BALANCING UNDERSTANDING OF THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION
Why do people hate Jews? There is almost universal media condemnation of Israel’s defensive operations against Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza. There is no serious analysis of Hamas’s long declared purpose which is to destroy Israel in totality. There is no criticism of Hamas’s totalitarian control, strategy and tactics which greatly damage its own people. There is no questioning of Hamas’s possession of 30,000 rockets. There is no criticism of Hamas’s tight control and manipulation of its public relations. The images on TV are only those that Hamas allows and organises.
There is almost universal support for the Palestinians and for the creation of a Palestinian state. The Israelis are portrayed as occupiers, oppressors, enforcers, killers, war crime agents and now as purveyors of apartheid. There is much misinformation peddled by anti-Israeli media bias. Israel is the only functioning democracy in the middle east. In contrast most Palestinians think that their own government is corrupt. A European Union report found that embezzlement had led to a loss of £1.7 billion of aid money to the Palestinian Authority. Its Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is reputed to be worth $100 million, money donated by America and Arab nations and syphoned off to his own bank accounts. Yasser Arafat, his predecessor was shown to have had £1 billion in a hidden foreign bank account. Much more is still unaccounted for. The conspicuous wealth of Mahmoud Abbas's own sons, Yasser and Tarek, has been noted in Palestinian society since at least 2009, when Reuters first published a series of articles tying the sons to several business deals, including a few that had U.S. taxpayer support. In a Foreign Policy article, author Jonathan Shanzer suggested four ways in which the Abbas family has become rich. They include monopolies on American made cigarettes sold in the territories; USAid funding; public works projects, such as road and school construction on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and special preferences for retail enterprises. Such scales of corruption are not possible in democratically accountable societies.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation was founded in 1964 with the purpose of the "liberation of Palestine" through armed struggle. Its current chairman is Mahmoud Abbas. The PLO is recognised as the "sole legitimate representative" of the Palestinian people by over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed observer status at the United Nations since 1974. Due to its activities, including violence aimed at Israeli civilians, the PLO was declared by the United States to be a terrorist organisation in 1987, although a presidential waiver has permitted contact since 1988. In 1993, the PLO recognised Israel's right to exist in peace, accepted UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and rejected "violence and terrorism". In response, Israel officially recognised the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. However, the PLO has employed violence in the years since 1993, particularly during the 2000–2005 Al-Aqsa Intifada. On 29 October 2018, the Palestinian Central Council suspended the recognition of Israel and halted security and economic coordination in all its forms with it.
The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said. ‘While the Palestinians claim that terrorism is a response to "occupation," the fact is that Palestinian terrorism predates Israel's presence in the territories. Numerous terrorist attacks murdered and maimed Israeli civilians during the two decades before 1967 (and even before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948). Therefore, terrorism was and still is nothing less than a tool intended to eventually bring about the destruction of Israel itself’. The IMFA has documented the murders of 70 civilians including children, workers, archaeologists and tourists from 1st January 1952 to 16th May 1966. From 1948 to 1999 2805 Israelis were killed by Palestinian attacks. From 2000 to 2019 1340 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian attacks.
World notoriety came to the Palestinians at the Munich massacre which was an attack during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, by eight members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September who took nine members of the Israeli Olympic Team hostage, after killing two of them. The others were killed during a failed rescue attempt. 29 hijackings of airlines were attempted or carried out by Palestinian factions between 1968 and 1977. The first large scale semi-organised rebellion called 'Intifada' took place between 1987 and 1993 when the Oslo Accords were signed by Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. The Second Intifada took place between 2000 and 2005. In 2005 Israelis were forced by their own government to leave homes, farms and businesses in Gaza on a supposed ‘land for peace’ deal. Since then Gaza has become in effect a Hamas war camp. Yasser Arafat reneged on the Oslo Accords provisions. There could have been a large measure of peace and some progress but the opposite happened and the history since has not been encouraging. In 2014 Hamas attacked Israeli civilian targets and Israel responded with force. In 2021 Mahmoud Abbas cancelled the election planned for May. Hamas and the West Bank Fatah are long standing enemies. Hamas hoped to take over the Palestinian Authority. In 2021 Hamas attacked Israeli civilians with over 3000 rockets. The Israeli Defence Force responded with targetted bombing raids.
