ZIONISM is a national liberation movement, identical in most ways to other liberation movements that leftists and progressives the world over -- and in virtually every case but this one -- fervently support. This exceptionalism is also visible at the reverse end of the political spectrum: In every other instance, right-wingers like Patrick Buchanan oppose national liberation movements that are under the spell of Marxist delusions and committed to violent means. But they make an exception for the one that Palestinians have aimed at the Jews. The unique opposition to a Jewish homeland at both ends of the political spectrum identifies the problem that Zionism was created to solve.
The "Jewish problem" is just another name for the fact that Jews are the most universally hated and persecuted ethnic group in history. The Zionist founders believed that hatred of Jews was a direct consequence of their stateless condition. As long as Jews were aliens in every society they found themselves in, they would always be seen as interlopers, their loyalties would be suspect and persecution would follow. This was what happened to Captain Alfred Dreyfus, whom French anti-Semites falsely accused of spying and who was put on trial for treason by the French government in the 19th Century. Theodore Herzl was an assimilated, westernized Jew, who witnessed the Dreyfus frame- up in Paris and went on to lead the Zionist movement.
Herzl and other Zionist founders believed that if Jews had a nation of their own, the very fact would "normalize" their condition in the community of nations. Jews had been without a state since the beginning of the diaspora, when the Romans expelled them from Judea on the west bank of the Jordan River, some 2,000 years before. Once the Jews obtained a homeland - Judea itself seemed a logical site -- and were again like other peoples, the Zionists believed anti-Semitism would wither on its poisonous vine and the Jewish problem would disappear.
Here is what happened instead.
2. The Beginnings
In the 1920s, among their final acts as victors in World War I, the British and French created the states that now define the Middle East out of the ashes of the empire of their defeated Turkish adversary. In a region that the Ottoman Turks had controlled for hundreds of years, Britain and France drew the boundaries of the new states, Syria Lebanon and Iraq. Previously, the British had promised the Jewish Zionists that they could establish a "national home" in a portion of what remained of the area, which was known as the Palestine Mandate. But in 1921 the British separated 80 percent of the Mandate, east of the Jordan, and created the Arab kingdom of "Transjordan." It was created for the Arabian monarch King Abdullah, who had been defeated in tribal warfare in the Arabian Peninsula and lacked a seat of power. Abudllah's tribe was Hashemite, while the vast majority of Abdullah's subjects were Palestinian Arabs.
What was left of the original Palestine Mandate - between the west bank of the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea - had been settled by Arabs and Jews. Jews, in fact, had lived in the area continuously for 3,700 years, even after the Romans destroyed their state in Judea in CE 70. Arabs became the dominant local population for the first time in the 7th Century CE as a result of the Muslim invasions. The Arabs were largely nomads who had no distinctive language or culture to separate them from other Arabs. In all the time since, they had made no attempt to create an independent Palestinian state west or east of the Jordan and none was ever established.
In 1948, at the request of the Jews who were living in Palestine, the United Nations voted to partition the remaining quarter of the original Mandate to make a Jewish homeland possible. Under the partition plan, the Arabs were given the Jews' ancient home in Judea and Samaria - now known as the West Bank. The Jews were allotted three slivers of disconnected land along the Mediterranean and the Sinai desert. They were also given access to their holy city of Jerusalem, but as an island cut off from the slivers, surrounded by Arab land and under international control. Sixty percent of the land allotted to the Jews was the Negev desert. Out of these unpromising parts, the Jews created a new state, Israel, in 1948. At this time, the idea of a Palestinian nation, or a movement to create one did not even exist.
At the moment of Israel's birth, Palestinian Arabs lived on roughly 90 percent of the original Palestine Mandate - in Transjordan and in the UN partition area, but also in the new state of Israel itself. There were 800,000 Arabs living in Israel alongside 1.2 million Jews. At the same time, Jews were legally barred from settling in the 35,000 square miles of Palestinian Transjordan, which eventually was renamed simply "Jordan."
