This account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appeared in
It is a forceful. presentation of the Zionist case, but it suffers from a number of historical
inaccuracies that impair its credibility. I have noted and corrected many of these in the text, in italics. In some
cases, it also understates the Zionist case.
It does a good job of debunking some of the myths advanced by anti-Zionists and their
advocates. Major points that are backed by overwhelming evidence:
Myth - Zionists are responsible for Palestinian poverty.
Fact - Zionist development of the land and Zionist investment caused the
standard of living of Arab Palestinians to rise much faster than that of surrounding countries during the mandate, and
Arab Israelis today enjoy a better standard of living than their neighbors in other countries. The misery of Palestinian
Arabs was due to exploitation by the Ottoman Empire and by other Arabs.
Myth - During the mandate, Zionists plotted to kick the Arabs out of
Fact - Palestinians plotted to kick the Jews out of Palestine, and refused
to entertain any peaceful solution to the conflict.
Myth - Israel's occupation of Arab lands in 1967 is responsible for the
Fact - Palestinians and Arabs have been trying to throw the Jews out of
Palestine for over 80 years, since before the foundation of the state.
Myth - The Israeli occupation impoverished the Palestinian Arabs.
Fact - Between 1967 and 1993 there was an unprecedented rise in the
standard of living in both Gaza and the West. When the Oslo accords were signed and the PLO took over administration of
the territories, the standard of living stagnated. After the Palestinians initiated the violence in 2,000 the standard
of living plummeted. Palestinian Arab misery is due to the corruption, irresponsible behavior and incompetence of their
The Muslim and Arab Oppression of the Palestinians
By David Meir-Levi
How did the Palestinians reach their current tragic state? Are the Israelis responsible? What about the other Arab
states and the Palestinians’ own leaders? What part of the blame falls on them?
These are important questions. The answers are complex, requiring a historical literacy and a willingness to go beyond
the simplistic notion of the international media that the Mid-east conflict is a matter of conflicting rights and
Israeli “occupation” of Palestinian lands.
Early Oppression of Palestinian Arabs by the Ottoman Turks
The exploitation of Palestinian Arabs began more than 170 years ago, when Israel was still an impossible dream, and
intifadas and suicide bombers were unimaginable. At the height of its rule in the early 19th century, the Ottoman Empire
instituted “Tanzimat,” a series of laws promulgated over several decades which radically changed the nature of land
ownership. [The Tanzimat - reorganization - was aimed at reorganizing the tax base of the Ottoman empire, which was
bankrupt - and modernization of the ownership structure. The consequences to peasants were unintended, but nonetheless
real. - A.I. ] As a result of the new laws, wealthy land owners, bankers, business owners, and money
lenders anywhere in the Empire could now buy land formerly owned communally by the Arab peasants (fellahin) in the towns
and villages of the region that would later become known as Israel.
From the mid-1830s to the late 1850s, [In the 1830s, the land was controlled by Mehmet Al from Egypt. The Tanzimat
was as Ottoman reform that began somewhat later.] wealthy Arabs (effendi) from Cairo to Beirut, Jaffa to Damascus,
purchased land previously owned by hundreds of thousands of fellahin, who suddenly found themselves landless serfs
instead of successful small farmers, now working what had once been their own land as tenants of the effendi. [
Though the first Firman of the Tanzimat (reorganization) was issued in 1839, it initially had little effect. The
capitation tax that that had been the basis of taxation was not abolished until 1856, and at that time the laws were
changed to allow purchase of land and to force registration of land for taxation. These laws made it possible for early
Zionists to purchase land. -- A.I.]
In years of inadequate harvest, Arab money lenders granted usurious loans and took as collateral both future harvests
and whatever land remained under communal ownership. When future harvests were insufficient to pay off the debt, with
its astronomic interest rate, the money lenders confiscated more land and pushed the fellahin deeper into a modern-day
version of feudal serfdom. In other words, the Palestinian Arab peasantry watched helplessly as their land was bought
out from under them, by their own people, 50 years before Zionism.
From the 1830s onward [Marx was in Palestine in 1844; Twain in the 1860's - A.I.],
travelers such as Karl Marx and Mark Twain commented on the desolation and emptiness of the area. The Sultan could not
collect taxes from unoccupied land. So the Turkish authorities forcibly relocated Bulgarians, Circassians, and Arabs
from surrounding regions. [The relocation was undertaken in a later era, when the Turkish government was trying to
revitalize Palestine- about 1880. -- A.I.] Some stayed, worked the land, and assimilated into the local
population. Others found a way to escape back to their homelands. The crown’s policy of forced resettlement impacted
negatively on the indigenous Arab fellahin. The newcomers created competition for resources (especially water) and
offered new sources of supply for agrarian markets. The Arab peasants, already reduced to subsistence agriculture, had
to work harder simply to survive. (1).
The Benefits of Zionism to the Arab Peasantry
From the 1880s onward, Zionists bought land in ever-increasing amounts all over what would later be called Israel, and
in trans-Jordan. They purchased land from two main sources: The crown and the wealthy Arab land-owners (Effendi), both
local and absentee. The fellahin or peasants were already dispossessed.
Owned by the Sultan, crown land was largely unoccupied and un-worked. The Sultan was
delighted to have someone purchase, develop, and pay taxes on that land. The purchase of crown land rendered no one
landless. In fact, it had a positive influence on the neighboring fellahin. The technologically advanced Zionist
agrarian endeavors resulted in the reclamation of arid areas with modern irrigation. In addition to learning new
agricultural techniques, the Arab peasants could graze flocks on the newly created grassland surrounding the Zionists’
fields. In the swampy areas of the Jezreel and upper Hula valleys, newly drained swampland created arable tracts beyond
the holdings of the Zionists, and local Arabs worked those lands, albeit illegally as squatters as far as the crown and
wealthy Arab landowners were concerned.
Unlike the wealthy Arabs who purchased land under the Tanzimat and kept the fellahin on the
land as serf-like peasants, the Zionists worked the land they purchased themselves, as farmers, and thus had no use for
peasant labor. Re-location of the Arab peasants was accomplished in several different ways. Zionist purchasers sometimes
paid an additional fee to the wealthy Arab land owner, for instance, to help subsidize the peasants’ move. There was
much un-worked land both in the land west of the Jordan River and in Trans-Jordan (the land to the east) that could be
bought with these funds. The former Arab serfs could now once again become land-owners, thanks to the surcharge paid by
the Zionist purchasers.