There is woeful ignorance about the nature of ‘Palestine’. Some scholars think that the name “Palestine” originally comes from the word “Philistia,” which refers to the Philistines who arrived at and occupied part of the region in the 12th century B.C. The term "Palestine" first appeared in the 5th century BC when the ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote in ‘The Histories’ of a "district of Syria, called Palaistinê" between Phoenicia and Egypt. The Jewish historian Salo Aizenberg, author of ‘Postcards from the Holy Land: A Pictorial History of the Ottoman Era, 1880–1918’ offers the later timeline. ‘Palestine was a provincial place name established by the Romans in 135 CE to replace “Judea” and all other vestiges of Jewish life in the region following the defeat of the Jewish rebellion. The Muslim conquerors in the seventh century maintained the name “Filastin” to refer to a province, but after the Christian conquest, the name fell out of use. The Muslim Mamelukes who defeated the Christians in the latter 13th century did not refer to any territory as Palestine/Filastin, and neither did the Ottoman Turks who controlled the region from the early-sixteenth century through World War I.
For almost a millennium, the place name “Palestine” was not in use, a long-forgotten vestige of ancient Roman rule. The term “Palestine” was brought back into regular use by Christian Europeans in the 1800s due to its connection to the Bible and the land of Jesus. Neither the Ottoman Turks nor the local inhabitants of the region referred to the term “Palestine” at this time. Europeans created maps of “Palestine” in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries based on ancient biblical notions of this region and anachronistically placed them in modern atlases of the era, even though no such entity existed. The Palestine Mandate placed under British control after World War I conformed to the fact that Palestine in all of its incarnations always included territory on both sides of the Jordan River. Most people today use the post-1921 boundaries of the Palestine Mandate as their definition of “Historic Palestine” even though these artificially created boundaries are in fact an ahistorical, recent and artificial creation. “Mandatory Palestine” would be a more accurate term and should be adopted by the media instead of “Historic Palestine.”
What does the Bible say? Dr T S McCall of the Research Centre, Virginia, USA, writes. ‘The term Palestine is rarely used in the Old Testament, and when it is, it refers specifically to the southwestern coastal area of Israel occupied by the Philistines. It is a translation of the Hebrew word “Pelesheth.” The term is never used to refer to the whole land occupied by Israel. Before Israel occupied the land, it would be generally accurate to say that the southwestern coastal area was called Philistia (the Way of the Philistines, or Palestine), while the central highlands were called Canaan. Both the Canaanites and the Philistines had disappeared as distinct peoples at least by the time of the Babylonian Captivity of Judea (586 B.C.), and they no longer exist. In the New Testament, the term Palestine is never used. The term Israel is primarily used to refer to the people of Israel, rather than the Land. However, in at least two passages, Israel is used to refer to the Land: ‘Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead who sought the young child’s life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel’. (Matt. 2:20-21) ‘But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say to you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man shall have come (Matt. 10:23) The first passage is when Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned from Egypt to Israel, and the second has reference to the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the Land of Israel. Jesus, Matthew and the angel speaking to Joseph use the term Israel with reference to the Land, even though the term was not then recognised by the Roman authorities. It is clear, then, that the Bible never uses the term Palestine to refer to the Holy Land as a whole, and that Bible maps that refer to Palestine in the Old or New Testament are, at best, inaccurate, and, at worst, are a conscious denial of the Biblical name of Israel’.
On the current East Jerusalem squatter - eviction controversy Micha Danzig wrote in the Jewish Journal on 9 May 2021 as follows. '“Sheik Jarrah” is an Arab neighbourhood that was established in 1865. And before 1949, there was a separate Jewish neighbourhood within it. For about 2,000 years before that, this area was known by the name “Shimon HaTzadik” (Simon the Righteous), named after the famous rabbinical sage whose tomb is located there. Because of the tomb and its significance to the Jewish people, the Sephardic Community Committee and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel purchased the tomb and its surrounding land (about 4.5 acres) in 1875. Shortly thereafter, it, along with the neighbourhood of Kfar Hashiloah in the Silwan area of Jerusalem, became home to many, mostly Yemenite, Jews who had migrated to Jerusalem (Zion) back in 1881. Notably, by 1844, Jews were the largest ethnic population in Jerusalem.
