After 1949, about one million Jews were driven by force out of their centuries-old homes across the Middle East and North Africa (to a lesser extent from Morocco). Unlike the Palestinians, they have never been compensated for this loss. Pictured: An Israeli maabara refugee camp for Jews who were expelled from Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa, circa 1950. (Image source: Jewish Agency for Israel/Wikimedia Commons)
It was inevitable that liberal politicians, pundits and media would speedily find fault with Donald Trump and Jared Kushner's plan for peace in the Middle East, proclaimed as the "Deal of the Century". So inevitable, in fact, that the plan was condemned years before it was actually announced in 2020.
As far back as May 2017, US President Donald J. Trump had met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington, offered, to get a peace deal and had asked Abbas to end the "pay-for-slay" system of payments to families of terrorist prisoners in Israeli gaols. On May 26, 2017, The New York Times ran an op-ed by PLO representative Diana Buttu in which she dismissed any plan to bring peace, while blaming every problem faced by the Palestinians on Israel and its presence in the West Bank.
Even more striking was an article as late as June 25, 2019, in which The Guardian's former Middle East Editor, Ian Black (author of a 500-page tome on the Arab-Israeli conflict), stated that "The US's Middle East 'peace summit' is nonsense. Palestinians are right to boycott it".
It is easy enough to discern the motivations behind journalism of this nature, one from a Palestinian perspective, the other inspired by left-wing views about Israel and the US administration.
Needless to say, the unrolling of the plan has, almost without exception, resulted in widespread left-wing condemnation that started within minutes of the plan's having been announced. On January 28, 2019, for example, The Guardian dismissed the plan. The newspaper argued:
"The overall message... is that what the Trump administration has in mind is something far less meaningful than the two-state solution conceived by previous administrations or Oslo, with emphasis being placed on Israel's security rather than Palestinian self-determination."
The same day, The New York Times chimed in, saying:
"The plan would discard the longtime goal of granting the Palestinians a full-fledged state. President Trump called it 'a win-win' for both sides; Palestinian leaders immediately rejected it."
Of course, they did. When have any Palestinians ever said "yes" to a US or Israeli peace offer, including an offer of a Palestinian state next door to Israel? Did they ever even propose a counter-offer?
To their credit, two days later, The New York Times did publish an opinion piece, entitled "Every Time Palestinians Say 'No', They Lose", by Pulitzer Prize columnist Bret Stephens, formerly with the Wall Street Journal, and now on The New York Times staff.
Stephens's argument is based on the fact that the Palestinians have rejected every single offer of a state. They first did so in 1947, when the United Nations offered the Arabs a state in about half the territory of Mandatory Palestine, which they at once turned down. This was in addition to the then-recently independent state of Transjordan. This meant that the Jews were offered a state far less in extent than they had originally expected, based on prior plans. But they seized the opportunity offered to them and gratefully accepted what became the State of Israel.
Palestinian rejection in 1947 was followed by all-out war in the following year, when five Arab states invaded Israel on the day after its Declaration of Independence, in a determined attempt to wipe out the Jewish state and effectively carry out a genocide of all Jews living there. The war lasted until March 10, 1949, by which time the Israelis had defeated the invading armies, while the West Bank became occupied by Jordan on Israel's east, and the Gaza Strip by Egypt on Israel's west. Today's Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, now in the 16th year of his four-year term, admits that rejection of the partition plan in 1947 was a mistake.
That rejection, however, only led to others. The next time the Arabs launched a major challenge to Israel, a war of six days' duration, June 5-10 1967, it enabled the Israelis to enter the West Bank (of the Jordan River); liberate Jerusalem, which Jordan had illegally seized in 1948, and also to enter the Gaza Strip. In 1973, Arabs again found themselves defeated when they attacked Israel on its holiest day, Yom Kippur. Since then, ostensibly to acquire a state, the Palestinians, have continued to wage campaigns of annihilation against Israel. Nevertheless, every time Israel or the United States has advanced carefully thought-out plans to offer the Palestinians a state with up to 97% of areas Israel captured in 1967, in contrast to what they demand -- a Palestinian state displacing all of Israel -- the only response has been rejection followed by waves of violence. In 2005, for instance, after Israel had totally pulled out of Gaza, the terrorist group Hamas forcibly ejected the Palestinian Authority from the coastal strip and has been ruling it ever since. Even Hamas's name, an acronym for "The Islamic Resistance Movement", positions it as permanently in opposition to international law and values.
In short, the Palestinians have gained nothing from their repeated rejections, other than dictatorial rule by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Their economy is in ruins, only kept limping along by generous aid payments from European governments and non-governmental organizations and the Arab world.
Hypocritically, the Palestinians have rendered themselves the world's victims, even though they have only been the victims of their own rejectionism, corrupt governance and their constant resort to violence -- which that has taken more Palestinian lives than Jewish ones.
A major consequence of the 1948-49 war was the flight of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries, and approximately the same number of Arabs from Israel. All of them have deserved to be regarded as refugees. Unlike any other refugees in flight from war or economic collapse, however, the Palestinians and their Arab allies insisted on having their own agency: the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, UNRWA. Unlike any other refugees in modern history (who make do with a single agency, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR), the Palestinians, supported by the Arab and Muslim world, have carried their refugee status down through successive generations, for more than 70 years, so that they now dubiously claim a number up to six million; however, the reliable US research group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting) estimates that "In fact, no more than some 30,000 from the original refugees are still living."
Meanwhile, the Jews were glad to settle their refugees from the Arab countries into Israel, where most are now thriving. The Arabs, however, with the uneven exception of Jordan, were not -- and apparently still are not – interested in welcoming their Palestinian brethren.