The Arab population in the slivers called Israel had actually more than tripled since the Zionists first began settling the region in significant numbers in the 1880s.The reason for this increase was that the Jewish settlers had brought industrial and agricultural development with them, which attracted Arab immigrants to what had previously been a sparsely settled and economically destitute area.
If the Palestinian Arabs had been willing to accept this arrangement in which they received 90 percent of the land in the Palestine Mandate, and under which they benefited from the industry, enterprise and political democracy the Jews brought to the region, there would have been no Middle East conflict. But this was not to be.
Instead, the Arab League - representing five neighboring Arab states - declared war on Israel on the day of its creation, and five Arab armies invaded the slivers with the aim of destroying the infant Jewish state. During the fighting, according to the UN mediator on the scene, an estimated 472,000 Arabs fled their homes to escape the dangers. They planned on returning after an Arab victory and the destruction of the Jewish state.
But the Jews -- many of them recent Holocaust survivors -- refused to be defeated. Instead, the five Arab armies that had invaded their slivers were repelled. Yet there was no peace. Even though their armies were beaten, the Arab states were determined to carry on their campaign of destruction, and to remain formally at war with the Israeli state. After the defeat of the Arab armies, the Palestinians who lived in the Arab area of the UN partition did not attempt to create a state of their own. Instead, in 1950, Jordan annexed the entire West Bank.
3. Refugees: Jewish and Arab
As a result of the annexation and the continuing state of war, the Arab refugees who had fled the Israeli slivers did not return. There was a refugee flow into Israel, but it was a flow of Jews who had been expelled from the Arab countries. All over the Middle East, Jews were forced to leave lands they had lived on for centuries. Although Israel was a tiny geographical area and a fledgling state, its government welcomed and resettled 600,000 Jewish refugees from the Arab countries.
At the same time, the Jews resumed their work of creating a new nation in what was now a single sliver of land. Israel, had annexed a small amount of territory to make their state defensible, including a land bridge that included Jerusalem.
In the years that followed, the Israelis made their desert bloom. They built the only industrialized economy in the entire Middle East. They built the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. They treated the Arabs who remained in Israel well. To this day the very large Arab minority, which lives inside the state of Israel, has more rights and privileges than any other Arab population in the entire Middle East.
This is especially true of the Arabs living under Yasser Arafat's corrupt dictatorship, the Palestine Authority, which today administers the West Bank and the Gaza strip, and whose Arab subjects have no human rights. In 1997, in a fit of pique against the Oslo Accords, Palestinian spokesman Edward Said himself blurted this out, calling Arafat "our Papa Doc" - after the sadistic dictator of Haiti - and complaining that there was "a total absence of law or the rule of law in the Palestinian autonomy areas."
The present Middle East conflict is said to be about the "occupied territories" - the West Bank of the Jordan and the Gaza strip - and about Israel's refusal to "give them up." But during the first twenty years of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel did not control the West Bank. In 1950, when Jordan annexed the West Bank, there was no Arab outrage. Nor did the Middle East conflict with the Jews subside.
The reason there was no Arab outrage over the annexation of the West Bank was because Jordan is a state whose ethnic majority is Palestinian Arabs. On the other hand, the Palestinians of Jordan are disenfranchised by the ruling Hashemite minority. Despite this fact, in the years following the annexation the Palestinians displayed no interest in achieving "self-determination" in Hashemite Jordan. It is only the presence of Jews, apparently, that incites this claim. The idea that the current conflict is about "occupied territories" is only one of the many large Arab deceits -- now widely accepted -- that have distorted the history of the Middle East wars.
4. The Arab Wars Against Israel
In 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan attacked Israel for a second time and were again defeated. It was in repelling these aggressors that Israel came to control the West Bank and the Gaza strip, as well as the oil-rich Sinai desert. Israel had every right to annex these territories captured from the aggressors - a time honored ritual among nations, and in fact the precise way that Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan had come into existence themselves. But Israel did not do so. On the other hand, neither did it withdraw its armies or relinquish its control.
