Love them or hate them one cannot escape the constant barrage of information that emanates from the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. For years it has consumed the headlines and we are no closer to any sort of resolution. Some people are adamantly pro Palestine others are militantly pro-Israel, many don’t even know what is going on and many do not engage in the debate as it is a convoluted labyrinth of rights and wrongs on both sides.
Where to begin? Do we begin Biblically or do we disregard that element in favour of a more secular foundation. Considering that many today do not acknowledge the validity of the Bible it would not be wise to argue from that specific point of authority. For the sake of context let me briefly reference what many would cite as a viewpoint for the Israeli perspective. “I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you.” (Exodus Chapter 23:31). In this Bible verse we are provided with a description of the land that Israeli’s believe was promised to them.
With the religious foundation established we have the bare minimum of the Jewish claims to land which for many is a sufficient foundation as who could argue with any higher authority than the one true God. Yet we have countless other viewpoints to consider and critical analysts (rightfully) need more than the God factor. For the sake of argument let us discount the commonly used phrase “the chosen people” and stick to the facts of history as we know them.
The Israelis are not completely innocent in this struggle. Prior to November 29th 1947, when the UN General Assembly voted in favour of a resolution for the partition of Palestine, there existed Zionist terrorist groups: Irgun Zevai Leumi officially known as the (“National Military Organization,” or simply Irgun); then there is Lehi (an acronym in Hebrew for the “Freedom Fighters of Israel”) called the “Stern Gang” by the British after the founder, Avraham Stern; and finally the Haganah which was a Jewish Paramilitary Defence Force during the British Mandate of Palestine and is deemed as the predecessor of the Israeli Defence Force.
In November 1944 Major James Robertson was informed that there were threats made by Eliyahu Bet-Zuri who was a key member of the terrorist faction Lehi. It had been disclosed by a member of the Stern Gang and resulted in an arrest made in April 1945. The source divulged: “As soon as he [Bet-Zuri] returned to Stern Group headquarters he proposed to suggest a plan for the assassination of highly placed British political personalities, including Mr Churchill, for which purpose emissaries should be sent to London.” Despite the allegations against Bet-Zuri he was not convicted but he did eventually meet his demise in Cairo 1945 where he was hanged for the murder of Lord Moyne, the UK’s minister resident in the Middle East and friend to Winston Churchill. Post World War II the increase of Zionist terrorism was evident in Palestine with the objective to persuade Clement Attlee’s Labour government to at last establish a Jewish state.
The notorious events of the Deir Yassin Massacre have caused much debate throughout the years. In 1948 the Irgun and Stern Gang devised a plot to raid Deir Yassin in a pre-dawn attack on April 9th 1948, despite the fact that villagers peacefully signed a non-aggression pact with the Jews which had been executed successfully by the parties involved. According to the account of Menachim Begin who would eventually become an Israeli prime minister a ‘loud speaker was used to warn the Palestinian people ahead of time that a raid was to take place and to evacuate.’ Unfortunately many villagers chose to stay and in so doing, to fight valiantly for home and country where many were killed.
According to Palestinian recollection they were outnumbered by the Jews who shot residents in their homes. This version of events is supported by several witnesses including Mr Pa’il now an 84 year old gentleman. According to Mr Pa’il upon further investigation he uncovered that the soldiers had positioned the villagers in the corners of their respective homes only to massacre them with bullets. What followed was a battle of intentional misinformation regarding the death toll, so that Palestinians could seek out sympathy from their Muslim neighbours who did little to assist and the Israelis sought to exaggerate the death toll as a tactic to manipulate and panic the Palestinians into battle. Overall the death toll hit 105 fatalities; the events at Deir Yassin are unknown to many in Israel.