Between 1936 and 1938, and then again in 1948, the British Empire assisted Arabs, incited by raw Jew hatred, in ripping Jews from their homes in Shimon HaTzadik (and in Kfar Hashiloah). The Yemeni Jewish community was also expelled from Silwan, for “their own safety,” by the British Office of Social Welfare. Essentially, the British preferred to force Jews out of their own homes rather than expend the resources to protect Jewish families and their property rights in Jerusalem. Then in 1949, after Transjordan (now Jordan) invaded Israel as part of an express attempt by the entire Arab League to destroy Israel and “push the Jews into the sea,” Transjordan's British-created and British-led Arab Legion captured Judea and Samaria, all of the Old City of Jerusalem and many of its surrounding neighbourhoods, including the Shimon HaTzadik neighbourhood. Then the Arab Legion either killed or ethnically cleansed every last Jew. Not one was allowed to remain. Not one. Even those whose families had lived in the region for centuries before the Arab invasion in the seventh century.
After Israel gained control of all of Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel passed a law that allows Jews whose families had been forced out of their homes by the Jordanians or the British to regain control of their family homes if they could provide proof of ownership and the current residents could not provide proof of a valid purchase or transfer of title. All of the homes that are the subject of these 2021 eviction proceedings, in addition to being on land purchased in 1875 by the Jewish community, were owned by Jewish families that had purchased those homes, and had deeds registered first with the Ottoman Empire (which governed the region from 1517 to 1917) and then with the British authorities (who controlled the area from 1917 to 1948). These four houses, subject to the pending eviction notice, have already been the subject of extensive litigation in Israel, with appeals going all the way up to Israel’s very liberal Supreme Court and with all parties receiving representation and due process. The court determined last week that these homes must be returned to their legal owners and that another four homes shall be returned to their legal owners by the end of the summer. The court further determined that the people currently living in these homes had been illegally squatting in these homes for decades without paying rent or holding proof of ownership. This is how the current controversy and conflict surrounding the Shimon HaTzadik neighbourhood is emblematic of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict. Shimon HaTzadik is an area that holds deep historical and religious significance to the Jewish people. In Shimon HaTzadik, Jews are trying to move back into homes which were purchased peacefully and legally by their ancestors on land that is part of the Jewish people’s indigenous, historical and religious homeland. They are trying to move back into homes on land that was conquered by a foreign Arab army and renamed to erase the historic Jewish connection and character of the area. This, too, applies to every inch of the land of Israel before 1948’.
On the issue of apartheid Emanuel Miller, a Jerusalem based writer has commented. ‘A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) released in April 2021 accused Israel of committing the crime of apartheid, as well as the persecution of Palestinians. The report claims that, as the Israeli government constitutes a “single authority” exercising control “over the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea” and seeks to maintain Jewish “domination” over Palestinians and its own Arab population, the term “apartheid” is an apt description. But that’s not what apartheid means at all. Put simply, apartheid is a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on the grounds of race. Since the Oslo Accords were signed in the 1990s, most Palestinians are governed by the Palestinian Authority. This body was set up with international encouragement, and the Palestinians willingly agreed to adopt a system in which they gained partial autonomy while granting Israel overall security control. Given the many wars Israel had faced in the decades previously — and since — this arrangement made eminent sense as a stepping stone along the road to a more permanent solution. The lengthy report makes only passing reference to the ongoing threats faced by Israel, by focusing on Israel’s response to the numerous Gaza-based terror groups which periodically fire hundreds of rockets into Israeli territory. It completely overlooks the threat posed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah, located primarily in Lebanon and Syria. In addition, the report totally fails to take into account the long-standing enmity between Hamas, the terror group which rules the coastal territory, and Fatah, which rules the Palestinian population of the West Bank, and what that means for peace negotiations with the Jewish state. Instead, the reports casts Israel as solely responsible for the lack of a resolution to the decades-old conflict, and characterizes its desire to keep the lid on violent Arab uprisings as “apartheid” — a stunning inversion of reality’.
We are where we are. Intractable problems, issues, grounded in existential hatred, Quranic doctrines, irrational leadership and unrealistic expectations. There is no solution in sight.