The reason was that the Arab aggressors once again refused to make peace. Instead, they declared themselves still at war with Israel, a threat no Israeli government could afford to ignore. By this time, Israel was a country of 2 or 3 million surrounded by declared enemies whose combined populations numbered over 100 million. Geographically Israel was so small that at one point it was less than ten miles across. No responsible Israeli government could relinquish a territorial buffer while its hostile neighbors were still formally at war. This is the reality that frames the Middle East conflict.
In 1973, six years after the second Arab war against the Jews, the Arab armies again attacked Israel. The attack was led by Syria and Egypt, abetted by Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and five other countries who gave military support to the aggressors, including an Iraqi division of 18,000 men. Israel again defeated the Arab forces. Afterwards, Egypt - and Egypt alone -- agreed to make a formal peace.
The peace was signed by Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, who was subsequently assassinated by Islamic radicals, paying for his statesmanship with his life. Sadat is one of three Arab leaders assassinated by other Arabs for making peace with the Jews.
Under the Camp David accords that Sadat signed, Israel returned the entire Sinai with all its oil riches. This act demonstrated once and for all that the solution to the Middle East conflict was ready at hand. It only required the willingness of the Arabs to agree.
The Middle East conflict is not about Israel's occupation of the territories; it is about the refusal of the Arabs to make peace with Israel, which is an inevitable by-product of their desire to destroy it.
5. Self-Determination Is Not The Agenda
The Palestinians and their supporters also claim that the Middle East conflict is about the Palestinians' yearning for a state and the refusal of Israel to accept their aspiration. This claim is also false. The Palestine Liberation Organization was created in 1964, sixteen years after the establishment of Israel and the first anti-Israel war. The PLO was created at a time the West Bank was not under Israeli control but was part of Jordan. The PLO, however, was not created so that the Palestinians could achieve self-determination in Jordan, which at the time comprised 90 percent of the original Palestine Mandate. The PLO's express purpose, in the words of its own leaders, was to "push the Jews into the sea."
The official charter of the new Palestine Liberation Organization referred to the "Zionist invasion," declared that Israel's Jews were "not an independent nationality," described Zionism as "racist" and "fascist," called for "the liquidation of the Zionist presence," and specified, "armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine." In short, "liberation" required the destruction of the Jewish state. The PLO was not even created by Palestinians but by the Arab League -- the corrupt dictators who ruled the Middle East and who had attempted to destroy Israel by military force in 1948, in 1967 and again in 1973.
For thirty years, the PLO charter remained unchanged in its call for Israel's destruction. Then in the mid-1990s, under enormous international pressure following the 1993 Oslo accords, PLO leader Yasser Arafat removed the clause while assuring his followers that its removal was a necessary compromise that did not alter the movement's goals. He did this explicitly and also by citing a historical precedent in which the Prophet Muhammad insincerely agreed to a peace with his enemies in order to gain time to mass the forces with which he intended to destroy them.
6. The Struggle to Destroy Israel
The Middle East struggle is not about right against right. It is about a fifty-year effort by the Arabs to destroy the Jewish state, and the refusal of the Arab states in general and the Palestinian Arabs in particular to accept Israel's existence. If the Arabs were willing to do this, there would be no occupied territories and there would be a Palestinian state.
Even during the "Oslo" peace process -- when the Palestine Liberation Organization pretended to recognize the existence of Israel and the Jews therefore allowed the creation of a "Palestine Authority" -- it was clear that the PLO's goal was Israel's destruction, and not just because its leader invoked the Prophet Muhammad's own deception. The Palestinians' determination to destroy Israel is abundantly clear in their newly created demand of a "right of return" to Israel for "5 million" Arabs. The figure of 5 million refugees who must be returned to Israel is more than ten times the number of Arabs who actually left the Jewish slivers of the British Mandate in 1948.
In addition to its absurdity, this new demand has several aspects that reveal the Palestinians' genocidal agenda for the Jews. The first is that the "right of return" is itself a calculated mockery of the primary reason for Israel's existence -- the fact that no country would provide a refuge for Jews fleeing Hitler's extermination program during World War II. It is only because the world turned its back on the Jews when their survival was at stake that the state of Israel grants a "right of return." to every Jew who asks for it.
