The notion of Israel's "right to exist" has been in the news twice in recent days.
First, the University of Southampton, in Britain, announced that due to "safety fears," it was cancelling a conference, scheduled for later this month, to question Israel's right to exist.
Were the "security concerns" related to the fact that the conference would promote the rising infestation of Jew-hatred in Britain? A recent U.K. parliamentary report shows that hate crimes against British Jews have doubled in the past decade, and has called upon the British government to take urgent action.
The second time was when Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing the Obama Administration's nuclear "framework" with Iran, said that in any deal, Iran should recognize Israel's right to exist.
Despite being a member of the United Nations along with Israel, Iran nevertheless does not recognize Israel's right to exist.
Iran has not only been a long-time sponsor of terrorist groups that for years have targeted and killed Israeli civilians (as well as American servicemen in Africa and Lebanon); it has also repeatedly threatened Israel with genocide. The latest announcement came in late March, when Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of the Basij militia of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, said that "erasing Israel off the map" was "non-negotiable."
As Netanyahu has continually stated, a nuclear Iran is a threat to Israel's existence and America's existence.
Under such circumstances, that a British university was even thinking of holding such a conference is perplexing, at best.
The Jewish people have historical ties to the land of Israel that reach back nearly 4,000 years, a longstanding nationalist movement, a government in the post-colonial era and recognition by the United Nations -- a similar path to existence as most other countries. Does anyone question, say, Zimbabwe's right to exist?
Responses to statements that might have been raised, if this conference had gone ahead, include:
False Claim #1: Jews were out of Israel for almost 2,000 years.
The Romans crushed a Jewish revolt in 70 AD, and dispersed Jews throughout the Roman Empire. However, a continuous Jewish presence in the region never ceased. Key events recorded in history include: Jews governing Jerusalem when the Persian Sasanian Empire took over in 614; Jewish scribes working on the final text of the Hebrew Bible in the region between the 7th and 11th centuries; Jews enduring the Crusades; and Napoleon's plans to invite Jews to form a state in 1799.
In 1799, as Napoleon Bonaparte's army was besieging the city of Acre, Napoleon issued a letter, offering the Palestine as a homeland to the Jews, referring to them as "Rightful heirs of Palestine." Above, a painting depicting the siege of Acre.
False Claim #2: Israel came about only because of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century.
The 19th century fostered the rise of nationalist movements throughout much of Europe. They led to the creation of modern Greece, Italy, and Germany, and also rose throughout the 20th century, often to end European colonization. In 1914, there were only 62 countries in the world; today there are 196, most of which were formed through nationalist movements, including, recently, Serbia, Croatia and Moldova, among others.
False Claim #3: Jews used violence to gain control of Israel.
Although some Jewish resistance groups occasionally used violence against Britain in an effort to gain independence, many other people, in a press for independence, have taken up arms, too. These include American colonials, Latin American independence movements, and the Algerians, Irish, and Bangladeshis, as well as countless others in the 20th century.
False Claim #4: The Palestinians controlled the land for centuries.
When the Ottoman Empire lost control of Palestine after World War I, there were no people known as "Palestinians" -- only Muslims, Christians, Jews and assorted others living in the area. During the British Mandate, which followed World War I, the entire area was known as Palestine. The official listing for "Place of Birth" on all passports at the time -- for everyone, including Jews -- was Palestine. The word was coined by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 132 AD, as part of an effort to obliterate the Jewish presence in the province. He changed the telling name of Judaea, and the land around it, to "Syria Palaestina", and renamed Jerusalem as "Aelia Capitolina."
The modern concept of Palestinian nationhood came into fruition only after Israel's War of Independence in 1948, when five Arab armies attacked Israel literally the day of its birth, hoping to kill it in its crib. Many Arabs left; and many Arabs urged their fellow Arabs to leave, assuring them that in a few weeks, after the Jews were routed, they would be able to return. The problem was that the Arabs were the ones who were routed; the Jews won. When the Arabs who had fled wanted to come back, the Israelis said they were not welcome -- they had chosen the hostile side. Instead of settling these Arabs in the countries to which they had fled, as the Jews had settled their countrymen fleeing Arab lands, the Arabs preferred to leave them as stateless people -- now known as Palestinians. They were then promised, and still are promised, that they will return one day to the homes that they (or, by now, their great-great-grandparents) had voluntarily abandoned to be out of the way of the shooting.
The Arabs who stayed are still where they were, still in their homes, and are full citizens of Israel. They make up 20% of Israel's population and have equal rights with Israel's Jewish citizens. They enjoy full representation in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, and hold senior positions in all professions.
False Claim #5: The UN Resolution legitimizing the State of Israel did not actually pass.
UN Resolution 181, known as the Partition Plan, was a recommendation that in November of 1947 called for the creation in Palestine of an Arab State and Jewish State. It was rejected by the Arabs, who threatened to use force to prevent it -- and did.
Israel declared Independence on May 14, 1948, as the British Mandate on Palestine was set to expire. On May 11, 1949, UN Resolution 273, which admitted Israel to the United Nations, was adopted by the required two-thirds majority.
Currently 83% of the UN member states recognize Israel. Countries that refuse to recognize Israel include some Muslim nations, Cuba and North Korea.
False Claim #6: Israel came about only due to sympathies surrounding the Holocaust.
In 1917, well before the Holocaust, the British put forth the Balfour Declaration, which favored a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine. Confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922, it put the process to statehood in motion. In 1936, in the midst of Arab violence, the British Peel Commission called for a plan to create a Jewish State, but the plan was not enacted. Had Israel been formed at that point, many more Jews could have fled there to avoid the Holocaust.
False Claim #7: The Palestinians have a right to part of the territory based on the original UN plan.
Palestinians have been offered part of the territory for a Palestinian state again and again. The Palestinians, however, rejected a state of their own offered by the Peel Commission in 1937, and they rejected a state of their own in the UN Resolution 181 Partition Plan, because they would not accept a Jewish state. They came back from the Khartoum Conference in 1967 with three "Nos": no peace, no recognition, no negotiations; and they twice rejected offers for a Palestinian state from Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and later from Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, both of whom offered 97% of everything the Palestinians demanded. The Palestinians did not even submit a counter-offer.
One can only conclude that the Palestinians do not actually want state; what they want is to displace the Israeli state. They themselves have confirmed this suspicion at least twice -- first in the PLO "Phased Plan" of 1974, never rescinded, which calls for eliminating Israel in stages. The second time was in the Charter of Hamas -- now half of a "Palestinian Unity Government" with Fatah. The Hamas Charter calls not just for the destruction of Israel but also for a genocide of all the Jews everywhere. This Charter, too, has never been rescinded.
Israel has granted self-governance to the Palestinians; however, considering the non-stop Arab and Muslim attacks on Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu and others have said that full autonomy cannot be given to the Palestinians until their terrorist groups are completely demilitarized.
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The "existence" of Israel -- the only country in the region with human rights, freedom of expression, and equal justice under law -- is not, and should not, even be in question. The more appropriate question is if organizations that ask questions such as that should exist.
Iran has violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty time after time, often undetected; it also continues to violate Article 2, clause 4, of the United Nations Charter: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."
In March 2015, apparently not content with wiping just "Israel off the map," Iran, in the person of its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, also called for "Death to America."
One can only hope that what clearly seems such a fatally dangerous deal as the Obama Administration's nuclear "framework" with Iran -- that threatens not only the existence of Israel, the Middle East and Europe, but, with Iran's intercontinental ballistic missile program, also the United States -- will not be allowed to happen.
George Phillips served as an aide to Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, working on human rights issues.