Sometimes, the wealthy Arab land-owner illegally kept the surcharge. When Arab peasants did
not receive their payment, they complained and sometimes sued the Zionists in the Muslim courts of the Turkish
administration. In many cases, the Zionists paid the surcharge again to the peasants rather than incur the expenses and
risks of a court case, especially as Jewish plaintiffs in a Muslim court.
Sometimes, the Arab peasants demanded that other land be bought for them so they would not
have to search for uninhabited farmland. The Zionists often did this to avoid confrontation. But after fulfilling their
part of the deal, they often found their land suddenly covered with Bedouin tents or the shanties of squatters. Having
no police or other armed force of their own, they turned to the Ottoman rulers of the region for justice. Sometimes
honest neighbors would attest that the new occupants were indeed interlopers trying to extort money from the Zionists.
At other times, in the absence of such witnesses, the Zionists had to pay off these squatters or buy land for them
The Hope-Simpson Report
in 1930, addressing the question of uprooted Arab peasants under the British Mandate (imposed after the defeat of
the Ottoman Empire in World War I), concluded that only a bit more than 800 families were actually rendered landless by
Zionist land purchases over the decades from 1880 onward. While initially more than 3,000 Arab heads of households
claimed such status in the hope of gaining land or money at the expense of the Zionists or the British, the Hope-Simpson
staff found that only a fraction of that number were legitimate (3).
Over all, the Zionist endeavor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was highly beneficial to the indigenous Arab
population ruled by the Turks. Among the benefits were the agricultural advances the Zionists brought to Arab peasants
and Bedouins who migrated in from surrounding areas in considerable numbers from the 1880s onward. Wealthy Arab
land-owners enriched themselves at the expense of the Zionists who were willing to pay inflated prices with double and
triple surcharges in order to procure land for the creation of a Jewish homeland. And some Arab peasants were able to
reverse the tragic consequences of the Tanzimat land-grab and regain their status as land-owning farmers thanks to the
Zionists’ willingness to pay them or buy land for them, often in trans-Jordan (4). [While there can be no doubt about
the progress of the Arab community under the British Mandate ( See Zionism and its Impact for details
) the effect of Zionist settlement under the Turks is harder to assess. There was not much Zionist settlement, and both
Palestine and the Turkish empire were undergoing reform. Palestine was gradually recovering from earlier gross
Arab Jew-hatred Under the British Mandate
British involvement in the Holy Land began in the early decades of the 19th century. When the French assisted Mehmet Ali
and Ibrahim Pasha in Egypt during their revolts against the Turks, England worked with the Turkish Sultan to counter the
Egyptian rebellion and thus limit the extent of French influence in the Middle East.
English political and cultural representatives now filtered into the Holy Land to build schools, hospitals and other
cultural centers. British exploration of Christian holy sites began at this time. The result was a rapidly growing
sphere of British influence on the Eastern Mediterranean litoral from Beirut to Gaza by the late 19th century. With the
opening of the Suez Canal and discovery of petroleum in “Mesopotamia” (later Iraq), British interest in the region
skyrocketed. Eventually Britain would build oil refineries in Haifa and a railway connecting the Eastern Mediterranean
port with Iraq.
This British activity translated into massive economic growth. Thousands of Arab peasants were given an education and
exposed to modern medicine. Between the Zionist development in agriculture and medicine and British industrial and
cultural advances, the economy of the region grew rapidly. Infant mortality plummeted, life expectancy increased, Arab
migration to the region continued unabated, and the Arab peasant could find employment that paid him in a month what his
peasant father earned in a year. Arab agricultural techniques improved as well, and for the first times, farming in the
region changed from subsistence to commercial, with the Arab tenant farmers producing enough to meet their own needs and
have excess for marketing (5).
After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the League of Nations’ created “British Mandatory Palestine,”
which encompassed all of the Holy Land west of the Jordan River and what would later become the Hashemite Emirate of
Jordan to the East of the Jordan River (Trans-Jordan, now known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan). The goal of this
arrangement was for Britain to assist the Arabs and the Jews who lived there to become able to govern themselves
autonomously, at which point Britain’s mandate would end. [ The stated goal of the
Mandate was to develop Palestine as a national home for the Jewish people. The wording was taken directly from the
Balfour declaration. Therefore, when Britain eventually stopped Jewish immigration, they had reneged on the conditions
of the Mandate. A.I. ]
In 1922, Britain established Trans-Jordan in the area east of the Jordan River (which constituted 74% of the entire
Palestine Mandate) and declared it the Hashemite emirate. The majority of the population were Arabs from the Palestine
region, but the rulers were Hashemite Arabs originally from Arabia. Jews were forbidden by law to enter this new
emirate, and the existing Jewish farming settlements east of the Jordan River were dismantled and relocated in areas to
the west. In other words three quarters of the Palestine Mandate were declared Judenrein (ethnically cleansed of
Jews) by the British in order to appease the Arabs.
Under the Palestine Mandate, the economy of the remaining area continued to prosper. Rather than using the draconian
methods of the Ottoman army to keep order, British officers encouraged the growth of a local indigenous leadership.
Thus, the infamous and pro-Nazi,
Haj Amin El Husseini, although indicted by
the British for his role in the anti-Jewish riots of the early 1920’s, was appointed the “Grand Mufti of Jerusalem” by
the British High Commissioner. Even the lethal anti-Jewish riots of 1929 and 1936, sparked in large part by the Hajj’s
incendiary anti-Jewish preaching and behind-the-scenes machinations, did not undermine the British determination to
assist the Arabs of Mandatory Palestine to develop institutions of leadership in preparation for self-rule at some point
in the future (6).
[The economic progress of the Arab community in Palestine under the Mandate was indeed remarkable, as was the
improvement in health conditions. Palestine rose from being a land of net Arab emigration under the Turks, and one of
the poorest sections of Ottoman Empire. By 1947, Palestine was one of the richest communities in the Middle East. Arab
wages were considerably higher than those in adjacent countries, and until 1936 at least, there had been considerable
net migration of Arabs into Palestine, most of it undocumented. This economic growth was fueled solely by the
investments of the Zionists. Britain was nearly bankrupt and had decreed that Palestine must be economically self
sufficient. See Zionism and its Impact for details The
Jews constituted 1/3 of the population of Palestine by 1947, but accounted for 2/3 of the economic output of mandatory
Palestine. In other words, each Jew produced as much as four Arabs, and paid taxes accordingly. A.I.]
