Palestinians Still Embrace Spirit of 1947
Jonathan S. Tobin
The vote to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status at the United Nations today is being conducted on the world body’s annual Day of Solidarity with Palestinians. That is, as PA head Mahmoud Abbas helpfully pointed out in his speech to the General Assembly, the anniversary of the 1947 UN vote to partition Palestine. Along with other anti-Israel speakers during this debate, he noted that the Palestinian people have suffered during the intervening decades and that it was an injustice that they had been denied a state. Yet he and others who spoke on his behalf failed to explain that failure to create a Palestinian Arab state alongside Israel at that time was not due to the intransigence of the Jews, West Bank settlements, or obstruction from the West. It was the Palestinians themselves as well as their allies throughout the Arab and Muslim world that absolutely refused to contemplate a plan that would have created an Arab state next to the new Jewish one.
This is not merely a piece of historical trivia that is irrelevant to the farce that was played out in New York in which a corrupt, undemocratic and discredited Fatah regime was honored as if it were a legitimate sovereign. It is, in fact, crucial to understanding what happened during the last 65 years. The main truth about this conflict has always been guided by one fact: neither the Palestinians nor their backers were willing then to acknowledge the rights of the Jews. It is only now after decades of intransigence that the Arabs say they want a state. But the common thread from 1947 to today’s debate is the willingness of much of the world to delegitimize Jewish rights and to bypass negotiations. Just as the Arabs refused to deal with the Jews then, Abbas, as well as the leaders of Hamas who control the independent Palestinian state in Gaza, won’t negotiate with Israel. Though many of the nations that voted in favor of today’s resolution claimed they were hoping to speed up a two-state solution to the conflict, what they did was to enable a continuation of that same spirit of Arab intransigence of 1947 that made war inevitable.
Of course, few in 1947 or even in the years after that would speak of the need for a Palestinian Arab state. Their goal then was much simpler: to deny the Jews a state no matter how tiny its area or constricted its borders might be. It was that goal that caused the Palestinians to fight their Jewish neighbors and to invite the intervention of five neighboring Arab states that invaded the territory of the former Mandate for Palestine on the day that Israel was born.
Nor was there much talk about what an injustice it was that there was no Palestinian state in the next 19 years when Egypt ruled Gaza and Jordan illegally occupied the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem. Then the only injustice mentioned was that there was a Jewish state in that area which we now refer to as “pre-1967 Israel.” Indeed, during that period pressure was put upon Israel to retreat from those borders to accommodate Arab claims and to accept the return of hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees to the country (a number that has now improbably grown to 5 million according to UN agencies) so as to swamp the new nation with no reference to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced to flee Arab countries at that time. It was only after the Six-Day War that the clamor for a separate Palestinian state gained support in the Arab world, let alone the rest of the globe.
However, we are told now that the Palestinians repent their 1947 folly and only wish to exercise sovereignty in the lands Israel took from Egypt and Jordan in 1967. Leaving aside the fact that under international law, Jews have the same right to live in the West Bank and Jerusalem as Palestinians, Israel is asked to withdraw from these territories to allow the Arabs to rectify their mistake in rejecting a state.
But just like in 1947, the Palestinians won’t negotiate with the Israelis or compromise on points where both sides have competing rights. Nor are they willing to agree to respect the right of Jews to live in peace alongside them. Though Abbas paid lip service to a two-state solution today, the only rights he is interested in protecting are the rights of Palestinians to shoot rockets at Israelis.
For all of the talk about justice, the Palestinian nationalism of 2012 is remarkably similar in many ways to that of 1947. At that time, it had only been a few years since Palestinians openly sided with the Nazis in World War II. (As Caroline Glick notes, yesterday was the anniversary of the historic 1941 meeting in Berlin between Adolf Hitler and Palestinian leader Haj Amin el Husseini at which they shared their dreams for the annihilation of the Jews). The goal of the war to destroy Israel wasn’t to carve out room for yet another Arab state but to extinguish the Jewish presence in the land.
The same eliminationist spirit is to be found in the Hamas covenant as well as in the nonstop drumbeat of anti-Jewish incitement that can be found in the Palestinian media in Gaza as well as Abbas’s West Bank, Egypt and much of the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. Though Abbas makes the obligatory bow to the reality of Israel in his remarks to Western forums, the PA’s official media is as bad as that of the Islamists of Hamas when it comes to hate speech about Jews. That is echoed in the United Nations that chose the anniversary of partition not to celebrate the rights of Jews and Arabs but as the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians. It, too, has bought into the myth of the “Nakba” in which Israel is viewed as the “disaster” which was imposed on the Middle East.
So long as Palestinian nationalism is based on the negation of Israel rather than a positive vision for themselves, peace is impossible. While the UN vote won’t change much of anything on the ground, there should be no mistake about the basic continuity between the Arab positions of 1947 and today.