Why Can’t the Arabs Accept a Jewish state?
Throughout the years, the Arabs have not stopped trying to eliminate Israel. Alhough they live in a number of different sovereign states, the Arabs view themselves as part of a single Arab Nation extending ‘from the [Atlantic] to the [Arab/Persian] Gulf.’ This is not a future objective in pan-Arab canon, but “a present reality,” notes historian Walid Khalidi.1
For historical, cultural and religious reasons, pan-Arabism resonates among all segments of Arab society, endowing them with “sanctity as dogmas.” The “de-Arabization of Arab territory” in Palestine is viewed as a breach of the unity of the Arab people because it divides its “Asiatic from its African halves.” This is a violation of Arab lands and “an affront to the “dignity of the [Arab] Nation.”2
In other words, the Arabs regard themselves as the only “legitimate repository of national self-determination” in the Middle East. No one questions their right for independence, but the rejection of the same right of other national groups in the region for self-rule “borders on political racism,” states Shlomo Avineri of The Hebrew University. Arab repudiation of Israel’s legitimate right to exist is part of this deep-seated belief that only Arabs are entitled to have a nation-state in the Middle East.3
A People’s War
Arab failure to destroy Israel by force has led the Arabs to adopt the Marxist-Leninist “people’s war” strategy employing political and military methods used so effectively in China and Vietnam, according to historian Joel Fishman. Since the late 1960s, the political campaign has sought to divide Israeli society and delegitimize the country through incitement in Arab textbooks and media, and demonize her at the U.N. by branding Israel a racist and pariah state. 4
Part of this political strategy was to sign the Oslo Accords in order to secure land from which to launch a guerilla war to demolish the Jewish state and replace it with an Arab one. The late Faisal Husseini, Palestinian Authority Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, called this ruse a “Trojan Horse. “ 5
Husseini urged the Arabs “to look at the Oslo Agreement and at other agreements as ‘temporary procedures, or phased goals,’ this means we are ambushing the Israelis and cheating them. Our ultimate goal is [still] the liberation of all historical Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, even if this means that the conflict will last for another thousand years or for many generations.” The negotiations were a means toward “an extension of continuing conflict and not an opportunity for two peoples to reach a new rapprochement.”6
Agreeing to temporary concessions as a means to achieve their primary goal was suggested to Yasser Arafat and Abu Iyad, his top lieutenant, at a meeting with the North Vietnamese in early 1970. “Our ultimate strategic objective was to set up a unitary democratic state on all Palestine,” Abu Iyad avowed, “but we hadn’t provided for any intermediary stage, or any provisional compromise.”7
Members of Vietnamese Politbureau explained how in their struggle for independence they had made difficult compromises, including dividing the country into two separate independent states, while waiting for a more positive shift in the balance of power to them.8
Fatah (the largest Palestinian political party) accepted this strategy, which Abu Iyad later justified by pointing out that David Ben-Gurion and other Zionist leaders had accepted partition in 1947, although they claimed all of Palestine. The same applied for North and South Korea. Even Lenin had forfeited a large section of Soviet territory in the Brest-Litovsk treaty, to ensure the survival of the Bolshevik government.9
Weren’t the Arabs entitled to the same “margin of flexibility and maneuver” the Zionists had afforded themselves, he asked, especially since Israel would “remain invincible in the foreseeable future?” There is a difference, he noted, between surrender and compromise. 10
If the Arabs were prepared to accept an interim solution such a two-state solution or a series of solutions, without acknowledging that this was only an interim phase, this would defuse criticism of the PLO in the West while playing for time to achieve their objective. Iyad observed that their Vietnamese comrades do not “hesitate to sacrifice the detail so as to preserve the essential.”211
The Fifth Palestinian National Congress (February 1-4, 1969) passed the resolution confirming this policy. By early 1974, all factions of the Resistance agreed to found an independent state on “any part of Palestinian territory to be liberated,’’ with the proviso that “the strategic objective of the PLO continues to be the establishment of a democratic state on the whole of Palestinian territory.” 12