UN partition plan (Resolution 181)
was passed on November 29, 1947, creating a state for the Jews, on the three slivers of land (the Negev, the northern
part of the coastal plain, and the eastern Galilee), representing about 55% of what is today Israel (or about 1/8th of
on both sides of the Jordan) [Actually, it was 55% of the land between the Jordan River
and the Sea -A.I. ]. The territory which the UN apportioned to Israel was primarily land that Jews had purchased and
developed over the past 100 years, plus the desolate Negev south of Beer Sheba, almost completely uninhabited and deemed
uninhabitable. The Arab state on the remaining 45% plus the Hashemite emirate in Trans-Jordan gave the Arabs a total of
7/8th of the land that
Balfour Declaration had originally committed as a homeland for the Jews. [The
Balfour Declaration made no
mention of borders. The borders were set by the League of Nations
.--A.I. ] The Arab state was
to include much of the southern coastal plain from the Sinai border up to Jaffa, all of the West Bank’s central hill
country, and the western Galilee. Jerusalem was to be an international city shared by both groups and administered by a
UN commission (9).
The Arab War Against the Jews and their State: 1936 to 1947
Although the Zionist endeavor, along with the British contributions to the region’s economy, brought unprecedented
prosperity to the region, and created the environment in which the Arab population could more than triple between 1955
and 1947, Arab leadership resented Jewish progress and feared the growth of the Jewish population. Despite efforts by
leading Zionists to develop modes of cooperation and joint programs with industrial and agrarian leaders, the Hajj and
other Effendi provoked anti-Jewish sentiment and pressured the British to put a complete stop to Jewish immigration. The
British agreed to reverse their stand on the concept of Palestine as a homeland for the Jews, and a series of “white
papers” limited the number of Jews that could enter the country. But rather than appeasing Arab leadership, these
attempts at mollification emboldened the Hajj to preach a full-scale revolt. In 1936 Arab riots took the lives of dozens
of British and hundreds of Jews. With World War II looming, the British moved swiftly to quell the revolt (7).
At Parliament’s behest, Lord Earl Peel visited the region in 1937 to find a way to satisfy Arab demands. His conclusion
was that the Arabs and the Jews could not live together, and the only option was partition. Thus was created the “Peel
partition plan” in which the Arabs in the area west of the Jordan River would receive about 85% of the land, and the
Jews 15%. [ There were several partition proposals. In the first one, that the Jews accepted, the area offered to the
Jews was somewhat larger. See
Peel Commission Report and Partition Plan Maps. An absurd feature
of the plan was that the tiny Jewish state would have been called upon to subsidize the much larger Arab one, because
the British believed that the Jewish State would be economically viable, whereas the Palestinian Arab state would not be
viable. -A.I. ]The division was based on the areas in which each group had the most population. In other words the Jews were
being offered 15% of the remaining 26% of the original Palestine Mandate, the other 74% to the east of the Jordan River
having already been given to the Hashemites. The Jews accepted this arrangement. The Arabs rejected it –the 92% of the
original Palestine Mandate they would now have was considered inadequate -- and they went to war.
The leaders of the 1937 revolt imagined that the British would buckle under sustained attacks, and that Jews would stop
immigrating. But their terrorism, hit-and-run tactics, and relentless attacks on Jewish civilian populations created a
situation that the British could not allow to continue. By 1937, as war clouds gathered in Europe, they quickly
augmented their military strength and over the next year killed somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 Arabs, ending the
revolt in 1939 (8).
While Arab historians decry Britain’s use of overwhelming force to end the revolt, it is important to remember that
before they resorted to force the British attempted to find a solution via a negotiated compromise. Had Arab leadership
accepted this compromise, and created Palestine alongside of Israel as the Peel Commission recommended, the Palestinian
people would have had their own state in 1937 on about 85% of what is today Israel and Palestinian Arabs would be living
on 92% of the original Palestine Mandate (in a new Palestinian state west of the Jordan River and in the Hashemite
kingdom of Jordan east of the river).
By preaching Jew-hatred and provoking the revolt against the British, the Hajj and his cohorts betrayed the interests of
their own people and condemned them to a war they could not win and to the loss of a Palestinian state. After their
defeat, the Arab leaders of the revolt who escaped the British dragnet initiated their own “night of the long knives,”
executing as many as 3,000 of their own people whom they accused of collaboration.
In the post-war era, the British, fed up with the costs of empire, handed the “Palestine question” over to the newly
formed United Nations. The UN undertook a thorough and in-depth evaluation of the partition proposal. Several fact
finding missions went to Palestine and found in the Zionists a willing and cooperative group. Lengthy and uninhibited
interviews with leaders, rank-and-file, rich, poor, new-comers, and even refugees on board the immigrant ships that had
been held up by the British all resulted in the impression that the Jews, especially after the Holocaust, needed a
state. It was clear as well that there was enough land legally owned by Jews and the Jewish Agency for a state to be
cobbled together. In order to avoid infringement upon land owned by Arabs, this Jewish state would be rather odd looking
and problematic. It had a segment in the south connected to a sausage-like segment in the middle and a third piece that
was just barely contiguous to the other two in the north. It was an administrative, managerial, and security nightmare.
Nonetheless it was a state, and the Jews accepted it.[The premise of the partition was partition with economic union.
The partition was based on demographic realities, and it was the only way to create a state with a Jewish majority. --
But the Arabs remained adamantly opposed to any solution that included Jewish self-determination. The Arabs avoided the
UN representatives, insisted that the UN had no jurisdiction over the Palestine Mandate, refused to meet with
fact-finding committees, or sometimes agreed to meet with them and then did not show up. With the British gone, the
Arabs were confident that they could ethnically cleans the Jews from the Palestine Mandate, and the Palestinian state to
emerge would be an Arab country.
By a tiny margin, the
Zionists and Jews everywhere rejoiced. Had the Arab world accepted the partition, there would have been a Palestinian
state in 1947, and peace for the next fifty plus years. But the Arab leaders had no interest in such a state and
launched a war to destroy the new mini-state of Israel instead.
