Saturday, October 4, 2008

Israel vs Arabs: Who owned the land?

As the rest of the world piles on little Israel, falsely labeling that country a racist state, a violator of human rights, and a foreign occupier, the debate over the underlying cause of the conflict rages on. With over a billion and a half Muslims and only fifteen million or so Jews in the world, voices in support of Israel are often drowned out by several orders of magnitude. Witness the shameful hijacking of the Human Rights Council (HRC) at the United Nations by members of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and others under the sway of this cartel that would be economically devastated if the oil the OIC controls suddenly stopped flowing. Although the mission of the HRC is to protect humanity from rights violations, institutionalized discrimination against the single Jewish state, Israel, has been established and endorsed as a permanent part of the framework for all future meetings in its chambers.

Central to the problem is the fact that the figurehead the Muslim world reveres as the paragon of human behavior, Muhammad, deceived, fought, and massacred the Jews of his time. For example, when the entire Jewish tribe of the Banu Quraiza had surrendered to Muhammad he offered them a chance to desert their religion and accept him as the final prophet. When they refused, the Banu Quraiza men were brought to Muhammad in batches, beheaded, and thrown into trenches. The Banu Quraiza women and children were then enslaved and divided amongst Muhammad and his men as war booty. Today, we label this behavior as genocide, but ask any Muslim scholar about the incident and you will be told that the Banu Quraiza deserved their fate. It should come as no surprise then when modern Muslims clash with today's Jews in the land of Israel. Islam's modern faithful have struggled to follow the intolerant mandates codified on the pages of the Quran just like millions of their brethren have done for fourteen bloody centuries. Which leaves the problem of how peaceful co-existence can be resolved between Israel's Jews and it's intractable Muslim foes who are entrenched with an ideology of intolerance? The answer to this question has become the Holy Grail of conflict resolution, the object of intense international study, and political effort.

After four years of focused research trying to get to the heart of a complicated issue and hundreds of hours spent in the "trenches" debating a polemic that has turned the media into an ideological battle ground, this writer has concluded that, religion aside, the fundamental point of view dividing the two sides over Israel is simply whether the land really belonged to the Arabs or not at the moment that the Jewish state was reconstituted.

My grandmother was born on a reservation in Oklahoma. She was Kiowa, a Native American you might say. This begs a question concerning land tenure, though. Can we honestly label every piece of land the nomadic Kiowa ever drifted across as Indian land? And further, can we fill in all the empty space between the lands the Huron lived on, the Apache lived on, and the Seminole lived on and call it all stolen Indian land? An argument might be made that the Black Hills has religious value to the Sioux, but was America founded illegally on "stolen" land? The Kiowa roamed across the plains from Montana to Texas, fighting and marauding against other Indians and European "settlers". In fact, my ancestors hold the dubious title as the fiercest of the natives, because they killed more whites than any other tribe. Men, women, and children. Was it wrong to put an end to their deprivations by confining them to a reservation? As part native, I argue not. Kiowa territory was not clearly defined let alone claimed and utilized by private land owners.

In the case of the territory mislabeled Palestine, there has been an unbroken Jewish presence there since Biblical times and before. The struggling Jewish community clinging to the Holy Places at the turn of the twentieth century was the quintessential long suffering native peoples of the region surviving from antiquity without the benefit of self rule despite immense pressures placed upon each succeeding generation for two millennia to assimilate and vanish. When the League of Nations decision was made to recognize the right and the need for diaspora Jews to be allowed to legally immigrate to their ancient homeland the fact that largely nomadic Arabs also lived in the region with the existing Jewish natives did not make it wrong or immoral in any way for the scattered, oppressed, and harassed Jews living abroad to seek refuge there. The often heard canard is that Jews were a small minority and the Arabs did not want more Jews to immigrate there. Aside from this being a racist point of view, the land is the cradle and world wide focal point of Jewish culture and religion. One can only wonder if those Arabs opposed to Jewish immigration to the land of Israel would be so adamant if Mecca were the the destination of a long lost Muslim diaspora. The right of the Jew to return to his native land was not given by any document, it was earned by two thousand years of residency and tenacity, at best it was only affirmed in the legal framework of the day. Conversely, while a general feeling of empowerment, largely delivered on the backs of Christian warriors, was meandering through the wider Arab community, lacking any cultural or religious defining connection to the land themselves, the Arabs living in the boundary of the Mandate were not known as Palestinians then, they were known as South Syrians or simply Arabs. The term "Palestinian" was only applied to the native Jews, the state-builders, draining the swamps, clearing the rocky hills, and greening the desert. It was not until 1964 that the PLO, later led by (Egyptian-born) Arafat, hijacked the term "Palestinian" in an attempt to deny the legitimate existence of Israel and the Jewish people in ithe heart of their historic homeland, where their roots are so deep and continuous, that almost no nation on earth can match the historical, religious, and cultural attachment of the Jewish people to their ancestral lands.

