Those that follow this blog know that I have written extensively about the Middle East, the Israel/Palestine struggle, democracy, and the birth of Israel and how the Palestinian state was stillborn. So when, my dear friend Moshe suggested I read Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Op-Ed in Monday’s New York Times I immediately sought out the piece. Let me start by saying that I believe Abbas represents the best option for a long term Israeli-Palestinian two state solution, and I think he has bent over backwards to accommodate the Netanyahu government’s uneven approach to peace talks while holding off anti-peace factions from within the Palestinian ranks. That being said, Abbas, counting on America’s dearth of knowledge of Middle East history, paints a rather creative narrative. At the minimum, he has taken creative license with modern history; at the maximum he has lost touch with reality.
In Abbas’ piece he tells his personal story of how we was forced from his homeland by Jewish forces in 1947 and THAT was what lead to the invasion of Arab nations to save their brothers. Abbas’ also claims his human rights were violated and that the UN must recognize the Palestinian state. Abbas writes “Minutes after the State of Israel was established on May 14, 1948, the United States granted it recognition. Our Palestinian state, however, remains a promise unfulfilled.” Yes the US recognized Israel per the Partition Plan, and yes the Palestinian State was not recognized. Why? There was no Palestinian state to recognize, because the Palestinians did not accept the UN Mandate and with it did not, like today, recognize Israel. In closing his Op-Ed, Abbas refers to the December, 1948 UN resolution 194 which covers amongst other things, the right of return on Palestinian refugees. Yes it is a compelling story from Abbas that has just enough facts to sound legitimate to many, but is grossly inaccurate with suspect analysis.
Here are some facts about the UN Resolution in 1947 that created the two state solution of a Jewish state and an Arab state.
· On November 29, 1947 the UN General Assembly voted 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions, in favor of the Partition Plan, ending the British Mandate in Palestine and establishing a Jewish state and an Arab state in the territory known as Palestine. This two state solution was to go in effect on May 14, 1948, the date of British withdrawal. Immediately the Arabs refused to accept the Plan as did militant Jewish organizations such as the Irgun and its leader and future Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
· The indigenous Arabs, or Palestinians, would not accept a Jewish state and believed with men and arms from fledgling Arab states would easily overrun the Jewish settlers and destroy the state of Israel before it got off the ground.
· Political infighting amongst the Palestinian tribal leaders and distrust between the Arab nation leaders would result in a poorly coordinated Arab effort suffering from no leadership, training, money, and organization.
· Did Jewish paramilitary forces drive indigenous Arabs from the land earmarked from the Jewish state? Absolutely. David Ben Gurion and other Jewish leaders knew they would be facing an existential external threat from the surrounding Arab states and could not afford to fight a rearguard action against a fifth column of Arab sympathizing Arabs.
· Were some horrific acts perpetrated by Jewish forces? Definitely. Did Arabs do the same to Jewish settlers? For sure.
· Does Un Resolution 194 ask for the return of refugees to their homeland? Yes it does. But it also says: Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date. The kicker? That little stipulation about living at peace with their neighbours. I do not think Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Brigade, and the Salafist movements in Gaza know what peace is.
· Abbas also fails to mention that in 1949 Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion offered the Arabs a deal to allow return of refugees, but the Arabs declined.
Will the UN recognize Palestine like many nations have been doing recently? It may very well with a number of stipulations including Hamas/Fatah reunification and the combined recognition of Israel and pledge to halt all attacks. Should Israel then negotiate fairly and honestly with the Palestinian Authority? Yes as it is the only legitimate path to complying with the 1947 declaration. Netanyahu will be making speeches while he is visiting the US this week, I suspect he will probably take some liberties with the facts as well.