The Arab Responsibility for “an-Nakba” – the “Catastrophe” for Palestinians
The creation of Israel is referred to as “an-Nakba” (the catastrophe) in Arab historiography and the political
pronouncements of Arab leaders and their supporters. But the catastrophe experienced by the Arabs of Palestine was the
result of Arab policies, and the Arab rejection of any solution that would include a Jewish presence in the Middle East.
Five Arab armies invaded the three slivers that were Israel in an attempt to destroy the new state. Under threat of
annihilation, Israeli forces defended the slivers that had been assigned to them by the United Nations. Part of that
defensive action included driving Arab civilians from their homes in a few Arab villages located at strategically
important sites or which sat upon major arteries, especially the road to Jerusalem. [Actually, the Arabs of most of
the corridor villages had fled and the villages were inhabited by irregular soldiers for the most part. In other places,
the villagers actively participated in blockading the roads and attacking Jewish convoys. The mandatory government had
undertaken to keep the Jerusalem road open, but did nothing to implement their responsibility. A.I.] These actions, both legal and
commonplace in wartime (Mohammed is praised for doing the same thing to Jewish villages near Mecca ), have been reframed
by Arab propaganda into the fictional history of Israel’s “aggression” against the Palestinians (10).
In fact, the flight of Palestinian Arabs began months before the shooting started. Tens of thousands left the Galilee
and areas from Jaffa south and fled to Lebanon and Egypt. Tens of thousands more fled after the shooting started, and
long before the Jewish army had taken any measures against strategic villages. It is well documented that Arab leaders,
military, political and religious, urged the peasantry to flee so that the Arab armies could enter unencumbered and
quickly do away with the Jews (cf. Meir-Levi, “Big Lies” for documentation). By the spring of 1948 almost 350,000 Arabs
had left their homes. [ Arabs began leaving Palestine after World War II. Some left because they had lost their jobs.
They had been employed by the British in war time work in the port of Haifa. The increasing uncertainty precipitated
flight among the richer classes beginning in 1947. However, most of the flight began in March and April of 1948.
The Arabs initiated hostilities in Haifa and Yaffo, and then fled when Jews shot back. In Haifa, Abba Khoushy, head of
the workers council, as well as the mayor, pleaded with Arabs to stay. A survey done in Lebanon after the war showed
that most Arabs who fled had never seen a Jewish soldier. -- A.I. ]
The Israeli attack on Deir Yassin has been singled out and falsely presented by Arab historians as the quintessential
example of Jewish barbarism in which “Zionist thugs” brutally massacred hundreds of innocent civilians. [According to
the best estimates, about 107 people were killed in Deir Yassin, many of them women and children-- A.I.] In
fact, Iraqi soldiers had occupied the village, dressed as women, and hid in the villagers’ houses. Survivors of the
attack admit openly that none of the atrocities ascribed to the Jews ever actually occurred. [Survivors denied that
there were rapes. These may have been inventions. However they verified that people, including women and children, were
killed after they had surrendered. Some of the killings occurred because Arab prisoners opened fire after
surrendering. Some may have occurred when dynamited buildings collapsed on their occupants--A.I..] These atrocities
were the invention of Dr. Khalid Husseini, director-general of the Arab radio station “Voice of Palestine.” As he
explained, he broadcast his own fictionalized account of the battle in order to shame the Arab states into sending more
troops to wipe out the Jews. [The significance of Deir Yassin in anti-Zionist historical lore is that it supposed was
part of a Zionist plot to evict the Arabs of Palestine. The attack was undertaken by the dissident revisionist faction.
Neither the revisionist commanders, nor certainly the Zionist organization, had any inkling there would be a massacre,
which was apparently the spontaneous reaction of inexperienced and ill-disciplined troops. The Zionist Organization
apologized for the massacre. See Deir Yassin -- A.I.]
To the degree that the battle at Deir Yassin sowed panic among the Arabs throughout the rest of Palestine, that panic
was the result of Dr. Husseini’s lies, not the Israeli actions. But most important, the battle occurred on April 9,
1948, almost 6 months after the Arab flight had begun by which time more than 300,000 Arabs had already left Israel
In the south, close to 300,000 more Palestinian peasants were forced to flee at gunpoint by the Egyptians, according to
Yasir Arafat himself. The Egyptian army forced the Arabs of southern Palestine into what Arafat called “concentration
camps” in the Gaza Strip. Today we know these as the refugee camps into which nearly 1,000,000 hapless, homeless,
helpless, hopeless Arabs are crowded together under abominable conditions, thanks to the Egyptians (12). [Moreover,
following the Oslo agreements, Egypt forced refugees living in Sinai to move to Gaza. A.I.]
But Arab responsibility for “an-Nakba” goes even further. The Arab forces of Jordan occupied the West Bank, and King
Abdullah unilaterally and illegally annexed it to his Hashemite kingdom. King Farouq of Egypt declared Egyptian
sovereignty over the Gaza Strip. Both actions were illegal in terms of international law, and in high-handed defiance of
UN resolutions 181 and 194. When the war was over, and armistice lines drawn, the land which the UN had apportioned to
the Arabs of Palestine had been seized by the Arab states that had invaded, supposedly to help the Palestinians. When
Israel offered to return land taken in its defensive actions and to negotiate fair settlement of the refugee issue, but
only in exchange for peace, the Arab states refused. Better the Palestinians remain refugees than the existence of
Israel be ratified (13).
Jordan and Egypt not only illegally occupied the land that was supposed to be the Palestinian state; they and other Arab
States forcibly maintained the helpless Palestinian refugees in concentration camps as a living grievance against Israel
and the West. [Jordanian occupation of the West Bank was apparently planned with the backing of the British,
especially Glubb Pasha, and had the tacit consent of Israel. No states recognized this occupation. A.I.]
The Arabs who stayed and became citizens of Israel (about 170,000 in 1949, today in excess of 1,400,000) prospered.
