4) The Jewish people, due to their
consistent support of what the world could perceive as Israel's tyrannical
actions, will suffer greatly from antagonisms, almost to the point of extinction
of Judaism as a strong religious force. (5) The United States people will suffer
from terrorism, war and economic upheavals. (6) Islam will be forced to fight
for its survival, especially for its holy sites in Jerusalem. Famous Jewish
luminaries have echoed these fears. The violinist Yehudi Menuhin, in a speech to
the Israeli Knesset stated: Israel's political intransigence and unwillingness
to make concessions to the Palestinians will further suppress the old values of
Judaism. The philosopher Martin Buber wrote in the publication Thud's Ner, 1961:
The world is captured by the mid-east turmoil and yet is complacent about the
eventual results. And those concerned have not been able to evolve a workable
strategy to prevent the great shock. One cause for the failure to evolve a
workable strategy has been due to basing decisions on selective facts. The final
stages of a welcomed peace process demands that the historical facts are
correctly portrayed so that knowledge and reasoning can dictate an equitable
solution. Since Israel has been the protagonist in the mighty drama, the country
that has occupied stage center, investigators will focus on significant Israeli
actions during the past 50 years. Major aspects of the investigations will be:
The establishment of the state of Israel, leading to The refugee problem,
leading to The Mid-East Wars, leading to Israel's population expansion, leading
to The ignored UN Resolutions, leading to Democratic Compromises, leading to
Some thoughts on the historical perspective. The establishment of the State of
Israel The United Nations, which voted on November 29, 1947, to partition
Palestine, might have wished they had more completely studied the situation and
had appropriately prepared to respond to subsequent developments. The UN had a
choice between recommending a bi-national state or partitioning the country into
Jewish and Palestinian states. Considering that 85% of the Jewish population
remained confined to three urban centers and their surrounding areas, Tel-Aviv/Jaffa,
Haifa and Jerusalem, and that the Jews constituted only 1/3 the total population
in all Palestine, the partition plan had no acceptable means to award the
Zionists a viable state in which they would be a comfortable majority in a large
sized territory. By voting a partition resolution, the UN unknowingly invited
"population transfers" of the Palestinians from the territory awarded
to the Zionists so that the Jews in that state could be a majority. The
resolution, which required a 2/3 vote by the General Assembly, and only received
the 2/3 by one vote, never had the power for compliance or enforcement. By not
providing enforcement and safeguards to all parties, the UN action permitted the
future to be determined by predictable crises. It was predictable that a
resolution that created states that were not viable, would stimulate Israel to
take action to assure its viability. It was predictable that the Palestinian
community would become submerged by Israel's actions and that adjacent Arab
countries would react to any perception of aggressive Israeli behavior and
territorial extension. UN resolution 181 caused a more serious crisis than it
attempted to contain. President Truman expressed anguish at the lack of an
enforcement body and noted its possible consequences. (Statement on the United
Nation's recognition of Israel by President Truman, March 25, 1948, Truman
archives): The United Kingdom has announced its firm intention to abandon its
mandate in Palestine on May 15. Unless emergency action is taken, there will be
no public authority in Palestine on that date capable of preserving law and
order. Violence and bloodshed will descend upon the Holy Land. Large scale
fighting among the people of that country will be the inevitable result. Such
fighting would infect the entire Middle East and could lead to consequences of
the gravest sort involving the peace of this nation and of the world. The
American president proposed a plan that has not been well publicized: The United
States has proposed to the Security Council a temporary United Nations
trusteeship for Palestine to provide a government to keep the
peace…Trusteeship is not proposed as a substitute for the partition plan but
as an effort to fill the vacuum soon to be created.. After Israel declared a
provisional government on the day before Britain's withdrawal from its mandate,
Truman recognized the new state. Interestingly, the U.S. president changed
several words in the original document. The document states; This government has
been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and
recognition has been requested by the (Truman inserted the word
"provisional") government as the de facto authority of the new (Truman
crossed out the words "Jewish state" and replaced them with the words
