Western historians are re-examining the troubled 20th century history of Israeland Palestine. Previously published revelations of Israel’s military strengthand aggressive operations during the 1948 Israeli-Arab war remained confined toa select group of historians: (Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel: Myths andRealities and Ilian Pappe, The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951).
Now, the established media is beginning to publish similar information.
Washington Post editor, S. Rosenfeld, has published information that Israel’sformer Defense Minister, Moishe Dayan, admitted to reporter Rami Tal that Israelprovoked 80% of the border clashes between Israel and Syria and Syrian gunnerson the Golan had only fired on Israel farmers who were illegally farmingdemilitarized lands( Israel and Syria: Correcting the Record, S. Rosenfeld,Wash. Post., Dec. 24, 1999). As the Mid-East “peace process”approaches its final outcome, the American media and government are becomingaware that the deliberations may reveal a historical perspective that differsfrom a previously accepted perspective, and that an appreciation of this revisedperspective may be essential in forming an acceptable solution to the Mid-Eastconflict. The Jewish people, Islam, the American people, and all Mid-Eastcountries have been continually affected by the daily events in Israel and theWest Bank. An optimistic atmosphere for peace presently prevails. Unless theoptimism translates into reality, the world may accept a longer term pessimisticscenario which predicts that, (1) Israel will eventually not be able tosuccessfully repulse the far greater numbers of its antagonists. (2) Israel willbe forced to use its full military capability to maintain its territory andcould bring several countries into an atomic war. (3) Israel’s safeguards anddefense will propel it into extreme human rights violations of the Palestiniansand result in their possible dissolution. (4) The Jewish people, due to theirconsistent support of what the world could perceive as Israel’s tyrannicalactions, will suffer greatly from antagonisms, almost to the point of extinctionof Judaism as a strong religious force. (5) The United States people will sufferfrom terrorism, war and economic upheavals. (6) Islam will be forced to fightfor its survival, especially for its holy sites in Jerusalem. Famous Jewishluminaries have echoed these fears. The violinist Yehudi Menuhin, in a speech tothe Israeli Knesset stated: Israel’s political intransigence and unwillingnessto make concessions to the Palestinians will further suppress the old values ofJudaism. The philosopher Martin Buber wrote in the publication Thud’s Ner, 1961:The world is captured by the mid-east turmoil and yet is complacent about theeventual results. And those concerned have not been able to evolve a workablestrategy to prevent the great shock. One cause for the failure to evolve aworkable strategy has been due to basing decisions on selective facts. The finalstages of a welcomed peace process demands that the historical facts arecorrectly portrayed so that knowledge and reasoning can dictate an equitablesolution. Since Israel has been the protagonist in the mighty drama, the countrythat has occupied stage center, investigators will focus on significant Israeliactions during the past 50 years. Major aspects of the investigations will be:The establishment of the state of Israel, leading to The refugee problem,leading to The Mid-East Wars, leading to Israel’s population expansion, leadingto The ignored UN Resolutions, leading to Democratic Compromises, leading toSome thoughts on the historical perspective. The establishment of the State ofIsrael The United Nations, which voted on November 29, 1947, to partitionPalestine, might have wished they had more completely studied the situation andhad appropriately prepared to respond to subsequent developments. The UN had achoice between recommending a bi-national state or partitioning the country intoJewish and Palestinian states. Considering that 85% of the Jewish populationremained confined to three urban centers and their surrounding areas, Tel-Aviv/Jaffa,Haifa and Jerusalem, and that the Jews constituted only 1/3 the total populationin all Palestine, the partition plan had no acceptable means to award theZionists a viable state in which they would be a comfortable majority in a largesized territory. By voting a partition resolution, the UN unknowingly invited”population transfers” of the Palestinians from the territory awardedto the Zionists so that the Jews in that state could be a majority. Theresolution, which required a 2/3 vote by the General Assembly, and only receivedthe 2/3 by one vote, never had the power for compliance or enforcement. By notproviding enforcement and safeguards to all parties, the UN action permitted thefuture to be determined by predictable crises. It was predictable that aresolution that created states that were not viable, would stimulate Israel totake action to assure its viability. It was predictable that the Palestiniancommunity would become submerged by Israel’s actions and that adjacent Arabcountries would react to any perception of aggressive Israeli behavior andterritorial extension. UN resolution 181 caused a more serious crisis than itattempted to contain. President Truman expressed anguish at the lack of anenforcement body and noted its possible consequences. (Statement on the UnitedNation’s recognition of Israel by President Truman, March 25, 1948, Trumanarchives): The United Kingdom has announced its firm intention to abandon itsmandate in Palestine on May 15. Unless emergency action is taken, there will beno public authority in Palestine on that date capable of preserving law andorder. Violence and bloodshed will descend upon the Holy Land. Large scalefighting among the people of that country will be the inevitable result. Suchfighting