Today Arab Israelis serve as members of Parliament (Knesset), as faculty in universities, as highly educated
professionals in just about every field of endeavor, and enjoy a standard of living, political and personal freedom, and
economic opportunity unparalleled anywhere in the Arab world. [Bedouin and Druze serve in the IDF; The Israel
government has had a Druze minister and will soon have an Arab minister. Israeli Arabs are far poorer than Israeli Jews
as a group, however, and the Arabs of Gulf states are certainly richer than Israeli Arabs -- A.I. ]
Israeli Generosity to the Arabs Who Attacked Them
In his very detailed and comprehensive “Records of Dispossession,” Michael Fischbach documents Israel’s desire to offer
reparations as part of the resolution of the refugee problem (14). Israel was unwilling, in the absence of a state of
peace, to permit hundreds of thousands of members of a potentially hostile population to re-enter the country during
wartime. So repatriation was possible only after peace; but reparation offers could be made.
At the Rhodes conference (1949) individual refugees and whole groups tried to discuss reparations with Israeli
representatives. But Arab leaders prevented their own refugees from meeting with the Israeli delegation. The USA and the
UN insisted that restitution and resettlement elsewhere would be a fair and reasonable resolution. But the Arab states
refused. Some Arab leaders expressed openly their lack of concern for the refugees, and many refugees were openly
hostile to the Arab delegations (15).
Later, Israel offered restitution and the return of frozen bank accounts and safe deposit box contents. But under
pressure from Arab governments, refugees refused to fill out forms needed to verify ownership, because that might imply
recognition of Israel. Israel rewrote the forms to placate the refugees; but only a tiny fraction submitted the requests
In 1960, Israel was still trying to find ways to pay reparations to refugees via secret contact through Cypriot
authorities; but Arab states again intervened to prevent a settlement. As late as 1964 when the US Department of State
developed a “technical program” based on reports estimating the value of refugee property, Israel agreed to use this
program as basis for negotiations for just compensation. Again the Arab states refused to meet, refused to negotiate,
rejected the report; and they kept the whole opportunity secret from the refugees (17).
The 1967 Arab Aggression and the Immense Benefits of Israeli Occupation
Egypt and Syria started the Six Day war
(6/5/1967) with the USSR’s help by massing troops on Israel’s borders, evicting
the UN and USA peace-keeping forces from the Sinai, re-militarizing the Sinai with thousands of tanks and tens of
thousands of soldiers, closing the Straits of Tiran, and doing illegal fly-over incursions into Israeli airspace. When
they dragged Jordan into the campaign and prepared for a three-pronged simultaneous invasion, Israel struck. Israel’s
lightning victory created a new wave of Arab refugees. Some estimates assert that as many as 200,000 Arabs fled the West
Bank as Israeli forces entered, seeking refuge in Jordan (18).
Within a few days of the June 10 cease-fire, Abba Eban, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, made his famous speech offering
to negotiate the return of captured territories in exchange for three Arab concessions: diplomatic recognition of
Israel; negotiations to decide on universally recognized borders and other issues; and peace as a final outcome. Western
countries expressed amazement that the victor was offering to negotiate with the vanquished and was willing to make
concrete concessions (return of territories) in exchange for symbolic and diplomatic ones. To formulate a response to
this unexpected new reality, the Arab states called a summit meeting in Khartoum (capitol of Sudan). The result was the
now infamous three Khartoum NOs: no recognition, no negotiations, no peace. Thus Israel’s occupation of the West Bank
and Gaza was caused first by Arab aggression and then by Arab refusal to negotiate a peace after the Arab armies had
been vanquished (19).
After the war, Israel began what is sometimes called its “mini-Marshall plan” for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,
investing hundreds of millions of dollars to bring them both into the 20th century with regard to infrastructure, roads,
sewerage, electricity, phones, radio and TV broadcasting, water purification and water supply. World Bank records
indicate that the GDP of the West Bank grew at the average rate of 13% per year between 1967 and 1994. Tourism
skyrocketed, unemployment almost disappeared as hundreds of thousands of Arabs worked in Israel’s economy earning far
more than their counterparts in other Arab countries. Seven universities grew up on the West Bank in place of the three
teachers training schools that existed before 1967.
And, perhaps most telling of all, free and unencumbered access to Israel’s medical infrastructure resulted in a
declining infant mortality and a rise in longevity. The infant mortality rate was reduced from 60 per 1,000 live births
in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 in 2000. Under a systematic program of inoculation, childhood diseases such as polio, whooping
cough, tetanus, and measles were eradicated. During the two decades preceding the First Intifada, the number of
schoolchildren in the territories grew by 102%, and the number of classes by 99%, though the population itself had grown
by 28%. Illiteracy rates dropped to 14% of adults over age 15 (compared with 61% in Egypt, 45% in Tunisia, and 44% in
Syria). The rapid growth in population as a result of access to Israeli medicine, in addition to Arab immigration into
the territories from “Diaspora Palestinians” all over the Arab world, resulted in a tripling of the Arab population from
around 950,000 in 1967 to more than 3,000,000 in 1994 (20).
All this time the Arab nations remained formally at war with Israel. In 1979, Egypt alone among the Arab states agreed
to sign a peace treaty with Israel. In response to Egypt’s willingness to sign the peace, Israel withdrew its forces and
settlements in the Sinai.
The peace signed with Egypt also offered a new opportunity for Palestinians. Prime Minister Menahem Begin and Egyptian
President Anwar es-Sadat invited Arafat to their peace table. Arafat refused, and in doing so, squandered what could
have been yet another opportunity for Palestinian statehood. Sadat was then assassinated by Muslim radicals for making
peace with the Jews. [Menachem Begin was willing to offer only autonomy for the Palestinians. The PLO for its part,
was unwilling to give up its plan for "liberating" all of Palestine and expelling the Jews.-- A.I.]
Arafat Takes Over and Destroys Palestinian Prosperity and Peace
When the 1993 Oslo Accords allowed Yasir Arafat to set up shop in the West Bank as the head of the newly created
Palestinian Authority, the robust economy created in partnership between Israel and the Arabs ground to a halt and then
went into a steep decline. By 2002, the West Bank’s GDP was one-tenth of what it was in 1993. Israel has been blamed
worldwide for the economic plight of the Palestinians when it is entirely the responsibility of Yasir Arafat and the
Palestinian Authority. Yet, the record as registered in annual UN Human Development Reports, clearly shows that the
Palestinian people were much better off under Israeli occupation than under the Palestine Authority’s control.
