Revisiting the Palestine Problem


The current ‘war’ between the ruthless and well-armed Israeli soldiers and the Palestinian youths is utterly unequal. A slightly milder but fairly crude Israeli oppression has gone on now for over 50 years in varying forms and ways. Palestinian protests, violent or merely intefada, are against the no-holds-barred colonial occupation of their historic and otherwise never disputed homeland, Palestine. Who can justify it? TV images of these daily clashes, interspersed with murder through well-aimed shootings from bunkers, helicopters or even tanks and APCs, are a saddening sight. Natural sympathy goes to the wronged and pitiable victims of a brutal, indeed murderous, suppression by an unreconstructed colonial powers. Much of the third world, UN majority, has always condemned Israelis horrible tyranny over Palestinians. But is that how people somehow do not see it in countries that project themselves as bastions of human freedoms and call themselves civilised?

Sage experts on western media are seen shaking their grey heads in sorrow — not over the often lethal brutality of occupying Israeli troops but on the “violence” by the wholly unarmed young Palestinian boys. A few violent attacks by Hamas are in a different category. They ask Palestinian leaders alone to shun “violence”. The advice is thus ‘don’t protest — go and talk to Ariel Sharon’, the mastermind of the carnage of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in the 1970s, without inquiring what means he is employing. There is said to be an international community that is supposed to value human rights, peace and civilised ways of conducting national and international politics. There is also supposed to be world opinion that judges things on merit and is largely unbiased and sympathises with the underdog. Do they exist? Where are they? What are they saying about what is going on in Palestine that once was a peaceful sleepy Arab state as a constituent part of Ottoman Empire — until the colonial power with characteristic Albion perfidy unilaterally allowed in the European Jews to immigrate into Palestine.

Don’t people see Israeli forces using helicopters, tanks, mortar guns, not to say machine guns against stone throwing unarmed teenagers and children? Who are these Palestinians and Israelis? Can anyone in the west deny that all these areas in Israel, West Bank, Gaza, even Jordan were a part of historically well recognised Palestine that was a component part of Ottoman Empire and forefathers of these Palestinians resided in it — continuously for several Millenia. They remain the undisputed owners of the land. And Israelis? They are the interlopers ambiguously allowed in — but also not allowed in for the purpose of ruling. Such is the beauty of British drafts that people can go on arguing for almost a century several purposes from the sane text. This is what the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and UN Security Council resolution 242 of November 1967 have shown.

Anyway, the Arabs of Palestine have definitely been wronged – and above all cheated by Britain, US, major powers and the UN. That the UN sanctified the creation of the state of Israel was only a formality. The major powers — Britain, USSR and the US, all with bad consciences over having discriminated against and oppressed their respective Jewish minorities for centuries — had decided to recompense the emigrating (from Europe and America) Jews by creating their National Home in Palestine into a well-defined state — at the hapless Arabs’ cost. The UN was merely used for the purpose in which everyone knows that Anglo-American influence was decisive. No one listened the Arabs to whom Palestine had belonged for ages. In any case, Israel has never lived within the borders the UN specified. From the word go, it added more territories it forcibly occupied in 1948. And it has gone on adding to these territories — it is doing so even today through settlements — all at Arabs expense.

The Jewish position also needs to be looked into. This writer grew up in 1920s and 1930s, having become aware of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin Al-Hussaini, in 1935. By early 1940s one had begun deeply sympathising with this wonderfully endowed people, the Jews, who were treated as inferiors in all socalled civilised countries. Their contributions to arts, philosophy, social and physical sciences, journalism, law and literature were most remarkable. Never have such small numbers given so much to mankind — and in all parts of the west. Who can belittle the services Marx, Freud and Einstein have rendered, to name just three? No doubt Hitler introduced a new and deadly dimension to what was the whiteman’s sport of oppressing Jews in Europe and America. Jews certainly deserved better. But what?

