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The truth about Israel and the Palestinians

Posted by Richard on May 9, 2008

This, the 60th anniversary of Israel's Declaration of Independence, is an appropriate time to counter some of the falsehoods about how the current situation came to be — falsehoods that the Palestinians and their many sympathizers and apologists have so successfully promoted. The Terrorism Awareness Project has two excellent resources I commend to you wholeheartedly.

The first is a Flash movie entitled What Really Happened In the Middle East that's a terrific short history lesson (less than ten minutes). It refutes the most oft-repeated lies about Israel and the Palestinians, and it does so in a clear, direct, and riveting manner. Watch it. Then tell your friends to watch it.

The second is a fine essay by Steven Plaut, "How 'Nakba' Proves There's No Palestinian Nation." The enemies of Israel refer to its founding in 1948 as the "nakba" — or "catastrophe" — and tell a fable about the 1948 origin of the term. Plaut described a much earlier use of the term, citing a thoroughly biased source for his account — the 1938 book The Arab Awakening by George Antonius, a rabid anti-Zionist and Arab nationalist. The real origin of "nakba" had nothing to do with Jews, Israel, or Palestinian self-determination:

Before World War I, the entire Levant – including what is now Israel, the "occupied territories," Jordan, Lebanon and Syria – was comprised of Ottoman Turkish colonies. When Allied forces drove the Turks out of the Levant, the two main powers, Britain and France, divided the spoils between them. Britain got Palestine, including what is now Jordan, while France got Lebanon and Syria.

The problem was that the Palestinian Arabs saw themselves as Syrians and were seen as such by other Syrians. The Palestinian Arabs were enraged that an artificial barrier was being erected within their Syrian homeland by the infidel colonial powers – one that would divide northern Syrian Arabs from southern Syrian Arabs, the latter being those who were later misnamed "Palestinians."

The bulk of the Palestinian Arabs had in fact migrated to Palestine from Syria and Lebanon during the previous two generations, largely to benefit from the improving conditions and job opportunities afforded by Zionist immigration and capital flowing into the area. In 1920, both sets of Syrian Arabs, those in Syria and those in Palestine, rioted violently and murderously.

On page 312 of The Arab Awakening, Antonius writes, "The year 1920 has an evil name in Arab annals: it is referred to as the Year of the Catastrophe (Am al-Nakba). It saw the first armed risings that occurred in protest against the post-War settlement imposed by the Allies on the Arab countries. In that year, serious outbreaks took place in Syria, Palestine, and Iraq." 

So, rather than symbolizing the crushing of Palestinian aspirations for a state, the term "nakba" instead proves they never had such aspirations — until they wanted to justify their desire to wipe out the Jews. Read the whole thing. But I can't resist one more excerpt:

Speaking of Palestinians as Syrians, it is worth noting what one of the early Syrian nationalists had to say. The following quote comes from the great-grandfather of the current Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad:

"Those good Jews brought civilization and peace to the Arab Muslims, and they dispersed gold and prosperity over Palestine without damage to anyone or taking anything by force. Despite this, the Muslims declared holy war against them and did not hesitate to massacre their children and women…. Thus a black fate awaits the Jews and other minorities in case the Mandates are cancelled and Muslim Syria is united with Muslim Palestine."

That statement is from a letter sent to the French prime minister in June 1936 by six Syrian Alawi notables (the Alawis are the ruling class in Syria today) in support of Zionism. Bashar's great-grandfather was one of them.

I wonder what Assad would say today about his pro-Zionist great-grandpa. I wonder what the Middle East would be like if the views of the Alawis in 1936 had become more widely accepted, instead of the pro-Nazi views of men like Haj Amin al Husseini and Sami al Joundi.

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