Data provided by the UN Human Development program of 2005 (21) indicate that the economic difficulties experienced by
the Palestinian Arabs were largely the result of policies of the Arafat regime and not from any oppression by the State
of Israel. Looking at what it calls “The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT),” the UN report cites many examples of
how positive trends in human development have been reversed. For instance, the second Intifada beginning in Sept. 2000
resulted “…in a sharp deterioration in living standards and life chances.”. The poverty rate nearly tripled from 20% in
1999 to 55% in 2003. The report notes that because of the Intifada, the town of Nablus a prosperous commercial hub prior
to September 2000, became an economic basket case. Shops were closed; to survive, workers had to sell their tools, and
farmers were forced to sell their land. It was Arafat’s war, not Israeli rule, that destroyed Palestinian prosperity and
bled its people (22).
Even with the disruption of their economy that the Palestinians suffered as a result of the Intifada, the Palestinians
are still listed as seventh in a list of 103 developing countries, on a par with Cuba, Singapore and Columbia. A number
of other Arab countries rank far below the Palestinian territories. Even more ironic is the fact that while the
Palestinians receive more aid per capita than any nation in the world except one--Cape Verde--because of Arafat’s terror
war and his embezzlement of huge amounts of this money for himself and his terror armies, the Palestinian people have
experienced a severe decline in economic well-being. The UN report suggests that Arafat diverted almost all of the aid
money to his various militias. So the aid money, rather than helping the economy and thus creating conditions that would
end violence, actually promoted violence (23). The picture that arises from the UN 2005 report is a clear continuation
of trends documented in the 2004 report (24).
The Post-Oslo Terrorist War against Israel
Oslo Accords of 1993
created what would turn out to be the last best offer of statehood and peaceful co-existence
alongside of Israel. As with every other opportunity since 1937, Israel accepted the agreements, recognized and
supported the concept of Palestinian statehood, and fulfilled its obligation under the Oslo Accords to create and arm a
Palestinian Authority. But before the ink was dry, Arafat was betraying the agreement he had just signed to renounce
violence. To be sure, he spoke words of peace in English to the West. But in Arabic he began preaching Jihad and
rejecting every one of his Oslo commitments. By early 1994 he had joined with the Islamic terrorist group
beginning a “low intensity” terror war operating in Israel and in Lebanon. [Captured documents indicate that Arafat
was organizing terror operations in 1999, but there does not seem to be evidence of direct support for terror in 1994 or
for any pact with Hamas -- A.I.]
When in June of 2000 at Camp David Arafat rejected what Saudi prince Bandar bin-Sultan described as the best offer the
Palestinian people could possibly hope for, he threw away what proved to be his people’s last chance at a negotiated
settlement that would have led to statehood and to peace. His reply to Barak’s offer of a Palestinian state on 97% of
the land they had demanded, was to launch a Second Intifada. This terrorist war driven by suicide bomb attacks against
Israeli civilians began in September 2000, and has led to the empowerment of Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
Arafat created a massive thugocracy to oppress and terrify his people and to maintain his own power. He embezzled
billions of dollars from the aid money pouring in from Arab states, the EU, the UN, the UK and the USA, to line his own
pockets and fund his terror war. He exploited the maneuverability and the base of operations that the Oslo Accords gave
him, to create massive graft and corruption in his crony-government, and to attack, intimidate, arrest, torture and kill
anyone of his own who objected (25).
By the end of Arafat’s life, Israel and America had concluded that there could be no peace with him at the helm.
Realizing finally that they had no negotiating partner for a peace, Israelis has begun drawing their own boundaries with
a fence to keep terrorists out. Arafat’s legacy is clear: the current Palestinian government has no leadership desirous
of, or capable of putting an end to the terrorism, to the descent into chaos and lawlessness, and to the ascent of the
terror gangs in both the Gaza and the West Bank.
So what are the answers to the questions with which we opened this essay?
Who is responsible for the plight of the Palestinians? From the data presented above, the answer is obvious. From the
19th century onward, Arab leaders, both local and external, have betrayed the Palestinian Arabs, forced them into
poverty, cheated, intimidated, and oppressed them, condemned them to serfdom and stolen the land out from under them.
Every opportunity for statehood was squandered by leaders who chose war and terrorism over peace and cooperation (see
Addendum). Arafat’s totalitarian kleptocracy, his “democracy of the gun”, was most assuredly the very worst, most
heinous, of all betrayals.
How did Palestinian leaders let their people fall into such a tragic state? They didn’t “let them,” they did it to them.
A heartless, Machiavellian Arab leadership bent on violence, war, terrorism, destruction and genocide subordinated
Palestinian hopes and aspirations to their own dark plans; even while Zionists in the pre-State period and the Israeli
government thereafter accepted, supported, and attempted to assist the Palestinian people.
Why did the Palestinian people allow themselves to be reduced to this tragic state? It is true that Palestinian leaders
ruled as tyrants, by terror, intimidation, and totalitarian repression. But even under a totalitarian tyranny, people
have broken free. Today we are witness to the Ukrainian revolution, the Cedar revolution in Lebanon, and the rise of a
courageous defiant democratic process in Afghanistan and Iraq (thanks to the USA coalition forces). So why have the
hopeless, hapless, homeless, helpless Palestinians done nothing to take their fate into their own hands?
It would require psychiatrists or cultural anthropologists to venture an answer to this question. But one thing is
certain: there are no leaders without followers.
APPENDIX: A Survey of the opportunities for creating a Palestinian state
Since thePeel Commission
in 1936, there have been a total of FIFTEEN (15) attempts to create a state for Palestinian
Arabs alongside of Israel. The British, the UN, the Israelis, Arab leaders, and the USA have all put forward plans for
peace between Israel and the Arab world that included a state for the Palestinian Arabs. Each time, these offers have
met with Israeli approval and Arab rejection. The Arab rejection has been expressed in unequivocal terms of war,
terrorism, violence, and murder. Arab and Palestinian leadership have adumbrated most clearly their intent to create a
Palestinian state instead of Israel, not alongside of it.
1.) The Peel Commission, set up in 1936 during the British Mandate. In 1937, Lord Earl Peel recommended that Her
Majesty’s government partition Palestine and give c. 85% of Mandatory Palestine to the Arabs, and c. 15% to the Jews.
