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Friday, 23 November 2012

Question Time: Israel and the Palestinians

Once more a BBC programme which generated more heat than light.

The Ottoman Empire made the serious error of siding with Germany in WWI. Germany and the Ottomans were defeated. Britain assumed control of much of the Arab lands previously under Ottoman hegemony, including the “Mandate”, also known as Palestine. The name derives from the Latin version of “Philistine”. The Jewish nation was destroyed by the Romans and so began the Diaspora, which eventually proved (in some ways) to be a blessing for Europe, although Europeans were for centuries too stupid to perceive the advantages which accrued to them from having a population of educated and hardworking Jews in their midst. To the shame of the mediaeval church, Jews were persecuted and excluded.

Not all Jews left the Holy Land. Many thousands remained in the territory which for millennia had been the Jewish homeland.

From the end of WWI to 1948 Britain ruled Palestine and its mixed population of Arabs, Jews and others. The Jews of Palestine had been joined by many thousands of European and Asian Jews in a kind of reverse Diaspora. This was inspired by the ideology of Zionism and started in the nineteenth century. Naturally, it gained impetus from the Holocaust. Native Jews and their returning bretheren were instrumental in creating a vibrant and increasingly prosperous region in the midst of what had been for centuries the moribund Ottoman Empire. The technological and economic brilliance of the Jews made Palestine, particularly the part which corresponded to the ancient Holy Land, an agricultural cornucopia with other nascent industries which attracted Arabs and others to participate in the prosperity.

The Zionists did not relish British rule and in some cases resorted to unsavoury tactics to gain independence. In 1948 the United Nations voted to create the state of Israel by partitioning Palestine. The biggest portion became Jordan, ruled by a royal family who had been British clients in the struggle against the Ottoman Turks.

On the day after partition, new-born Israel was attacked by its Arab neighbours; but in the tradition of King David and the Maccabees, it astonishingly prevailed. The Jews had added military prowess to their agricultural, technological and economic genius. In spite of a clumsy electoral system which made the creation of effective governments difficult, the Israelis have created (with the support of some in the West, notably the USA) the only democracy in the Middle East, with civil rights and a free press. Non-Jewish Israelis enjoy unparalleled economic prosperity and political liberty. Non-Jewish Israeli members of parliament are free to rail against Zionism.

In the 1960s there came into being the PLO, led by the odious, mendacious and corrupt terrorist, Yasser Arafat. He received the support of all the nasty regimes on the planet. His successors are Hamas (an openly terrorist group, which calls in its charter for the destruction of Israel) and the so-called Palestinian Authority. They hate and murder one another, but are united in their hatred of Israel. Hamas, most of whose members are (nominally, at least) Sunni Muslims, receives support from Shiite Iran. This is curious because many violent deaths of Muslims around the world are the result of Sunni/Shiite mutual excommunication and loathing.

Israel has continued, in the course of six Arab wars, to maintain its democratic existence. It has made concession after concession to the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Egyptians and the Lebanese. It is committed in principle to a “two state solution” – ie the division of the Holy Land into a Palestinian State and the Jewish State. I use inverted commas because, in my view, there are already two states: Israel and Jordan. The so-called Palestinians are ethnically indistinguishable from the Jordanians. Their flags are almost the same. Nevertheless, most Israelis are prepared to countenance a third entity comprising Gaza and the West Bank, largely controlled respectively by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. The Israelis’ problem is this: how do you come to an accommodation with people whose avowed aim is the destruction of your nation? It has been rightly said that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. David Horowitz confronts a Palestinian supporter who calls for all the Jews in the world to come to Israel so that the Arabs can the more easily exterminate them.

This is the situation in which we find ourselves. Of late, Hamas has been lobbing thousands of rockets at Tel Aviv and Ashkelon. Their declared aim is to kill and demoralise Jewish civilians. Relatively few Israelis have been killed because of the Israeli policy of building shelters and their high-tech missile defences – the Iron Dome.

Israeli intelligence is very effective. They know the habits, names and addresses of the most prominent terrorists, aka “fighters” or “militants”. They go after them with precision weapons and have killed a substantial number. Heartbreakingly, there have been civilian casualties, largely because the terrorists site their launchers in civilian areas. They regard the death of every little girl, every little boy and every grandma as a propaganda victory for themselves. Truly do they say, “We love Death!”

Many of those who comment on these issues preface their remarks by saying that there are faults on both sides, implying that there is a moral equivalence between Israel and her enemies. Not me! Yes, there have been times when Israelis and Israel’s government have behaved badly and unwisely. But it seems to me that there is no moral equivalence.

I am nervous about posting this because I know that some who have read this blog will disagree with my sentiments and analysis. If you are one of them, please comment. If you think my facts need correcting, please say so. I shall do my best to respond in a civilised manner. Your civility will be much appreciated.

1 comment:

  1. Chris, you should become the PR Advisor to the Israeli Government or at very least the Israeli London Embassy! Wonderful spinning.

    Not quite sure how you worked Jordan into the story - it became an independent country in 1946. They weren't part of the partition agreement. See:

    Here's a thought. Plenty of Bulgarians and Romanians currently live in the UK. In December 2013 the remaining 30 million of them could theoretically march into the UK quite freely and call it their new “homeland”. Any thoughts? BTW I have nothing whatsoever against Bulgarians and Romanians and I just use their situation as an illustration.