Not long after the Congress ended, feuds erupted among various groups, with the more radical elements denouncing the agreement as a “liquidation text.” One poster had a map of Palestine riddled with ten bullet holes representing the ten articles that had just been ratified. 13
At the Fatah’s Sixth General Congress in August in Bethlehem, the first since 1989, the debate over strategy continued. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared that “although peace is our choice, we reserve the right to resistance, legitimate under international law.” 14
Tawfiq Tirawi, security advisor to Abbas, disagreed that peace would be achieved through negotiation: “Words are ineffective. Action is effective.” Fruitless discussions “go on for decades.” The only way the Arab refugees will be returned and Jerusalem restored will be through the efforts of “thousands of martyrs.”15
In an interview in pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, Rafik Natseh, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee and considered a “moderate,” concurred. Fatah, he said, had never relinquished the armed struggle. Muhammad Dahlan, senior Palestine Authority official, made a similar pronouncement.16
Use of Terror
In an obvious attempt to defuse criticism of Arab homicide bombings and indiscriminate missile attacks against Israeli civilians, Abbas renounced “all forms of terrorism,” but rejected “stigmatizing” their “legitimate struggle as terrorism.”17
In an interview with Jordanian newspaper Al-Dustur in 2008, however, Abbas explained the reason the PA did not engage in terror was not because they opposed violence, but because they were “unable” to mount attacks at that time: “Now we are against armed conflict because we are unable. In the future stages, things may be different. I was honored to be the one to shoot the first bullet in 1965 [Fatah terror against Israel began in 1965], and having taught resistance to many in this area and around the world, defining it and when it is beneficial and when it is not... we had the honor of leading the resistance. We taught everyone what resistance is, including the Hezbollah, who were trained in our camps [i.e. PLO camps in the 60s]."18
In an interview on PA TV on July 7, 2009, Fatah activist Kifah Radaydeh made the same point. Violence would be renewed, she said, when Fatah was “capable,” and “according to what seems right.” Unlike Abbas, she was open about Fatah’s ultimate objective in using terror. “What exactly do we want,” she asked? “It has been said that we are negotiating for peace, but our goal has never been peace. Peace is a means; and the goal is Palestine. I do not negotiate in order to achieve peace. I negotiate for Palestine, in order to achieve a state."19
This goal is shared by members at the Congress. When Abu Alaa (Ahmed Qurei), former Palestine Authority prime minister and current Chairman of Fatah Department for Recruitment and Organization, announced the presence of two terrorists in the audience of the conference they were roundly applauded.
During a bus hijacking in 1978, Khaled Abu-Usbah and Dalal Mughrabi killed 37 Israeli civilians, 12 of whom were children. This was the worst terror attack in Israeli history; nevertheless, Abu Alaa referred to them as heroes.20
This seeming inconsistency should not come as a surprise. In justifying the Palestinian Authority’s use of terror, Muhammad Dahlan openly admitted that Yasser Arafat misled the world when he denounced Palestinian terror: “Arafat would condemn [terror] operations by day while at night he would do honorable things.”
The Arabs believe they have a “legal right” to use terror if orchestrated by PA leadership at an appropriate time and location. Should they exercise their “legal right” to attack Israel, troops trained by US Lt. General Keith Dayton would be employed.21
Refusal to Recognize Israel
With regard to acknowledging Israel, Rafik Natseh declared unequivocally that Fatah “does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.” (Schenker, op.cit) Muhammad Dahlan adamantly underscored this point when he said, “I want to say for the thousandth time, in my own name and in the name of all my fellow members of the Fatah movement the Fatah movement does not recognize Israel ”22
The political editor of the Palestine News Agency (WAFA), explained why: "A Jewish state endangers not only Palestinians, but also the Arab World, and the global security. It is a call for legitimizing a racist entity, built on pure ethnic and theocratic criteria. They apparently think that they are a race, and they want a racist state!”23
When Will It Ever End
Despite the myriad of government commissions and official emissaries that have sought a solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict, the dispute remains intractable. Nothing will change so long as the West fails to treat the Arab world as they would any other European nation. Making excuses for Arab intransigence, blaming Israel and trying to force her to give up land that is legally and morally hers will not end the conflict.