would infect the entire Middle East and could lead to consequences ofthe gravest sort involving the peace of this nation and of the world. TheAmerican president proposed a plan that has not been well publicized: The UnitedStates has proposed to the Security Council a temporary United Nationstrusteeship for Palestine to provide a government to keep thepeace…Trusteeship is not proposed as a substitute for the partition plan butas an effort to fill the vacuum soon to be created.. After Israel declared aprovisional government on the day before Britain’s withdrawal from its mandate,Truman recognized the new state. Interestingly, the U.S. president changedseveral words in the original document. The document states; This government hasbeen informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, andrecognition has been requested by the (Truman inserted the word”provisional”) government as the de facto authority of the new (Trumancrossed out the words “Jewish state” and replaced them with the words”State of Israel.) After the Zionists proclaimed a provisional governmenton May 14 and British troops withdrew on May 15 1948, events happened as Trumanhad pessimisticly predicted. The UN sent Count Folke Bernadette, a Swedishdiplomat who had earned respect from his work during the war as vice chairman ofthe Swedish Red Cross, to obtain truces between the combatants and amelioratethe situation. On September 17,1948, after Bernadotte had composed his report,and before he had the opportunity to submit the report to the UN, members of theStern gang, an extremist Zionist organization, assassinated him and French airforce officer, Andre P. Serot in Jerusalem. Count Bernadotte’s SpecificConclusions (in his words): The following conclusions, broadly outlined, would,in my view, considering all the circumstances, provide a reasonable, equitableand workable basis for settlement: 1) Since the Security Council, under pain ofChapter VIII sanctions, has forbidden further employment of military action inPalestine as a means of settling the dispute, hostilities should be pronouncedformally ended either by mutual agreement of the parties or, failing that, bythe United Nations. The existing indefinite truce should be superseded by aformal peace, or at the minimum, an armistice which would involve eithercomplete withdrawal and demobilization of armed forces or their wide separationby creation of broad demilitarized zones under United Nations supervision. 2)The frontiers between the Arab and Jewish territories, in the absence ofagreement between Arabs and Jews, should be established by the United Nationsand delimited by a technical boundaries commission appointed by and responsibleto the United Nations, with the following revisions in the boundaries broadlydefined in the resolution of the General Assembly of 29 November in order tomake them more equitable, workable and consistent with existing realities inPalestine. A. The area known as the Negeb, south of a line running from the seanear Majdal east southeast to Faluja (both of which places would be in Arabterritory), should be defined as Arab territory; B. The frontier should run fromFaluja northeast to Ramla and Lydda (both of which places would be in Arabterritory), the frontier at Lydda then following the line established in theGeneral Assembly resolution of 29 November. C. Galilee should be defined asJewish territory. 3) The disposition of the territory of Palestine not includedwithin the boundaries of the Jewish State should be left to the Governments ofthe Arab States in full consultation with the Arab inhabitants of Palestine,with the recommendation, however, that in view of the historical connection andcommon interests of Transjordan and Palestine, there would be compelling reasonsfor the merging of the Arab territories of Palestine with the territory ofTransjordan, subject to such frontier realignment regarding other Arab States asmay be found practicable and desirable. 4) The United Nations, by declaration orother appropriate means, should undertake to provide special assurance that theboundaries between the Arab and Jewish territories shall be respected andmaintained subject only to such modifications as may be mutually agreed upon bythe parties concerned. 5) The port of Haifa, including the oil refineries andterminals, and without prejudice to their inclusion in the sovereign territoryof the Jewish State or the administration of the city of Haifa, should bedeclared a free port, with assurances of free access for interested Arabcountries and an undertaking on their part to place no obstacle in the way ofoil deliveries by pipeline to the Haifa refineries, whose distribution wouldcontinue on the basis of the historical pattern. 6) The airport of Lydda shouldbe declared a free airport with assurance of access to it and employment of itsfacilities for Jerusalem and interested Arab countries. 7) The City ofJerusalem, which should be understood as covering the area defined in theresolution of the General Assembly of 29 November, should be treated separatelyand should be placed under effective United Nations control with maximumfeasible local autonomy for its Arab and Jewish communities. In addition, theremust be unconditional agreement on the protection of the Holy Places and sites,their free access and right to religious worship, irregardless of denomination8) The right of unimpeded access to Jerusalem, by road, rail or air, should befully respected by all parties. 9) The right of the Arab refugees to return totheir homes in Jewish controlled territory at the earliest possible date shouldbe affirmed by the United Nations, and their repatriation, resettlement andeconomic and social rehabilitation, and payment of adequate compensation for theproperty of those choosing not to return. This should be supervised and assistedby the United Nations conciliation commission described in paragraph (k) below.