But there is no genocidal threat to Arabs, no lack of international support militarily and economically, and no Palestinian "diaspora" (although the Palestinians have cynically appropriated the very term to describe their self-inflicted quandary). The fact that many Arabs, including the Palestinian spiritual leader -- the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem -- supported Hitler's "Final Solution" only serves to compound the insult. It is even further compounded by the fact that more than 90 percent of the Palestinians now in the West Bank and Gaza have never lived a day of their lives in territorial Israel. The claim of a "right of return" is thus little more than a brazen expression of contempt for the Jews, and for their historic suffering.
More importantly it is an expression of contempt for the very idea of a Jewish state. The incorporation of five million Arabs into Israel would render the Jews a permanent minority in their own country, and would thus spell the end of Israel. The Arabs fully understand this, and that is why they have made it a fundamental demand. It is just one more instance of the general bad faith the Arab side has manifested through every chapter of these tragic events.
Possibly the most glaring expression of the Arabs' bad faith is their deplorable treatment of the Palestinian refugees and refusal for half a century to relocate them, or to alleviate their condition, even during the years they were under Jordanian rule. While Israel was making the desert bloom and relocating 600,000 Jewish refugees from Arab states, and building a thriving industrial democracy in its allotted sliver, the Arabs were busy making sure that their refugees remained in squalid refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, where they were powerless, right-less, and economically destitute.
Today, fifty years after the first Arab war against Israel, there are 59 such refugee camps and 3.7 million "refugees" registered with the UN. Despite economic aid from the UN and Israel itself, despite the oil wealth of the Arab kingdoms, the Arab leaders have refused to undertake the efforts that would liberate the refugees from their miserable camps, or to make the economic investment that would alleviate their condition. There are now 22 Arab states providing homes for the same ethnic population, speaking a common Arabic language. But the only one that will allow Palestinian Arabs to become citizens is Jordan. And the only state the Palestinians covet is Israel.
7. The Policy of Resentment and Hate
The refusal to address the condition of the Palestinian refugee population is - and has always been -- a calculated Arab policy, intended to keep the Palestinians in a state of desperation in order to incite their hatred of Israel for the wars to come. Not to leave anything to chance, the mosques and schools of the Arabs generally -- and the Palestinians in particular -- preach and teach Jew hatred every day. Elementary school children in Palestinian Arab schools are even taught to chant "Death to the heathen Jews" in their classrooms as they are learning to read. It should not be overlooked, that these twin policies of deprivation (of the Palestinian Arabs) and hatred (of the Jews) are carried out without any protest from any sector of Palestinian or Arab society. That in itself speaks volumes about the nature of the Middle East conflict.
All wars -- especially wars that have gone on for fifty years - produce victims with just grievances on both sides. And that is true in this one. There are plenty of individual Palestinian victims, as there are Jewish victims, familiar from the nightly news. But the collective Palestinian grievance is without justice. It is a self-inflicted wound, the product of the Arabs' xenophobia, bigotry, exploitation of their own people, and apparent inability to be generous towards those who are not Arabs. While Israel is an open, democratic, multi-ethnic, multicultural society that includes a large enfranchised Arab minority, the Palestine Authority is an intolerant, undemocratic, monolithic police state with one dictatorial leader, whose ruinous career has run now for 37 years.
As the repellent attitudes, criminal methods and dishonest goals of the Palestine liberation movement should make clear to any reasonable observer, its present cause is based on Jew hatred, and on resentment of the modern, democratic West, and little else. Since there was no Palestinian nation before the creation of Israel, and since Palestinians regarded themselves simply as Arabs and their land as part of Syria, it is not surprising that many of the chief creators of the Palestine Liberation Organization did not even live in the Palestine Mandate before the creation of Israel, let alone in the sliver of mostly desert that was allotted to the Jews. Edward Said, the leading intellectual mouthpiece for the Palestinian cause grew up in a family that chose to make its home in Egypt and the United States. Yasser Arafat was born in Egypt.