If any nations in Central Europe had proclaimed that they were the only rightful nation-state in the region as the Arabs have, the country would be vilified as racist, elitist, hegemonic, and seen as potentially dangerous. For the last two centuries, the claim of having the exclusive right to statehood and autonomy has been the source for the many wars, carnage and mass destruction in Europe. This discredited concept, which is at the core of the problem of Arab nationalism, has been abandoned in Europe. The Arabs have not yet accepted the national rights of the Jews and the
other minorities in their midst.24
Even if the Obama administration were to succeed in compelling Israel to accept a two-state solution and stop building settlements in Judea and Samaria, this would not placate the Arabs or ensure peace in the region. Before embracing the idea of a Palestinian state, we should ask why the Arabs have consistently opposed partition, and examine the origin of the “Two-State Solution.” 25
When the Peel Commission recommended partition in July 1937, the Arabs immediately repudiated the British plan. “When speaking of the Palestinian problem there are no moderates or radicals,” declared Filastin, a Jaffa based Arab newspaper. “We have rejected the partition plan and will fight any idea or attempt to propose partition, as partition is a national disaster. No Arab who appreciates the national ‘stake’ will consent to negotiate partition.”26
After almost 30 years of futile attempts to bring peace between the Jews and Arabs, the British asked the U.N. in April 1947 to decide Palestine’s future. A Joint Memorandum of January 6, 1947 submitted to the British Cabinet by the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for the Colonies found the Arabs “implacably opposed to the creation of a Jewish State in any part of Palestine, and they will go to any lengths to prevent it.”27
Arabs representing the younger generation were convinced that “their contemporaries would take up arms to resist the imposition of Partition .” and that partition would be “resisted by the Arabs of Palestine with the support of the Governments and peoples of all the Arab States.”28
Undeterred by Arab opposition, two-thirds of the members of the U.N.’s General Assembly recommended on November 29, 1947 to partition Palestine into two independent states—one Arab and one Jewish. The Arab U.N. delegates did not accept the “validity” of the resolution, refused to be obligated by the decision and reserved the right to take whatever measures they deemed appropriate to thwart its implementation. 29
The next day, seven Jews were killed by an Arab ambush in response. Dr. Hussein Khalidi, acting chairman of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee (AHC), called for an Arab boycott of all Jews, warned that any attempt to enforce partition would “lead to a ‘crusade’ against the Jews,” and “may even be a spark that will lead to another world disaster.” Arabs were “prepared to meet their challenge,” Khalidi acknowledged and “fight for every inch of our country.” 30
When the U.N. Palestine Commission (UNSCOP) sought to enforce the General Assembly’s Resolution, the AHC refused to cooperate, organized a general strike in Palestine, and declined to meet with them when they arrived in Palestine.31
Jamal el-Husseini, head of the Arab delegation meeting in London to protest partition, charged in February 1947 that Zionist actions in Palestine resembled Fascist methods rather than democratic ones. “The Zionist plan is based on the Nazi line. It is based on a preferred treatment for a chosen race in utter disregard of other people’s opinions and is aimed at accomplishing the race objective without regard to the rights of others, meaning the Arabs.”32
On February 6, 1948 Husseini, representing the AHC, wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Trygve Lie that, “The Arabs of Palestine will never submit or yield to any Power going to Palestine to enforce partition. The only way to establish partition is first to wipe them out—man, woman and child,” which is precisely what the Arabs
had planned for the Jews.33
After David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, proclaimed Israel a Jewish state on May 14, 1948, the military forces of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan, Lebanon and a group from Saudi Arabia launched a united attack to destroy Israel. Six thousand people, one percent of Israel’s Jewish population, were killed in the war for Israel’s independence.
1. Walid Khalidi, “Thinking the Unthinkable: A Sovereign Palestinian State,” Foreign Affairs, 56:4 (July 1978):695-697.
3. Shlomo Avineri, “Self-Determination for me, not for thee,” The Jerusalem Post (May 17, 2004); Shlomo Avineri, “Self-Determination and Realpolitik: Reflections on Kurds and Palestinians,” Dissent (Summer 2005); Bernard Lewis, “Freedom and Justice in the Modern Middle East,” Foreign Affairs (May/June 2005).