10) The political, economic, social and religious rights of all Arabs in theJewish territory of Palestine and of all Jews in the Arab territory of Palestineshould be fully guaranteed and respected by the authorities. Bernadotte’sconclusions may have provided a basis for solution to the conflict. They werenot seriously discussed. Israel eventually won the war and expanded itsterritory. The expansion, which is detailed in the following two maps indicatesthat Israel did not entirely fight a defensive war. It cant be coincidencethat Israel closed the gaps in the territory awarded to it by the UNproclamation, and linked Jerusalem and its territory. The Zionists emptiedseveral hundred Arab villages of their unarmed inhabitants. They took theoffensive and seized territory that increased Israel’s size by 50%, givingthemselves more than 75% of the original Palestinian lands. The Refugee problemand its significance The war created 700,000 Palestinian refugees, many of whomhad lived in the areas that Israel absorbed. Almost all of them wanted to returnto their towns, homes, factories, land and businesses. The refugees insistedthat fear, violence, and destruction forced them to temporarily vacate theirhomes. Israel stated that the refugees had left their homes due to a messagefrom the other Arab nations. The message affirmed that they should leave, andafter the Arabs punished the Zionists, the refugees would be able to return.
This statement seems absurd, especially when considering that 1948communications were still relatively primitive. The fact that Israel did notpermit the refugees to return and also destroyed entire villages, erasing themfrom their maps, confirms that the scenario is not believable. This refugeeproblem created a disturbing history that exposed distinctive and troublingfeatures: 1. People from other lands have contributed finances, propaganda andassistance that have fueled a conflict which many perceive as oppression.
Financial and other aid given to Israel have gained it a military advantage,allowed it to develop sophisticated weapons, and enabled it to create a forcethat serves to enforce the perceived oppression. Although settlements have beendeclared illegal in several UN resolutions, economic assistance has beenprovided to Israel for creating settlements and infrastructure in the West Bank.
2. People have been transported over great distances from foreign lands to theHoly Land with the eventual result of replacing Palestinians and forcing themfrom their homes. Several nations have tacitly supported and refused to counterthis catastrophic policy. 3. People who had not been previously displaced, whoalready had homes, had established lives, and weren’t refugees, have, withsupport of other nations, displaced Palestinian people, made them homeless,ruined their lives and turned them into refugees. Bernard Avishai, in TheTragedy of Zionism, quotes Baruch Nadel, a journalist, in his definition of theZionist approach: A movement of Western Jews to save Eastern Jews that builthomes for Oriental Jews. 4. Unlike previous human tragedies, that occurredhidden and at a time of much less effective mass communication, this tragedy isoccurring in full view of the entire world and at a time when anybody can obtainthe facts. A UNRWA report states: In 1967, another 300,000 Palestinians fledfrom the West Bank and Gaza, to Jordan (200,000), Syria, Egypt and elsewhere. Ofthese, approximately 180,000 were first-time refugees (“displacedpersons”), while the remainder were 1948 refugees uprooted for the secondtime. Estimates put the Palestinian population at approximately 6.6 million in1995. In 1995, UNRWA data showed some 3,172,641 registered refugees in its”area of operation” (West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon), plus anestimated 335,000 non-registered “displaced persons”. An officialUNRWA table describes the Palestinian exodus from the years 1948 to the present.
TABLE 1:UNRWA Registered Refugees (June 1995) COUNTRY IN CAMPS NOT IN CAMPSTOTAL Jordan 238,188 1,050,009 1,288,197 Gaza 362,626 320,934 683,560 West Bank131,705 385,707 517,412 Lebanon 175,747 170,417 346,164 Syria 83,311 253,997337,308 TOTAL 991,577 2,181,064 3,172,641 Did the Palestinians forfeit anopportunity in 1948 to recognize the UN partition plan and establish a state oftheir own? 1. The Palestinian community owned the land for centuries and refusedto recognize that an organization had a right to take it from them and give itto others. They had a valid reason not to do anything that might legitimatizethe partition plan. 2. The Palestinians organized themselves in communities anddidn’t have a strong central administration to coordinate their activities andagree to any plan. 3. The King of Jordan controlled the West Bank and thePalestinians had no opportunity to organize a central government for themselves.
4. The UN Resolution awarded Israel the most valuable territory, fertile landsalong the coast and the major seaport of Haifa. Although the Zionists owned onlyabout 8% of the land and constituted 1/3 of the population, they received 50% ofPalestinian land. The shifts in the refugee population and social stresses onadjacent Arab countries, caused dislocations throughout the Mid-East, and havocin Lebanon and Jordan. To the Arab countries, a part of the Mid-East that hadbeen totally Arab for centuries, had been converted by Israel from an Arab landwith some minor Western influence to a Western land with little Arab influence.
The refugee problem became the principal impediment to a solution of theMid-East conflict.
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