The Jewish response was positive. The Arab Response was a 2.5-year war against the Jews and the British, with hundreds
of Jews and British killed, and c. 10,000 Arab casualties at the hands of British troops (Israel then had no organized
2.) The UN Partition Plan gave the Palestinian Arabs and the Jews their separate states on
11/29/47. The Palestinian Jews were ecstatic. The Arab response was a 15-month war of annihilation against Israel.
Against all odds, Israel won.
3.) The Rhodes Armistice Talks, 1949: The Israeli negotiators indicated that “everything was
negotiable” in exchange for political recognition, negotiations, and peace. The Arab representatives refused.
4.) The Israel Peace Initiative after the “Six Day War”: 6/5-10/1967 brought the remaining
Palestinian land under Israeli control in the 3rd defensive war against the Arabs. Immediately after the war, Abba Eban
made his “Israel Peace Initiative” speech at the UN. “Everything but Jerusalem is negotiable”. The Arab response was the
Khartoum conference in August, 1967: “no recognition, no negotiation, no peace with Israel
5.) Aziz Shihadeh, 1967: Mr. Shihadeh was a Palestinian Arab from Jaffa, residing in Ramallah
after the 1948 war, working as a human rights attorney. Following the 6-day war, and in response to Abba Eban’s speech,
he wrote an article urging Palestinian leadership to engage Israel in negotiations for a “two state solution”. Mr.
Shihadeh was murdered by the PLO.
Camp David Accords, 1979: In the context of the peace agreement with Egypt, the Camp
David Accords, Menahem Begin and Anwar es-Sadat urged Arafat, and related factions to renounce the three Khartoum “no’s”
and the Palestinian Covenant’s declaration for commitment to the total dismantling of the State of Israel and the
creation of a Palestinian State in its place. The PLO and various terrorist factions escalated terrorist activities
against the civilian population of Israel from inside of Lebanon.
7.) The Fahd Plan, 1981: At the Arab Summit in Fez, then Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia
put forward the plan that the Arab states should call for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. The plan was
rejected by every other Fez summit participant, including the PLO representative, because it would have been a de facto
recognition of the State of Israel.
8.) The Oslo Accords – 1993: Under President Clinton’s guidance, Israel agreed to the
creation of an autonomous Palestinian entity. The PLO became the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Arafat was brought out
of his Tunisian exile to head the PA, with its capitol in Ramallah. In exchange for agreeing to eschew terror, end
incitement, disarm and dismantle the terrorist groups under his control, and settle all differences by negotiation (per
his personal letter to Rabin on 9/8/93), Arafat was given independent and autonomous control over 96% of all
Palestinians living in Israel, time during which to build the infra-structure of a functioning state, and the
opportunity to negotiate with Israel for resolution of questions relating to the creation of an independent Palestinian
entity. At that time, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank and Gaza began. The last Israeli tank left
Ramallah on 9/28/1995. Arafat immediately violated every one of the Oslo Accords and bean his terror war culminating in
the 2nd Intifada.
9.) Ehud Baraq at Camp David II, July, 2000: The single most generous offer by Israel to the
Palestinian leadership since Rabin’s promise in l967 was the “second Camp David” meeting in July, 2000, where Ehud Barak
made his historic offer of 97% of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and a PA capitol in East Jerusalem, in return for an end
to the conflict. To quote Tom Friedman, Israel extended the olive branch and Arafat torched it. Arafat’s response was to
escalate his terrorist war on Israel by starting the 2nd Intifada. [There is no evidence whatever that Barak offered
97% of the West Bank and Gaza Strip at Camp David II in July of 2000. The offer was made in talks in
Washington in December 2000 however, and it was improved at
Taba in January of 2001. - A.I. ]
10.) Clinton’s “Bridge Plan”, December 2000: In an attempt to quell the 2nd Intifada, Clinton
suggested a “bridge plan” to pave the way to a return to the negotiating table. This plan was similar to Baraq’s , but
more generous. Arafat rejected it, and then had his spin-masters tell the world that actually the plan was not a good
one, and besides, nothing was put in writing. So the Intifada continued. [Correct. See
The Myth of the Israeli Bantustan offer at Taba and other
The Clinton Bridging Proposals;
11.) The Taba Talks, 1-2/2001: Israeli and PA representatives were, by anecdotal
ex-post-facto accounts, on the verge of agreement about many issues. Barak was trying to negotiate in good faith, even
though the Intifada was raging, and there were an average of 10-20 terrorist attacks per day. [The major stumbling
block was Palestinian insistence on repatriation of all refugees. See
The Palestinian and Israel Proposals at Taba regarding the Refugee Problem
12.) The Mitchell Plan: Israel would stop building settlements and return to the negotiating
table if Arafat would put an end to terror and return to the negotiating table. Since an on-going PA complaint was the
continued expansion of the Israeli settlement population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, this was an ideal time for
Arafat to leverage the opportunity created by Mitchell’s visit to get Israel to back down from settlement expansion. But
it required him to restrain his terrorists and return to negotiations. There were three terrorist explosions in
Jerusalem and six other attacks around Israel after the Mitchell plan was announced. Arafat had again chosen terrorism
and warfare over negotiations. [The
Mitchell Report made these recommendations. It was followed by the more detailed
Tenet Plan of CIA director George Tenet. U.S. efforts at mediation
were stopped after Israelis captured a shipload of arms, the Karine A, which was destined for Gaza and had apparently
been commissioned by the PLO. A.I.
13.) President Bush’s offer: 6/24/02. Stop the terrorism and elect untainted officials and
the single most powerful person in the entire world will support the creation of your state. Sharon agrees. The
Palestinian leadership and spokespersons say: “don’t tell us whom to elect”, and Palestinian terrorists start a new wave
of terror attacks.
14.) The Road Map: 4/03: the first line of the first sentence of the first paragraph of the
first section of the Road Map says that the Palestinian Authority must unconditionally and immediately stop the
terrorism and incitement. Palestinian leadership gave verbal acceptance of the Road map, but continued terrorism and
invited Hamas to join the PA government.
15.) Sharon’s Unilateral Withdrawal: 4.14.04: “you get your state either way!”. If they stop the terror Israel
negotiates a state with them. If they don’t stop the terror, they STILL get their state, but Israel will draw the
borders unilaterally. Ahmed Qurei’a responded with : Unacceptable ! (26).