The Palestinians could easily claim victimhood as these are few among many transgressions caused by the Israelis but, as stated above, who in a territorial claim for land could possibly be entirely innocent? The actions of the Jews before the existence of the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) may shock people yet they did occur and many judge their actions (justifiably) without however taking into account the incredible balancing act an entire nation would need to undertake as the burden of knowing that all your neighbours who share a completely different religion and political structure to yours want your heritage, culture, traditions and religion eradicated. The sovereignty of an entire race/religious people rests solely on their genesis much of which involves Holy Land and the thousands of years that led these people to where they are today with their customs, often doing the wrong thing to achieve what they believe is and should be granted to them. Does it excuse the atrocities of the past?
Before Hamas ever came into existence and before the IDF there was conflict on both sides as it persists today. By 1949 the Jews had built settlements which according to many resulted in the expulsion of innocent people from their homes; the Jewish state had taken up residence (according to some) on approximately 78% of what had been unofficially Palestine.
How do the Palestinians fare in this struggle? They have certainly been oppressed and trodden on; clearly much more could be said of their mistreatment by the Jews. However Palestine itself does not exist! Didn’t expect that did you…? Whilst their struggle and suffering as part of our human family is legitimate they are not an ancient distinctive people who have any basis for claiming the land of Israel. The Palestinian people are a group of nomads whose origins are Afro Muslim having settled in the 20th century to fight against Israel and many others are Arab Muslims who came seeking work during the British Mandate. To further complicate matters Jordan too became involved when a Heshemite king created a country full of the very same Arab Muslims who are not considered Palestinian despite being exactly that. More bewildering was that Jordan seized areas of Israel only to exile them. So it would seem that they barely support each other.
It would be difficult to determine whether the behaviour of Palestinian’s is a reaction to the atrocities of the past; either way the ‘wrongs’ on both sides will not equate to a ‘right’. Palestinians have made their bed, it now time to lie in it: persistence is often seen as a virtue – in the case of the Palestinians when involving children in their schemes then you lose the moral high ground and cannot morally grandstand a position of victimhood or superiority. It is abominable and deplorable to manipulate and train children to commit acts of suicide bombings. On the 16th of March 2005 when at the border of a military checkpoint near Nablus an Israeli guard located a bomb in the back pack of 12 year old student Abdullah Quran. Fortunately many lives that day were saved simply due to a malfunction in the technology as when the mobile phone sounded it was supposed to detonate a 13 pound bomb. Not long after this episode another child was discovered to have a bomb, this time Hussam Abdo, only 16 years old, who was captured wearing an explosives belt. They are indoctrinating their children to fight for a cause they could never fully comprehend. The IDF has stated that from the year 2000 to 2003 a mind-boggling 29 suicide attacks have taken place by adolescents 18 years and under.
Palestinians have a history of violence and obstinacy, this particular trait becomes apparent when you consider how they continuously and unapologetically use children to carry out their political agendas, additionally they are not concerned in the slightest if the casualties who get caught in the cross fires are their own or if Israeli children are injured and/or crippled. It would be foolish not remark on the largest threat to the Israeli’s and Palestinian’s alike: Hamas. A relatively new terrorist faction as they came into existence in 1987 it was founded under the function of liberating the Palestinian, from Israeli occupation. The political leader of Hamas is Khaled Meshaal; who himself has admitted to never conceding over territory or recognizing Israel. Often times rocket attacks are sent to Israel and these acts have been condemned by Human Rights organizations.
It is worth noting that an Arab state was proposed in Palestine before 1967 by the United Nations 20 years earlier, but the Arab world vigorously forbade the concept. Arab rulers have had countless opportunities to establish a Palestinian state in the respective territories of West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. But Palestinian statehood was of no interest to them. Suddenly Palestine is a ‘real concept’ and whilst the idea was rejected in the past notwithstanding having access and the capabilities to have instituted a Palestinian state it never came to pass yet the moment Israel turns the land into a successful, thriving infrastructure and booming economy the question or answer of a two part state and rights over the territory began to surge once more in a volatile manner.
