Condemned to dream and bleed 364

Why would the Arab states not let in their brethren who fled from Israel in 1948?

An equal or greater number of Jews fled Arab states, many of them to Israel, where they were resettled.

The answer is as simple as it is appalling: The Arabs wanted them to suffer in order to stir pity in the Western world so that compassionate public opinion would compel the Western powers to press Israel to readmit them. In other words, the Arab refugees were cynically used by fellow Arabs without conscience to stir the consciences of others and emotionally blackmail them for political ends. Wise politicians would have been disgusted and angry over the cruel maneuver, but if such beings exist they are a rare breed, and with most political leaders throughout the world the ploy worked all too well.

That this exploitation of the refugees was Arab policy is beyond dispute. The historical facts demonstrate it: no Arab country will integrate Palestinian refugees. It was confirmed to me personally by a leading Palestinian academic.

I quote from my book The PLO: The Rise and Fall of the Palestine Liberation Organization* (it did fall and nearly die, but was tragically resuscitated by Western governments and Israeli leftists):

Professor Sari Nusseibeh, Oxford-trained teacher of Islamic Philosophy at Bir-Zeit University, and a member of one of the oldest and most respected Arab families of Jerusalem, said to me as we sat and talked in his beautiful house in the old city of Jerusalem: ‘We do not want to solve the Palestinian problem in terms of “human rights”, what we want is a political solution.’

I asked what plan he had in mind to advance such a solution. Had not the PLO let every opportunity for a political settlement slip away by refusing to adapt to political realities?

‘I admire my people more for clinging to their dreams,’ he said, ‘than if they were to compromise with what others call political realities.’

So for the Palestinians in the camps there was no message of hope. They had been sacrificed to the incontinent ambitions of Haj Amin al-Husseini [the Mufti of Jerusalem], Nasser [president of Egypt], Arafat, Assad [president of Syria], and the other Arab leaders, and still they were not to be redeemed. …

The tragedy of the Palestinians is that they were led by people who despised or were devoid of political realism; and Palestinian affairs and concerns were made subordinate to those of the Arab states, which were, of course, pursuing their own self-interest.

Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, friend of Adolf Hitler and advocate of the Final Solution, is thought to have  personally advised the Arabs to leave when the Arab armies invaded the new state of Israel in 1948,  and to return when the Arabs had won. I always asked people  in the refugee camps in Lebanon in 1983 why they had left their homes, and the invariable reply (through my Arab interpreter) was that they had been advised to go and come back when the Jews had been defeated. When I asked who had advised them to do so, most of them  gave vague answers, amounting to “everyone told everyone else”. But some were sure that the Mufti had “said it on the radio”.

Fast forward to a conversation, reported by the New York Times on December 2, 2010, held between the Israeli novelist Amos Oz and Professor Sari Nusseibeh, in Berlin, where the two men had come to share an award. The conversation was “moderated” by Serge Schmemann, editor of the International Herald Tribune editorial pages.

OZ: … [T]he first issue we need to deal with is the refugee issue, because this one is really urgent. … The refugees are hundreds of thousands of people decomposing in dehumanizing conditions in refugee camps. Israel cannot take these refugees back or it would not be Israel. There would be two Palestinian states, and there would be no Israel. But Israel can do something, along with the Arab world, along with the entire world, to take those people out of the camps, into homes and jobs. Peace or no peace, as long as the refugees are rotting in the camps Israel will have no security.

The description of refugees “rotting” and “decomposing in dehumanizing conditions” may still be true of their lives in the Lebanese camps, but not now on the West Bank or in Gaza. Still, wherever they are, their lives and opportunities are restricted, and they exist as it were in a state of suspension, awaiting emancipation.

This was Nusseibeh’s response:

NUSSEIBEH: I agree. Whether there is or isn’t a solution, the refugee problem is a human problem and it needs to be resolved. It cannot just be shelved day after day after day in the hope that something will happen. The human dimension is far more important in this whole conflict than the territorial.

Let’s not call this a contradiction. Let’s not conjecture that he has forgotten his acquiescence in the long held policy of all the Arab states. Let’s say that he has simply changed his mind. That would be fine if only he understood that while he had been of his previous mind he had contributed to the plight of the refugees which he is now deploring. A regret needs to be expressed, an admission of responsibility needs to be made, a resolution to apply remedies even at this late date needs to be decided upon. It is the lack of those corrections which is so enormously, so frustratingly provoking.

Highly pertinent is this further extract from the same conversation:

SERGE SCHMEMANN: Gentlemen, both of you in your memoirs write about the same historical moment, the founding of the state of Israel, but it is as if you are writing about totally different events.

In your book, Sari, you write: “The year of my conception, 1948, witnessed the collapse of the Palestinian dream…”

And in your book, Amos, that same moment is one of redemption, when your father tells you: “From now on, from the moment we have our own state, you will never be bullied just because you are a Jew and because Jews are so-and-sos. Not that. Never again.”

Oz and Nusseibeh discussed their different views of what happened in 1948 – that is, of the establishment of the state of Israel – amicably.  But the point had been made by Schmemann. For the Jews, 1948 was one of the most important dates in their very long history; the most important date since 70 C.E.. It is the year of their return to their homeland from which they were exiled by a conquering power.

For the Palestinians, it was the year in which they came into existence as a distinct people, as much the creation of the State of Israel as are the Israelis. Before that date there had been no separate “Palestinian” identity, they had been Arabs among Arabs in the Ottoman Empire. (And Sari Nusseibeh, we learn from the extract, was conceived in that very year, so he was born a Palestinian, into the new nation of Palestinians, and is exactly as old as his people.) What could “the Palestinians’ dream” have been before they even existed as a people?

What we have to remember is that there never was, in all history, a State of Palestine, and that the Palestinian people were brought into existence, which is to say named “Palestinians”, in order to lay claim to the State of Israel. That was their creators’ purpose; their suffering, inflicted and maintained by their fellow Arabs, was the means.

The Arabs were humiliated by their defeat in 1948, and again in 1967. Their fight is as much for revenge as for territory. To strengthen their cause they made it an Islamic issue after 1967, thus multiplying the numbers on their side by many hundreds of millions.

And the United Nations have helped to keep the Palestinians economically dependent and, through their UNRWA schools, full of bitterness and hatred. (UNWRA denies this, but I saw the materials used by the Palestinian teachers in Lebanon, and know for sure that they are rabidly anti-Israel and anti-Jewish, designed to teach bitterness, hatred, revenge, murder and martyrdom by suicide bombing, generation after generation, paid for by Western liberal democracies.)

There is a story in a book by Gita Mehta called Karma Cola ** about a mendicant in India bringing his little daughter, aged six, to a temple outside Katmandu where tourists were gathered. The child was –

.. naked with matted hair that fell in knots on her scarred shoulders. Through each cheek her father had inserted an iron nail. There were scars down the front of her body and her back was crisscrossed with the marks of the lash. Her father carried a whip made of rope to which were attached the blades of small knives … The father led the child by a rope tied to her neck. Outside the temple when a sufficiently large crowd had collected, he took the whip out of his bag and flayed the child. People flung money at them in recognition of their asceticism and in respect for the child, who everybody realized would be reborn a saint for the penances she was undergoing in this life.

That child’s story is the story of the Palestinian people. Her father was no more blamed then are the Arab leaders. The values of the cultures are not questioned. What a gift has been bestowed on the refugees – the opportunity for martyrdom.

Weep and throw money!

Jillian Becker   December 23, 2010

*St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1984 page 227

**Jonathan Cape, London, 1980 page 160