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The real problem is Israel

IMO Blog, 2006

After reading Electronic Intifada, Counterpunch and Indymedia, or even the Guardian, the BBC or Le Monde it becomes quite clear: There is only one problem in the Middle East, and one aggressive country. All-powerful and land hungry, it pursues its racist policies and swallows up more and more Arab land. This view is even more popular in the Arab world, where it is often accompanied by classic anti-Semitism like the blood libel, the notion that the Jews are all-powerful and strive for world domination, the Holocaust is a lie of the Zionists to get world sympathy for their country, and so on. Read more about that at "Arab Antisemitism Books", where you can find an anthology of the latest anti-Semitic books published in Syria. Also in Egypt, a country that made peace with Israel and got back all of the Sinai in return, these ideas are quite popular and popularized in soaps on TV and cartoons in newspapers. The charter of Hamas says exactly the things mentioned above, including a referral to a Hadith that calls on the muslims to kill all the Jews in the end of days. All Arab countries supported the 'Zionism is racism' resolution, endorsed by the UN in 1975, and opposed its repeal in 1991.

So indeed Israel is the main problem according to the Arab world: not a particular policy, the wall/fence or even the occupation, but the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. That is not so surprising, as it is how the very problems started. Long before there was an occupation, and also before there were any Palestinian refugees or an Israeli army, there was a conflict between the Arabs and the Zionists in Palestine. Before there were any Jewish massacres of Arabs as in Deir Yassin, the Arabs massacred Jews during riots in 1921, 1929 and the great Arab revolt that lasted from 1936 till 1939. The 1948 war that made hundreds of thousands of Palestinians homeless, was started by the Palestinians because they opposed the UN partition plan and a Jewish state, and tried to prevent its foundation by attacking Jewish communities and convoys and blockading Jewish Jerusalem to hunger the population. Hajj Amin Al Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem and the most important Palestinian leader, said explicitly that he supported Hitler's 'solution of the Jewish problem'. The refugees that ever since called for their right to return obviously didn't want to live in a Jewish state.

After 1948 Arab leaders alternatively demanded from Israel to undo the results of the 1948 war by allowing all the refugees to return and to cede a large part of its territory to the Arabs, or called for a second round to wipe Israel off the map. After Israel refused the former, the Arab states prepared for the latter by acquiring large amounts of arms. Numerous border raids and counter actions of the Israeli army, the Arab attempt to prevent execution of Israel's water carrier plan to irrigate the Negev, the closing of the straits of Tiran for Israeli shipping and sending home the UN peacekeeping force in the Sinai, along with Palestinian incitement to 'liberate' their land, led to the 1967 war and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The UN adopted resolution 242, calling for Israel to return territories occupied in that war and recognition and safe borders for all states in the region. The slogan of 'land for peace' as a solution to the conflict was born. The Arab League however launched its 'three no's' at a summit in Khartoum in september 1967 as a response: no peace, no recognition, and no negotiations. In 1974, the PLO got observer status at the UN as the sole representative of the Palestinian people and Arafat gave a bellicose speech with a pistol showing. It was the time of numerous Palestinian hijackings and the PLO had built a 'state within a state' in Lebanon after being chased out of Jordan. In Israel, the religious right gained power and momentum and the settlement enterprise took shape, after the take over of the right in 1977 with active support of the government, with the explicit aim to create facts on the ground and prevent returning the territories to the Arabs or Palestinians.

That is basically the situation up till now: Palestinian terrorism on the one hand, occupation and settlements on the other. The Oslo peace process didn't stop either of them. However, whereas the Arab rejection of Israel always has been paramount in the policy of the Arab states, the settlement movement and its support were a result of both the Arab rejection of Jewish self determination and repeated attempts to defeat it, and the opportunity, as a result of the 1967 war, for Jews to live in their Biblical homeland and have access to their holy places. (One should not forget that during Jordanian rule over the Old City of Jerusalem, it destroyed 58 of 59 synagoges there and Jews were forbidden entry to the Wailing Wall, all in gross violation of international law and the 1949 Armistice agreements, and centuries old Jewish communities in the West Bank were destroyed during the 1948 war.) The Greater Israel ideology was and is not a part of mainstream Zionism, and is not supported by a majority of the Israeli population. This became clear for example as Barak was voted Prime Minister with the mandate to make peace with the Palestinians, and recently as Sharon announced his proposal to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and a clear majority supported him, and a majority supports further withdrawals from the West Bank. It is true however that many Israelis and government policy are too indifferent to Palestinian suffering under the occupation, but a lot of other Israelis criticize exactly that. We should also keep in mind that Arab and Palestinian indifference to Jewish suffering is much worse, as is clear from all the anti-Semitic propaganda and Holocaust denials, and their refusal to acknowledge their part in that suffering.

Meanwhile the 'land for peace' approach has been adopted by much of the Arab world, at least in words. At the Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002, they supported peace with Israel in return for all occupied territories and a 'just' solution to the refugee problem. The devil is in the details. 'All occupied territories' also means East Jerusalem, including all of the Old City and the Wailing Wall. A 'just' solution to the refugee problem according to the Arab League means that Israel has to admit at least all Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, some 500.000, who live in the most difficult circumstances and are the most radical and for sure don't want to live peacefully in a Jewish state. In October 2000 the Arab League called on Arafat to not abandon 'Arab rights' like full sovereignty over the Old City and the 'right of return' for all refugees, and supported unequivocally the second intifada as a response to the peace proposals of Clinton and Barak.