It is easy to outline the rights and wrongs of both sides. However one side does attempt to right its wrongs whereas another continues down a path of murder, terrorism and destruction… hint… it is not the Israeli’s. This article is not about the partition of land although it will be useful to grasp just how many times Israel has been willing to accept the demands made by the Arab world in the name of peace and recognizing their claim to their Holy Land. Five different times the attempt has been made and every time the offers were rejected.
• In 1937, it was the Peel Commission that proposed the partition of Palestine and the creation of an Arab state.
• In 1939, the British White Paper proposed the creation of a unitary Arab state.
• In 1947, the UN would have created an even larger Arab state as part of its partition plan.
• The 1979 Egyptian/Israeli peace negotiations offered the Palestinians autonomy, which would almost certainly have led to full independence.
• The Oslo agreements of the 1990s laid out a path for Palestinian independence, but the process was derailed by terrorism.
• In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to create a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and 97 percent of the West Bank.
• In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to withdraw from almost the entire West Bank and partition Jerusalem on a demographic basis.
Moreover 1948 to 1967, Israel did not control the West Bank. The Palestinians could have demanded an independent state from the Jordanians. On the contrary whilst Jordan was in control Arafat said there was no longer a claim as it was no longer part of Palestine. Once it was back in Israeli hands it miraculously became disputed land once again.
The Palestinians are the longest lasting and most celebrated refugees in existence. There are three generations of Palestinians who are categorized as refugees…is there an expiration date on the time frame required to qualify for refugee status? When is there cut off? Approximately 650,000 Jews left North African countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Iraq have migrated across to Israel forming half of Israel’s population. These Jewish refugees have been overlooked and ignored. In spite of all the trials and tribulations the Israelis deal with, they continue to coexist with Muslims and Christians although much of the media would have you believe that apartheid has taken hold there. This is simply not true. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that doesn’t segregate its minorities whereas many countries in the Middle East will not let you enter if you have previously visited Israel. Lebanon in fact banned Wonder Woman from being played in their cinemas because Gal Gadot is Jewish. This behaviour would be unacceptable in Israel.
So a question must be asked: Israel has many faults that have been documented in this article yet, today and in the last 50 years, Israel is a stark contrast with Hamas which remains a terrorist group set on the annihilation of the Jews and any Palestinians who get in the way. Every single country that surrounds Israel wants war or wants them dead regardless of whether their own are caught in the cross fire or if children of other religious communities are murdered. In the Gaza War of 2014 which was started by Hamas for a period of 6 months they launched rocket fire onto the innocent Israeli civilians. Israel issued many warnings imploring Hamas to ‘Stop’ until they took action. They did so by calculated and meticulous air strikes to terminate the rocket fire. Throughout the years I have never heard of any army with an impressive arsenal that go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure enough notice has been given to civilians in enemy territory to evacuate certain targeted areas. This is exactly what the IDF did through leaflets, broadcasting radio messages, sending texts and making countless numbers of phone calls warning the civilians to leave their homes as the alternative was not a good one. Innocent civilians were killed of course, and these mistakes are tragic as they involve human lives but what really stands out is that these Jews really sought to ensure the safety of as many civilians as possible. Whereas Hamas commits acts of war and terror with intent to harm and kill.
So Palestine or Israel? That is not the goal but, we all have more that unites us than divides us. Any Arab can tell you the Biblical story of Ishmael the half-brother of Isaac; the theory goes that Ishmael is the catalyst of the Muslim people and Isaac is the equivalent for the Jewish people. If this story in the Old Testament is to be believed and there is in fact DNA tests that verify these claims then Arabs are cousins to the Jews and they are all family. The answer to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict might never be solved in our lifetimes. However we can choose our own behaviours and look at all aspects of the issues and ensure we understand the arguments on both sides and stay as informed as possible.
Ultimately what can we really do? Ensuring we are armed with facts is important as there is much misinformation out there. Having knowledge equals power but it does not do much when lives are being lost. Whether Jew or Palestinian, whether in the right or in the wrong; innocent civilians are being killed. A life is a life despite its religion, orientation or race. Let us all stand with Life.
Written by Dia Benitez