References are to sources in the bibliography, listed by author. Where pages are not noted, the
information has been summarized from broad segments of the authors’ works.
1.) O’Brien, Mandel, Scholch, Shafir
2.) Almog, Avneri, Bard, Fischbach, Gilbert “History”, Shapira; Sankowsky
3.) Gilbert “History”, O’Brien, Sachar, Sufian
4.) Bard “Myths and Facts”, Sachar, Sufian
5.) Fromkin, Gilbert “History”; Karsch, E & I; McCarthy; Sachar
6.) AASOR, McCarthy
7.) Almog, Sankowskiy, Segev
8.) Gilbert “History”; Idem, “Arab Israel Conflict”, O’brien; Sachar; Sankowsky, Segev
9.) Bard “Idiots Guide”, Gilbert “History”, Idem “Routlege Atlas”, O’Brien, Sachar, Schlaim
10.) Bard “Idiots Guide”; Gilbert “History”; Idem “Routlege Atlas”; Karsch,E, “Fabricating Israeli History”; O’brien;
Pappe; PBS; Sachar; Schlaim
11.) Meir-Levi, “Big Lies”; PBS; O’Brien.
12.) Meir-Levi, “Big Lies”, Hart
13.) Gilbert “History”, Idem “Arab Israel conflict in Maps”, Idem “Routlege Atlas”, Karsch, E. “Fabricating Israeli
History”, Meir-Levi “Big Lies”, O’Brien, PBS, Sachar, Schlaim
14.) Fischbach, pp. 87 ff
15.) ibid, 199f
16.) ibid, 210 ff
17.) ibid, 295 f
18.) Gilbert “History”, Idem “Routlege Atlas”, O’Brien, Oren
19.) Oren, Sachar
20.) Summarized from articles listed in “Economy of West Bank and Gaza Strip”
21.) UN Arab Human Development Program 2005
22.) Ibid, pp. 281 ff
23.) Ibid, pp. 312, ff
24.) UN Arab Human Development Program 2004
25.) Brown; Meir-Levi, David, “The Missing Piece is missing pieces”, Ibid, “Left Wing Monsters”, Ibid “Islamokaze war
and Palestinian poverty”, Walsh
26.) The summaries of the first 10 offers is compiled from major historical works dealing with the period from 1937 to
2000. Offers 11-15 are summarized from a variety of major news media sources during the past 5 years.
Almog, Shmuel Zionism and the Arabs (Essays) 1983
AASOR (Annual of the American School of Oriental Research): survey of the Holy Land, Univ. of Chicago Oriental
Avneri, Arieh Claim of Dispossession
Bard, Mitchell The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East Conflict
Idem Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Brown, Nathan Palestinian Politics
Fischbach, Michael Records of Dispossession
Fromkin, David A Peace to end all Peace (end of Ottoman Empire)
Gilbert, Martin The Arab-Israel Conflict in Maps (1977)
The Routlege Atlas of the Arab Israel Conflict: 2002
History of Israel
Hart, Alan Arafat: Terrorist or Peace Maker (Authorized biography)
Karsh, E. & I. Empires of the Sand: 1789-1923 (1999)
Karsh, E Fabricating Israeli History: The “New Historians” 1997
Arafat’s War (2003)
“Arafat's Grand Strategy”, Middle East Quarterly, 8.3.04
Mandel, Neville The Arabs and Zionism before World War I
McCarthy, Justin The Population of Palestine, 1990
Meir-Levi, David Big Lies (2005)
“Left Wing Monsters: Arafat” Front Page Magazine, 9/23/05
“Islamikaze War and Palestinian Poverty,” 9/15/04
“The Missing Peace is missing pieces”, 11/24/04
“Occupation and Settlement”, 6/24/05
“The Big Arab Lie”, 5/15/05
O’Brien, Conor Cruise The Siege
Oren, Michael Six Days of War
Pappe, Ilan The Arab-Israel Conflict: 1947-1954
PBS 50-year war: Israel and the Arabs (DVD 1993, 2000)
Sachar, Howard A History of Israel: Rise of Zionism to our time (2003)
Sankowsky, Shoshana A Short History of Zionism (1947)
Scholch, Alexander Palestine in Transformation: 1857-1882
Segev, Tom One Palestine, Complete
Shafir, Gershon Land , Labour, and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: 1881-1914
Shapira, Anita Land and Power: the Zionists resort to force: 1881-1948
Shlaim, A The Iron Wall
Sufian, Sandy Mapping the Marsh (Ph.D. Thesis, Rutgers Univ., 1999)
UN Arab Human Development Program, www.undp.org (2004)
UN Arab Human Development Program, www.undp.org (2005).
Walsh, Elsa The Prince”, New Yorker Magazine, 3.24.03
Bibliography: Economy of West Bank & Gaza Strip, 1967-1994 and
1994 to 2004
Abu Toameh, Khaled & Derfner, Larry, “A state of Corruption”, Nation and World, 7/1/02
Clawson, Patrick "The Palestinians' Lost Marshall Plans", deputy director of The Washington Institute for Near East
Doron, Daniel, “The Way forward for the Palestinians”, Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress, 7/1/02, vol 7,
Ehrenfeld, Dr. D., "Where does the money go? A study of the Palestinian Authority", Testimony before the US Congress and
the House Armed Services Committee.
Eidelberg, Dr. Paul, “Occupied Territories” email@example.com, 7/18/03
Karsch, Efraim, “What Occupation”, Commentary, 7/2002
“Who Ruined Gaza?”, National Post, 9/16/05
Marsden, Keith, “Another View: the Viability of Palestine” Wall Street Journal, Europe, 4.28.02
MEMRI special dispatch Series #390, A Kuwaiti Daily Reports Arafat Deposited $5.1 Million from Arab Funds into His
Pipes, Daniel, “Anti-Israel Terror Backfires”, New York Sun, 4/20/04
Wall Street Journal, Economy summary ,. 4.28.02 (Under the Israeli military occupation from 1967 to 1990, Gaza and the
West Bank made enormous economic progress as a result of Israeli investment).
Zwick, Israel “New UN Document Refutes Palestinian Claims”, TheRaphi.com in
Security Issues - How big is Israel?
Map of Palestine - Land of Israel, 1845
Map of Palestine - Land of Israel, 1845