Some people believe the key to resolving the so-called “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is through negotiations and the redrawing of Israel’s borders.
Other people believe the conflict is intractable and can never be fixed.
I, on the other hand, an Arab-American and former Middle East correspondent, know the secret to achieving a future peace in the region.
The secret is understanding the past.
George Santayana correctly said, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”
So let’s explore the historical roots of this conflict.
Here are some salient facts to consider – realities too often ignored by policymakers and the media mythmakers.
- As I famously wrote 14 years ago, “Palestine is no more real than Never-Never Land.” What did I mean by that? You’ve got to understand history. The first time the name was used was in the latter part of the first century by the Romans who had slaughtered the Jewish population of Jerusalem, scattered the population of Israel, destroyed the Temple and declared the land of Israel would be no more. From then on, the Romans promised, it would be known as “Palestine.” The name was derived from the Philistines, a people conquered by the Jews centuries earlier – a people who were, by that time, already extinct, for all intents and purposes. It was a way for the Romans to add insult to injury. They named the land after a people who no longer existed – an ancient enemy of Israel. They also tried to change the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina, but that never stuck.
- “Palestine” has never existed – before or since – as an actual state. It was ruled alternately by Rome, by Islamic and Christian crusaders, by the Ottoman Empire and, briefly, by the British after World War I. The British agreed to restore at least part of the land to the Jewish people as their homeland – mainly because the Arabs were not particularly interested in it. It was a desert wasteland. But the Jewish population had never forsaken it because of the biblical significance it held for them.
- There is no language known as Palestinian. There is no distinct Arab Palestinian culture. There has never been a land known as Palestine governed by Palestinians. “Palestinians,” as we think of them today, are Arabs, indistinguishable from Jordanians (who live in a country formerly considered part of “Palestine” and actually created as an Arab Palestinian state), Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, Saudis, etc.
- Prior to 1948, if you used the term “Palestinians,” you were referring to the Jews who lived in the region. Arabs didn’t like to be called Palestinians because of its association with Jews, the majority of the population of what was loosely called “Palestine” at the time.
- It was not until after the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel captured Judea and Samaria, which we often call “the West Bank,” that Arabs, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, began reinventing themselves as an oppressed minority of displaced refugees who called themselves “Palestinians.” It was an ingenious propaganda coup by the Soviet-trained Arafat who began the asymmetrical warfare that continues to this day by the “Palestinians” who claim they are merely fighting to reclaim their ancient land.
- Keep in mind the Arabs control 99.9 percent of the Middle East lands. Israel represents one-tenth of 1 percent of the landmass.
- Arafat was from Egypt, as were many of the original “Palestinian freedom fighters.” They were not indigenous people displaced illegally or through force from their land. In fact, even a significant portion of today’s so-called “Palestinian” population comes from other Arab nation-states and non-Arab Islamic states.
- Whom did Israel capture today’s so-called “Palestinian” lands from if not the “Palestinians”? Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem were captured in 1967 from Jordan. There had been no movement to call these territories “Palestinian” before that or to proclaim them as a new state of Palestine, one that had never previously existed in the history of the world. That came later as part of Arafat’s asymmetrical warfare against the state of Israel.
The late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir once made this same point: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” she said. The statement has been a source of ridicule and derision by Arab propagandists ever since. They love to talk about Golda Meir’s “racism.” They love to suggest she was in historical denial. They love to say her statement is patently false – an intentional lie, a strategic deception.
What they don’t like to talk about, however, are the very similar statements made by Yasser Arafat and his inner circle of political leadership years after Meir had told the truth – that there is no distinct Palestinian cultural or national identity. Here are some of those uncomfortable and inconvenient quotations made by Arafat and his henchmen when their public-relations guard was down.
Way back on March 31, 1977, the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an interview with Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Zahir Muhsein. Here’s what he said: “The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism. For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”
That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? It’s even more specific than Golda Meir’s statement. It reaffirms what I have written on this subject. And it is hardly the only such statement of its kind. Arafat himself made a very definitive and unequivocal statement along these lines as late as 1993. It demonstrates conclusively that the Palestinian nationhood argument is the real strategic deception – one geared to set up the destruction of Israel.
In fact, on the same day Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles on the White House lawn in 1993, he explained his actions on Jordan TV. Here’s what he said: “Since we cannot defeat Israel in war, we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish a sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.”
No matter how many people convince themselves that the aspirations for Palestinian statehood are genuine and the key to peace in the Middle East, they are still deceiving themselves.
Why now has it become such a critical priority? Just look what’s going on right now. A massive disinformation campaign coupled with relentless terrorism has been carried on for nearly 50 years. That’s a long time – and many have forgotten the truth or never knew it.
So what’s the secret path to peace between Israelis and “Palestinians”? The fundamental recognition of the fact that so-called “Palestinians” are indistinguishable in every way from all the other Arabs in the Middle East – Arabs who already control 99.9 percent of the region’s land mass along with 22 existing nations of their own.
Do Arabs really need another country? Do they really need more land? Does anyone actually believe that killing off the one Jewish state in the world and the only truly free nation in the Middle East will somehow result in peace?
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