4. Joel S. Fishman, “Ten Years Since Oslo; The PLO’s ‘People’s War’ Strategy and Israel’s Inadequate Response.” Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs No. 503. (September 2003); Alex Grobman, Nations United: How The UN Undermines Israel and the West (Green Forest, Arkansas: Balfour Books, 2006).
5. Fishman, op.cit.
7. Abu Iyad with Eric Rouleau, My Home, My Land: A Narrative of The Palestinian Struggle (New York: Times Books, 1978), 69.
11. Fishman, “Politicide or Partition? Misunderstanding the ‘Two-State Solution,’” op.cit; Abu Iyad, op.cit. 70.
12. Abu Iyad, op.cit. 142.
14. “Abbas: Peace is our choice, resistance our right” Ma’an News Agency (August 4, 2009). See protocol of Fifth Congress, “Fatah Congress Issues Text of Political Programme, Elects Central Committee Members,” (August11, 1989) BBC Summary of World Broadcasts
15. MEMRI Clip no. 2189 (July 23, 2009)
16. David Schenker, “Where Have All the Palestinian Moderates Gone?” Foreign Policy (August 4, 2009)
17. “Palestinian president addresses Fatah sixth general congress opening session,” BBC Monitoring The Middle East (August 5, 2009)
18. (Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, “PA’s Dahlan: World recognizes our legal right to use terror (resistance), Arafat deceived the world-condemned terror while behind it.” Palestinian Media Watch (July 26, 2009).
19. (Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Our goal has never been peace. Peace is a means; the goal is Palestine." Palestinian Media Watch (July 12, 2009).
20. Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Terrorists who killed 37 Israeli civilians applauded as heroes by Fatah conference delegates,” Palestinian Media Watch (August 5, 2009)
21. Marcus and Crook, “PA’s Dahlan: World recognizes our legal right to use terror (resistance), Arafat deceived the world-condemned terror while behind it.” op.cit.; C. Jacob “Fatah Members: The Principle of Resistance and Armed Struggle Must Not Be Relinquished.” MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis - No. 538 (August 6, 2009).
22. Marcus and Zilberdik, op.cit.
23. Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, “A Jewish state threatens all humanity: Official PA News Agency,” Palestinian Media Watch (August 10, 2009).
24. Avineri, “Self-Determination for me, not for thee,”op.cit.) Joel Fishman, “Politicide or Partition? Misunderstanding the ‘Two-State Solution,’” Makor Rishon (November 17, 2006).
25. Mustafa Kabha, The Palestinian Press As Shaper of Public Opinion 1929-39: Writing Up a Storm (Portland Oregon: Vallentine Mitchell, 2007), 210.
26. Joint Memorandum by the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the British Cabinet,(January 6, 1947),Vol. 1:1946-1947. Patricia Toye and Angela Seay, eds. Israel Boundary Disputes with Arab Neighbors, 1946-1964 (London: Public Record Office, 1995).
28. Rony E. Gabbay, A Political Study of the Arab-Jewish Conflict: The Arab Refugees Problem (Geneva: Librairie E. Droz, 1959), 55.
29. Sam Pope Brewer,”Palestine’s Arabs Kill Seven Jews, Call 3-Day Strike,” The New York Times (December 1, 1947), 1, 8.
30. Joseph Nevo, “The Arabs of Palestine 1947-48: Military and Political Activity.” Middle Eastern Studies Vol. 23 No. 1 (January 1987), .5; “Fortnightly Intelligence Newsletter.” Number 61(February 13, 1948) British Archives T.N.A. W.O. 261/573; Palestinius, “Palestine’s Mood After UNSCOP: The Yishuv Ponders Partition,” Commentary (October 1947):338-343.
31. Charles E. Egan. “Top Britons Upset By Arabs’ Reaction.” The New York Times (February 6, 1947), 3.
32. Trygve Lie, In the Cause of Peace: Seven Years with the United Nations (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1954), 16
Dr. Alex Grobman is a Hebrew University trained historian. His is the author of a number of books, including Nations United: How The U.N. Undermines Israel and The West, Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It? and a forthcoming book on Israel's moral and legal right to exist as a Jewish State.