It was a historic sleight of hand by Britain of granting the Jews a National Home in Palestine — a League of Nations-mandated place not Britain’s to dispose of — with the eyewash proviso that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. Later, a separate state of Israel was carved out of Palestine due largely to the Anglo-Saxon influence.

The immigrating Jews into Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s showed amazing chicanery and aggression to dispossess the unwary and ignorant Arabs. Their dealings with the then occupying British too were Janus faced.  A tribute of different kind has to be paid to their imperial or colonising zeal: in the space of 30 years these European Jewish immigrants had become so powerful and well-armed — thanks to the British looking the other way while ostensibly were trying to overcome Jewish terrorism — that in 1948, when all the Arab armies, including Jordan’s famous Arab Legion, Egyptian, Syrian and statistically even the Saudi one rushed to throttle it, the Jewish armed gangs were able to decimate all the Arab forces, even though they still had no regular Army. After that they trounced the Arabs in 1967 and 1973 wars. What a contrast between the Arabs and Israelis? Arabs despite all the humiliations, defeats and losses, have not understood to this day as to why their armies get defeated despite all the costly high-tech equipment in ample enough quantity they possess; or why, despite their numbers and overall riches, they cannot adequately develop their economies. In personal courage and endurance perhaps an Arab might even turn out to be superior. But he gets beaten all the time. Why? well, it is for them to find out. One can only mention their incomprehension of the modern world, its values, their archaic social systems, illiteracy and the political unawareness of Arab masses. Arab people remain excluded from all decision making and poverty and ignorance of large numbers is their fate. Their continuing social and political backwardness can ensure them many more defeats and humiliations. They have no idea what they are up against. Jews, especially European, are educationally and culturally advanced, are able to use scientific knowledge, methods and outlook, are technologically well-advanced, politically aware and united in a single national purpose.

But morally speaking, what a disappointment these followers of Dr. Ezer Weizmann have proved to be. Taken in by their early socialist idealism and firm commitment to democratic values, one had expected that having somehow, for the first time, got a state of their own they would quickly make genuine peace with their hosts (Arabs), take them along the path of intellectual and social progress and build a common society on the model of the democratically organised Kibbutzim for making joint economic and social progress for both Arabs and Jews — so as to make Israel one giant Kibbutz of all its inhabitants. Instead they set out to be subjugate the Arabs and to be their lords and masters.

One knows they would parrot about the Arabs’ original and continued rejection. But that was largely due to the nonstop immigration of Jews from all over the world. And what was wrong with that reaction? Don’t even the liberal Israelis refuse to hear the similar Palestinian demand for the return of all those Palestinians who had to leave their homes since 1948. Which is a morally sound demand. But in this case, it was for friendly and high minded sages among the Jews who had come into their National Home to bend over backward to conciliate, befriend and lead the hapless and poor Arabs into constructive endeavour. They were determined to be a power — to do unto others what had been done to them by European white racists and Wasp Americans. They have shown this in action and intents; who can buy their self-serving anti-Palestinian piffle.

Israel’s dealings with Arab states and its treatment of the local Arabs inside Israel and Israel-dominated areas in Palestine, are marked by the crudest of arrogance and a malevolent aggressiveness that is not bound by any code of ethics. Their greed for land and also their readiness to cheat the Arabs prevents any possibility of honourable equality and human rights. The settlements’ policy in the occupied lands is less driven by need than by greed  — for land and keeping the Arabs captive.

There is no thought attributable to Israeli statesmen — if the term can be applied to Israeli politicians many of who excel only in double dealing and what is plain deception on issues concerning Palestinians — of a joint cooperative future with the Arabs. Their intention is to keep the Arabs down because Israeli leaders are moved not by mere defence but by a malevolent and vengeful nationalism. They seem to believe in their imperial right to go on cheating and conquering Arab lands. The Arabs, on the other side, are moved by their own pique and hurt pride and believe that their homeland should not have been occupied or the state of Israel should not have been carved out of the Arab Palestine. Who can object to this sentiment? These are natural feelings. Let us be clear: the Arabs are the wronged party and immigrant Jews remain interlopers and trespassers, irrespective of what the UK, USA and even the UN may have said or done. There are these five to six million of these powerful intruders in Palestine. Historically this great wrong has to be righted. Anyhow, the state of Israel has to be rethought.