"State of Israel.) After the Zionists proclaimed a provisional government
on May 14 and British troops withdrew on May 15 1948, events happened as Truman
had pessimisticly predicted. The UN sent Count Folke Bernadette, a Swedish
diplomat who had earned respect from his work during the war as vice chairman of
the Swedish Red Cross, to obtain truces between the combatants and ameliorate
the situation. On September 17,1948, after Bernadotte had composed his report,
and before he had the opportunity to submit the report to the UN, members of the
Stern gang, an extremist Zionist organization, assassinated him and French air
force officer, Andre P. Serot in Jerusalem. Count Bernadotte's Specific
Conclusions (in his words): The following conclusions, broadly outlined, would,
in my view, considering all the circumstances, provide a reasonable, equitable
and workable basis for settlement: 1) Since the Security Council, under pain of
Chapter VIII sanctions, has forbidden further employment of military action in
Palestine as a means of settling the dispute, hostilities should be pronounced
formally ended either by mutual agreement of the parties or, failing that, by
the United Nations. The existing indefinite truce should be superseded by a
formal peace, or at the minimum, an armistice which would involve either
complete withdrawal and demobilization of armed forces or their wide separation
by creation of broad demilitarized zones under United Nations supervision. 2)
The frontiers between the Arab and Jewish territories, in the absence of
agreement between Arabs and Jews, should be established by the United Nations
and delimited by a technical boundaries commission appointed by and responsible
to the United Nations, with the following revisions in the boundaries broadly
defined in the resolution of the General Assembly of 29 November in order to
make them more equitable, workable and consistent with existing realities in
Palestine. A. The area known as the Negeb, south of a line running from the sea
near Majdal east southeast to Faluja (both of which places would be in Arab
territory), should be defined as Arab territory; B. The frontier should run from
Faluja northeast to Ramla and Lydda (both of which places would be in Arab
territory), the frontier at Lydda then following the line established in the
General Assembly resolution of 29 November. C. Galilee should be defined as
Jewish territory. 3) The disposition of the territory of Palestine not included
within the boundaries of the Jewish State should be left to the Governments of
the Arab States in full consultation with the Arab inhabitants of Palestine,
with the recommendation, however, that in view of the historical connection and
common interests of Transjordan and Palestine, there would be compelling reasons
for the merging of the Arab territories of Palestine with the territory of
Transjordan, subject to such frontier realignment regarding other Arab States as
may be found practicable and desirable. 4) The United Nations, by declaration or
other appropriate means, should undertake to provide special assurance that the
boundaries between the Arab and Jewish territories shall be respected and
maintained subject only to such modifications as may be mutually agreed upon by
the parties concerned. 5) The port of Haifa, including the oil refineries and
terminals, and without prejudice to their inclusion in the sovereign territory
of the Jewish State or the administration of the city of Haifa, should be
declared a free port, with assurances of free access for interested Arab
countries and an undertaking on their part to place no obstacle in the way of
oil deliveries by pipeline to the Haifa refineries, whose distribution would
continue on the basis of the historical pattern. 6) The airport of Lydda should
be declared a free airport with assurance of access to it and employment of its
facilities for Jerusalem and interested Arab countries. 7) The City of
Jerusalem, which should be understood as covering the area defined in the
resolution of the General Assembly of 29 November, should be treated separately
and should be placed under effective United Nations control with maximum
feasible local autonomy for its Arab and Jewish communities. In addition, there
must be unconditional agreement on the protection of the Holy Places and sites,
their free access and right to religious worship, irregardless of denomination
8) The right of unimpeded access to Jerusalem, by road, rail or air, should be
fully respected by all parties. 9) The right of the Arab refugees to return to
their homes in Jewish controlled territory at the earliest possible date should
be affirmed by the United Nations, and their repatriation, resettlement and
economic and social rehabilitation, and payment of adequate compensation for the
property of those choosing not to return. This should be supervised and assisted
by the United Nations conciliation commission described in paragraph (k) below.