The Palestinians, in other words, along with the United Nations and the Arab and Muslim world, have joined together to perpetuate their own status as victims. As the author Jerold S. Auerbach has noted:
"[I]t is unlikely that Palestinians would relinquish their hallowed identity as victims, which makes them uniquely privileged beneficiaries. The Palestinian slogan — in victimization lies victory — dooms future generations of its own people. That is the real Palestinian tragedy."
By maintaining a status as victims -- and by resorting to violenc
e and turning down peace offers that would infuse Gaza and the West Bank with an unlimited potential for prosperity -- the Palestinians have created exactly the right context for the new American deal.
This self-created victim status, further, seems to have been a major factor in persuading even very decent liberals to espouse their cause, above all by placing the blame for their sorry state entirely on Israel and the United States. While it is morally right to help any community or individual unjustly persecuted or forced to live in squalor, the historical record shows that Israel did not launch the wars against it, nor inspire terrorism, nor perpetuate the multi-generational refugee crisis, nor force Palestinians to remain in camps without citizenship in Lebanon, Syria, or (partly) in Jordan. Surely it is time to place blame not on the average Palestinian, who has never had much choice in the matter, but on the Palestinian leadership, including the rejectionist Mahmoud Abbas and the gun-toting heads of Hamas.
It is hard to understand why so many Western liberals are reluctant to condemn Hamas. Their 1988 Charter (mithaq) makes explicit the underlying rationale behind rejection of a Palestinian state as offered in 1947. Article One reads:
"The Islamic Resistance Movement: The Movement's programme is Islam. From it, it draws its ideas, ways of thinking and understanding of the universe, life and man. It resorts to it for judgement in all its conduct, and it is inspired by it for guidance of its steps."
We are dealing here, not with a nationalist party, but with a radical religious movement whose ultimate goal is the destruction of any non-Muslim state built on territory they deem to be theirs. According to Islam, any land, once occupied by Muslims, such as the Ottoman Empire, is Islamic forever, in perpetuity. Such territory is termed part of the waqf, Allah's endowment, and it cannot, under Islamic law, be allowed to pass into any non-Muslim hands. Should it be reconquered (as with most of Spain and Portugal, known as "Al-Andalus"), Islamic law holds it a sacred duty for Muslims to bring it back within the fold of Islam.
Article seven of the Hamas Charter describes Jews (Zionists) as "invaders", who are to be repelled. Article eleven states:
"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up.... Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day."
This religious imperative is intensified in Article thirteen:
"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."
This religious antagonism often overrides the nationalism of the PLO and others. Recently, the 57-member state Organisation of Islamic Cooperation rejected President Trump's peace plan outright.
We must ask why so many secular liberals, Christians, and a minority of Jews do not grasp that negotiations based on this kind of Islamic law can never play any role in current international law and can never bring peace to the Middle East. This longing to replace Western law with Islamic law inspires not just Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but also Hezbollah, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Islamic State, Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and, as we have seen, the entire Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Next to the rejection of Israel for Islamist reasons, the Palestinians and the Arabs have pursued a nationalist dream that claims the former have lived in the entirety of "Palestine" for many thousand years. They argue that they are the indigenous inhabitants of the region and that the Jews, assisted by the League of Nations and the United Nations, arrived from Europe to dispossess the Palestinians.
This, by any historical measure, is pure balderdash and has been refuted repeatedly by any number of historians. It is the Jews, not the Arabs, who have been for 3,000 years the indigenous people, and it has been the Arabs, not the Jews, who are the settler-colonialists in the territory. Arabs first entered Palestine in and after the year 634, when it was invaded by Muslim conquerors -- a fact recognized by every Islamic history down the centuries. Over the last two centuries of the Ottoman empire, the Arab community in Palestine was largely made up of immigrants from neighboring Arab states such as Egypt and Syria. And it is almost always forgotten that after 1949, about one million Jews were driven by force out of their centuries-old homes across the Middle East and North Africa (to a lesser extent from Morocco). Unlike the Palestinians, they have never been compensated for this loss. According to Professor Shmuel Trigano: "The Jewish refugees have suffered more than the Palestinian refugees and undergone greater spoliations".
As the journalist Tom Gross noted, "Other stateless peoples can only dream of being offered independence and $50bn by the US president," and adds, "offers of a kind that Chechens, Kurds, Baluchis, Tibetans and dozens of other stateless people would have jumped at."
Yet the Palestinians and their friends refuse even to come to the table. President Trump's plan, "Peace to Prosperity," not only offers the Palestinians their own state, but more than double the land they have now, and a society in accord not only with human rights, but also institutions of democracy such as free speech, a free press, equal application of the law, freedom of religion, accountability in government, and, in the end, the sort of normality the average Palestinian likely craves. Writing for Israel's BESA Center, Dr. Edy Cohen and Frank Musmar sum up the advantages of the plan and say:
"The realities on the ground mean no plan will ever be perfect, but President Trump's 'Peace to Prosperity' plan is the most realistic and achievable yet proposed."
Or shall the old pattern continue along the lines of the 1985 Hezbollah program?:
"We vigorously condemn all plans for negotiation with Israel, and regard all negotiators as enemies, for the reason that such negotiation is nothing but the recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist occupation of Palestine. Therefore we oppose and reject the Camp David Agreements, the proposals of King Fahd, the Fez and Reagan plan, Brezhnev's and the French-Egyptian proposals, and all other programs that include the recognition (even the implied recognition) of the Zionist entity."
Dr. Denis MacEoin was a lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Britain's Newcastle University and is the author of books, reports, articles and encyclopedia entries about the Middle East and Islam. He has just completed a lengthy study of antisemitism. He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.
 In 1949, Transjordan changed its name to The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which it remains to this day.