While the same Arab states that claim to be outraged by the Jews' treatment of Palestinians treat their own Arab populations far worse than Arabs are treated in Israel, they are also silent about the disenfranchised Palestinian majority that lives in Jordan. In 1970, Jordan's King Hussein massacred thousands of PLO militants. But the PLO does not call for the overthrow of Hashemite rule in Jordan and does not hate the Hashemite monarchy. Only Jews are hated.
It is a hatred, moreover, that is increasingly lethal. Today, 70 percent of the Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza approve the suicide bombing of women and children if the targets are Jews. There is no Arab "Peace Now" movement, not even a small one, whereas in Israel the movement demanding concessions to Arabs in the name of peace is a formidable political force. There is no Arab spokesman who will speak for the rights and sufferings of Jews, but there are hundreds of thousands of Jews in Israel - and all over the world - who will speak for "justice" for the Palestinians. How can the Jews expect fair treatment from a people that collectively does not even recognize their humanity?
8. A Phony Peace
The Oslo peace process begun in 1993 was based on the pledge of both parties to renounce violence as a means of settling their dispute. But the Palestinians never renounced violence and in the year 2000, they officially launched a new Intifada against Israel, effectively terminating the peace process.
In fact, during the peace process -- between 1993 and 1999 -- there were over 4,000 terrorist incidents committed by Palestinians against Israelis, and more than 1,000 Israelis killed as a result of Palestinian attacks - more than had been killed in the previous 25 years. By contrast, during the same period 1993-1999 Israelis were so desperate for peace that they reciprocated these acts of murder by giving the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza a self-governing authority, a 40,000 man armed "police force," and 95 percent of the territory their negotiators demanded. This Israeli generosity was rewarded by a rejection of peace, suicide bombings of crowded discos and shopping malls, an outpouring of ethnic hatred and a renewed declaration of war.
In fact, the Palestinians broke the Oslo Accords precisely because of Israeli generosity, because the government of Ehud Barak offered to meet 95 percent of their demands, including turning over parts of Jerusalem to their control -- a possibility once considered unthinkable. These concessions confronted Arafat with the one outcome he did not want: Peace with Israel. Peace without the destruction of the "Jewish Entity."
Arafat rejected these Israeli concessions, accompanying his rejection with a new explosion of anti-Jewish violence. He named this violence -- deviously -- "The Al-Aksa Intifada," after the mosque on the Temple Mount. His new jihad was given the name of a Muslim shrine to create the illusion that the Intifada was provoked not by his unilateral destruction of the Oslo peace process, but by Ariel Sharon's visit to the site. Months after the Intifada began, the Palestine Authority itself admitted this was just another Arafat lie.
In fact, the Intifada had been planned months before Sharon's visit as a follow-up to the rejection of the Oslo Accords. In the words of Imad Faluji, the Palestine Authority's communications minister, "[The uprising] had been planned since Chairman Arafat's return from Camp David, when he turned the tables on the former U.S. president [Clinton] and rejected the American conditions." The same conclusion was reached by the Mitchell Commission headed by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to investigate the events: "The Sharon visit did not cause the Al-Aksa Intifada."
9. Moral Distinctions
In assessing the Middle East impasse it is important to pay attention to the moral distinction revealed in the actions of the two combatants. When a deranged Jew goes into an Arab mosque and kills the worshippers (which happened once) he is acting alone and is universally condemned by the Israeli government and the Jews in Israel and everywhere, and he is punished to the full extent of Israeli law. But when a young Arab enters a disco filled with teenagers or a shopping mall or bus crowded with women and children and blows himself and innocent bystanders up (which happens frequently), he is someone who has been trained and sent by a component of the PLO or the Palestine Authority; he is officially praised as a hero by Yasser Arafat; his mother is given money by the Palestine Authority; and his Arab neighbors come to pay honor to the household for having produced a "martyr for Allah." The Palestinian liberation movement is the first such movement to elevate the killing of children - both the enemy's and its own - into a religious calling and a strategy of the cause.