10) The political, economic, social and religious rights of all Arabs in the
Jewish territory of Palestine and of all Jews in the Arab territory of Palestine
should be fully guaranteed and respected by the authorities. Bernadotte's
conclusions may have provided a basis for solution to the conflict. They were
not seriously discussed. Israel eventually won the war and expanded its
territory. The expansion, which is detailed in the following two maps indicates
that Israel did not entirely fight a defensive war. It can’t be coincidence
that Israel closed the gaps in the territory awarded to it by the UN
proclamation, and linked Jerusalem and its territory. The Zionists emptied
several hundred Arab villages of their unarmed inhabitants. They took the
offensive and seized territory that increased Israel's size by 50%, giving
themselves more than 75% of the original Palestinian lands. The Refugee problem
and its significance The war created 700,000 Palestinian refugees, many of whom
had lived in the areas that Israel absorbed. Almost all of them wanted to return
to their towns, homes, factories, land and businesses. The refugees insisted
that fear, violence, and destruction forced them to temporarily vacate their
homes. Israel stated that the refugees had left their homes due to a message
from the other Arab nations. The message affirmed that they should leave, and
after the Arabs punished the Zionists, the refugees would be able to return.
This statement seems absurd, especially when considering that 1948
communications were still relatively primitive. The fact that Israel did not
permit the refugees to return and also destroyed entire villages, erasing them
from their maps, confirms that the scenario is not believable. This refugee
problem created a disturbing history that exposed distinctive and troubling
features: 1. People from other lands have contributed finances, propaganda and
assistance that have fueled a conflict which many perceive as oppression.
Financial and other aid given to Israel have gained it a military advantage,
allowed it to develop sophisticated weapons, and enabled it to create a force
that serves to enforce the perceived oppression. Although settlements have been
declared illegal in several UN resolutions, economic assistance has been
provided to Israel for creating settlements and infrastructure in the West Bank.
2. People have been transported over great distances from foreign lands to the
Holy Land with the eventual result of replacing Palestinians and forcing them
from their homes. Several nations have tacitly supported and refused to counter
this catastrophic policy. 3. People who had not been previously displaced, who
already had homes, had established lives, and weren't refugees, have, with
support of other nations, displaced Palestinian people, made them homeless,
ruined their lives and turned them into refugees. Bernard Avishai, in The
Tragedy of Zionism, quotes Baruch Nadel, a journalist, in his definition of the
Zionist approach: A movement of Western Jews to save Eastern Jews that built
homes for Oriental Jews. 4. Unlike previous human tragedies, that occurred
hidden and at a time of much less effective mass communication, this tragedy is
occurring in full view of the entire world and at a time when anybody can obtain
the facts. A UNRWA report states: In 1967, another 300,000 Palestinians fled
from the West Bank and Gaza, to Jordan (200,000), Syria, Egypt and elsewhere. Of
these, approximately 180,000 were first-time refugees ("displaced
persons"), while the remainder were 1948 refugees uprooted for the second
time. Estimates put the Palestinian population at approximately 6.6 million in
1995. In 1995, UNRWA data showed some 3,172,641 registered refugees in its
"area of operation" (West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon), plus an
estimated 335,000 non-registered "displaced persons". An official
UNRWA table describes the Palestinian exodus from the years 1948 to the present.
TABLE 1:UNRWA Registered Refugees (June 1995) COUNTRY IN CAMPS NOT IN CAMPS
TOTAL Jordan 238,188 1,050,009 1,288,197 Gaza 362,626 320,934 683,560 West Bank
131,705 385,707 517,412 Lebanon 175,747 170,417 346,164 Syria 83,311 253,997
337,308 TOTAL 991,577 2,181,064 3,172,641 Did the Palestinians forfeit an
opportunity in 1948 to recognize the UN partition plan and establish a state of
their own? 1. The Palestinian community owned the land for centuries and refused
to recognize that an organization had a right to take it from them and give it
to others. They had a valid reason not to do anything that might legitimatize
the partition plan. 2. The Palestinians organized themselves in communities and
didn't have a strong central administration to coordinate their activities and
agree to any plan. 3. The King of Jordan controlled the West Bank and the
Palestinians had no opportunity to organize a central government for themselves.
4. The UN Resolution awarded Israel the most valuable territory, fertile lands
along the coast and the major seaport of Haifa. Although the Zionists owned only
about 8% of the land and constituted 1/3 of the population, they received 50% of
Palestinian land. The shifts in the refugee population and social stresses on
adjacent Arab countries, caused dislocations throughout the Mid-East, and havoc
in Lebanon and Jordan. To the Arab countries, a part of the Mid-East that had
been totally Arab for centuries, had been converted by Israel from an Arab land
with some minor Western influence to a Western land with little Arab influence.
The refugee problem became the principal impediment to a solution of the
Mid-East conflict.
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