Why it matters
There might not be any point to responding if it were only Shaul Mofaz who wondered why we need harp on Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
Mofaz has just barely managed to cross the Knesset entry threshold (having started out not too many months back with a 28- member parliamentary contingent). Since he nearly failed to hold on to his own seat, it’s safe to conclude that he doesn’t represent a powerful or even a relevant political camp. Therefore, what does any of his kibitzing matter?
Ordinarily it indeed wouldn’t, except that Mofaz’s professed failure of comprehension might reflect the intellectual indolence of others, alongside the trendy heedlessness popularized by assorted opinion-molders.
To hear them, it’s perfectly fine to embrace this particular incomprehension – be it expediently feigned or an actual inability to grasp the basic cause for the war waged against Israel.
The premise for the apparent incomprehension is that demanding recognition for Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state is all much ado about not very much. As Mofaz put it, “Do we need a seal of approval from the Palestinians? We know we are a Jewish state and we shall remain so eternally, whether or not the Palestinians recognize us as such.”
This pretty much echoes Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s oft-reiterated mantra, averring that the Israelis “can call themselves what they will.”
But Abbas goes on: “We will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. We have rejected, and will reject, this demand. We know what Netanyahu’s intention is. He wants to undermine the Palestinian-Arab presence inside Israel and prevent the return of refugees.”
Yet what is Abbas’s intention? His refusal to recognize the Jewish state’s legitimacy means that he reserves for himself the right to Arabize the de facto entity provisionally known as Israel by overrunning it with millions of so-called refugees.
In other words, rather than be accepted as rightfully a Jewish state, Israel is regarded at most as a multinational temporary entity and a candidate for impending Arabization. It wouldn’t be left in peace unless it submits meekly to said Arabization and the eradication of its Jewishness.
This is a surefire recipe for perpetuating the conflict (albeit by mutating means) rather than ending it, as presumed pursuers of peace would ostensibly wish to do. The refusal to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state is tantamount to affirming an enduring Arab aspiration to obliterate the Jewish state, subsequent to an arrangement that would falsely parade as peace.
This goes right to the very heart of the conflict between Jews and Arabs – a conflict which had long predated Israel’s birth. This conflict isn’t and never was about a Palestinian state. There would have been no strife were the establishment of such a state the ultimate objective of the Arab world. A Palestinian Arab state could have been declared independent in 1948 – together with Israel – but no Arab would hear of it.
This country’s Jews cheered the 1947 UN Partition Resolution aimed at creating a Jewish and an Arab state. That resolution, however, was ferociously rebuffed by the entire Arab world. Hence it’s inherently dishonest to deny that the feud is and always was about the creation and continued existence of the Jewish state.
The Palestinians and the entire Arab/Muslim realm demand strategic sacrifices of Israel that plainly jeopardize its survival prospects. All Israel demands in return is that the war against it cease. That can only happen when the initial pretext for the attacks on Israel is annulled. Since Israel was attacked because the very notion of a Jewish state was anathema to its Arab neighbors, then discontinuing the state of war must start with recognition of the very legitimacy of a Jewish state that was rejected from 1947 onward.
Now, gallingly, the demand for recognition of the right of Jews to a state is extensively portrayed as an obstructionist tactic. That tactic moreover is portrayed as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s own personal negotiation-paralyzing pet ploy. Such spurious spins serve both in-house political rivals doggedly snapping at Netanyahu’s heels and foreign detractors whose automatic point of departure is that Israel can never be right.
Nonetheless, the still blatant refusal to concede the legality of Jewish sovereignty isn’t a semantic quibble. True, we know who we are regardless of Arab acknowledgement but that acknowledgement is not inconsequential.
To understand this we need to set aside the acquired postmodern contempt for history. The past isn’t insignificant. The present is a direct, ongoing attempt to resolve what was started yesteryear.
Without historical context there can be no valid evaluation of Israel’s existential predicaments – certainly not of crucial continuities. That’s why those who seek to obfuscate and skew do their utmost to erase telltale fundamental perspectives and portray whatever they focus upon as vital, isolated concerns. Disinclination to retrace the steps which, for better or worse, brought us hitherto messes with our perceptions and dictates profound misperceptions.
Those whose time count begins on the morning of June 5, 1967, invariably seek to advance a predetermined agenda, whereby all that preceded Israeli ”occupation” is discarded, as is everything that triggered the direct outbreak of hostilities.
Their bottom line is to persuade the uninitiated that Israelis woke up one sunny day, and overtaken by uncontrollable and inexcusable territorial appetites, invaded their peace-loving neighbors’ homes and usurped them arbitrarily. The cruel conquistadors then illegally settled in their neighbors’ property, which impelled the downtrodden natives to resist the interlopers.