The Arab states and the Palestinians want very much the results of the 1948 war (the refugees) and the 1967 war (the occupied territories) to be reversed, but fail to address the causes of these wars. They want the territories back without recognizing unequivocally Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. On the contrary, they deny Israel's right to exist at every opportunity and accuse Jews and Zionists of the most horrible things, as mentioned above. They portray themselves as the ultimate victims of Zionist crimes, failing to see that they determined 'the rules of the game' and did to the Jews what they accuse them of doing to the Palestinians: massacring them in Palestine at the riots in the 1920s and 1930s, and chasing them out of most Arab countries. In many Arab countries, there was a vivid and loyal Jewish community, like in Egypt, Iraq, and Yemen, but hardly any Jews live there nowadays. They didn't leave all 'voluntarily' for sure. Read one account of that at "A Personal Exodus Story".

The demand to reverse what happened in 1967 and for Israel to return the occupied territories in return for peace would be much more trustworthy if the Arab states would make clear that they are willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which means and end to the anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic propaganda in state controlled media, an end to the support of Palestinian terrorism by for example Syria, and the acknowledgement that a return of the Palestinian refugees is not possible and is not just. Also, the Palestinians and the Arab world should acknowledge their part in the conflict and their black pages in history, like the Zionists did and do in history books, journalism, movies, and actions and demonstrations of the peace movement.
As long as that doesn't happen, it is clear that the problem according to most Arab states and the Palestinians is indeed Israel and its very existence. And that is the biggest obstacle to peace.

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IMO Blog (IsraŽl & Midden-Oosten) bevat mijn opinies over het IsraŽlisch-Palestijnse conflict, het Joodse recht op zelfbeschikking (ook bekend als Zionisme) en het Palestijnse recht op zelfbeschikking. Ik ben een academica uit Nederland. Ik ben actief geweest in diverse linkse bewegingen voor vrede, milieu en derde wereld. Ik ben noch Joods noch Palestijns noch IsraŽlisch noch Arabisch.

© Alle teksten op deze blogs zijn eigendom van de schrijver, en dienen niet zonder toestemming gekopieerd te worden naar andere websites.

IMO Blog contains my thoughts on the Israel - Palestine conflict, the Jewish right to self determination (aka Zionism) and the Palestinian right to self determination, and especially the involvement of Europe with the conflict in the light of it's own history. I am an academic from the Netherlands who has been active in several leftist movements for peace, environment and third world. I am neither Jewish nor Palestinian nor Israeli nor Arab.

© All blogs posted here are copyright by the author, and should not be copied without permission.

* Ratna.NL - Over IsraŽl en de Palestijnen 2005-2006
* Israel & Palestijnen Nieuws Blog
* Laatste nieuws uit Israel
* Dutchblog Israel (NL/EN)
* Simon Soesan (tot 2013)
* The Crethi and the Plethi (NL/EN)
* Loor Schreef
* Israel in de Media
* Trouw Israel Monitor

* MidEastWeb Log on Middle East peace (2002-2011)
* ZioNation - Progressive Zionism & Israel Web Log (2006-2010)
* Israel: Like this, as if (2007-2009)
* Middle East Analysis (2007-2011)

* AP Israel Watch (2010)
* Blue Truth (2007-2015)
* UK Media Watch/
* Daled Amos
* Dry Bones cartoons
* Dvar Dea from Israel
* Elder of Ziyon
* FresnoZionism (2006-2014), now Abu Yehuda
* Haifa Diary
* Israel Proud (2009-2012)
* A Liberal Defence of Israel (2006-2015)
* Neville Teller's A Mid-East Journal
* Normblog (2013)
* Philosemitism (2007-2013)
* Point of no return (Middle East's forgotten Jewish refugees)
* Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers
* Ray Cook (Israel, Zionism and the Media)
* Simply Jews
* Unplugged Mike (2003-2011)
* Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations

* Cijo - Voor Israel, Voor Vrede
* Christenen voor Israel
* Engage (GB)
* Etsel over Jodendom & IsraŽl
* Israel Facts (NL)
* IsraŽl-Informatie linkpagina (NL/EN)
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* Likoed Nederland
* MidEastWeb - Middle East News/Views
* Maurice Ostroff - Second Thoughts
* Missing Peace (NL)
* Peace With Realism
* VECIP - Vrije Encyclopedie Conflict IsraŽl-Palestina
* WAAR media werkgroep Israel
* Zionism & Israel
* Zionism On the Web

* Brassť Sittard - Van linkse politiek tot Joodse genealogie
* Sittard Web Log - "politieke, sociale en groene berichten"
* At the back of the hill
* The Euston Manifesto
* The IgNoble Experiment
* Jeff Weintraub, Commentaries and Controversies
* Keesjemaduraatje
* Het Verraad van Links (Carel Brendel)
* Verbal Jam (NL)
* Zin en Rede
* SEO - Search Engine Optimization

* Christians Standing With Israel - Blog
* IreneLancaster's Diary (on Aliyah, Judaism, Zionism and Politics)
* Jewish State
* Octogenarian
* Ratna's Review on Israel, Zionism and Peace (2005-2006)
* Sanda & Israel
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IMO Blog - Israel & Midden-Oosten

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