Sane and impartial people have to think of the future. The current super-fascist tactics by the Israelis need to be condemned by all the upright people despite the sorry fact that most people in the west shy away from condemning Israel. Why? because they fear being branded anti-Jewish or like minded with the Nazis; they also have a bad conscience as a hangover of their own historic oppression of Jewish minorities. An example is a recent letter by 300 US Congressmen asking for reviewing US relations with Palestinians because of their “violence”. They object to Palestinian violence, the one by stone throwing by Arab children. But they see no violence in the Israelis using all their US given tanks, mortars, helicopter gunships and what have you against a whole people whom they had robbed earlier — and not against odd terrorist individuals. This alone makes Israel similar to the Apartheid regime of South Africa, only worse — illegitimate and outside the pale.

It is true the Israelis are somehow keeping up their democratic institutions — though strictly for mainly conformist Jews and docile Arabs. They continue brutally suppressing Arabs in the occupied areas with heavy guns, tanks and choppers. They bomb, raid and commit crimes in Lebanon and even Syria at will. Can these two contrary trends continue? One does not wish to hear someone trotting out the Peace Process. What Peace Process? Those of us who have watched the unending success of the US policy from 1973 to the present day in the Middle East know that the Arabs have been led by the US government up the garden path. One blames mainly the Arab governments and Palestinian’s leader Yasser Arafat for utter weakness and naivete. Arab stance was fine until then. Arafat’s UN speech is on record in which he advocated a united, democratic and secular Palestine in which immigrant Jews — up to a certain date — will have absolutely equal rights with Arabs. What was wrong with this deal? Kissinger inveigled first the Saudis and then Sadaat and Arafat into settling for a “mini Palestine” state on what Israel was to be persuaded to grant. We now know what has been granted to the Arabs two decades — and by what chicanery at each stage.

Arafat and all Arabs are still chasing the chimera of that mini-Palestine state. Where are they? Anwar Sadat went suddenly to address the Knesset. He travelled to Camp David. It is true Egypt’s purely national interests — US protection, write off of huge debts and much aid and vacation of the Sinai desert — have been served. But the Israeli habit of resiling from a commitment of certain ‘concessions’ to Palestinians made by successive leaders has kept them running like a donkey after a carrot held aloft before it. The excuse every time is that another hard-line elected PM has come into office who does not want to ‘give’ while Uncle Sam is unable to force Israel to keep its word. All this is by now an unending charade. Do people remember what was first promised to Sadat in 1978? It has continued to be whittled down by every succeeding government of Menachem Begin to Ariel Sharon, including even the Nobel Laureate Isaq Rabin but also Netan Yahu. What peace can Palestinian expect from Sharon? Wasn’t Rabin the general who ordered (only) the breaking of Palestinian boys’ bones? Or wasn’t Begin an actual terrorist who bombed a famous hotel in Jerusalem?

The outlook remains bleak. Arab backwardness — the mother of all weaknesses — remains a constant factor. As does bad faith and double-dealing by Israelis. The US has got the Arabs, all of them, where it wanted them — oil at reasonable prices, docile regimes and Israel supreme in the region. At any rate, no Arab regime poses any serious problem to the US, west or anyone powerful enough. But these see no need to change anything. Only Palestinian boys seem to remain unreconciled. Can the supposed conscience of the civilised world bring to bear its humanistic concerns, democratic values and simple fairplay on the problem of Palestine and Palestinians? Can this be kept distinct from the care and nurturing of the western world’s interests — including the security of their outpost, the state of Israel — in the oil region?