The propagandist logic here is unmistakable. Justice demands a return to the status quo ante – in other words to the situation as it was on June 4, 1967 (while failing to mention that on that date Israel was existentially vulnerable, surrounded and threatened with extinction by the aforementioned neighbors who blusterously bayed for Jewish blood).
An equally popular distortion is that all regional misery resulted wantonly out of the blue from Israel’s birth in 1948. Everything which led up to that turning point is assiduously ignored. Tendentious rewriters of history prefer we forget that the conflict didn’t begin in 1948 but reached its culmination then.
Forgotten quite expediently are recurrent pre-1948 massacres by Arabs shouting “Itbach el-Yahud” (“Slaughter the Jews”), denial of asylum to Jews fleeing the Holocaust and, not least, active and avid Arab collaboration with Nazi Germany.
The logic of this misrepresentation too is unmistakable. It inescapably leads to Israel’s utter delegitimization. If Israel’s inception is the original sin, then the only rightful long-term remedy can be Israel’s termination.
But while Israel’s independence formally began in 1948, its struggle didn’t. The Arabs brutally opposed the Jewish community which existed in this country pre-World War II and which was ripe for statehood before the Holocaust. The “Great Arab Revolt” of 1936-39 – fomented by the still-revered Haj Amin al-Husseini and financed by Nazi Germany – delayed Jewish independence.
The Arabs denied asylum here to desperate Jewish escapees from Hitler’s hell. Thereby they doomed these refugees to death. The blood of these exterminated Jews indelibly stains Arab hands.
But that’s not all. Husseini, in the role of pan-Arab prime minister, spent the war years in Berlin, where he chummily hobnobbed with his financers and hosts – Hitler, Himmler, Eichmann et al. He broadcast Nazi propaganda, recruited Muslims to the SS and actively foiled the rescue of any Jews, even children, during the Holocaust.
This country’s Arabs were avidly pro-Nazi, saluted each other with Heil Hitler, flaunted the swastika, hoarded arms, harbored German spies and planned to heartily welcome Rommel’s invading Afrika Korps.
The war which the entire Arab world launched against newborn Israel, three years post-Holocaust, was explicitly geared to complete Hitler’s unfinished mission. Not only was there no attempt to camouflage this genocidal goal, but it was broadcast boastfully for all to hear and be intimidated.
Its declared aim was to thwart UN General Assembly Resolution 181, adopted on November 29, 1947. That resolution called for the partition of western Palestine into two economically integrated states – one Jewish and one Arab.
Eastern Palestine, comprising nearly 80 percent of the total, was arbitrarily ripped off by the British Mandate in 1922 and handed over to a princeling from what has since become known as Saudi Arabia. Emir Abdullah’s gift-package was artificially dubbed Transjordan, a country entirely unheard of in human history and whose bogus nationality is today known as Jordanian. It is, in fact, the product of the first division of Palestine.
Although on paper Jews received 54% of the remainder, they actually got three non-contiguous slivers, the largest of which included the Arava, eastern Negev and the Negev’s far south (down to then-nonexistent Eilat). Most of the moonscape terrain wasn’t arable and was certainly unsuitable for large-scale urban habitation. Another bit was wedged in the eastern Galilee around Lake Kinneret. The most densely populated mini-slice was an unimaginably narrow noodle along the Mediterranean, where most Jews congregated and which was chillingly vulnerable. Within it was enclosed the Arab enclave of Jaffa, while Nahariya was left outside the Jewish state.
Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to comprise a “corpus separatum,” an international zone, this notwithstanding the fact that Jerusalem had an undeniable Jewish majority going back at least to the beginning of the 19th century (there were no censuses beforehand). But organized Christianity couldn’t abide the affront of Jewish dominion in the holy city.
Untenable and implausible though this hodgepodge partition was, Jewish multitudes rejoiced in the streets. At that point it didn’t matter how nightmarish and absurd the disjointed territorial splinters assigned to them were.
What mattered was that for the first time in 2,000 years Jewish self-determination – if even on a ridiculously diminutive and fragile geographical fragment – appeared increasingly like a viable reality, despite immediate Arab venomous denunciation of any compromise whatever with any Jewish entity.
This is what it was all about then. This is what it’s still about. This is why it still massively matters. This is why Mofaz is so fundamentally wrong.
All Israel asks is that the Arabs belatedly accept 1947’s UN Partition Resolution, which they violently violated merely because it provided for a Jewish state. That Jewish state became the Arab casus belli. The Jewish state still is the Arab casus belli.
Peace cannot begin to be made before the malignant characterization of Jewish statehood as a casus belli is recanted convincingly and comprehensively once and for all.