Another often used canard is that immigrating Jews displaced the Arabs from their homes. Aside from the fact that the majority of the Arabs at the time resided wherever they camped, the rights of individual Arabs that lived there were not infringed upon by immigrating Jews. Today one in five of Israel's citizens are Arabs with the exact same rights as non-Arab Israelis. Considering the lamentations of Israel's critics, it is a great irony that in the Middle East, only under Israeli jurisdiction do Arab women have full equality to Arab men. When Israel liberated land held by Arabs in the Six Day War, for example, Arab women and the landless were given their first ever opportunity to cast a vote in municipal elections. In fact, Israel's Arab citizens have extra rights that transcend duty to the state: the Israeli leadership is so sensitive to Arab wants Israeli Arabs are excused from mandatory military service. This is true in spite of the fact that tiny Israel is under such an enormous threat of genocide from its neighbors that - with few exceptions - every able bodied man and woman must serve in the armed forces simply for the sake of survival. And to be clear, Israelis did not ask for this burden, nor is militarization part of Jewish character. It is a necessary reaction to conditions imposed upon them by their Muslim neighbors. The resulting image of the gun toting Jew is a sad paradox that self righteous, finger-pointing, "peace activists" sneer at and masked Islamic fanatics use to vilify and as an excuse to justify indiscriminate attacks on their Israeli victims.

It is the incessant and largely oil-fueled propaganda, that perpetuates the myth that Jews resettled Israel through the "theft" of "Palestinian" lands or from displacing Arabs. Immigrating Jews arrived unarmed and settled on state-owned lands, the vast majority of which were wasteland like the Negev desert that no "native" Arab had the technology to utilize, or they purchased land legally, sometimes helped by charitable funds, and often at inflated prices once locals realized how desperate Jews were to escape persecutions and how much they revered the land of their ancestors. When the Jewish immigrants began to produce food and jobs on land that had previously been barren wastes, the British turned a blind eye as thousands of Arabs illegally immigrated to the Jewish homeland for no other reason than to take advantage of the higher standard of living and economic opportunity provided by Jewish industry. In recognition of this Arab immigration the money devouring behemoth that deals exclusively with Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, defines a Palestinian refugee as anyone living in the region for as little as two years before Israel declared it's independence.

The very idea that the Jews "stole" anything became turn speak for the anti-Israel crowd long after the fact of what really happened had passed. Before the decision was made at the end of WWI to create a binding treaty that allowed Jews to immigrate to and form a nation on both sides of the Jordan river there is not a shred of evidence that shows a nationalist movement among the fractured Arabs to form a nation called "Palestine" except as a counter to Jewish aspirations. The Ottomans did not refer to the region as Palestine. There was no Arab nationalist struggle for liberation there. The region was not semi-autonomous. Nor did it have a unique cultural or religious identity...except as defined by the Jewish community that had weathered one storm after another for thousands of years without changing a single aspect of it's nature. Modern Arab Palestinian nationalism is not defined on it's own merit, it is defined by the presence of Jews and nothing more. Objectively analyzed this leaves the inescapable conclusion that the twin roots of the conflict are Muslim bigotry and to a lesser extent Arab racism.