It is not only the methods of the Palestine liberation movement that are morally repellent. The Palestinian cause is itself corrupt. The "Palestinian problem" is a problem created by the Arabs, and can only be solved by them. In Jordan, Palestinians already have a state in which they are a majority but which denies them self-determination. Why is Jordan not the object of the Palestinian "liberation" struggle? The only possible answer is because it is not ruled by Jews.
There is a famous "green line" marking the boundary between Israel and its Arab neighbors. That green line is also the bottom line for what is the real problem in the Middle East. It is green because plants are growing in the desert on the Israeli side but not on the Arab side. The Jews got a sliver of land without oil, and created abundant wealth and life in all its rich and diverse forms. The Arabs got nine times the acreage but all they have done with it is to sit on its aridity and nurture the poverty, resentments and hatreds of its inhabitants. Out of these dark elements they have created and perfected the most vile anti-human terrorism the world has ever seen: Suicide bombing of civilians. In fact, the Palestinians are a community of suicide bombers: they want the destruction of Israel more than they want a better life.
If a nation state is all the Palestinians desire, Jordan would be the solution. (So would settling for 95 percent of one's demands.) But the Palestinians also want to destroy Israel. This is morally hateful. It is the Nazi virus revived. Nonetheless, the Palestinian cause is generally supported by the international community, with the singular exception of the United States (and to a lesser degree Great Britain). It is precisely because the Palestinians want to destroy a state that Jews have created -- and because they are killing Jews -- that they enjoy international credibility and otherwise inexplicable support.
10. The Jewish Problem Again
It is this international resistance to the cause of Jewish survival, the persistence of global Jew-hatred that, in the end, refutes the Zionist hope of a solution to the "Jewish problem." The creation of Israel is an awe-inspiring human success story. But the permanent war to destroy it undermines the original Zionist idea.
More than fifty years after the creation of Israel, the Jews are still the most hated ethnic group in the world. Islamic radicals want to destroy Israel, but do so Islamic moderates. For the Jews in the Middle East, the present conflict is a life and death struggle, yet every government in the UN with the exception of the United States and sometimes Britain regularly votes against Israel in the face of a terrorist enemy, who has no respect for the rights or lives of Jews. After the Al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center, the French ambassador to England complained that the whole world was endangered because of "that shitty little country," Israel. This caused a scandal in England, but nowhere else. All that stands between the Jews of the Middle East and another Holocaust is their own military prowess and the generous, humanitarian support of the United States.
Even in the United States, however, one can now turn the TV to channels like MSNBC and CNN to see Ariel Sharon who is the elected Prime Minister of a democracy equated politically and morally with Yasser Arafat who is a dictator, a terrorist and an enemy of the United States. One can see the same equivalence drawn between Israel's democracy and the Palestine Authority, which is a terrorist entity and an ally of America's enemies Al Qaeda and Iraq.
During the Gulf War, Israel was America's staunch ally while Arafat and the Palestinians openly supported the aggressor, Saddam Hussein. Yet the next two U.S. Governments - Republican and Democrat alike - strove for even-handed "neutrality" in the conflict in the Middle East, and pressured Israel into a suicidal "peace process" with a foe dedicated to its destruction. It is only since September 11 that the United States has been willing to recognize Arafat as an enemy of peace and not a viable negotiating partner.
The Zionists' efforts created a thriving democracy for the Jews of Israel (and also for the million Arabs who live in Israel), but failed to normalize the Jewish people or make them safe in a world that hates them. From the point of view of the "Jewish problem," which Herzl and the Zionist founders set out to solve, it is better today to be a Jew in America than a Jew in Israel.
is one reason why I myself am not a Zionist but an unambivalent,
passionate American patriot. America is good for the Jews as it is good
for every other minority who embraces its social contract. But this
history is also why I am a fierce supporter of Israel's survival and have
no sympathy for the Palestinian side in the conflict in the Middle East.
Nor will I have such sympathy until the day comes when I can look into the
Palestinians' eyes and see something other than death desired for Jews