The point is illustrated by the existence of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which in reality is the Arab half of any logical two state solution, which has also coincidentally become the 100% Judenrein utopia Hitler dreamed of: The Arab spokesman at the time, Emir Faisel of Mecca, had agreed that the original boundary proposal for the future Jewish state by the Zionist Organization (on both sides of the Jordan) was regarded as "moderate and proper". Based on the minimum territorial needs for creating a viable nation, and agreements with the parties concerned, the original boundary of the Mandate for Palestine was then drafted to include all of what later became the Judenrein Kingdom of Jordan. At the expense of the Jews, Britain, the mandatory power responsible for assisting in the creation of a functioning state, chose appeasement of the oil-supplying, arms-buying, Arab world over it's legal and moral responsibility to the Jewish people. In fact, it was the British that encouraged an armed invader from Arabia that had crossed into the territory with a small army on it's way to Damascus to stay on as "governor" of 78% of the land set aside for the Jewish people. No independent Arab nationalism had formed there previously, no movement to form a country, no unique history, culture, or ethnic grouping such as exists in Kurdish areas of Iraq, Iran, and Turkey today for example, nor was it ever semi-autonomous during the Ottoman rule. Jordan was simply formed when non-native Hashemites set themselves up as the lords and masters of the region which, lacking any historical name to call it, was labeled "trans-Jordan". Where is the outrage leveled at these invading, colonizing, foreigners? Where are the charges of occupation? Where is the intifada? The emergency meetings of the Security Council? The minions of indignation demanding concessions and appeasement? In fact, where are the crocodile tears lamenting the loss of human rights and the cries of outrage about what racial or ethnic group has a majority over the other? Native Palestinians outnumber non-native Hashemites and they had no democracy or human rights in trans-Jordan when the Hashemites took power, yet there was a collective yawn followed by deafening silence from the world when it happened. Apparently, the propagandists bent on perpetuating the politics of victimization want us to believe that we must reserve our pity for the poor natives only when it is deemed that the invaders, colonists, or immigrants are too European or too technologically advanced. But if it is not Arab racism and Muslim bigotry, what explains this silence and acceptance by the Arab Muslims of Arab Palestine (Jordan), contrasted with the gruesome spectacle of suicide bombings and mass murder when the Jews are involved? Of course, the answer is written on the side of an elephant that keeps shuffling across the path of those trying to search for feel good excuses.

Further, when the Arabs launched an all-out attack on the then defenseless Jewish community in 1948 to "throw them into the sea," ie an attempt at genocide, the British-trained and British-led Hashemite army, along with soldiers from six other Arab countries involved in the fighting, crossed the Jordan and seized a portion of the land of Judea and Samaria. (We know it today in ethnic cleansing terms as the "West Bank.") Though outnumbered and out gunned, the Jews managed to run a British blockade, circumvent a global arms embargo on them, arm themselves during a lull in the fighting, and survive the baptism by fire. What arose out of the ashes like a Phoenix was the modern state of Israel. When an armistice was signed, forming the so called "green line", Israel's falsely labeled "1967 border", the Hashemites had control of land on both sides of the Jordan...hence, "transJordan" was dropped and The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was created out of thin air, the result of an illegal invasion and conquest, sitting in the heart of the Jewish homeland. If it is not Arab racism and Muslim bigotry, why was there no attempt to form a country called Palestine then? Why, for the nineteen years until 1967 (when five Arab countries again tried unsuccessfully to destroy Israel in the 6-Day War), at a time when people living there held Jordanian citizenship, with nowhere near the freedom and rights they have under Israeli control, did no separate Palestinian state emerge, seeking to confer such rights and establish independence? And why did the faux liberation movement, the PLO, formed in 1964, state in its initial Charter (Al-Mithaq Al-Kawmee Al-Philisteeni), Article 24: "This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or in the Himmah Area?" When Muslim Arabs held the land the world saw no intifada, heard no charges of "occupation," experienced no complaints of "apartheid" and witnessed no motions on the floor of the UN to condemn Jordan's aggression. Only when Jews dare to hold positions of authority over Muslims, do Islamic bigots have an issue. Draw your own conclusions from this, but if you think about it hard enough you will see a connection to cynical Arab intransigence based solely on the fact that Jews, traditionally regarded as second-class "dhimmis" had the audacity to rise and take a stand to defend and rebuild their ancient homeland and practice their own faith without feeling public humiliation or fear.

The Islamic world is united under a single banner that proclaims that a Jewish state is an abhorrence to Islam that must be annihilated. But bigotry and racism are evils that all citizens with moral clarity and good conscience should reject. Is it not about time that all of us stand with Israel and reject the narrative of intolerance coming from the Muslim world?


Harry said...

Welcome to the world of blogging. I still like this essay.

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